Best Supplements For Wrestlers (And Which To Avoid)

December 7, 2023

Let me preface this article. You don’t need supplements to perform well as a wrestler. However, some supplements are worth your money as you can’t get them from dietary means.

When supplementing with them, you can improve performance further. But you must be wary of sneaky marketing pushing various supplements that are useless or downright dangerous.

So, I've curated a list of the best wrestling supplements and included supplements you must avoid.

  • Vitamin D3
  • Whey Protein
  • Creatine Monohydrate
  • Fish Oil
  • Electrolytes
  • Beta-Alanine

Best Supplements For Wrestlers

Vitamin D3

Vitamin D3 50000 Iu

Taking Vitamin D3 serves two purposes:

  1. Reduce Vitamin D deficiency
  2. Improve aerobic and anaerobic performance

Athletes who train predominantly indoors most likely have sub-optimal vitamin D levels. For example, of 488 indoor Spanish athletes, 82% had sub-optimal vitamin D levels, with 45% being deficient [1].

This leads to many issues, as vitamin D levels are associated with bone mineral density, strength, muscle size, and immune system strength [2].

But what's more interesting is Andrew Marley's PhD research in combat athletes. His two recent studies have shown that 50,000 IUs of vitamin D per week improved aerobic and anaerobic exercise performance compared to placebo [3][4].

You can listen to how he conducted and the results of his research on the Sweet Science of Fighting podcast below.

How you take 50,000 IUs of vitamin D is a personal preference. Andrew states he takes one 50,000 pill weekly. But you can take 10,000 IUs five times per week if you prefer taking your supplements daily.

I take one 50,000 IU pill per week and got an entire year's supply for $10. It's stupid cheap, so there's no excuse not to take it.

I've linked the vitamin D I use below:

NOW Foods Vitamin D3 50,000 IU

Whey Protein

Whey Protein For Wrestlers

Protein powder is not a necessary supplement. But there are three main reasons I recommend protein powder be part of your diet:

  • You struggle to hit your daily protein from whole foods
  • You’re always busy and don’t have to have a proper meal
  • You’re on a tight budget

Your goal is to hit 0.8 - 1 g per pound of bodyweight protein daily. If you're 180 lbs, this can be challenging for some who don't eat as much meat or eat fewer meals. Supplementing with protein powder is a simple way to reach your protein target.

Further, if you’re going from training straight back to work, downing a protein shake in the car doesn’t require heating a meal in the microwave or sitting somewhere to eat.

Finally, protein powder is the cheapest protein source per serving, so you can buy less expensive meat to stick within your food budget.

How do you know which protein is best? As long as you’re hitting your daily protein target, the type of protein doesn’t matter.

However, there are other features you must consider as a wrestler. Third-party testing with the informed sport tick is the MOST IMPORTANT badge to look for.

You want a protein powder tested for banned substances so you don't get popped from tainted protein.

I recommended Transparent Labs 100% Grass Fed Whey Protein as they are third-party tested, tastes great, and has one of the highest protein-to-serving size ratio of any brand.

This means most of the scoop is protein and not cheap filler content. If you're sensitive to dairy, whey isolate is your best option other than non-dairy protein powders, as it's been processed further and has little to no lactose.

Transparent Labs Whey Protein

Creatine Monohydrate

Transparent Labs Creatine Wrestler

Creatine is the most misunderstood supplement all wrestlers should be taking. It’s thought to cause weight gain, stomach issues, muscle cramping, hair loss, dehydration, and kidney damage.

Yet none of these are supported by research [5]. Yes, you will initially gain weight. But it’s water weight saturating your muscles with creatine - the desired effect you want to provide more energy for explosive tasks.

If you're a creatine responder, you can expect to gain approximately 1.2% of body weight [6]. Non-responders may see no weight gain at all.

Taking creatine will increase strength by approximately 8%, increase the reps performed at a given load by 14%, and enhance anaerobic power, an essential quality for wrestling conditioning [7][8].

Regarding creatine type, stick with monohydrate. Other forms of creatine show similar or worse rates of muscle saturation yet cost more due to marketing. Monohydrate is 100% effective, and you can't bet better.

You don’t need to load it unless you’re in a rush to see performance benefits. 5 g daily is all you need to see full muscle creatine saturation in 28 days.

It's a no-brainer supplement for wrestlers. But the same rules apply regarding third-party testing for banned substances if you're competing in the NCAA or other tested competitions. Look for the informed sport tick.

Transparent labs have an excellent flavored creatine that’s been tested.

Transparent Labs Creatine Monohydrate

If you're not competing in a tested competition but still looking for a high-quality, tested for impurities and unflavored creatine, then Lift Big Eat Big does an excellent bundle deal to save you money.

