ISSA Chapter 15: Supplementation
ISSA Chapter 15: Supplementation 1

Chapter Goals:

  • Know the importance of vitamins and minerals in supplements.
  • Find the supplements known to enhance exercise performance and recovery.
  • Discuss the benefits of incorporating ergogenic aids and botanicals in a nutrition plan.

What is a Dietary Supplement?

A dietary supplement is defined as a product that has one or more dietary ingredients and is intended to supplement a person’s nutrition plan.

A dietary ingredient is any vitamin, mineral, herb, botanical, or amino acid.

Vitamins are organic compounds that are essential for normal growth and nutrition.

Minerals are elements in food that the body needs to develop and function.

Herbs are any plant with leaves, seeds, or flowers used for flavoring food and medicine.

Botanicals are substances found in plants and used as additives.

Amino acids are simple organic compounds that are the building blocks for protein.

Performance supplements have the intention of enhancing athletic performance.

Ergogenic aids are substances that enhance energy production and provide athletes with an edge in competition.

Nutritional Deficiencies

There are many elements to a quality nutrition plan, and supplements may serve as a vital component.

The elements of a good nutrition plan are nutrition awareness, food quality, and portion control.

There are many situations that could create a scenario where a nutritional deficiency is developed.

For example, someone consuming less than 1,200 calories per day will be missing out on many important nutrients in their diet.

People who have food allergies and other intolerances are more likely to avoid complete food groups like whole grains or dairy products.

Some people who do not spend enough time outside will create a deficiency of vitamin D.

Nutrient Requirements

Dietary Reference Intakes are a set of standards estimating how much of a nutrient needs to be taken in through planned eating patterns for healthy people.

Recommended daily allowance is the average daily level of intake that is sufficient to meet the needs of almost all healthy people.

Nutritional Supplements

Supplement use is at an all-time high when it comes to multivitamins and mineral supplements. These are supplements or pills that contain a combo of vitamins and minerals.

Supplements are not intended to cure or treat medical conditions, and that exceeds the scope of practice of a personal trainer anyways.

As people get older, their nutritional needs increase, which means being aware of what foods are consumed becomes quite important.

Daily Values: Vitamins

These values are what is normally seen on the labels of dietary supplements. This is expressed with a %DV symbol.

Daily values are reference amounts that are expressed in grams, mg, or micrograms of nutrients to consume or not exceed each day.

Fortified means having vitamins and other supplements added so that their nutritional value is heightened.

Daily Values: Minerals

Minerals are inorganic elements that are found in soil and water that the body requires for proper function and development.

Nutrition plans need to provide people with all the minerals the body needs to maintain cell and immune function.

Nutrient Absorption

The digestive system needs to be studied for nutrient absorption to be well-known.

The GI tract coordinates and controls the absorption sites for nutrients and helps to remove toxins.

About 95% of the food consumed will be absorbed in a healthy GI tract.

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The Vitamins and Minerals are absorbed directly by the cell lining inside the digestive tract and then put to use toward metabolic processes.

Supplementation and Life Stages

All stages of life are unique and affect one’s health and risk for disease in various ways.

Thus, it is important to know how one can supplement properly for each stage.

The dietary guidelines around the world can be found through the USDA national agricultural library.

The upper limit is the highest level of nutrient intake that is likely to pose no risk of adverse effects for nearly all people in the general population.

Ages 4 – 13

Nutritional requirements for children are higher than those for adults in proportion to body weight.

There is rapid growth and development which make nutrition critical for lifelong health.

The intakes need to be more specific for the children, and its harder to make general requirements for all kids in this age frame.

Ages 13 – 18

In puberty, physical changes happen that affect males and females differently.

As early as 10 years old, and up to 16 years old, growth and cognitive development happen, which requires adequate nutrient intake.

Adolescence sees the need for even more micronutrient intake than before.

Prenatal, Pregnant, and Breastfeeding

Proper nutrition is especially of importance in these times, as you need to provide the nutrients for another life to grow.

The nutrients that take important e are iron, folate, calcium, vitamin D, and protein.

Women meeting the RDA for energy are likely to meet the RDA for all nutrients.


The age of 65 is when elderly age is said to begin. At this point, we see a slowdown of the metabolism and a change in the nutrient uptake requirements.

Folate should be increased to help reduce amino acid levels in the blood.

Vitamin D also needs to be taken in at around 2,000 IU per day.

Bone loss should be prevented as well as possible. Somewhere in the realm of 1,000 – 1,200 calories is optimal.

Meal Replacements

These come in the form of a prepackaged drink, bar, or powder used to replace a meal.

The addition of vitamins and minerals in meal replacements makes them convenient for many people.

Meal replacements have become popular in weight-loss programs, low-calorie diets, and even in medical weight loss programs.

Satiety is the feeling of fullness and satisfaction.

Energy balance is the state achieved when energy intake is equal to energy expenditure.

Performance Supplements

Fitness professionals want clients to feel, look and perform always at their best.

Creatine monohydrate is an organic compound that increases phosphocreatine levels and adenosine triphosphate energy production leading to enhanced strength and power.

Creatine monohydrate is often taken pre-workout to maximize the high-intensity muscle contractions and strength is a great way to show this.

Antioxidants like vitamin C, E, and coenzyme Q10 are well known to minimize free radical damage to skeletal muscle, as well as reduce muscle fatigue, inflammation, and soreness.

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Arginine is known to increase blood flow and oxygen delivery to muscles, as well as increase the secretion of human growth hormone.

