Introduction To Supplements
You don’t need supplements – they genuinely don’t offer you anything that a balance nutritious diet doesn’t already do and in my opinion they are a waste of your well earned cash. Unless of course there is some medical reason whereby you have been advised to supplement your diet or if you are a vegan/vegetarian who doesn’t consume enough protein. There are however plenty of high protein foods available for non-meat eaters.
As the name implies, supplements are intended to supplement, not replace – healthy and wholesome food choices. Of course, it’s easier to pop a pill than it is to put together a balanced plate of lean protein foods, fresh produce and whole grains. However, the vast majority of healthy adults can and should, obtain all of the nutrients they need from food alone.
As I mentioned previously, there certainly are circumstances when a dietary supplement is indicated, but these usually have to do with treating a diagnosed nutrient deficiency. Here are some situations where a supplement may be useful:
- Iron supplements if diagnosed with iron deficiency
- Prenatal vitamins with folic acid before and during pregnancy
- Vitamin B12 for vegans and older adults with low B12 levels
- Calcium and vitamin D for those at risk for or who have osteoporosis
- Fluoride for older infants living in areas where municipal water supply isn’t fluoridated
- Vitamin K in a single prophylactic dose for newborn infants to prevent bleeding
- Omega-3 fatty acids for people at risk for heart disease who don’t consume fish
It’s probably worth saying first there are a few supplements which are genuinely useful and backed by some pretty solid science.⠀
But the misconception that these pills and powders will transform us into a ripped and shredded physique is problematic.⠀
1. Whey Protein. This is my favourite supplement but not for the reasons you may think. I love the flavour of the Protein World – Slender Bend Vanilla – so I love adding it to porridge and muffins as it helps provide a good consistency and texture. I don’t buy it to add protein into my diet. BUT it’s important to note that it isn’t magic. It’s just protein and you can 100% get enough from your diet from actual food, without buying an expensive tub of your favourite flavour. ⠀
2. Bcaa’s. Despite being seen as a fashionable supplement right now, mainly due to be promoted by quite a few influencers, there’s little to no evidence that supplementing bcaa’s is beneficial when you’re eating enough good quality protein. Therefore for those who *do* struggle to get enough protein – it could be useful but it’s certainly not one for the masses.⠀
3. Preworkout. Again nothing positive here to report – not any real benefit that you can’t get from a banana and a coffee to lift your low energy levels.
4. Fat-burners. Probably the worst supplement that is promoted, I have tried them – I like to try all the things that I write about. They do nothing just burn a whole in your wallet! They may have a placebo effect at first but that is about it. They will also cause sleeping problems and make you go to the toilet more – it would be cheaper to buy laxatives and coffee. These are not good and I strongly advise you stay away from them.
5. Do You Know What You Are Taking? Supplement manufacturers do not have to disclose the amounts of ingredients, or sometimes even the exact ingredients in their products. A well-known supplement industry practice is to hide behind the term ‘proprietary blend.’ Citing protection of secret ingredients and formulas, manufacturers are not required to divulge how much, or even what is in the bottles they are selling. To recognise actual health benefits, some supplement products go so far as to include prescription drugs in their supplement ingredients. Red yeast rice extract, which can help control cholesterol, has actually been found to contain statins. Statins are prescription drugs that should not be included or sold in over-the-counter supplement products. This supplement helps lower cholesterol, but only because it includes a prescription drug that was developed to lower cholesterol
6. ‘Natural’ Can Mean Nothing – In the supplement world, there is no legally defensible definition for the term ‘natural.’ In fact, when it comes to the natural products industry, the word ‘natural’ more often than not means nothing. The perception of a natural supplement product is that it is not artificially fabricated. This is highly ironic given that the vast majority of dietary supplements are synthetically created in a laboratory environment and likely do not contain any natural, plant-based or non-synthetic ingredients. Other marketing jargon and catchphrases frequently used to sell supplements include ‘prescription strength, high potency and medical grade.’ As with the word ‘natural,’ these terms mean nothing for you – just an increase in profit for supplement manufacturers.
When it comes to sports supplements, most are just as unnecessary as are herbal products. While there is some data to support the use of creatine in sporting events that require bursts of speed, pounding a protein shake after your workout does not by itself build muscle. Dietary protein plays a role in muscle recovery, but it is the repetitive motion and stress on those muscles over time that builds mass – not your protein drink.