Should I Take Supplements?
What is a supplement? A supplement is any manufactured nutrient or nutrients that help support an individual’s eating plan to help optimize results and/or performance.
Everyone wants results, but not many want to put the work in. Everyone wants to be lean, but many want the magic pill, instant gratification, or the quick fix. That is exactly what most supplement companies prey on. They know that many people that are seeking better health and fitness will do almost anything to cut corners and get to the goal quicker. The question is, are you looking to get results and possibly go back to old ways, or are you in this for the long haul? Are you looking to make genuine changes that are sustainable and that are good for your body?
Over the years, I have had almost every supplement company known to North America from Visalus to Juice Plus to Advocare to Genetix contact me to help them sell their product in a multi-level marketing scheme. This always created a sense of hypocrisy within me. My goal as a health coach, strength coach, motivator, or educator is teaching sustainable habits that are as natural as possible. The issue I had was that supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA and so, can contain whatever the manufacturer wants in there without putting it on the nutrition label.
When I started out in personal training, I fell into this trap of drinking protein shakes, BCAA’s, creatine, pre-workouts, and so on to help me get the results I wanted. The problem was that I didn’t research to see what the short, mid, and long-term effects were, to see if I actually needed them and how much I needed. I began to have gut health issues and was storing more fat than I was hoping for, so I cut all supplements and vowed to never use them again. My newly adopted philosophy was if I couldn’t pronounce the ingredient, it didn’t go in my body. I would now find all my nutrients (macro and micro) and minerals from food and food only. This was not easy nor sustainable. This was when I began to properly educate my self on supplements as to what was necessary, what’s wasn’t necessary, and what brand or form of supplement fit me, my goals, and my body best. It was then that I recognized that it doesn’t have to be one or the other. It can be a balance of both.
With that mindset, over time, I have come to learn that not everyone is going to like or take the time to shop for, prep, and cook the foods necessary to get all of the nutrients and minerals necessary for optimal health and I don’t need to force my opinions, lifestyle or expectations for that matter, on anyone else. I have come to learn that our clients are the experts in their own lives. It is my job to support, coach, inform, and educate, so that clients can make the best decision for themselves. So, I softened my approach and recognized that people are going to use supplements whether I recommend them or not, so I might as well inform and educate in order to help deduce the best decision for the client.
With that said, I will touch on some of the major supplements that we use and suggest the best and healthiest alternatives as well as touch on supplements that most people don’t think about and are deficient in.
(Disclaimer: There may or may not be a shameless plug or two in here, but hey, if you’re going to use supplements to optimize your health, it might as well be top quality and used by yours truly)
Protein is one of the number one product that people want to buy to supplement their exercise regime because proteins are the building blocks of muscles. When we exercise, we break muscles down and protein supplements help build, repair, and grow muscles. Does that make all protein good? That depends on what your body likes and doesn’t like. For me, whey protein does not settle well with my stomach. The lactose in the whey protein causes issues, so I use vegan protein powder to ensure better gut health. Does it taste as good as whey protein? Probably not, but I use more for functional purposes rather than taste. There is no added sugar and the ingredients are all-natural. (Vegan Protein Powder: Highly recommended)
I honestly have a hard time getting all of my vegetables in, so every now and then I will add powdered greens into my eating plan to ensure I’m getting all the nutrients I need. When I look at greens I want as many organic root extracts as possible with little to no added sugars. (Powdered Greens: Highly Recommended)
I tried a pre-workout once from Max Muscle when they were around and that had me bouncing off the walls. My heart rate went through the roof and I actually broke out in a rash. Since then, I have not been a big fan of pre-workouts, but some people need them to get through a workout. Personally, I’d prefer a vitamin C blend that will give me the boost I need for a training session and strengthen my immune system at the same time. (Pre-workout: Not necessary but if you like them, hey)
Omega 3’s is essential for reducing inflammation. Without omega 3’s it is harder to lose body fat due to the body being in fight or flight. This is due to inflammation from acidic foods and beating ourselves up in the gym. (Omega 3’s: Highly recommended)
Magnesium plays a role in over 300 enzyme reactions in the body including muscle and nerve function, regulating blood pressure, and supporting the immune system. It is difficult to get all the magnesium we need from food without overdosing on spinach and almonds. You can get this in a quality multi-vitamin or an actual bottle of magnesium. (Magnesium: Highly recommended)
Last but not least, vitamin D. vitamin D is one of the biggest deficiencies we have in the western world because we simply don’t get enough sunshine on our bodies over the course of a year. Vitamin D provides us with serotonin which boosts mood. Without it can lead to depression especially as the seasons change. Vitamin D also helps absorb calcium which, in this combination, is essential for strong bones. (Vitamin D: Highly Recommended)
While getting our nutrients from an artificial source isn’t ideal, supplements can help us heal our bodies, decrease inflammation, and promote fat loss to get us where we want to be and make it sustainable. At the end of the day, it is challenging to optimize our health without eating foods that are hard to find, obscure, and expensive (and hard to use before freshness fades), but with supplements, we can bridge that gap.