Three supplements for footballers

Football Performance Team

Football Performance Team

Our staff team, who in sparring with Jacob Strøm deliver relevant content and knowledge.

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Looking for the extra tools to optimize your performance? In this post we'll review 3 supplements - creatine, magnesium and fish oil. All our knowledge is based on personal experience and scientific articles.
Three supplements for footballers

What is creatine?

In short, creatine is a substance that is naturally produced in the body and consists of 3 amino acids (L-arginine, glycine and methionine). In the body, creatine binds with phosphate and is therefore a fast source of energy in the form of creatine phosphate, where a phosphate molecule is donated to adenosine diphosphate (ADP) to form adenosine triphosphate (ATP) (energy) (1) - click here to read our full post on creatine

What kind of creatine is best?

Most fitness brands often try to tell you otherwise, but this is where the science comes through. 

There are several forms of creatine. These include creatine hydrochloride (Creatine HCI), buffered creatine (Kre-Alkylyn), creatine ethyl ester and creatine monohydrate. The latter is the most common form of creatine and the one that has been tested the most (7), as well as being the cheapest. This form can also come as "micronized creatine", which really just means that the particle size is smaller, giving better solubility in water, but has the same effect as "regular" creatine monohydrate.

Studies show that the most effective and cheapest is creative monohydrate and the one we recommend you go for. Creatine binds more fluid in the body, which we want, as it means a larger store of creatine phosphate in the muscles.

Creatine for power output and sprint performance?

Creatine monohydrate supplements improve power output if taken continuously, regardless of gender, for a period of 8 weeks. Specifically, improvements of 7 kg more in bench press and 10 kg more in squat (11,12).

The restitution period between 'sprint sets' is crucial for the amount of creatine phosphate that can be regenerated (13) and its rate is strongly related to performance during these sprints (14).

Therefore, creatine supplementation appears to be effective in increasing power output in anaerobic cardiovascular exercise. This includes sprints (15,16,17,18) and has been shown to increase acid threshold and time to willpower exhaustion after only 6 days of 20 g creatine per day divided into 4 doses of 15 g glucose (19).

However, creatine supplementation does not appear to have any direct performance optimising effect on longer duration events that do not consist of sprints.

Want to know more about creatine and muscle building? Are there side effects? What should creatine be taken with, where and when? Get it all spelled out in this popular post - Creatine - everything you should know!

What is magnesium?

Magnesium is an essential mineral, and the second most prominent electrolyte in our body. Magnesium is involved in over 300 enzymatic processes including energy (ATP) production. Click here to read our full post on magnesium.

How much magnesium do we need?

The Danish Health Authority recommends that women and men take 280 and 350 mg daily, respectively (1). Recommendations in the US are slightly higher at 310-420 mg per day (2). Based on these figures, about 68% of the adult population in the US consumes 19% less magnesium than recommended (3).

Magnesium and sleep - how are they linked?

This suggests that magnesium plays a role when it comes to sleep, as magnesium intake can have a calming effect. Magnesium is significantly but weakly correlated with sleep depth independent of dietary energy composition, with the quartile with the least magnesium also having similar results with sleep (4). This is probably more than effect rather than cause, as deliberate sleep deprivation (80% of normal sleep volume) for 4 weeks has been shown to reduce magnesium levels in red blood cells by 3.5% (5). This means that lack of sleep alone may be causing you to have insufficient magnesium.

In a study of 12 healthy elderly subjects, increasing magnesium intake (10 mmol and 30 mmol at the end) for 20 days led to a 63.3% increase in deep sleep and decreased cortisol (stress hormone) levels during sleep, which counteracted age-related changes in sleep patterns (6).

Similar results were also found in people aged 59 +/- 8 years who consumed less magnesium than recommended. Over 7 weeks, they received 320 mg magnesium citrate daily, which improved their sleep quality and some inflammatory parameters. An interesting finding was also that no increase in serum (liquid blood) magnesium was found compared to the placebo group, except for those subjects who were already deficient (7).

What kind of magnesium should I take?

When it comes to magnesium, it can be beneficial to choose different types of magnesium and possibly spread them out over the day.

Oxide I would definitely not recommend due to the very low absorbency, which can lead to diarrhea. Instead, I would recommend citrate and bis- or di-glycinate. Other forms such as citramate, gluconate and taurinate also seem to have good absorbency.

How much and when should I take magnesium?

When it comes to magnesium, it can be beneficial to choose different types of magnesium and possibly spread them out over the day.

Oxide I would definitely not recommend due to the very low absorbency, which can lead to diarrhea. Instead, I would recommend citrate and bis- or di-glycinate. Other forms such as citramate, gluconate and taurinate also seem to have good absorbency.

I recommend a daily dose of 300 - 600 mg depending on your needs and based on your diet and any symptoms.

As magnesium has a calming effect I would recommend that you take it before bed, along with your last meal/shake/smoothie.

The daily dose can also be divided during the day, for example 200 mg with breakfast and 400 mg before bedtime.

It can also be taken after exercise to help recovery, however be aware that magnesium should not be taken on an empty stomach...

Get all our knowledge on magnesium by clicking on - Magnesium - what you need to know!

What is fish oil?

Fish oil is the common term for two different forms of omega 3 fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

These omega 3 fatty acids are largely found in fish, and it is this amount you should look for when buying fish oil, as it is these that have the greatest effect on our health.

Many fish oil supplements contain other omega 3 fatty acids that are not EPA or DHA, but could in many cases contain DPA, or other fatty acids that are not omega 3.

In general, there are many benefits to taking fish oil, especially since our diet today contains high amounts of omega 6 (red meat, eggs, etc.). For many, the ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 is; 15-20 to 1, and should be closer to 3 to 1! (1,2,3,4)

In a nutshell - what does fish oil do?

  • #1 - Fish oil can boost your weight loss.
  • #2 - Fish oil can improve your circulation
  • #3 - Fish oil reduces inflammation


Want to know why? Get the full context in this post - Fish oil - here's what you need to know!

The amount depends largely on the goal, but equally important is the rest of the diet, since, as mentioned, the ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 also plays an important role.

As always, I would prefer real food over supplements, but it can be difficult to get enough omega 3 through regular diet, especially if you want the most optimal results.

Based on a number of studies, I would recommend taking between 2 and 6 g EPA and DPA (combined) per day. Important you are aware that it is 2 g EPA/DHA, not just 2 g fish oil.

The vast majority of 'known' brands have no more than 200mg EPA/DHA per 1000mg, which is relatively low and would mean you would need to take over 10 pills to get a real effect. Instead, choose a manufacturer with a minimum of 750 mg EPA/DHA per 1000 mg.


Approximately 35 sources were used to summarise this post. Find each source under the full grant review below. Football performance.

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