In a world where every ‘cutting edge’ counts, active individuals may find themselves drawn to things that promise to enhance performance or expedite recovery. But amidst the cacophony of marketing buzzwords, what does the evidence truly reveal?

Join me, Sports Dietitian Rose Maclean, as we dissect & summarise the research, debunk myths, and uncover nuanced truths behind three supplements: creatine, magnesium, and glutamine. 




Creatine monohydrate, a powerhouse in the world of fitness and supplements, is widely embraced by both casual gym-goers and athletes alike. Despite extensive research supporting its benefits, misinformation and confusion about creatine persists. In this comprehensive section, I will dissect everything you need to know about creatine – its origin, usage, safety, efficacy and impact on body composition. Whether you’re considering integrating into your routine or seeking optimal strategies, I’ve got you covered. 

Understanding Creatine: 

Creatine, a non-protein amino acid found naturally in muscle tissue, is abundant in red meat and seafood. [Cue, we’re about to get a bit ‘sciencey’, but hold tight] In the body, creatine combines with a high-energy phosphate group to form phosphocreatine, stored in the muscles. During intense activities like heavy lifting or sprints, the body utilises the split-off phosphate to rapidly produce energy (known as ATP). All big fancy words, but all you need to know is that supplementing with creatine ensures higher energy production, leading to enhanced high-intensity performance and improved training adaptations.

“So you said creatine is naturally abundant in red meat & seafood. Why can’t I just eat enough of this to reach my creatine goals?” This is a common question I get asked, and whilst I am all for a food-first approach, as a Dietitian, this does not mean I am ‘food only’. Creatine is an exception to this rule as you would need to eat up to a kilogram of beef, a day, to reach sufficient levels [we will discuss this level/dosage soon don’t you worry] which isn’t feasible for most individuals, particularly those following a more plant-based diet”. 

Who may benefit from taking Creatine:

In short, pretty much anyone! Creatine is not limited to males, ‘weightlifters’, or those wanting to get ‘bulky’. Its benefits extend to various sports and exercises. Research demonstrates the positive effects of weight training, running, soccer, swimming, mixed martial arts, cycling, American football, and more. Its advantages also extend beyond performance, with evidence supporting post-exercise recovery, injury prevention, thermoregulation modulation (big fancy words for the ability to regulate body temperature), and rehabilitation assistance. There is also some promising and emerging research on the effects of Creatine on cognitive function, as well as having a positive influence on concussion, and potential spinal cord neuroprotection. All in all, Creatine's effects are not just limited to males or ‘building muscle’, in fact, females are just as likely to see significant gains in maximal strength, exercise capacity, and lean body mass. 

Effects and benefits: 

Decades of research confirm Creatine’s effectiveness in improving fat-free mass and strength grains, particularly in exercises like squats and bench press. Specific benefits include increased maximal power and strength, improved sprint performance, decreased recovery times, enhanced work capacity, and greater gains in strength, power, and body mass, without affecting body fat per cent. Notably, these benefits extend to both males & females in research. 

How to take Creatine: 

Creatine supplementation typically involves two phases: a loading phase lasting 5-7 days and a maintenance phase. During the loading phase, ~20g of creatine per day is recommended, divided into 4 or 5 doses, or based on personal preference. 

On the other hand, the maintenance phase involves taking 3-5g per day to sustain optimal muscle creatine levels. While some opt for a slow loading approach (i.e. starting with maintenance dose or near and slowing building up), studies suggest it takes longer to reach saturation levels (in the muscle). 

Loading is not completely necessary. Whether you choose to do a faster or slower approach, is completely personal preference and permitted on timing (i.e. if you have a competition upcoming where you would like to reach maximal benefits sooner rather than later), 

The timing of creatine is not crucial, as research suggests improvements regardless of timing. However, taking creatine after a resistance training session may enhance lean mass gains. 

The main message with Creatine, however, is consistency! Taking this supplement every day, both training and non-training days is important to maintain saturation levels. This means forming good habits with this supplement is key, therefore making consistency more of a priority over timing. 

“But won’t I gain weight” is always the burning question. The short answer is yes, you may. But this is water weight, not fat mass. Creatine naturally makes you retain more water, especially in the initial phases of introducing this, however, this generally corrects itself & subsides after a few weeks, to a month, of taking”. 

Creatine Cycling:

Contrary to myths about Creatine cycling, there is no need to cycle off creatine. Long-term usage does not decrease sensitivity or affect synthesis. If you stop taking the maintenance dose, creatine levels will decline after approximately 30 days. Cycling off may disrupt positive habits, making consistency essential for long-term gains. 

