My Thoughts on Dietary Supplements: Four Products Worth Trying
Dietary supplements are quite literally one of the first topics we talk about related to fitness, especially when it comes to weightlifters and other gym-goers with specific body composition goals. Realistically, it makes a lot of sense why this is the case. The supplement industry has quickly rose to one of the leaders in the healthcare space, with thousands of companies out there with a total valuation worth tens of billions. So if you are actively engaged with individuals or companies online that offer fitness services, odds are you’ve come across the supplements they promote or have been exposed to ads for certain products. And personally, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. These products are perfectly legal, sold in stores all across the world, and some provide evidential benefits to the human body. In this post, I’ll explain to you my overall thoughts on supplements, and how I recommend you take your own approach to adding any of these products to your nutritional plan.
I do have to preface this discussion by noting that I am not a registered dietician or doctor, and therefore cannot formally recommend any supplements, however I can simply educate you all on the pros and cons of each and let you make an educated decision yourself on your own usage. Supplements are particularly controversial in the fitness industry, and I feel there’s no real reason for that. There’s pros and cons to everything that we consume, including supplements, and ultimately your exercise and nutrition regimen will trump supplements in their importance on proper function of the human body. Read the preceding sentence again, because it will certainly be a recurring theme of what I preach throughout that [pst. With that being said, I do believe there is value in considering the potential benefits of the products out there and making your best guess on its need in your personal diet. Here are four dietary supplements I believe are worth consideration into your nutritional protocol for someone looking to maximize their results.
Fish Oil refers to two different kinds of Omega-3 fatty acids: EPA and DHA. These fats are typically found in cold fish, such as salmon, but have been popularized as a dietary supplement due to cost efficiency and being readily available at most local stores. The research on fish oil is mixed, but for the most part it elicits a variety of benefits to the human body. Fish Oil has consistently shown to reduce triglycerides in the body (Bernstein et al 2012), in addition to improving symptoms of depression with higher doses of EPA daily (Sublette et al 2011).
Creatine is a naturally-occurring substance in the body, and is one of the most popular and widely researched supplements on the market (Cooper et al 2012). Creatine monohydrate is the cheapest and most effective form of creatine, and can contribute to increases in total power output and neuromuscular function (Bazzucchi et al 2009). Contrary to what a lot of people believe, creatine is not a steroid or anything close to that. Yes it can provide some performance benefits, but it is certainly not going to make you blow-up or make rapid strength gains in a short period of time. One consideration for creatine is increased overall weight due to water retention in many users, which is also typically accompanied by increases in muscle mass (Kilduff et al 2007). Be patient with the first couple of weeks of using this product, monitor how you look and feel in the gym, then assess the benefits it’s providing to your body.
A multivitamin, typically found in a pill or tablet form, provides a blanket of essential vitamins and minerals for the human body. This supplement is typically very cost efficient, and can be used to cover the bases for consuming sufficient micronutrients. There is very mixed research, but evidence suggests a multivitamin is neither healthy nor dangerous. For example, one study found that there is insufficient evidence to support the use of a multivitamin with association of less risk for cancer and other diseases (Huang et al 2006). With that being said, there is no research indicating them to be harmful either. A good idea is to get the majority of your essential micronutrients from a varied diet, and use a multivitamin or simply an individual vitamin supplement (such as Vitamin C) to cover any chance for deficiency risks in any nutrients. Most people reading this article already have a very sound diet and likely get a good majority of their required nutrients from your food alone, but if you find yourself frequently leaving out an individual food group then it may be advisable to supplement with a vitamin that fits that need.
Caffeine is another widely studied supplement, overall showing multiple benefits when consumed in moderate consumption. It can be consumed in a variety of different forms, including coffee, pre-workout, energy drinks, tea or pills. A lot of people think that you have to take in pre-workout made by a supplement company to experience the performance benefits, but that simply isn’t true. I personally have never even tried pre-workout, but do enjoy the occasional coffee before my workout for satiety and extra energy in the gym. Looking at the evidence behind this supplementation, we’ve seen that acute caffeine supplementation can enhance both overall power output and anaerobic running capacity in athletes (Schneider et al 2006). Despite the performance benefits of high doses of caffeination, excessive consumption in some individuals can lead to high spikes in blood pressure, disrupted sleep, and even impaired cognitive performance (Juliano et al 2012). The recommended intake for healthy adults is a maximum of 400 mg/day, with any more resulting in possible negative side effects (EFSA & NAS, 2015). Definitely don’t abuse your daily intake since it is a powerful stimulant, but certainly don’t be afraid to add some to your pre-workout routine in an effort to maximize your energy and performance while you workout.
Overall, I recommend simply using dietary supplements to fit individual needs in health and performance, and base a far greater portion of your time and money on proper training and nutrition. While I feel that each of the four supplements above provide various benefits, it’s important to be aware of the potential downsides of excessive consumption and ultimately make a personal decision on your usage of these products. Understand that no individual food or supplement is going to provide “magical” results, and instead time and consistency with regular exercise and a quality diet will be the most responsible for the progress you make. I did a lot of research for this post to ensure I provided you guys with the most up-to-date information, so I am hopeful you found this informative! Please mention a friend below who you think could benefit from this information. And let me know in the comments below, what do you think are the most effective dietary supplements? See you guys soon!