Do you know much about supplements or why, when, and how you could use them to help you perform at your best? With the vast number of health products, supplements, and superfoods out there it can sometimes feel unnecessarily complicated to make an informed decision on what you actually need or not. But no worries, we’ll give you an overview of the most important things here in this post.
What are supplements?
Food supplements are used to fill nutrition gaps in your diet, assist with weight loss, and can also boost your athletic performance. Most commonly, supplements are vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fatty acids, and other substances delivered in the form of pills, tablets, capsules, or liquid.
It’s important to note that supplements are called that for a reason – they’re designed to be used to supplement a healthy well-balanced diet, and not to make up for a poor one. If you are eating foods with low nutritional value on a regular basis, supplements will most likely not be able to help you. However, if you are aiming to maintain a decently well-balanced diet and just using supplements to fill the gaps, that’s when you’ll see results.
Should you be supplementing your workouts?
The average person eating a well-balanced diet and exercising only a moderate amount most likely does not need to supplement their diet at all. Supplements are most useful in cases where, for whatever reason, the body needs more nutrients than “normal”, making it more difficult to get them naturally. This could be, for example, if you are an athlete or just training very hard on a regular basis, if you are pregnant, or if you have specific health issues such as anemia.
Supplements are also very helpful for people, such as vegans or vegetarians, following specific diets that make it harder to get certain essential nutrients such as protein and omega 3s.
What kinds of supplements do people usually take?
There are a lot of different supplements you can take. However, in this post, we would like to limit ourselves to the three most common supplements.
This is by far the most common fitness supplement. If you want to develop and tone your muscle, you need to give them fuel and that’s what protein is for. Protein as a supplement is one of the most studied supplements in the world because it has a very high nutritional value and various scientific studies have proven its many health benefits. For sure you know the name ‘whey protein’; this type of protein is the best type, due to the fact that it contains a large range of essential amino acids that can be absorbed quickly. Another advantage of protein supplements is that they are available from non-animal sources such as peas, hemp and soya which works for vegetarians, vegans and those concerned about the environmental impact of consuming too much animal protein.
- Omega 3’s
Omega 3 is commonly found in fish oils and is not necessarily a specific fitness supplement. It helps with everything from vision to joint health to nice skin, hair and nails – what more could you want! There are no known side effects and as a naturally derived product, it should form part of our diets anyway. Common foods that are high in omega 3 fatty acids include fatty fish, fish oils, flax seeds, chia seed and walnuts. If you don’t eat much of these foods, an omega 3 supplement, like fish oil or algal oil, is recommended.
The last supplement which we want to take a deeper look at is Creatine. This one is a by-product of amino acid metabolites that are stored in our skeletal muscles. Creatine can increase muscle strength and is proved to boost your performance across a huge range of intense exercise from powerlifting to sprint times. It is a combination of three different amino acids: glycine, arginine and methionine. In simple terms, this means it is just a combination of amino acids.
Good Things to Know About Supplements
- Timing is Everything: To get the most from your sports supplements – timing is everything – you want to take them at the right time to get the most benefit.– Protein is best AFTER your workout because it helps your muscles recover
– Omega 3 is best with food (ideally breakfast) because it absorbs better on a full stomach
– Creatine is best shortly BEFORE OR AFTER a workout
- More expensive does not automatically mean better: There are so many supplements out there, so there are more expensive variations and less expensive variations with the same effect. The cheapest option is probably not going to be the best, but the most expensive one won’t necessarily be either. Rather than looking at price, check what studies have to say. Go for well-researched brands with a good reputation and always look at the ingredients and dosages!
- Supplements are NOT steroids: This is an important myth to address because normal food supplements have nothing in common with steroids. Steroids deliver much more noticeable results for muscle growth compared to, for example, protein powder, but they also come with much higher health risks. Steroids also usually have to be purchased from illegal sources, which only makes their health risks that much greater.
Supplements Are Made to Supplement: Focus on Food First
You don’t need supplements to make great gains and achieve the height of your potential. No amount of supplements can have the magic power to outdo bad nutrition or half-hearted training. However, they can play a helpful part in the whole process and give you a slight edge. If you want to start with dietary supplements, it is always helpful to consult an expert who can advise you and define the supplements that will help you achieve your specific goals.