Supplementation is one of the first areas we are drawn towards when starting our fitness journey, however there is often misleading information regarding what supplements to take, and whether they are actually needed in our diet. Within this guide I hope to make it clear on the reasons why you may need to use supplements, which ones may benefit you, and which ones probably won’t.
- Do we really need supplements?
- So when would we use supplements?
- What supplements should I use?
- What supplements probably aren’t going to help me?
DO WE ACTUALLY NEED SUPPLEMENTS?
“I’m really keen to make some real progress now, I’ve got some – Enter supplement here – the other day, it’s suppose to make you lose fat really easy!!”
Now it doesn’t help with the false advertising that comes with a lot of supplements, but they’re one of the first things we focus on when starting a fitness journey. Whether fat loss, or muscle gain, there will always be a supplement which is branded to make your goal seem far easier than it actually is by taking it.
The reality is, is that no supplement is needed, unless your nutrition alone is deficient in it. Let me repeat that, No supplement is needed, unless your diet is deficient in it, Or it could assist you hitting nutritional targets.
Let’s take protein for example, as this typically is a common supplement to use. Whether a protein shake, or a protein bar, all they are doing is helping you to reach your desired amount of protein per day. If you can reach your protein target from whole food (Chicken,
Beef, Fish, eggs, Greek yogurt etc) then a protein supplement isn’t necessary.
This being said, from a convenience standpoint, if only eating meat/fish based food sources isn’t sustainable, protein bars/powders can make consuming adequate protein far easier, and then in this case, would be recommended.
SO WHEN WOULD WE NEED TO USE SUPPLEMENTS?
As mentioned previously, a supplement is only needed if your diet alone is lacking in a certain macro/micronutrient, or said supplement assists positively in your goals. There will be some things you can monitor yourself by using certain guidelines (Typically macronutrients, protein carbs and fat) but most vitamin and mineral deficiencies will have to be medically tested, as this will be out of the scope of practise for most.
Supplements are there to “supplement” your diet, and also to make it more convenient, sustainable, and financially affordable to keep in line with certain nutritional recommendations.
First start off with whole food as much as possible, then address areas where you are lacking in, and use the appropriate supplements necessary.
As with most things, it will depend on the individual as to what supplements they need, as there will be several factors that will dictate their use of supplementation, such as:
- Opportunities to eat during the day
- Preferred food choices
And these are just a few!
So at first, look at your diet from several angles. Is it convenient, sustainable, financially affordable, aids your training, promotes good health, and if it doesn’t, then look into using a supplement that can aid that specific area.
WHAT SUPPLEMENTS SHOULD I USE?
Without knowing your nutritional background, goals, and current health status, there is no way of prescribing specific supplement recommendations, however, for most reading this that will fall into the category of losing fat and building muscle, there will be a several that would more than likely benefit you..
As you can see, no, Strawberry ketones or, “Carb blockers”
All of the above in the table have endless studies behind them, all promoting/supporting health and well being, and aiding gym performance.
So in a little more detail…
Vitamin D3 – This is often one I would always recommend supplementing with, due to the environment we (for those in the UK) live in. Sunlight being the made source of D3, leaves us open to having a low intake of it, due to the lack of sun exposure. Vitamins D3 can help aid in immune health and well being.
Omega3 – Typically the western diet is far more favoured to Omega 6 opposed to Omega 3, and therefore you would be wanting to increase our intake of Omega 3. Omega 3 is a oil that cannot be synthesised in the body meaning you will have to consume it through diet or Supplementation, and as we know our diet typically are low in Omega 3, it would be sensible to include it in your supplements .When supplementing with Omega 3 there are 2 oils you need to look for. EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid). These dicate the quality of the Omega 3. Ideally look to supplement with 1000-3000mg of EPA/DHA combined.
Multivitamin – This is just a safety blanket to ensure you still hit macronutrient targets. While some of the time, due to convenience, or the quantity of calories you’re consuming, it may leave you short of consuming sufficient vitamins and minerals, so using a multivitamin daily just covers all your basis. Note: a multivitamin isn’t a substitute for fruit and vegetables, it’s simply a way of preventing you falling short. I’d still recommend consuming 3-5 servings of fruit/veg per day.
Protein Powder – Protein supplements are a way of helping you reach your overall protein intake with ease. There’s only so much meat, fish, chicken and eggs you can eat, and form a convenience standpoint this isn’t always feasible. Protein powders can be added to food, baked with, had as a shake and makes consuming 20-30g protein very easy. Protein has important roles within the body including retaining muscle tissue while losing fat, the recovery, repair, and growth of muscle tissue. I’d look to consume around 0.8g-1g of protein per lb of bodyweight.
Creatine – The creatine phosphate is an energy system that our body uses in short bursts of intense exercise (Lifting weights) and can promote strength increases when weight training. Typically there are very few food groups that provide creatine, and those that do, do not contain the quantity you would look to be consuming in order to have a significant effect. Most red meat and fish are the most common sources of creatine, however, as you would look to be consuming 5g daily, this would require supplementation.
Your diet alone should take care of fat loss principles, you shouldn’t be looking for a supplement todo the work for you, because let me tell you,
As much fancy packaging, branding and marketing these supplement companies use on their products, they will have little/no effect on your results, whether your diet is on point or not.
WHAT SUPPLEMENTS PROBABLY AREN’T GOING TO HELP ME?
ketones, BooTea, detox’s, Cleanses, Carb blockers, Fat blockers, Fat burners are just a few of the supplements you are probably aware of, that are promoted to help with fat loss. While they probably wouldn’t put you any worse off for losing fat, the chances of them actually making a significant difference is very minimal.
Let’s have a look at how much money you COULD be wasting…
So as you can see, there’s a fair bit of money being thrown at supplements which aren’t ESSENTIAL. This on top of a standard food shop, and gym membership can be quite expensive, no wonder why people think it’s expensive to be “Healthy”…
All these supplements are branded to promote fat loss, and help get the results you are looking for, when in the greatest scheme of things, they won’t be having a significant effect on your progress. Put it this way, if for example you were following an exercise and diet regime, and weren’t seeing progress, you wouldn’t then start seeing progress just because you started to take Fat burners.
Focus on your diet to take care of fat loss, and then look towards supplements to aid health, and help with hitting nutritional deficiencies that may be present in your diet alone.
- Supplements are often one of the first areas we are drawn towards when either starting a fitness journey, or currently seeing a lack of results.
- Supplements are there to “supplement” your diet, and should not be relied on.
- Supplements should be used when whole food alone cannot provide certain nutrients, or the quantity that you need.
- Supplements can be used to aid with time, convenience, and help with hitting nutritional targets.
- There are several supplements that are branded to promote fat loss, when in fact they probably won’t help as much as you think, yet will cost you a lot of money.
- Before supplementing, look into your diet first. Look at what areas may be lacking, and then use the supplements necessary.