Should You Be Taking Supplements?
By Frank Hoyle, CPT, EIM Ambassador. Frank is currently performing his internship with Conca Sport and Fitness.
Something that I get asked multiple times on a daily basis is; “Frank, what supplements should I be taking?”. It seems like there are supplements for everything today (40,000+ on the market today). There are certain things to take to increase fat loss, strength gains, focus, energy, mood etc.
BUT, the million dollar question is do any of these supplements actually work? Are they really helping you reach your goals, or are they just putting you a step closer to emptying your wallet.
I have tried dozens of different kinds of supplements, and there are ones that I realized were a complete waste of money. My diet and training were on point and yet I saw little to absolutely no results from said products. Everyone needs to realize that these products are called supplements for a reason, they supplement your diet and training. If your diet and training are not in check then don’t expect to get much out of your supplements, period. So, now let’s dive into the first piece of the this fitness puzzle – diet and training.
Before we even THINK about supplements, you’re going to have to make sure that you are
1.) Eating the right amount of macronutrients (fats, protein, carbs) to reach your goals, whether that be fat loss, strength gains, return to play etc. This will coincide with
2.) Making sure you are training correctly. I’ll be happy to explain.
There are so many factors affecting an individual’s training program that we can not just copy workouts that we see in magazines or websites. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses when it comes to resistance training. Not everyone can just jump into a workout program they got off of Instagram. Plenty of people have imbalances to fix and injuries to remedy, so that 5 day bodybuilding split you found on “Maxgainz.com” may not work for you right off the bat. Another issue I have with this is that healthy individuals, looking for a change, will use these workouts and either create imbalances or injure themselves. This is usually the result of performing some of the exercises incorrectly, poor breathing techniques or increasing the weight too much, too fast, and not enough attention to rest and recovery.
If what I mentioned reminds you of yourself, or a friend, then I recommend you spend your time wisely and find a facility with caring, knowledgeable coaches (may I recommend CONCA SPORT AND FITNESS ) that can ensure you are performing everything correctly and actually making progress. I see dozens of people everyday in public gyms just spinning their wheels, putting the hard work in at the gym but yet they don’t have an end goal. Nobody wants to workout 3+ times a week, every week, each month, for years and see little to no progress…do they? It sure seems that many people either don’t care about their progress, or have given up hope that they can really make changes.
OKAY – so let’s all take a breather and consider everything I said above.
Now we can talk about supplementation, primarily micronutrient supplementation. Micronutrients are the vitamins and minerals that we need to ingest daily for optimal health. There are 24 essential vitamins and minerals, but be cautious when looking RDA (the 100% on food labels) regulations. These amounts are based off a bell curve, that means that plenty of people can be on the lesser or greater end of micronutrient needs. If you are an adult or athlete who works out vigorously 3+ times a week, you may need more vitamins and minerals than what the average recommendations are.
Some of the most common “micro” deficiencies tend to be magnesium, iron, vitamin D (and zinc if you tend to sweat excessively). How can you tell? A thorough blood test can give you all the information, however, if you eat like crap, you probably have several deficiencies. We break down supplementation into 2 tiers. Now depending on your activity level and overall diet you may or may not need to supplement in both tiers. However, the first tier of supplements is your core nutrition which we will explain in this segment and we will cover the second tier in the next post.
What kills me are the people who are adamant about NOT taking any form of supplementation. Looking under the surface, their diet does not consist of 100% organic foods, they drink alcohol, they consume some processed foods, exercise like crazy, and they’re tired and get sick often, or they have been stuck in a fitness rut for years, it’s time to rethink the diet.
The response we often get is “I don’t want to put that stuff in my body.” What stuff? You mean like the prenatal vitamins you took during pregnancy because the physician new how important it was to the health of the mom and fetus? Nothing has changed except now you’re aging, our food quality is poor and core nutrition is as important as ever. So why would you deny your body this benefit?
We can blame it on lots of confusing misinformation so when the consumer doesn’t know where to go or what to do, they do nothing. Hopefully we can shed some light on what might be important for you to consider.
Here’s a look at what the first tier of core nutrition should look like:
First Tier Supplements
Now I am going to go over a group core supplements that most if not everyone should be taking. This is what I’d like to call the “first tier” of supplements.
- Multivitamin – Taking a multi daily will help provide more of those micros that help us reach the optimal amounts we need to be functioning at our best. I advise that you eat a large variety of foods to acquire a large majority of those micro’s from whole food. Using a multivitamin to supplement should just be getting us to those optimal levels, it should not be your main source for micronutrients, so eat your fruit and veggies first then supplement if needed.
- Fish Oil – Do you take a fish oil supplement? Do you know why? Or did you see some in the fitness industry take it or have someone recommend it to you?
Fish oil is the common term used to refer to two kind of omega-3 fatty acids which are; eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). This supplement provides a variety of benefits (especially when the ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the body is almost equal (1:1) in the body. If you have an average diet consisting of red meat, eggs etc. then you will have plenty of omega-6 fatty acids in your body.
If we can get that ratio close to equal then that can lead to healthier blood vessels, a lower lipid count and a reduced risk of plaque build up as well as lowering triglycerides in people who have high tri levels. Fish oil can also decrease the risk of diabetes and several forms of cancer (including breast cancer).
3.) Creatine – this supplement is a molecule that is produced in our own bodies, where we store high-energy phosphate groups in the form of phosphocreatine (creatine phosphate or CP) (more big words). When our body is under periods of stress, the phosphocreatine will release energy to help aide in cellular function – THIS is what causes strength increases after we supplement with creatine. That action can also aid our brain, bones, muscles and liver.
We can find creatine is some foods like meat, eggs and fish. With creatine we can get a variety of health benefits, some of the more prevalent benefits being neuroprotective and cardioprotective.
In The next segment we will look at out tier 2 supplements such as whey protein and BCAA’s.