The lessons you need to learn about supplements
Do supplements really work? What supplements are best for getting bigger? What fat burners do you take? Every day I see supplement questions posed on line by people looking for anything to get them to their goals even a little bit quicker.
I shudder to think how much money I have spent over the years on supplements. Especially during my younger days. Any product with any link or claim to muscle or strength gains was bought without a second of hesitation. But as the Euros left my account, and the kg’s didn’t appear on the scales to take their place, I began to question my purchases. I would evaluate each product, and how much it improved my physique or performance. Take notes of my strength gains, changes in size and shape. I would record how my recovery, energy levels and sleeping patterns were affected.
So before I answer the big question, do supplements really work, let me tell you a bit about how and why I have come to my conclusions and answers below. Firstly I have been training myself with weights for about 15 years now. Throughout most of that time I have used some sort of sports related food supplements. Sometimes I have taken numerous products at once. Others I have reverted back to just taking whey protein. My first qualification as a personal trainer was awarded to me in 2003, so now, over 12 years and numerous qualifications later I feel I have learned quite a bit through my studies & qualifications, my own trial and error and my clients. I never disregard someone else’s view or opinions, but I’m also very slow to take someone else’s opinion as fact. I like to use simple trial and error on myself and my own training and nutrition. If I can see genuine improvements and reasons to use a product myself, I will then recommend it to others. If I continue to see further improvements from those people, I am then more than confident that this product works!
So, do supplements really work? In short, YES.
I have no doubt that supplements do provide certain advantages over whole foods at certain times. However from years and years of education, experience and trial and error, I would also say that most, if not all supplements, DO NOT work as well as they would like to claim on their packaging.
The big thing to keep in mind with supplements is with the name itself. Supplements should never, ever replace food completely. They should supplement and add to a good diet, not replace it. Whole foods will always be number one in my book. If you cannot get your nutrition on track, then no amount of supplements or training sessions will get you to the goals you want. There are, however, certain times of the day where I feel supplements can be more beneficial than whole foods, in particular pre, intra and post workout.
So what are my top 5 picks with supplements: (these suit me personally as well as my own current training goals. Some may not apply to different people)
- Whey Protein – Great for repair and growth of lean muscle.
- BCAA’s – Building blocks of protein. Trigger and enhance protein synthesis (muscle building).
- L-Glutamine – Prevents muscle breakdown, improve immune system & intestinal health.
- Dextrose – Fast absorbing simple sugar (carb) ideal for consumption when glycogen levels are low.
- Creatine – Increase the body’s ability to produce energy quickly. Improves strength & size.
As you can see, all of these supplements are associated with muscle repair and growth rather than “fat loss” or “fat burning” supplements. I personally take all 5 of these supplements whether my goals are to gain lean muscle mass, or to reduce body fat. I don’t believe fat burning supplements are essential by any means, even when trying to drop body fat level. I always focus first on getting nutrition and training on point and usually this will be sufficient enough to reduce body fat. At time the above supplements, often associated with muscle growth, can be of even more importance when trying to drop body fat. By following the correct training, nutrition and supplement regime, you should be able to maintain lean muscle whilst only losing body fat.
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