Beta-alanine increases the synthesis of carnosine, a dipeptide that buffers changes in pH of muscles, reducing muscle fatigue.

Nitrate is good for dilating blood vessels in exercising muscle and improving energy production.

Branched-Chain Amino Acids are metabolized by the mitochondria in skeletal muscle to produce energy during exercise.

Caffeine has the effect of reducing perceived pain and exertion and increases the metabolism of fat.

Calcium is used to improve the health of bones and joints, as well as the contraction of muscles.

Citrulline is used to increase the delivery of oxygen and some nutrients.

Creatine is used to help muscles generate short-term anaerobic activity.

Glutamine is good for metabolism and energy production, as well as for improving the immune system and preserving protein stores.

Iron is used to increase the uptake of oxygen and reduce the heart rate and decrease concentrations of lactate during exercise.


Resistance and endurance exercise is recommended to build and maintain strength, as well as counteract the effects of aging.

Stronger muscles will contribute to a more active lifestyle, which supports well-being and good health.

Keeping muscular strength works to reduce the risk of chronic disease, functional limitations, and physical disability.

Catabolic means a metabolic activity involving the breakdown of molecules like proteins or lipids.

Anabolism is the building of complex molecules in the body from smaller, simpler molecules.

Protein Quality Scoring

In order to understand the rating scales for classifying proteins, fitness professionals need to consider what protein is needed for.

Protein is all made up of amino acids, and some of them are essential, while others can be produced in the body.

Scoring protein sources allows us to see what sources have a higher content of essential amino acids.

Muscle protein synthesis is a process that produces a protein to repair muscle damage and oppose muscle breakdown.

The biological value is a percentage of protein used by the body.

Bioavailability relates to the amount of a substance that enters the circulation when it is introduced into the body.

The protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score measures the nutritional quality of protein.

The digestible indispensable amino acid score measures the number of amino acids absorbed by the body.

Protein Sources

Plant-based protein can lead to insufficient protein intake, as these contain less total protein and are going to more often include fewer essential amino acids.

An incomplete protein is one food source that lacks one or more of the nine essential amino acids.

A complete protein is a food source that contains all of the essential amino acids.

Animal-based proteins like meats, eggs, and milk are all complete proteins that have all of the essential amino acids that the body needs.

These protein sources also contain vitamins and minerals necessary for health in proportions not offered via plant-based proteins.

Milk-based proteins, both whey and casein, both contain the 9 essential amino acids.

These two milk proteins are commonly used in protein shake mixes, and should be considered high quality when looking to meet supplementation needs.

Anticatabolic means the properties that protect muscle mass from being broken down.

Protein Timing

This is controversial and used as a way to optimize the effects of training, like muscle growth and strength gains.

The idea is to consume protein as close to a training session as possible. This could be before, during, and after training.

The idea here is that there is an ideal window of opportunity for most protein synthesis. A refractory period exists, which is a window where muscle protein synthesis becomes resistant and amino acids are used for other things. It is not perfectly researched.


This is a conditionally dispensable amino acid found in dietary proteins and made by the body. It is only essential in times of illness and stress.

This can be a common form of supplement for active people.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

These supplements are likely the second most common ones on the market.

They are essential fatty acids for the body and can be missing in sufficient levels within the diet.

Ergogenic Aids

An ergogenic aid is a nutritional, pharmacologic, physiologic, or psychologic aid that serves to enhance exercise capacity.

Anabolic-androgenic steroids are synthetic variations of the male sex hormone, and these are banned by governing bodies.

As far as supplementation goes, it is somewhat opposed by many organizations to use ergogenic aids with young athletes.

It is important to weigh the effects of these ergogenic aids to properly understand and choose them.

Creatine is one of the most researched options for ergogenic aid, and monohydrate is the most popular form of creatine.

The goal of this is to increase the intramuscular levels of creatine and speed up the regeneration of CP.

Beta-alanine is a nonessential amino acid that we naturally produce in the body, and it works to aid the production of protein building blocks.

Supplementation of beta-alanine has been shown to increase skeletal muscle levels of carnosine, which helps buffer pH and works as an antioxidant.

Acidosis is when the kidneys and lungs can’t keep the body’s pH in the balance due to excess acid in the body’s fluids.

Branched-chain amino acids are a group of three amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. This is a popular supplement for active people.

Stimulants, like caffeine, have some more obvious effects on alertness and endurance, while also serving to help lose weight faster.

There are many banned ergogenic aids to keep track of, like anabolic steroids and things of this nature.

Botanical Supplements

These supplements are marketed within the US as dietary supplements and can include food items like herbs, enzymes, organ tissues, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals.

Botanicals are technically plants or plant parts that contain medicinal properties.

These botanicals have increased significantly in their popularity recently.

These botanicals can come in the form of fresh plants, dried plants, plant parts, and extracts.

Examples of botanicals include cannabidiol, cinnamon, echinacea, garlic, ginger, green tea, hoodia, milk thistle, saw palmetto, and valerian.

ISSA Chapter 15: Supplementation 2
ISSA Chapter 15: Supplementation 3
ISSA Chapter 15: Supplementation 4

Tyler Read

Tyler Read, BSc, CPT. Tyler holds a B.S. in Kinesiology from Sonoma State University and is a certified personal trainer (CPT) with NASM (National Academy of sports medicine), and has over 15 years of experience working as a personal trainer. He is a published author of running start, and a frequent contributing author on Healthline and Eat this, not that.

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