Lift Big Eat Big 100% Pure Creatine Monohydrate

Fish Oil

Sports Research Fish Oil

If you're not on a college budget and eating fatty fish like salmon regularly, you don't need to supplement with fish oil. But taking fish oil is important for others who don't eat fatty fish regularly.

For example, taking 4.2 g of EPA/DHA combined led to greater vertical jump height and less muscle soreness following training up to 48 hours [9].

Further, 3.2 g of EPA/DHA reduced heart rate during maximal and sub-maximal exercise and reduced whole-body oxygen demand without reducing performance [10].

When choosing a fish oil supplement, look for a high ratio of EPA/DHA to the capsule size. For example, the common dose is 180 mg of EPA and 120 mg of DHA in a 1 g capsule.

Meaning only 300 mg of 1000 mg is actual fish oil. Instead, choose high-potency fish oil like Sports Research Triple Strength Fish Oil.

I use this one, and if you're in the USA, get it from Costco.

Sports Research Triple Strength Fish Oil


Transparent Labs Hydrate

Wrestling is known for grueling practices lasting 2-3 hours. That’s a lot of sweating. The average person who trains three times a week doesn’t need an electrolyte supplement despite what recent marketing tells you.

But as a wrestler training multiple times per week and potentially twice daily, electrolytes become necessary for recovery.

Sports drinks typically don't have enough sodium to be useful electrolyte replenishers. Some are disingenuous enough to load their drinks with potassium and no sodium, yet you sweat predominantly sodium.

So, look for an electrolyte supplement with a high sodium concentration. There is no general rule, as everyone sweats sodium at different rates, with some wrestlers being "salty sweaters."

Regardless, look for 500 - 1000 mg of sodium in the serving. Transparent Labs has a 500 mg sodium electrolyte formula that tastes great and has the informed sport tick.

Transparent Labs Hydrate

You can listen to Danny Lennon talk about electrolyte drinks on the podcast below:


Transparent Labs Beta Alanine Wrestlers

Beta-alanine is the familiar pre-workout ingredient people associate with it "working." It's the tingles that run from your face to your extremities called paresthesia [13]. This side effect is harmless and is not something you can build a tolerance to.

One way to reduce the tingles is to spread your dose throughout the day so you’re not taking a heap at once.

Beta-alanine works by raising carnosine levels that buffer acidic waste products associated with high-intensity exercise, increasing the ability to perform high-intensity bursts in the 1-4 minute range [14][15].

In a recent systematic review of beta-alanine supplementation in combat sports, athletes showed increased strength, power, total work capacity, better perception of recovery from physical exertion, increased lean mass, and decreased fat mass [16].

Specifically to wrestlers, 4 g a day for 8 weeks led to a 1.1 lb increase in fat-free mass while losing 0.43 lbs, increased flexed arm isometric hang time by 1.5 sec, and decreased 300-yard shuttle time by 0.3 sec compared to placebo [17].

Amateur boxers who take 5 - 6 g daily increase punch frequency and punch force, reduce fatigue and enhance lower body peak power compared to placebo [18][19][20].

This evidence is enough for me to suggest taking beta-alanine daily is beneficial for wrestling performance.

You want to accumulate 179 g over 3 - 10 weeks to see endurance improvements [21]. Supplementing with 4 - 6 g daily split into 2 - 4 doses is a good way to do it.

Transparent Labs has a third-party banned substance tested beta-alanine for a great price.

Transparent Labs Beta-Alanine

Other Supplements You May Want To Take For Wrestling

This section contains supplements you may want to take but aren't entirely necessary for performance. However, using some of these can help when proper nutrition, sleep, and training habits are consistent.


Pre Workout For Wrestlers

Relying on stimulants to get through your workouts typically indicates problems elsewhere. Not enough sleep, too much training, not enough quality food, or too much stress.

However, stimulants can be useful when used strategically since caffeine is the most potent legal performance enhancer.

Other ingredients in pre-workout can potentially improve performance, but caffeine is the reason for most performance improvements.

The important features to look for are adequately dosed ingredients, informed sport tick, and moderate caffeine dose.

Transparent Labs Bulk is my recommended pre-workout since it ticks all these boxes.

Transparent Labs BULK Pre-Workout

Be wary of pre-workouts with ridiculous doses of caffeine and sub-optimal doses of other ingredients.


Transparent Labs L Citrulline Wrestlers

L-citrulline is the hot new endurance supplement that theoretically works as a vasodilator, increasing blood flow. It increases nitric oxide production by converting to l-arginine in the kidneys and then nitric oxide.

However, the research is inconsistent when studying this mechanism, even though we see improvements in endurance performance [11][12].

