If you are any kind of fitness or health related individual, you know this industry focuses a lot on supplements, right? You have probably heard countless negative and positive reviews and noticed hundreds of products from protein powders, pre-workout powders, post workout powders, during workout powders, all of which can come in a pill form and there are so many different brands containing different things. Don’t even get me started on BCAA’s and Aminos. How do you know what is necessary, let alone what is safe? As you know, I do not sugar coat a thing, so keep reading to get the truth and decide on your own from there!
What Are Supplements?
Supplements can come in a powder, pill, or even liquid form. They promise to enhance your performance and help you reach your goals quicker. While there are many different kinds, we will be looking at some of the most popular including protein, bcaas, amino acids, weight loss, and pre-workouts. This information is not provided to deter you from supplements, but rather to provide you with the facts to use your own judgement and make up your own mind.
Real quick, the thing that has always bothered me is that fitness supplements are not regulated by the FDA. In fact, they are considered safe until proven otherwise. The FDA does suggest that you steer clear of anything that claims it will provide weight loss or is a legal alternative to steroids. You can read more about the FDA Regulations here.
People always ask me what I use, and I am honest with them. I have tried a few different things such as creatine and aminos, but most of that stuff does nothing for me therefore I do not take it. I don’t particularly like putting stuff into my body that either does nothing or makes me feel bad. I used protein powders occasionally because I do not eat as much protein as I should, I am not a big meat eater. I also like them for when I am on the go, they are easy to take with me and curb my hunger. I am not a believer in downing a protein shake after my workouts, I haven’t tried it but I know most people are religious about this. I also enjoy my protein bars. Again, they keep me full and give me the protein I might miss from the food I eat. I pay attention to the ingredients in these though. I don’t want anything too processed or with ingredients I cannot pronounce.
The only other supplement I use (besides a daily multivitamin & biotin) is my pre-workout powder for energy. I have been using these for years now. Some people like coffee prior to working out, but that just doesn’t do it for me. Pre-workouts give me an extra kick and allow me to train harder. Especially on my plyometric days, these are necessary. On days I am not training as hard, I do not take this. As we all know, too much caffeine can pose a health risk, and pre-workout powders can have 3-4 times as much caffeine as a cup of coffee. So I would advise you take at your own risk, and don’t take it every single day. Also, read the ingredients label and do your research. Anything with DMAAs. I would advise you to try eating a carb 30-60 minutes prior to your workout, although, this just doesn’t do it enough for me. On some days yes, but when that fails, I turn to my pre-workout powder. The choice is yours.
Protein is probably the most popular supplement out there. It can come in many forms whether it be in the food you eat, but when that’s not enough, people turn to shakes, bars, even protein enriched foods such as peanut butter and drinks. There are different types of protein including whey, casein, soy, and complete and incomplete. If you want to read more about the difference see this article.
Here’s the thing: the majority of people consume enough protein through the food they already eat. The idea is that protein will rebuild muscle more quickly and, of course, help you to stay fuller longer. While that’s all well and good, too much of anything can be a bad thing. If you’re like me and don’t eat much animal product, sure, add some protein powder to a shake or your pancakes. But if you do take in enough protein through your food, you really aren’t do much!
Branched chain amino acids, also found in protein, can increase muscle growth. Again, these can be found in foods you already eat. They have actually been proven as unnecessary for those who already consume high amounts of protein. This just brings us back to the point that most supplements are already naturally found in our food, therefore our main focus should always be to intake a healthy, well-balanced diet.
BCAAs are a part of these. They coincide with protein, allowing muscles to repair quickly and promote muscle growth. So, here again, these will be in your foods. Amino acids are also in carbohydrates and fats. There are several different amino acids and they can also be found in certain pre-workout mixes.
My advice? Anything that promises weight loss, steer clear of. I don’t understand how many times people have to hear it or how much money they have to spend before they fully grasp the concept: there is no magic pill. Period. Proper diet and exercise will help you lose weight. I’m sorry, but if you want it, you have to work for it. Sometimes it sucks, especially if you’re like me and have a sweet tooth. But just do it people!
Finally, our pre-workouts. Sure, some of these work, but they can be a mix of random ingredients which will all sound foreign to you. How do you decipher which ones are safe? If you find pre-workouts are the way to go for you, do your research and stay away from anything containing DMAAs. These have been linked to hear injury, kidney failure, and much more dangerous side effects. Read your ingredients list and pay attention to what you are buying. Again, don’t use it everyday. On days you aren’t training hard or you have a lot of energy, don’t use it.
We have covered a lot yet there is so much more information out there! Supplements are not all bad, but they are not all good either. Some people truly need supplements, but you have to determine whether or not you are that person. Too much of anything can be a bad thing. You have to perform adequate research, think for yourself, and listen to your body. Remember, the least amount of ingredients the better, and if you don’t know what an ingredient is just look it up. Depending upon your health and fitness goals, you may find a supplement necessary for you.