You can’t escape it. Over half of most fitness magazines are dedicated to it. Infomercials tout the benefit of this or that. Companies spend millions of dollars on marketing and studies that prove their product works better than anything else on the market. And amazingly fit body builders and fitness models are paid to claim that you too can look like them if only you took said product.
What am I talking about? The phenomenon of supplementation. With the number of products on the market today, it is hard to believe how previous generations of people managed to be fit and healthy without taking these supplements. A supplement is something that is meant to take the place of something else that is lacking. Which is the crux of a larger problem. Eating habits have become such that the lack of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats, unprocessed carbohydrates, and an increase in added sugars have caused vitamin and nutrient deficiencies. Getting back to a more natural way of eating and eliminating the processed food we have gotten used to can help to add those nutrients back into the diet.
The reality is the FDA does not regulate supplements, and many of the products contain fillers, harmful chemicals, and may not even have the dosage it claims on the label. Even worse some of the supplements on the market can cause serious side effects and even death.
Some fat loss pills and pre-workout drinks have been pulled from the shelves because of multiple deaths. Often these products are “reformulated” and make their way back on to the market. Many people take these as a quick fix for fat burning or for the extra energy before a workout. These products speed the heart rate so adding exercise on top of that can lead to terrible consequences. Also, there are natural ways to get the same jolt of energy; beats have the same effect on the body as pre-workout drinks, and caffeine from coffee or green tea can add a healthy dose of energy.
Protein is beneficial because many people have a hard time eating the proper amount of grams per body weight, and they also provide an easy snack on the run. The negative is many of the protein supplements do not mix well, do not taste good, and can lead to belly bloat and an upset stomach. Also, studies have shown that milk proteins found in these supplements can lead to an increase in cancer prevalence.
Creatine is actually a good supplement when used properly. The creatine phosphate system is one of the bodies three energy systems and provides energy for quick bursts and power. Taking creatine MONOHYDRATE can help build up those energy stores. Where people go wrong is they take too much of the supplement. The body can really only store 3-7 grams of creatine, while the dosage on many of these products call for a loading period of 20 grams. Physically the body can not absorb that much creatine so it is eliminated as waste. Also, taking this high dosage of creatine has been linked to kidney and liver problems.
A very popular supplement for women is calcium. Again, poor eating habits have caused an increasing problem with a lack of calcium absorption. A recent study showed that many of the calcium supplements on the market were derived from limestone, not a natural source, so the body does not absorb it. Many women try to get their calcium from milk, but this is also a bad option. More and more research shows how bad dairy actually is for us. Switching to almond milk is a great option as it contains twice as much calcium, has fewer calories, and does not contain the hormones and pasteurization milk does. Calcium can also be found in fruit, green leafy vegetables, and legumes.
The desire to take these supplements is from the belief that these products will help them get better/fitter faster. Reverting back to a more natural diet will help return the body to proper nutrient levels, and taking processed foods from the diet will aid in feeling better. When eating right it is amazing how much more efficient exercising can be. Some supplements such as protein and creatine can be beneficial when taken properly, but otherwise they may actually do more harm than good. The reality is, to get fitter, leaner, and stronger, there is no supplement for hard work and proper nutrition.
Jason is Owner and Head Trainer at J Nichols Fitness (JNF) in Charleston, SC. For more fitness tips or to schedule personal training with Jason, he can be found at:
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