Are protein and vitamin supplements simply a necessity?

If you are trying to hit the protein and micronutrient requirements needed to build muscle (not to mention mitochondria, capillaries, connective tissue…), avoid anemia, etc., but also need to keep calories low enough to burn excess fat, are supplements simply a necessity?

Obviously it’s best to eat lots of whole foods, but the sheer amount of food I would have to eat to get ~100 grams of protein a day (~70 kg lean body mass X 1.5) just seems absurd to me. That’s over seven chicken thighs (800 kcal), something like 15 eggs (1000 calories), three liters of whole milk (1,900 calories). Never mind how much food I’d need to get just the iron, folate, and B12 needed to build RBCs.

On the other hand, multivitamins (theoretically) provide more or less 100% of micronutrient needs for essentially zero calories while whey protein is something like 533 calories for 100 grams protein.

Considering I have 10+ kg of excess body fat, I will need to maintain a reasonable calorie deficit for several months at a time to hit my goal weight.

Are supplements essentially mandatory for athletes, especially those in my situation?
Are multivitamins cheap insurance, or do they just make your pee expensive?

The idea of having to buy, cook, and eat so much food seems daunting compared to downing two or three whey shakes per day (which I actually enjoy the flavor of anyway) and then eating a normal balanced diet.

No, not at all. And supplements have unproven effectiveness.

Also disagree. Its likely that you were overeating to maintain the excess body fat, so if you reduce your excess eating, your body fat will reduce. Trying to work hard in a calorie deficit is asking your body to do opposing things.

1 Like


Proven where?

By definition, if your weight does not change, you are not eating excessively. In theory, you have to eat insufficient calories to lose body fat. Period. Although body composition is far more complicated than simply calories in, calories out.

Ok. What do you suggest I eat to get 100 grams of calories and sufficient micronutrients while staying under 1,500 calories (plus extra carbs for workouts, of course) without the use of supplements?

We’re in very different mind spaces here, you seem quite convinced of yours so I won’t trouble you further with mine.


I weigh 71kg. My BMR is around 1750. My average daily workout burns ~800kcals. So my average daily consumption is around 2,550kcals. Given that consumption it’s not that hard to hit 100g of protein per day, and I’m vegan.
There are occasions when my protein intake is a bit low (my fault for not ensuring my meals are balanced) but I can supplement with a protein bar/shake.

If you’re not vegan, and you are eating a healthy and well-balanced diet then I don’t think you need supplements and hitting your protein target should be easy.

If you’re not calorie counting, I would strongly suggest trying it for a few days. It will inform you if you are hitting your targets or not and, crucially, it will tell you why.


Agreed - similar here as a 75kg vegan and I am doing 15-20hrs training a week. Only supplement I take is a daily B12.

Eat loads of wholefoods and just make sure you have a protein source in each meal. Being vegan that means for me its oats, nuts and seeds in my breakfast, soups made with beans or lentils and lots of green leafy veg for lunch or wholegrain bread with homemade veg humus and/or peanut butter, evening meal always has a good protein source like chickpeas, beans, lentils, tofu, peas etc. Obviously if you’re not vegan its much easier as you can add eggs, chicken, dairy etc.

If it’s easy as a vegan then its even easier as an omnivore. There is so much hype around ‘recovery’ products but eat wholefoods or time your training to end close to a meal time and there’s little need for the average recreational cyclist to need loads of supplements.


70kg lean body mass + 10kg BF. You weight at least 80kg and you want to eat ~1500 kcal a day? And you want to train all the time? My weight is ~66kg, my caloric intake (post-training and during-training food not included) is 2300kcal. And it is for maintain the weight. To will loose the weight during build period with no caloric intake change. To cut the weight without changing my current training I should cut 300-500kcal. Still, it is ~1800kg for ~66kg guy.

I use protein powder in my post-workout shake and I add the powder after core/strength training. Other supplements I use: beta-alanine, creatine, d3 vitamine. Just eat a proper food and be careful how you prepare it :slight_smile: As an endurance athlete you don’'t need that much protein as you might think :wink:

1 Like

Body Composition is different from weight loss. Weight loss is Calories In v Calories Out. Too complex for me to really target composition - I just try to look after my diet and be consistent with my training and, as Amber says regularly on the podcast, let the body do it’s stuff.

Regarding supplements - well I do use multi vitamins, and vitamin C, even though I know there’s no real scientific support. And I’d be confident I have a rounded enough diet in reality. However, I kinda go with it does no harm.

I also use whey, but I really don’t get why people see it as not real food. It’s in milk, and is a by product of making cheese. Processed maybe, and depending on the brand, some flavourings and sweeteners (and again despite the press, no proven evidence of them being harmful or negative response in humans).

fwiw, I supplement with whey, but rarely have a shake. I have it in my morning porridge and mixed with yogurt over a fruit/ berry salad, or as part of “overnight” oats (which I normally have in an evening to top up for morning workouts). I am partial to protein bars after my evening meal, which I can’t stand over as much, but I get ones that have reasonable quality protein!

Personally, given my age and training regime, I’d rather overshoot the endurance athlete recommendations. Again, nothing to back that up scientifically, just another “what harm”…


(post deleted by author)

I agree it shouldn’t be that hard to hit protein targets if you are eating at maintenance levels instead of trying to lose weight. Bioavailability of plant protein and B12 supplementation aside.

No, 1,500 as a baseline before training (2000 - 500 + N). I’m trying to cut fat, not starve myself!
80 kg is actually my goal weight…

I’m getting mixed messages about supplements here lol

(post deleted by author)

So, how much do you weight actually? I eat 2800-3500kcal a day depends on training intensity and volume. But my weight is ~66kgs.

