Sports Supplements – Yes or no?
I am always asked about sports enhancing supplements such as protein, caffeine, energy drinks, fat burners and strength enhancers. I always ask three questions.
1. How is you diet?
2. Are you training properly?
3. Do you think you would be wiser spending your money on a personal trainer than on lots of drinks you don’t really know much about?
Sports supplements in my opinion do have their place in enhancing athletic performance and recovery….If and when used correctly.
Firstly though I always, always, always advocate a healthy, varied, whole food diet. The more we learn about nutrition, the more it seems we should eat the way people did a hundred years ago. Recent research appears to be pointing us in the direction of eating mostly "whole foods" – that is, foods that are as close to their natural form as possible.
If you have a healthy balanced diet you should not require protein shakes, fat stripping pills or energy drinks. You can obtain your healthy protein from such sources as white meats, nuts, pulses, beans and vegetables, your hydration needs from constantly sipping plain old water and your fat burning needs from regular eating of small healthy meals and physical activity. By eating and exercising regularly you will increase your metabolism and therefore burn off excess calories.
Far too many regular gym users I see come to the gym mixing powder and popping pills before and after they work out. Are they carefully measuring what they have put into their bodies? Are they aware of what potential reactions one substance will have on another? I’m not sure. I hate to think what overloading the body with foreign, synthesised chemicals does to a person’s hormone levels and homeostasis. (The body’s natural working state) Many of these people are training with poor form, poor workout structure and no periodization plan.
On that thought something for readers to note is that much of the time people overload their system with supplements which they don’t need and therefore can’t be efficiently metabolised. This mean the substance pass straight through your body potentially damaging the kidneys.
I believe you would be much wiser to spend your money on a good personal trainer or strength and conditioning coach, like myself to optimise and customise your workouts over a course of three months.
A lot of trainers, athletes and gym goers justify their supplementation because substances like creatine (produced from amino acids which increase skeletal muscle strength) are naturally found in our bodies. What they are really saying is their bodies are not efficient enough as they currently are and that they are too impatient to improve their body’s efficiency through hard work and adaptation.
Maybe I am a hypocrite as I use isotonic drinks (drinks which replace your salts, electrolytes and hydrate you quickly) with the racing drivers I train and work with at the circuit. I will only use them however when in hot climates taking part in an endurance events. As you can appreciate having a helmet and fireproof overalls on whilst being strapped into a hot, confined rocket on wheels, a driver will dehydrate quickly causing severe lack of concentration and loss of salts. I also appreciate that 100kg athletes like rugby players need to quickly replace their carbohydrate and protein levels as well as rehydrate after a long bruising training session or match. They still however have post exercise snacks and often a whole meal provided for them too. Remember that the supplements they take would be carefully selected and measured out by the clubs highly qualified sports nutritionists.
To conclude I think that for 95% of people who train, supplements are an unnecessary expense and should definitely be used only if a meal has been unavoidably missed. Supplements should never replace food and be used only as a backup. Individuals with certain medical conditions may require vitamin and mineral supplements but once again not at the expense of diet.
For me, I will gain all my nutrients from natural sources thank you very much.
Just an opinion.