The supplement industry is booming! In 2015 we consumed $37 billion in supplements (that’s billion with a ‘b’). We take supplements for everything to include sleeping aids, strength boosters, and digestive agents. For this article we are NOT going to talk about supplements you take for general health purposes (i.e. fish oil, zinc, vitamin C, and so on). Just wanted to make that clear. For our definition a supplement is anything that’s taken in a liquid, capsule, or powder form that either enhances your appearance or performance. So, the $64k question is: should you take supplements?
The answer can be quite varied depending a number of factors. We’ve outlined 4 questions below to help you determine whether or not you should take supplements. You might be surprised by the answers.
- Are you a beginner or advanced? If you’re a beginner then I would say you need very, very few supplements. In some cases I would say that you don’t need anything. You’re a ‘noob’ to the lifting game. You body is already going to see great change with very little stimulus. Taking supplements at this point will obviously help you but it’s unnecessary help. It’s like using a cane to walk when you already know how to walk. It’s a just a waste of time. Get your diet and training dialed in and you’ll be fine.
- Are you stressed? Not just, “Oh, I had a bad day at work” stressed. I mean you just had a new kid stress or you just started a new job and you’re working 10+ hours a day stress. In these situations you might need supplementation to cover any of the nutrients you might be missing from your typical meal prep (i.e. protein shake). Aside from the stresses of life another reason for being overly stressed could come from your training routine. You might be overtraining and this is when you hit the point of diminishing returns. In this case, yes, you’re stressed enough to take supplements to help with recovery.
- Are you taking supplements and not eating well? Then, for the love of everything holy, STOP TAKING SUPPLEMENTS! Supplements are not a free pass to eat crap food. Supplements enhance the results you get from a good diet and good training. Supplements are not a ‘get out of jail’ free card. That’s not to say you can’t have a cheat meal once in a while. Most smart diet programs allow cheat meals. That’s not what I’m referring to. I’m talking about having that Chick-Fil-A chicken biscuit on Monday, 2-3 tacos on Tuesday, a bottle of wine Wednesday night, fried chicken for dinner on Friday with your bros, sushi on Saturday with your girlfriends, and Sunday brunch with mom. Take a look at your previous weeks meals. Don’t lie to yourself. Be honest. If 80-90% of your meals were not on point then you don’t need supplements. You need a reality check.
- Are you competitive athlete or fitness competitor? If you are or want to be then you MUST take supplements (we’ll address ‘illegal’ supplements another time). The truth is good nutrition and smart training will only take you so far. At some point you will need to supplement your nutrient intake with various products to enhance your athletic performance or aesthetics. To be completely honest some of the feats athletes can perform and physical appearance some fitness models have is not attainable without supplements. There are very, very few exceptions to this rule. Those people who claim they don’t take supplements are either 1) lying or 2) genetic anomalies. Avoid their advice like the plague. It won’t work for you.
So, should you take supplements? Maybe the answer is ‘yes’ and maybe it’s ‘no’. This article is merely a guide to help you answer that question. It’s not law. If you feel you don’t need to take them, then don’t. If you feel you need to step up your game, then go for it. Experience is the best teacher. Pay attention to your diet and your training. Record EVERYTHING if you want to make sure what you’re doing is working.
STAY FIT MY FRIENDS!