With so many supplements on the market all claiming to do wondrous and remarkable things to our bodies, it’s difficult to know which ones work, which are a waste of time, and what the actual science behind the claims tell us. Before you dive in head first and blow you cash on the most expensive and colourful supplement packs, here’s a little insight about how supplementation works and the benefits it provides.
Supplements Are Just Food
When you first hear about supplements for bodybuilding, performance enhancement, weight loss, or immune support, you may be fooled in to thinking something magical is taking place. Unfortunately although it sounds boring, supplements are essentially just food.
Regardless of whether they come in a pill, capsule, powder, or liquid form; most supplements are either extracted from plants, herbs, fruits and vegetables, or are synthetic imitations created in a lab.
The body digests them (or sometimes it doesn’t) and the nutrients or amino acids go off to support bodily processes. If the body doesn’t need it, you pass the excess in urine.
In 99% of cases, everything you can buy in supplement form can also be obtained from a healthy and varied diet.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t supplement, but it does mean you should probably get you diet in order and start eating fresh nutrient rich foods before considering topping things up with a pill.
What Does Supplementation Mean?
Many people taking supplements fail to recognise what the term actually means. “A thing added to something else in order to complete or enhance it.”
For fit and healthy people who eat a varied diet, your body is already getting everything it needs to function properly. In these cases taking a lot of supplements will have minimal to no effects, and most of the nutrients will be flushed from the body as waste. Look out for that bright green or yellow florescent urine! That’s your body’s way of saying “we don’t need this”.
However it’s safe to say most people with their processed foods, empty snacks, and alcohol consumption, probably aren’t in tip top condition. Unhealthy people can certainly benefit from supplementation, but then they have to ask themselves whether their lack of nutrition couldn’t perhaps best be solved by eating better, rather than taking extracts of … food. Just eat the food in the first place!
What supplementation does offer for the average person is convenience. If you know your eating habits could be cleaned up, but you just can’t bring yourself to trawl down the vegetable isle with an iPhone checking which green lump is higher in which vitamins – then topping things up with a daily multi-vitamin is not a bad idea.
Half of a doctor’s job is correcting deficiencies caused by poor nutrition, or tackling illness and disease that has prevented natural bodily functions from being performed without extra help.
Who Are Supplements For?
For the average person a simple daily multi-vitamin containing Vitamins A to K, and the various B vitamins is enough to ensure you’ve covered your dietary needs in terms of essential nutrients. Some of the old and well-established favourites like fish oil can also keep you limber if you’re prone to stiffness and joint pain.
However supplements are not just about basic vitamins and fatty acids, and they’re not just about the average person.
If you are embarking on a strenuous exercise routine or are working hard to build muscle, there are also a range of supplements that can increase performance and help with recovery.
They won’t turn you in to an Olympic runner or the Hulk, but they’ll ensure the body has what it needs to run efficiently.
It’s the difference between the average sports car and a finely tuned racing model. The sports car functions fine, but if you’re going to do 30 laps on a race track at high speeds, fuel is going to run out quicker and those tires need some extra care.
In this situation you don’t need anything over the top. A simple creatine supplement can help energize muscles during workouts. A basic whey protein powder can be consumed after workouts to ensure you have enough to efficiently help the muscles recover.
The key to supplementation is common sense. If it sounds too good to be true it probably is. If it’s not been tested or gone through years of successful use, then there’s no need to be a guinea pig.
The first thing on everybody’s mind when they made the decision to become more healthy is changing eating habits and beginning exercise. Sports supplements should be held off until you really need them.