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The names often sound a bit off-putting and witchcraft, but increasingly, fitness supplements are becoming an integral part of people’s health and wellness routines. This is largely down to the fact they are better researched and tested compared to the past, not to mention packaged in cool-looking minimalist containers that look pretty in our cupboards.

A natural cynic of fitness supplements as a whole, I was nevertheless recently convinced to try Ashwagandha – a herb that has been used for years but only recently been given thorough scientific scrutiny. I feared it was a ’70s throwback and would lead to barefoot dancing and very loose shirts; in reality it improved my workouts, concentration and sleep.

Ideally we’d meet all our needs with actual food but Gymbox master trainer Firas Iskandarani, one of London’s top PTs, believes supplements can be a great way to fill gaps. “It’s important to try and meet nutritional needs through a balanced diet, but supplements can be helpful if there are specific deficiencies or dietary limitations,” he says.

“Consider doing a blood test to identify any deficiencies and then target supplementation accordingly. Ashwagandha, B Complex vitamins and creatine have all been heavily researched, and creatine in particular is something I am a fan of,” adds Iskandarani.

The effects often take a few months to kick in and the capsules are frequently bulky, but using herbal treatments feels a lot gentler on the system than more hardcore pharmaceuticals. Dosage advice varies because studies are mostly small scale and optimal amounts are yet to be established but a good rule of thumb is if you’re a bigger person, lean towards the higher end of the recommended range.

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The rise of fitness supplements seems unstoppable, so here are some we’d recommend – and what they are best for.

Lions Mane

Best for brain health

This is a mushroom with a ’90s rap video white shagpile look. Studies have found that it can ease anxiety and can act as a powerful antioxidant – perfect for the focus you need to make that last rep count in your workout. Rhian Stephenson, who is a nutritionist and naturopath and the founder of supplements company Artah, says, “Lion’s Mane is specifically good for the brain. It’s also really good for the gut and has been shown to inhibit pathogenic bacteria (the bad ones). Our gut and our brain are so linked.”

B vitamin complex

Best for boosting energy

Sophie Medlin is a consultant dietitian and head of nutritional research at supplement makers Heights. “A good quality B vitamin complex should give you all the energy you need both in training and for recovery. They are the precursors for neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine. I recommend methylated B vitamins – this means they are in a form that makes them easy to access.”

Creatine

Best for muscle growth

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