Supplements – are you wasting your money?
Supplements – are you wasting your money?
Supplements, supplements, supplements!
I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked “What supplements should I take?” before asking any other questions about nutrition.
So I will clear this up early on… supplements are just that – ‘supplements’.
They are a great addition to a well balanced nutrition plan for active people and for inactive people too that may suffer from a lack of vitamins, minerals or essential amino acids within their diet.
Now, I could go into each individual case of supplementation for those who will want to find holes in this blog post (that’s just the way it is within the industry and sadly why there is so much misinformation and confusion) but that is a specific and individual requirement which can only be assesed via consultation.
So, for the the majority of the population who (arguably) just want to look and feel a little better; who might attend the gym 2-5 times per week and don’t want to put the hard work in without reward – what supplements are scientifically proven to work, and not just proven by your gym buddy’s ability to bench 100 kg plus? So many people will be sold on a product because of how someone looks or how fit or good they are at something. However, in reality it is not the supplement that has made them the strongest or the fastest or the most flexible.
Lets just quickly take a look at this…
We have all seen Messi, Ronaldo and other famous sports stars advertise supplementation and we can all be guilty of hoping that’s all it takes to be as good as that person, looking for a simple fix to our bigger problem, which more often than not is down to a lack of a good nutritional education. Usually it is the star of the moment and usually you may have some slight hope that ‘yeah, I can take this for a few months and I’ve got to improve if Messi takes it!”
Lets look at another example and a very personal one. This year my goal is to improve my flexibility/mobility and my colleague, Ed Connaghan at Club 300, is one the most flexible guys I have met and he has worked on this skill for years.
Only in the last few months, Ed started supplementing with a different brand…. you know where this is going, right? He was already flexible and he got there through years of dedication within this skill set. It also turns out, Ed is also pretty strong and lean (he will be shocked to hear me compliment him so much!) and you guessed it – this didn’t happen because he was supplementing but because he had sound nutritional and training habits (I’m deliberately trying to avoid the word ‘diet’ as the word really represents the wrong attitude to food and energy requirements) over a long period of time.
Does Ed use supplements? Yes.
Does Ed also have good nutritional and training habits? Yes.
Why does Ed supplement, then? Well, its quite simple. Let me explain.
Sometimes people will supplement to help them achieve a good balance of macro and micro nutrients within their daily intake. Maybe, like many of my clients, we have set them a balanced target of protein, carbohydrates and fats to consume within the day/week to let them start to understand which food groups contain which macros (protein, carbs and fats).
Now, from experience, most people don’t binge on chicken mid morning or late at night, preferring crisps and biscuits which are carb based. We tend to find the majority don’t consume enough protein. So with this is mind, we advise our clients on the balance they need to aim for and if they struggle to meet a particular macro (which so happens to be protein 9/10 times), we will advise that they supplement with a simple whey protein of good quality to help them achieve that balance.
Let me stress at this point, this is not to replace a meal but to supplement with a meal or as a snack.
Back to Ed (honest – it isn’t a man crush!). Ed can actually achieve his daily targets through good wholesome food but he also trains with a good intensity so this is where we would call his supplements ‘workout food’. So going along with his usual meal prep and nutritional habits, most likely:
Meal 1 – Breakfast
Meal 2 – Snack
Meal 3 – ‘Workout food’
Pre workout: Black coffee
Intra workout: BCAAs (branch chain amino acids)
Post workout: Whey/recovery shake
Meal 4 – Lunch
Meal 5 – Snack
Meal 6 – Dinner
Meal 7 – Optional snack/supper/supplement
He would take his supplements only around his training window. His meals for the rest of the day remain the same.
For our clients, we provide a simple and easy to follow food chart allowing them flexibility with their meal choices, within the macro balance we have created for them.
You can pick up a copy by subscribing to our newsletter via our website here.
He consumes these supplements to ensure his workout isn’t wasted. If he hasn’t fuelled properly or if his session is very intense, he could end up using muscle tissue for energy which is not ideal for anyone’s goals. Flooding the body with BCAAs and whey protein in and around your training window is a normal occurance for most athletes. Of course it is not a necessity, but for those who have all the boxes ticked and with science backing up these supplements, in my opinion, if you are serious about making lifestyle changes then supplementing is a no brainer… but its got to be the right ones and it has to be with consistency while ensuring balance everywhere else within your life. That’s a another blog altogether!
So what Supplements are worth the money.
Grade A Supplements*
BCAAs (Branch Chain Amino Acids)
Omega 3 fish oils
Vitamin D (especially in winter months or always in Scotland!)
Evidence level: Supported for use in specific situations in sport using evidence-based protocols.
Use within supplement programmes: Provided or permitted for use by some athletes according to best practice protocols.
Again, people will ask whether they require every one of these supplements and my answer is no. It is an individual requirement based on your current nutritional habits. However, if you are going to spend your money on supplements and it isn’t listed here, you could well be wasting your money! For a full breakdown of research carried out by the Australian Sports Commission please see the source below.
I hope this helps save you some money and you guys can share this information to help others understand supplements more and what ones are worth while looking at.
Supplements can be a great tool to help with your training, but try to ensure you are sticking to a well balanced nutritional protocol and, like your food sources, ensure your supplement is of good quality with no added extras or E numbers!
If you would like further help to create the perfect plan contact myself – Mike Lindsay Personal Training at Club 300, Perth!
P.s. Remember, if you share this blog and tag us in your social media post we will send you our healthy food chart. Just subscribe to our newsletter via the website www.club300.co.uk