About supplements, it all depends :slight_smile: There are a few supplements with proven effectiveness: e.g. beta-alanine, creatine, d3. But e.g vitamins you should supplement only with there are shortages in your body. Let’s take iron: if there is not enough of it you can have anemia but if you have too much of it you can destroy your organs. So you shouldn’t use supplements just in case. It’s not a problem to use protein powder but you shouldn’t replace with it normal food. Just don’t use it too much. For me it’s about 20-40grams of powder in a training day. If I race and I don’t have a kitchen/place to prepare post-workout food/shake I use recovery supplements with carbohydrates, proteins etc. e.g. PowerBar Recovery Max or SIS Rego Rapid Recovery. But not on the daily basis.

Focus on not processed food, healthy fat, nutrients and monitor your body but use minimum effective dose attitude. You can use some supplements, it’s not a problem but don’t exceed it and as often as you can use normal, not processed food.

In my opinion 300-500kcal of deficit is enought to lose fat. I lost a lot of kgs many times in my life :slight_smile: I did it like 5 times: from 90kgs to 65/70kgs. It took time every time :slight_smile:


“So, how much do you weight actually? I eat 2800-3500kcal a day depends on training intensity and volume. But my weight is ~66kgs.”

As a general manner, people are truly, horribly, awfully, astronomically bad at estimating how much food they eat. They are slightly less bad when they count calories. But seeing as how I am neither gaining nor losing significant amounts of weight (though I have lost 34 kilos from my heaviest a few years ago…), probably within a few hundred calories of how much I burn per week. Assuming the people on the “hormone theory” side of the diet debate aren’t actually right and CICO has a linear relationship with weight loss.

According to blood tests I actually was anemic but I started taking a multivitamin just to be safe and this time I wasn’t (though my hemoglobin was only 14.2, which I think is lowish? Hematocrit was 44, which seems decent considering I’d be doing a lot of riding.).

"As a general manner, people are truly, horribly, awfully, astronomically bad at estimating how much food they eat. "

I’m not :slight_smile: I work with nutritionist and everything is calculated properly. Actually I have started work with nutritionist when I was a young athlete (when I was ~16, I’m 38 right now) so I even don’t have to weight the food to know how much it weights :stuck_out_tongue:

I know what the hormones imbalance means (I went though this) and I know how it effects on my body. I did a lot of reduction phases with different attitude to them and on different “age phase”.

Don’t get me wrong, It’s yours life, your body, your decisions. You will do whatever you want but I always recommend work with specialist. Especially if someone trains hard as hell. We, at least me, want to be health, fast and lean and we can do it on our own with all the mistakes or just use someone’s knowledge to achieve our goals. Good luck!


Vitamin supplements are unnecessary (and of course possibly even harmful) unless you suffer from an overt deficiency. Except for some of the B vitamins (which you will get more of simply because you will eat more), vitamin needs are also not increased by regular exercise.

Protein needs do seem to be elevated by both endurance and resistance training. However, a normal mixed diet already generally contains enough protein to meet even these elevated needs.

Notably, although acute protein or amino acid supplementation has been repeatedly shown to increase muscle protein synthesis, studies of chronic supplementation have failed to demonstrate any benefits. (IOW, much of the work of Phillips, Tipton, etc., seems to be built on a house of cards.)


I don’t seem to struggle that much hitting ~120g a protein a day (64kg body weight) without resorting to protein bars / drinks. I do use them if I’ve been particularly lax with my diet though (for instance, if I’ve had a big pasta meal then I’ll probably add some protein after).

An example from this week would be:

Omelette: 24g protein
Sous-vide Chicken Breast + Salad: 42g protein
Beef Casserole: 41g protein
Skyr / Greek yoghurt + Fruit: 25g protein

Loads of other options that I have regularly, usually some form of curried meat, as well, it’s delicious, full of protein and very few calories!

I am currently taking vitamins as I’m on a heavy calorie deficit, but I wouldn’t normally as I’d expect my (varied) diet to handle any shortfalls.

Edit - I should note that I weight train as much as I cycle, so your protein needs may differ.

They’re both right. The problem with CICO if taken literally is measuring it. Even assuming you can accurately count the calories you consume, the calories your body actually absorbs depends on the food, how it’s been cooked, etc. Calorie output is even harder to measure. Even if you go to a lab and get your basal metabolic rate measured, that changes over time as you lose or gain weight, lean muscle mass, etc. Kcal burn during cycling is fairly accurate if you have a power meter. But measuring calorie output across a day when you’re walking around, eating, drinking coffee, sitting at your desk? There’s a lot of estimation in there.

The “hormone theory” is also right as hormones play a huge role in governing your metabolism. When you eat a large rich meal too close to bedtime and then wake up in the middle of the night sweating, that’s your hormones ramping up your metabolism to try and burn off some of those calories.

Simple approach is that if your diet and exercise regime is constant and you’re not losing or gaining weight, then your CICO is fairly balanced. But tipping the balance to lose weight may not be as simple as cutting what you eat or increasing how much exercise you do. E.g. could be you can lose weight and improve body composition by maintaining the same calorie intake and exercise levels, but change the type of food you eat. Or change the timing of when you eat or work out. Or get more sleep (sleep plays a big part in hormonal regulation).

All of which is a bit off topic to your original question! But I think that’s already been mostly answered. You shouldn’t need vitamin supplements to be healthy, with the possible exception of things like collagen and omega 3 which are pretty hard to get enough of from your diet unless you eat a lot of bone broth and oily fish. And for an endurance athlete (as opposed to a power athlete) it isn’t too hard to get enough protein from your diet either. But protein powder is a relatively inexpensive and extremely convenient way to get a hit of protein at times when convenience is at a premium e.g. making a quick post-workout shake before going to work.