Supplements is a common topic in the fitness/bodybuilding and pharmaceutical industries in general. This is the question most fitness and bodybuilding athletes are being asked mostly. Although, there is a lot of hype around supplements and the benefits they can potentially bring, it should be easy to make a decision from the first sight, however that is not the case.
The questions I usually get from people seeking advice, usually sound like this:
“What supplements should I take?”
“I’m 16 years old, can I take protein powder?”
“Do I need supplements to lose weight?”
“I have been working out for 2 years now and I have been taking Protein and Creatine every day but I don’t see any change in my body. Do supplements work?”
And the list goes on and on…
Why do people ask so much about the supplements?
Clearly, supplements are a big topic in fitness and bodybuilding industry and people seem to be losing their heads over it. Marketing for supplements is revolving around ripped bodies, stage-ready physiques and strength athletes, advertising the powders, pills and drinks in a persuasive manner, basically selling you dreams.
Supplement industry contributes around $122 Billion dollars to U.S economy, as this article suggests. From this statement, you can tell that supplement industry is bigger than ever and is growing rapidly, bringing enormous amounts of GDP and tax money. People ask about supplements because most of them are convinced that if they took specific supplements, they would achieve the physiques just like their fitness and bodybuilding idols and marketing icons.
Do you actually need to take supplements?
The short answer is NO.
However, this may not be sufficient enough to answer this question therefore we can discuss about it a little.
Supplements come from word to “supply”, meaning that they should supply an individual with the necessary vitamins, minerals and other essential resources, required for the healthy functioning of one’s body or fitness goals.
Most common fitness supplements are:
- Fat burners
Do any of these supplements above ring the bell? It probably does and if you’re reading this article, you have probably heard about one, two or probably all of these supplements.
Supplements are required to supply, your already healthy and balanced diet. They are not developed to bring results, if the diet and training regimes are not in place, because if these were true, you would see your work colleagues, friends, bus drivers and even janitors looking lean and ripped, just like that fitness icon that has convinced you in purchasing that protein powder.
Having a mindset of, supplements being the main factor for your results is equivalent to the mindset of taking Vitamin C every day and not being able to get cold – it just doesn’t make sense.
Do supplements actually work?
Supplements can be quite pricey and sometimes it can be even hard to afford them. Is it worth getting them after all? If you have enough money to purchase some supplements AFTER you have purchased enough food and are able to eat enough healthy foods, including fruit and vegetables, then spending some money on them will not hurt.
Supplements do work. However, not in the way you expect them to. If you have been convinced by one of the fitness icons that supplements will get you lean, ripped and healthy, without emphasising the benefits of actual food, then you should make some research on the actual supplements you are about to take.
Food VS Supplements
This is probably the biggest dilemma every beginner has experienced. I have been there myself too, so I don’t judge anyone who allows more focus on supplements than actual food. After all, those glittery labels, pictures and fonts on your supplement tubs does catch your eye, right?
Food is far more important than supplements, since it is the foundation of everything. You can get enough vitamins and minerals from the foods you eat and there are a lot of foods that contain necessary amounts of such nutrients.
Supplements – a friend or a foe?
I have already outlined the aspect of the supplements, meaning that if you have enough money to spend on your supplements, they can bring benefits and supply your already healthy diet with necessary nutrients that your diet is lacking. So, definitely not a foe.
Food has always been the foundation of your body’s ability to survive, grow, repair and recover. Food is the main factor that will bring you benefits, regardless if you’re trying to build muscle or lose weight. Never fully rely on supplements as the main nutrition source, at the end of the day, supplements are made in the lab. Some of them come from natural foods and contain natural ingredients, however some of them are made through chemical processes.
My personal experience with supplements
I will now talk about which supplements I personally take. You have probably been wondering that, since my opinion towards supplements is so sceptical, I probably stay away from them. My answer to this is – not at all.
I take supplements regularly, but with only one purpose. And that is to supply my already healthy and balanced diet. As I have already pointed out above, supplements do work and if I have enough money to buy them, I probably will. I would rather trade a bottle of vodka or a couple of cocktails at the bar for a bag of protein and creatine that will probably last me one or two months, if not more. It is all about the priorities in life. If you prioritise your health, supplements can be a good and healthy choice in order to fulfil your priorities.
