Supplements - Worth the money or a waste of time?
The nutritional supplement industry is a minefield.
Loosely regulated and overwhelmingly expansive, deciding the ifs, whats, whys and whens can be a headache. Having spoke to many different individuals over the years about supplements and their value, it seems people fall into one of two categories - those who believe supplements to be essential, and those who believe them to be a complete waste of time.
Who is correct?
What do you take, bro?
Let me explain - the all or nothing mindset when it comes to supplements is at best a mental shortcut. There is not, nor will there ever be, any such thing as an ESSENTIAL supplement, and you can absolutely create the body and health you desire without them. However, there are a small few that offer extraordinary value, and its my job as a nutrition coach to stay objective. So before you spend your hard earned money on a supplement - lets find out whether or not you need them.
First, ask yourself these 2 questions:
1 - Is my diet actually deficient in the area i'm looking to supplement in?
Remember, a supplement is supposed to fill in the gaps left by a deficient diet. Looking to buy a protein powder but already eat a wide variety of lean protein each day? Save your money. However, considering most of the foods that make up the modern day western diet, its easier than you may think to be deficient in important areas.
2 - Is there objective, un-baised and proven research to show this supplement does what it says it does?
As stated before, the supplement industry has very loose regulation, meaning companies can offer up sometimes un-proven information about their product. Ignore the marketing surrounding the brand.
If the supplement does not stand up to those 2 fundamental questions, you likely should not buy it.
Okay enough negativity.
Here are the supplements that simply work.
Note: I'm not going to bore you with the science behind each supplement, this is supposed to be a simple guide - However, for my fellow geeks, there will be a link under each one with a run through of pretty much everything you could ever want to know about the supplement from the guys over at examine.com. They should be everyones go-to for un-biased information on supplementation.
The freakin awesome.
Whey Protein Powder.
A great supplement to be used when dietary protein needs are not being met.
Now remember, no supplement is essential, and you should absolutely try to hit your protein requirements through whole food. However, lets be real, no one has their shit together 100% of the time. Life happens. Whey protein powder is quick, easy, and has a plethora of health benefits.
As most of you will know, we synthesise vitamin D from the sun. Although here in the U.K we don't get very much sun, that doesn't mean we're all deficient in it ( although its highly possible )
So why supplement with it?
Well, although we can obtain it via sunlight and some foods, we don't really get optimal levels on a regular baisis. You see, the RDA for Vitamin D is 600IU, however most recent research states an optimal does is closer to around 3000IU. Quite a difference.
Vitamin D has been linked to so many positive health markers that i recommend my clients take Vitamin D instead of the more popular multi-vitamin most of the time. Vitamin D is a fat soluble Vitamin ( Along with vitamins A, E and K ) meaning you should take this with a meal containing a good fat source.
Low levels of Vitamin D has been associated with -
- Increased loss of muscle strength and mass as we age
- Increased risk of cancers
- Lower levels of immunity
- Higher blood pressure
- The development of neurological disorders
- The development of diabetes
And while these are only associations, the data is pretty strong.
Of all the hundreds of supplements on the market today, creatine by far has the most proven research to back it.
Creatine supplementation can increase power output and assist in faster muscle mass growth. Creatine Monohydrate is the most effective and cheapest source available. Its also not just reserved for gym rats, check out this amazing list of thing its been shown to improve -
. Dizziness as a result of brain trauma
. functionality in the elderly
. Muscular endurance
Not the most expansive list huh?
Here are a few other evidence-based supplements we recommend on an individual basis depending on client needs:
The kinda awesome.
Do I REALLY need to tell you what caffeine does?
Fish Oil - Omega 3 levels can be met through the diet, however supplementation can be effective.
So that's 5 different supplements that have proven research and results to back them up.
Thats not a lot considering the fact that there are literally thousands of different products on the market - just take a look around the shelves of your local GNC or Holland and Barrett.
Let's wrap this up.
What about all the rest?
I'm not saying they're USELESS, there are plenty more that have their place when applied correctly to the individual, however for most people, you're much better off spending money on awesome food.
Supplements alone will not transform your body and health, however, when leveraged correctly can increase the process massively - just be sure to answer the 2 questions presented above and use this guide to help you.