The health and sports supplement market is booming. New brands and products are emerging by the day and, unless you know exactly what supplements you're looking for, sorting through the myriad on offer can seem like a total minefield.
There are a few brands seeking to simplify the nutritional supplementation process for you, condensing what they believe to be your best nutrition and supplement options into one convenient format.
This article looks at a few of the brands leading the trend for convenient supplement concepts, to help you decide whether they could play a role in improving your health and fitness.
Of all the products that I've chosen to include in this rundown, the one that I personally made most use of was the Essential Three from Inner Me. Within this, tablets and capsules are packaged in blister packs, separated into tear-off strips marked with days of the week.
The Essential Three* consists of:
Vitamin D3 (2500iu)
Probiotic Lactospore® (15 billion complex)
High Strength Omega 3 (DHA 220mg + EPA 330mg)
These are all supplements that I already take individually and often recommend that others consider taking on a regular basis.
Vitamin D and Omega 3s are nutrients that you are probably understand the importance of already. However, the probiotic capsule in the Essential Three is particularly unique.
The total list of nutrients within the capsule are:
Psyllium Husk, Artichoke Extract 2.5% Cynarin, Marshmallow Root Powder, Lactospore 15 Billion, Ginger Root Extract, Licorice Root Extract, Nettle Leaf Extract, Chlorella, Spirulina, Alfafa, Aloe Vera.
I was interested as to how these nutrients were selected for inclusion in the supplement. Inner Me Founder, Nikki, told me,
"We wanted to ensure that the capsule had a good dose of psyllium husk being a high soluble source of fibre which helps improve the health of your digestive system. As we do not use binders and fillers in our capsules we then listed our favourite nutrients that help boost gut/digestive health, which can be taken together safely, so extracts of artichoke, licorice, ginger, aloe vera and nettle leaf were used in particular."
What I especially like about the Inner Me brand is how involved Nikki is in the process of creating and sourcing the supplement blends. When I spoke to her, she could tell me everything from the details of size and type of capsule casing used to the specific PH that the probiotic spores can survive up to.
Because of this, and knowing Nikki's background and motive for founding Inner Me (if you aren't familiar, read Nikki's story), I really trust the quality of the product.
The Essential Three 28 day packs are £15, and you can save on postage when committing to a subscription.
As it is very similar in the way that it utilises a strip format, I also really like VITL's product.
The strips* contain:
Krill Oil (500mg)
The ingredients within the supergreens capsule add up to 989mg. To make a brief but crude comparison, Total Nutri Greens from MyProtein that I would otherwise use would be consumed in larger quantities. They recommend taking 7.5mg, 2 or 3 times a day (although I couldn't stomach that amount).
However, it's hard to make comparisons as not all companies disclose the potency of their extracts (VITL do; for example, their grape seed is provided from a 10:1 Extract), and VITL's product is not so much a greens powder as a superfood concentrate, given that it also contains nutrients from green tea and turmeric.
Similarly, while a direct comparison can't be made between Krill Oil and omega 3s from fish oil, the recommended daily dosage is up to 3g, so I would still have to supplement my omega 3 intake on top of this.
Co-enzyme Q10 is something that I was surprised to see in this pack as I wouldn't consider it an essential supplement. However, it is important in processing oxygen in cells to generate energy.
I personally didn't make as much use of it as I would have liked because I already take a multi-vitamin complex more medically suited to my needs. But, for someone not already dedicated to particular supplements, this is a great go-to.
VITL packs are £39.95 for a 28 day supply, although this price is reduced when committing to a subscription.
Biodose from Vitamyn
Vitamyn.co.uk is an online supplement shop. Their offering, Biodose, is a unique packaging system.
Pharmacist and director of Vitamyn, Farooq, explained to me:
"The idea is that because we make it much simpler for a person to be consistent with their supplements, they'll eventually get better results. I'm a firm believer that the best and longest lasting results come from daily repetition over a sustained period of time."
In theory, Biodose is a great idea. Vitamyn aim to offer supplements in Biodose in three forms:
1. Standardised packs
2. Customised packs
3. For professionals
The pack that I have is a standardised pack, soon to appear on the website alongside the fat-loss programme. The brand are currently developing more supplement programmes related to common sporting and fitness objectives.
My daily health pack* contained:
Omega 3 1000mg x 2
Vitamin C 1000mg
Vitamin D 600iu
I like this concept and the fact that the Biodose pods can also hold liquid and powder if need be, giving flexibility to future plans and to customised packs, if and when this option launches.
What really set the company apart, I think, is their work with sports profesionals. The product has real application for strength and conditioning coaches, dieticians or nutritionists who manage supplements for sports teams and athletes and want to simplify the regime. Vitamyn have already worked with football teams and I'm interested to see how this expands!
