Some of the most common questions I receive often, besides regarding workout tips and nutrition , are about supplements. And you probably asked yourself the same questions at some point when starting your fitness journey:
"Should I take supplements?" , " What supplements should I use?" , "Are supplements safe?" , "What supplements will help me lose weight?" and "What supplements will help me build muscle faster?"
First let`s take a look at the name "SUPPLEMENT".
These products have the role to "supplement" your diet and NOT REPLACE it!
A lot of companies run ads preaching how pills and powders will help you achieve your goal, without proper nutrition or a workout plan, just pop a pill, drink a shake and you`re good to go. It will never work or last, and in the worse case scenario , you`ll end up messing up your body and hormones.
The strategy is that instead of a regular 500 600 calorie meal they present a "great" shake around 150- 200 calories. Yes, you will lose weight by starving yourself , you`ll be feeling hungry most of the times, and the cravings will increase so much that after a certain amount of days , when going back to regular food your body will "explode". Drinking 2 shakes a day ( around 400 calories) and having 1 regular meal ( 500 calories) means a dangerously low calorie intake which your body won`t respond well too! Don`t fall into the Meal Replacement Trap!
I know a lot of people that reached their goals without taking supplements, and I believe that is truly achievable considering we thrived as a species for quite some time before pills and powders came along.
Do I use supplements? Yes, I do!
What and Why I use them? Well.. Let`s start at the top:
1. Protein Powders
I love them for a couple of reasons. Most companies invested a lot in making the most delicious flavored protein powders and since I love sweets I can replace that chocolate bar with a good protein dessert. Another reason is that having an active lifestyle and always being on the run , I don`t always have time to eat or I don`t have healthy choices close ..so a protein shake is a fast and healthy option for me. There are so many flavors on the market you can`t ever get bored. And depending on your goal you can choose a powder that helps your weight loss process or helps your muscle growth process. Choose what`s best for you, made from animal or plants.
2. BCAA's ( Branched – Chain Amino Acids)
If my morning routine includes a shake for breakfast , then in the mix, besides water,fiber, protein powder and frozen low-sugar fruits I add BCAAs . They increase muscle growth( most popular uses) , can decrease muscle soreness ( by reducing damage in the exercised muscles ), prevents muscle waste or breakdown , reduces exercise fatigue, and they can benefit people with liver problems. If I don`t get to take them in the morning I choose to drink them before my workout.
Living in a country where probiotics are not easy to find naturally in foods besides Kefir, Yogurt and some types of Gherkins ( the main foods like Sauerkraut, Tempeh, Kimchi, Miso or Kombucha are hard to find or very expensive ) I supplement myself with Probiotic pills.
4. Vitamin D3
This is the "vitamin of the moment" , gaining lots of media attention, famously known as the vitamin we can make from a little bit of sun exposure.
The body can make this form of vitamin D and it`s actually considered a hormone and not a vitamin. It`s responsible for regulating calcium and phosphorus in the body and lately research says it`s been linked to insulin regulation, immunity and even weight.
Not everyone gets enough sun exposure they need to make enough of this vitamin, especially during winter months, and at higher latitudes , so besides eggs and sardines you can supplement your diet with some extra vitamin D3.
5. L- Glutamine
What it does: Prevents catabolism!
Glutamine is the most commonly occurring amino acid in the human body. It transports nitrogen into our muscles and plays a role in metabolism, the functioning of our immune system, protein synthesis and energy restouration. After a hard workout the body`s level of glutamine can become depleted and can take up to 1 week to get back to a normal level.
6. Vitamin C
Boosting the immune function of the body , vitamin C is probably the most widely used single vitamin, known as an antioxidant and used in preventing colds , I supplement my diet all year with it . You can find it naturally in citrus fruits like orange, kiwi, lemon, grapefruit and veggies such as broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and capsicums.
7. Supplements I use almost every day
- OMEGA 3- 6- 9 if I don`t eat fish for a long period of time
- SPIRULINA - a great supplement to aid to your physical well – being , beeing also a rich source of antioxidants , protein, vitamins, minerals and fatty acids ( adding it in your protein shake is the simplest way )
- MULTI VITAMINS AND MINERALS helping your overall health by adding essential nutrients especially for those engaged in heavy physical activities or who are unable to funny control their diet or quality of food sources.
All these cost money, good healthy foods and supplements, the healthier you want to be, the more you have to invest in yourself. But its the best business you can make EVER.
DO WE NEED SUPPLEMENTS?
No, we don`t need them as long as we consume healthy products and get what we need from food. But do they help? ..Let`s say they make it easier for some of us, when you can`t eat enough of everything. Different goals means different nutritional choices. Make the right ones for you!