Supplements I take:
It is probably one of the most researched supplements out in the fitness industry. Studdies suggest that supplementing with creatine, athletes can gain benefits in building lean muscle mass and increased strength. Creatine can also help recovery and aid athletic performance. Most of the creatine is stored within body’s skeletal muscle and creatine works by retaining water inside the muscles, allowing the ATP energy molecules to gain an increased output, therefore helping the athlete to perform the exercises at the higher intensity. I personally take around 5g of creatine a day, before my workout.
I have been supplementing with creatine for a long time and have never come off it. I never do loading phases and I never get off creatine, since it is not a stimulant supplement, therefore there is no need to be coming off it.
A lot of creatine can be found in red meat, however in order to get a sufficient amount of creatine, you would need to eat a lot of read meat, perhaps around 5-7kg a day, in order to receive 5g of creatine.
Supplementing with creatine makes it much easier and more convenient. Creatine is also one of the cheapest supplements in the marketing, so it won’t be harsh on your wallet either, only if you choose to buy it.
BCAAs (Branched-Chain Amino Acids) are the simplest form of proteins, consisting of Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine. Studies suggest that supplementing with BCAAs, it can help to prevent muscle-loss during workout and decrease muscle catabolism.
BCAAs can also help to build new muscle tissue, prevent DOMS (Delayed On Muscle Soreness) and preserve glycogen stores within your muscles.
Since, I do a lot of intermittent fasting, I usually workout in a fasted state. Before my workout, I always take 10g of BCAAs and I also do the same after my workout, in order to get the benefits of BCAAs and reduce the muscle catabolism.
Multivitamins are essential in order to keep hormonal balances of one’s body in check, aid in strengthening the immune system and body recovery. Whilst taking part in a physical activity, the demand for vitamins becomes increased, so it is important to supplement yourself with essential vitamins in order to keep your body healthy and allow it to recover from your workouts.
I personally take 1 serving of multivitamins a day, which is nearly required vitamin intake for the day.
- Fish Oil (Omega 3)
Omega 3 fatty acids are something human body cannot produce on its own, therefore it is suggested to supplement with Omega 3 fish oil in order to receive the health benefits from such supplement. However, a lot of Omega 3 can be found in fish, especially salmon, sardines and mackerel. Omega 3 can work as anti-inflammatory, aid in joint support, help to support the immune system and increase the mental state. It can also work as a fat-transporter and aid in protein synthesis, increasing one’s metabolism.
I personally take about 5g of Omega 3 fish oil every day in order to receive the benefits of such supplements.
- Protein Powder
This is probably one and only supplement that is being spoken about constantly. Protein powders are usually being put out as ‘Mass builders’ and ‘Leaning out supplements’.
There are many types of protein powders in the industry. Some of them can be: Milk, Egg, Soy, Rice, Beef, Brown Rice, Pea, and so on…
Protein is basically a simple form of food, where only protein macro-nutrients are extracted, usually into a powder form. Protein helps to build lean muscle tissue and is the main macro-nutrient for muscle building. Protein is just like building blocks, for muscle. When the physical activity is carried out, human skeletal muscle experiences micro-tears, that have to be repaired afterwards and in order to repair them, protein is being used. After the reparation is complete, muscle becomes slightly bigger and stronger, since new protein fills in the micro-tears.
My consumption of protein powder differs. I try to focus more on getting a sufficient amount of protein from whole foods, such as poultry, eggs, dairy, etc. If I am busy on that day and cannot consume enough meals, I will most likely supplement myself with protein powder in order to get a sufficient amount of protein in my system.
I usually take Whey Protein, because it is a fast-digesting protein and it goes into your system quickly, allowing your muscles to be provided with necessary protein resources when needed.
Another form of milk protein is Casein Protein. It has got slow-digesting properties and it takes a while for your body to digest it. Athletes usually take Casein before bed so it can be slowly released over night, however if you don’t have money to buy casein, cottage cheese or curds will do the job.
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‘Train Like An Artist’