Regardless, all pre-workouts now contain this popular ingredient. Chronic doses over 7 days seem to show greater performance benefits, but 6-8 g can provide acute performance-enhancing benefits.

When taking chronically, doses between 3 - 12 g are adequate, but taking 6-8 g daily is your best bet.

Transparent Labs has a third-party tested L-citrulline that is banned substance-free.

Transparent Labs L-Citrulline

Sodium Bicarbonate

Baking Soda Wrestlers

This is a supplement you must be careful with. Most people should avoid it as it'll cause stomach discomfort. So try it before a training session, before using it before sparring or competition.

The premise resembles beta-alanine, where you can buffer acidic waste products to improve endurance.

For example, 10 national and international level amateur boxers ingested 0.3g per kg of body weight of sodium bicarbonate an hour before sparring. They progressively increased their work rate over 4 rounds compared to the placebo [22].

7 professional boxers showed similar results, increasing time to exhaustion compared to the placebo by over double the time.

The recommended dose is 0.3g per kg of bodyweight of baking soda between 1-2 hours before training. It's a lot to ingest, hence the common stomach discomfort, so try it before committing to it.

Pure Sodium Bicarbonate


Bulk Supplements Organic Beet Root

Increasing nitric oxide may boost blood flow to the working muscles to deliver oxygen during exercise. Beetroot juice and extract are common forms of dietary nitrates in supplement form.

Either 140 ml of beetroot juice or 1 g of beetroot extract taken daily improved strength and endurance in a range of combat athletes [23].

Bulk Supplements is a trustworthy brand with large bags of beetroot extract.

Bulk Supplements Organic Beet Root

Brain Supplements For Wrestlers

Brain supplements, or the new age term "nootropics," are an exciting area of supplements. They either do nothing or give small changes to cognitive function.

They are a speculative category, but if you have the money to invest and experiment, these are the two I recommend.



Braini is one of the only brain supplements with third-party peer-reviewed research on their patented formulation. They used a 28-day intervention, taking Braini daily and performing the validated CNS Vital Signs test before and after to measure cognitive function [24].

They found, on average, a 7.8% increase in cognitive flexibility, executive function, and Executive Function Shifting Attention Test (SAT-RT) compared to placebo.

Cognitive flexibility supports adapting to complex instructions and translates to decision-making skills, which is important during wrestling competition.

Executive function translates to paying attention, sequencing instructions, switching focus between activities requiring memory, recalling details, and thinking creatively, which are needed during wrestling practice.

SAT-RT translates to more efficient, accurate, and quick responses in shifting attention environments like dealing with an opponent in wrestling.

NFL players are currently using Braini, so it's only a matter of time before it goes mainstream.

Real Mushrooms Lions Mane

Real Mushrooms Lions Mane

Mushroom extracts have become hugely popular as health and wellness supplements. I had Jeff Chilton on the podcast to speak about his lifetime of research on the topic.

Many mushroom extracts are speculative at best. Little hard data supports the benefits, but as a potential upside, it may be worth taking the plunge.

Lions Mane, in particular, is known for its cognitive benefits. A recent systematic review found Lions Mane may improve mental processing speed and reduce stress in healthy adults [25].

Importantly, you must look for high-quality Lion's Mane, which Jeff's company provides. Take 2-3 g daily to see potential benefits.

Real Mushrooms Lions Mane

Supplements To Avoid For Wrestling

The supplements to avoid are not because they are dangerous. But because they do absolutely nothing and are costing you hard-earned cash that can go into your food budget.


BCAAs are wasting your money. Total protein intake trumps all, and protein sources matter less when reaching the 0.8 g per pound of bodyweight target. Consuming BCAAs confers no further benefit when eating adequate daily protein [26].

Additionally, your whey protein and meat all contain BCAAs, so you don't need to load up on these three amino acids.


Despite the marketing, Glutamine provides no athletic performance or recovery benefits [27]. However, it may help with digestion issues for people with IBS, along with a low FODMAP diet [28].


Don't rely on these supplements to make you a better wrestler, but use them in conjunction with maximizing training, diet, and sleep. Only a few dietary supplements have significant performance-enhancing or recovery effects, with most being speculative.

If you’re on a budget, stick with supplements known to work. If you have more cash to play with, experiment with supplements with less evidence.


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  2. de la Puente Yagüe, M., Collado Yurrita, L., & Cuadrado Cenzual, M. A. (2020). Role of vitamin D in athletes and their performance: Current concepts and new trends. Nutrients, 12(2), 579.
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About the author 

James de Lacey

I am a professional strength & conditioning coach that works with professional and international level teams and athletes. I am a published scientific researcher and have completed my Masters in Sport & Exercise Science. I've combined my knowledge of research and experience to bring you the most practical bites to be applied to your combat training.


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