Is it safe:

Creatine’s safety is well-established at prescribed doses. As discussed, transient weight gain, from water retention, is often associated with initially tsking creatine. Long-term studies show no detrimental effects on the liver or kidneys, for otherwise-healthy adults. While creatine increased dihydrotestosterone (DHT), linked to male pattern baldness, evidence lacks a direct link to balding. Please note, that it’s a good idea to consult with your healthcare professional before taking this supplement if you have any predisposing kidney or liver conditions. 

For individuals competing in sports/ federations where they may be tested, opting for supplements that are third-party batch tested (i.e. HASTA / informed sport certified) is strongly encouraged. This ensures that through the production and manufacturing of the supplement, the risk of coming into contact with or being contaminated by ‘banned substances’, is dramatically reduced. Look out for the little tick with either HASTA or informed sports certification on the supplement packet. Happy Way supplements are currently undergoing procedures to ensure their Creatine is third-party batch tested (woohoo!)


In summary, creatine is a highly beneficial supplement with minimal risk and low cost. Its proven advantages across various sports and exercises make it a staple for many. Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or a fitness enthusiast, incorporating creatine in your training regime can amplify gains and contribute to overall performance. Always consult with a Dietitian or your health care provider for personalised advice on supplementation. 



Taking magnesium before bed, for improved sleep, has become a popular practice for some individuals. 

The practice is rooted in the understanding that magnesium binds to GABA receptors, which regulate nerve activity, theoretically aiding in relationship and sleep preparation by helping one ‘wind down’ before bed. 

Although this makes sense in theory, how much does this matter in practice, and most importantly, what does the research show? Some research suggests that inadequate magnesium levels are associated with reduced sleep quality and quantity. While deficiencies are rare, certain groups, such as older adults, alcoholics, and individuals with special health concerns, are more susceptible to lower levels. Despite recommended daily magnesium intake, most people fall short, prompting considerations of food versus supplements. 

Although evidence remains inconclusive, other research has suggested that higher magnesium intake, whether through diet or supplements, correlated with improved sleep, including a 2021 systematic review also suggests that magnesium supplements may reduce the time it takes to fall asleep and increase total sleep time. Yet, further research is needed for conclusive statements, other than anecdotal reports (i.e. personal success). 

What’s the downside of magnesium? The possible side effects of magnesium (supplemental) are mainly gastrointestinal, such as nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhoea, which are more prominent with higher doses.

The standard dosage recommendation is ~200-300mg of magnesium citrate or glycinate an hour before bed (as these are the more researched forms). For those with more ‘sensitive stomachs’, glycinate is likely a better option. 

In summary, while the research on magnesium and sleep yields mixed results, there is evidence linking magnesium deficiency and low magnesium intake, with poor sleep, however, more research is required in this area to make conclusive statements. Although an otherwise safe option, when used in the appropriate dosage, magnesium supplements offer an affordable and relatively safe option that could be worth trying for some individuals. As always, it’s recommended to seek individualised advice from a Dietitian or your health care provider before starting a new supplement. 



In the world of digestive ‘wellness’, glutamine has received some spotlight.  

Why? Constituting around 30% of the body’s glutamine production, this amino acid plays a role in sustaining and fuelling gut processes, including keeping the gut ‘villi’ healthy, and maintaining the integrity of the gut wall, thereby playing an important role in maintaining gut health.   

Glutamine becomes particularly important during periods of intense stress or trauma. During these instances, depletion of glutamine can lead to several gut disturbances, including disturbances of these little structures called ‘villi’ in the small intestine, which may result in nutritional deficiencies.  

The potential link between glutamine supplementation and improved gut health has prompted research, particularly for conditions like Crohn’s disease, IBS, and more. While some studies suggest positive outcomes, the overall clinical efficiency and relevance remain debated. 

Additionally, in the realm of athletic performance, glutamine emerges as a potential solution for managing gastrointestinal distress, during endurance events, however, despite promising findings, the precise mechanism and long-term effects of glutamine supplementation remain elusive. 

In summary, glutamine’s role in gut health is intricate. While glutamine plays an important role in sustaining the gut, including the villi and intestinal wall, the body generally produces an adequate amount of glutamine, for its requirements, in generally healthy individuals and populations. Despite some studies indicating positive effects, the clinical effectiveness and significance of glutamine remain an ongoing debate. More research is required to explore the multifaceted relationship between glutamine, gut health, and/or athletic performance. 


Follow Sports Dietitian Rose on Instagram for loads of information on supplements, performance and delicious recipes! @dietitianrose



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