Let’s face it. If you have ever come across working out, building muscles, losing fats, or any sort of fitness-related subjects, you have probably asked yourself this question: ‘’Do I really need supplements?’’ Now, I would be glad if the majority of people ask this question, as I see more and more people making it a necessity or just associating fitness with supplements. Why is that? Let’s find out.
First and foremost, let’s talk about the word supplement.
This is the official explanation of the word supplement, according to this website: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/ : ‘’something that is added to something else in order to improve it or complete it; something extra’’
Nutrition supplements have been around for many years, but the one and only purpose of them is to add to your body something that it lacks. If you can’t hit your daily requirement of nutrients, supplements are here to support that.
Supplements are not designed to replace meals. They are there to supplement your body needs if you can’t get the stuff from whole food.
For some reason, people look at them as something necessary, if they are being engaged in a process of building muscles/burning fats through resistance training or simply going to the gym.
I get why that is.
The fitness industry has made a very good job at using science to support its products, as well as creating routines and habits. Let me give you an example.
Protein shakes. Science says that you may need close to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily, in order to maximize muscle growth. Well, that might be a bit too much, and even if it is possible to hit this target, more often than not it is very hard. What should we do if we can’t? Protein shake. A very rich flavored drink conveniently packed with 30 grams of protein per dose.
Another trick is the routines around supplements Science says that there might be an anabolic window, straight after a workout in which the muscles absorb more nutrients. So if we give them a liquid form of protein, they will grow. Protein shake! The best way to give your muscles what they need after a workout. So from now on, the end of every workout must be celebrated with a protein shake. It is funny, that no one rushes to eat a steak in the changing room. Hmm… Now considering that you may be working out 3 days per week, that sums a total of 12 workouts per month, which makes 12 doses of protein. Plus a shake on your off days, because you need to hit your protein target and you end up spending your money on a 1,2 kg bag of protein powder, instead of buying some real food.
Speaking of money. Here is a great place to insert a story of mine, which actually made me realize how much money I was literally wasting on supplements. Of course, like every other kid that just got into fitness, I wanted results. I was reading articles, watching videos, and the only thing I was convinced of, was that without supplements it is never going to work.
I experimented with quite a lot of supplements, all advertised for muscle building, fat loss, energy, etc.. but some staple ones were a must. Protein powder, Branch chain amino acids, glutamine, and creatine. I was convinced that my muscles are going to leave me if I stop taking those supplements. Plus multivitamins, omega 3, 6, and 9, L-carnitine, and maybe electrolytes. But not as often.
There was a period when I was in the UK when I didn’t have much money, so I had to cut back on something. It wasn’t easy, but I decided to stop taking any sort of supplements for a month and see what is going to happen. It was winter so I could afford some drawbacks to my physique. I mean, after all, I wasn’t going to the beach any time soon, so nobody would have seen me without muscles.
Can you guess what happened? The only thing that happened was that I saved £120. Nothing else. My strength was the same, my weight was the same, my muscles didn’t change, nothing. That made me realize that something was not correct here. Why was I so convinced that my life will be ruined if I don’t take them and in fact, nothing changed? I started to dig a bit deep into this subject, I learned more about how the body works and I discovered that all those years, I was filling someone’s pocket, without anything in return. Now, of course, I have taken other supplements but only if they were prescribed by a professional, due to a deficiency of a nutrient. But that actually happened ones, because my iron levels were low. However, I started eating more leafy green vegetables and foods that are rich in that mineral and I quickly resolved the problem.
I am not trying to say that all supplements are a waste of time and money. There are cases when we do need them. Just like my example above with the iron deficiency, some people lack certain nutrients, which can not always be obtained by food.
For one or another reason, if a person can`t meet their nutrient requirements, in order for them not to suffer from nutrient deficiency, it could be beneficial to supplement with what their body needs.
A perfect example can be vitamin D. As we know, there are places on earth, where for a certain period, there is no access to sunlight. Or there are mine workers for instance, who never really get to spend time in the sun. These people may greatly benefit by supplementing with vitamin D to ensure optimal hormone production.
Initially, my thought was to list some of the supplements that may actually benefit people and are proven to really work, but, since that may be misunderstood as an attempt to convince you to buy and take them, I will try a different approach.
What if I convince you to first, try to have a wide variety of whole natural foods. Row meat that needs to be cooked. Wide variety of vegetables, locally grown if possible. What if I tell you that the best way to get all that your body needs is through real healthy whole food that is way less expensive and has proven itself for centuries that does work. Try it out. Try to cut most of the long shelf life and processed foods, and replace them with real whole natural foods. Pay attention to proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and fibers. Make sure you understand their importance and the best natural sources of them. If you wonder where to start, check out my Free Healthy Eating Guide. It can save you some time wondering which products are good and which are bad.
After you have done the transition to a whole natural food diet, why don’t you get tested? Talk to your doctor, get tested, and see if you actually have any deficiency. See if there is something that your body lacks. Take another month and try to get what you need from food. If you lack iron, for instance, try to eat more red meat or organ meat, spinach, kale, red beans, nuts. Then get tested again and see how it goes. If you still need iron, then supplement, but if everything is good, why waste money on a supplement, when you can just buy the food that your body needs. You spend money on food anyway, but if you spend them on the right types of food, you might actually end up saving some cash after all.