Before I even get into this blog I want to let you know one thing right from the gate.
Supplements do not replace food….ever….they are what they sound like…. A SUPPLEMENT. They SUPPLEMENT your diet and nutritional intake. They are not a primary source of receiving nutrients.
Now lets discuss this topic.
What are Supplements anyway?
Dietary supplements are substances we ingest to provide nutrients into our body that we may or may not receive in our normal daily diets. We ingest them because maybe our current levels are too low or because we want to get them in at a higher level to receive a particular health benefit or performance increase.
Supplements are not necessary in your daily diet in most cases and are least important as far as when you want to increase performance.
A sad reality is that most supplements on the market are extremely ineffective. They mainly drain your wallet and give you a false sense of safety with their claims of how they will benefit you.
However in this blog I will aim to give you a good guideline of some that have evidence to support how they work and some that “may or may not” work depending on what research you read.
*Disclaimer: I am not a RD and I am not recommending anything. This is purely for educational purposes and to give you tools to arm yourself with when it comes to deciding on supplements.
Evidence Based Supplements
There are a few supplements that I feel actually work. So we will label them in this article as evidence based meaning there are several studies that support their ability to deliver on some level what they say they do.
- Whey Protein – This supplement is the King of all supplements as far as research is concerned. There is years and years of studies that support a whey based proteins ability to help a person recover from exercise and training. Whey protein is the best variation simply because of it amino acid profile. There are several types of whey based protein but to stay on course with this article I will leave it with just the type of supplement. The variations among this type will be left for another blog.
- Multivitamins – Most of our diets a deficient in a lot of different vitamins and minerals. This is when a multivitamin is useful. A lot of vitamins are made up with emphasis on calcium, magnesium, zinc, and iron. This is very useful for women and men alike because lets be honest. Most of us do not eat colorful enough or with enough variety to obtain these nutrients from food sources alone. Taking a multivitamin is not an excuse to go eat junk but it can help keep low levels at bay.
- Fish Oil (EPA and DHA) – Essential fatty acids (EFA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) host a huge amount of positive health benefits. Fish oil supplementation reduces depression, decreases risk of cardiac death, decreases blood pressure, and reduces overall inflammation in the body. Fish oil is widely researched however, for getting a good brand you get what you pay for. Paying a higher amount is the only real way to ensure you get quality.
- Vitamin D3 – This supplement is key if you don’t live in a sunny environment. Vitamin D is typically synthesized through the skin after exposure to sun but if sun exposure is not possible you can and should supplement with it. Vitamin D helps to improve energy levels, mood, immune system response, and performance in some cases.
- Creatine Monohydrate – Creatine occurs naturally in the body from amino acids and is used in the Phosphocreatine Energy System which is responsible for power output for the first 10 seconds of most activities. Creatine Supplementation helps aid your ability to perform strength and power based activities. Some research shows it has and ability to increase absolute strength and muscle mass when used chronically.
- Caffeine – This is the work horse that provides the most benefits in pre-workout supplements. To save some cash, just drinking a cup of coffee will give the same benefits as pre-workout. Important to consider is that when used chronically is will lose its effectiveness. Cycling on and off coffee (I know crazy right) will be the only way to ensure it continues to give you the effects you seek.
- Beta-Alanine and Citrulline Malate – I group these together because They are some of the least supported by evidence. Beta-Alanine has been shown to help aid in Anaerobic Efforts. Basically it helps create a buffer when your body begins to be flooded by lactic acid. On the other end of the spectrum Citrulline Malate helps to aid in long duration exercise and muscle endurance. Basically it slows the rate in which lactic acid accumulates and helps to remove the waste in your body during training.
Other Popular supplements with very little research
There are several other “popular” supplements out there but I am not sure I want to put my stamp on them because to say the least most research on them is skeptical and biased at best. Glutamine, BCAA’s, and HMB to name a few have spotty and skeptical things to support them.
The basic thing to remember is to be informed about what you put into your body and don’t just take anything based on what the label says it does. Unfortunately most supplements are not regulated well and anybody can make them these days. Do your research and ask questions before dropping $100’s on things that do not work.
Written by: Cody Smith
2018 Eric Helms PHD CSCS, Andrea Valdez MS, Andy Morgan, BS Muscle and Strength Pyramids
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