The current Vitamyn Fat-Loss Standardised Supplement Plan is available at £34.99 for a 28 day supply.
Staks have taken the concept of supplement stacking (or 'Stak'ing - get it?!) and made it more commerical, with a range of goal options, one of which will mostly likely apply to you.
It is the delivery format of the supplements that sets the brand apart. Each day's supplement 'Stak' is contained in a single pouch. Within that pouch, each supplement is individually portioned so that you can take them as and when you need them, even slipping them into a bag or a pocket to take on the go.
What I like about this brand is the 'luxe' feel; the pouches have a really sleek aesthetic and are super discreet.
The full Staks range includes:
Staks of Muscle
Staks of Lean
Staks of Wellbeing
Staks of Slimmer
Staks of Energy
Staks of Wow
The content of each 'Stak' differs, as you would expect. For example, Staks of Wellbeing contains everyday essentials such as a multivitamin, krill oil, iron + B12, supergreens and a protein powder. Staks of Muscle, meanwhile, contains a more typical bodybuilding stack, including a pre-workout, protein powder, testosterone booster, ZMA, a multivitamin, and krill oil.
While some of the Staks don't contain the exact supplements that I would personally select for specific goals (for example, I'd take biotin if my goal was to improve skin, hair and nails as per Staks of Wow), but these are great to get you started!
Pouches are £7.95 when bought individually from Harvey Nichols or 1Rebel, but can be bought at a cheaper price per pouch when ordering a weekly, monthly, or subsciption supply online.
Huel isn't technically designed to be a supplement. However, it has definitely wiggled it's way into the convenience category.
According to the brand,
"Huel is a nutritionally complete powdered food.
"Huel provides at least 100% of the UK Government's 'Reference Nutrient Intakes' and the European Union's 'Daily Recommended Amount'.
"Huel contains: No added sugar, no meat or animal products, no dairy, no soy, no eggs, making it suitable for those with even the most complex dietary requirements."
When I first heard the brand's bold claims of being "The future of food" and "Everything your body needs. Nothing more.", Huel seemed so ridiculously extreme that I thought it must have been some kind of PR stunt that would lead onto a whole other concept somehow. Not the case.
Huel is in fact very similar to the successful U.S. product, Soylent which also claims to provide "maximum nutrition with minimum effort".
The ingredients in Huel* are:
Vegan protein (rice + pea)
MCT from coconut
Vitamin + mineral blend
Ordinarily, I couldn't be less interested in meal replacements, but I quite like Huel's branding and the fact that the concept behind it has more substance and practicality than the usual weight-loss claims.
I wouldn't ever use this as a replacement for every meal as Huel suggests can be done. I didn't even attempt this for the sake of a 'project'. I love eating far too much, and I think that variety is important.
I replaced a meal with Huel on one occasion; one night that I was late home having attended an event after a long day in the office. I was too tired for a trip to the supermarket and to contemplate cooking. I was quite grateful that I could have an instant 'meal' without feeling guilty that my body was physiologically 'missing out'. I didn't enjoy consuming the shake, but at least the unpleasantness was shortlived, given its liquid form.
I actually think that Huel is a really practical nutrition solution in certain circumstances: when travelling, when unwell and unable to eat entire meals, when in hospital (I'm certain this is more nutritious than the meals I've experienced from the NHS), or to ensure adequate nutrient intake of lower-income or impoverished individuals. In essence, when you don't have access to healthy food, Huel is the better option.
Huel is £45 for a 1 week supply, which contains 14,000 calories (2000 per day). Discounts are applied when purchasing 2 or 4 week supplies.
I fully admit that these products are not ones that I would consistently use myself.
Because I have spent a lot of time researching nutrition, supplements, and have a good awareness of exactly what my body requires. I'm in a place where it is worthwhile tackling the minefield to build a supplement stack tailored to my body's needs.
Essentially, I would have to supplement most of these supplements!
For myself, I select what I believe to be the best quality or best value supplements, mixing and matching across brands. I also tweak my dosages quite often, depending on my nutritional intake from food (I always take a food-first approach) and current needs in terms of health and training.
However, there are certain scenarios I would find the handy format of these products really useful, such as for convenience when travelling.
Most importantly though, I would definitely recommend some of these products to people who just don't know where to start with nutritional supplementation, but know that they need a boost.
These brands have done the research, sourcing, dosing and packaging of your nutrition essentials for you, saving you time, and probably a bit of a headache.
I haven't gone massively in to depth reviewing each of these supplement concepts as looking at the content and quality of each ingredient used by each brand would be a long (and perhaps impossible) process. Really, this article is to show you that if you don't know where to start searching in the mammoth supplement market, there is something out there to make it easier.
I can't give a verdict on which of these supplement formats I rate most highly because they are all quite different. There is no best or worst. It's simply a case of choosing something that is most convenient for your lifestyle.