Millions of people spend millions of dollars each year trying to buy their way to a better body.
Products, pills and potions promise to burn belly fat, suppress appetite or make you stronger.
Bad news. There are no magic substances.
There is no pill you can swallow or powder you can choke down that will transform your body. You still have to put in the time, energy and effort to working hard in the gym, being diligent with your diet and being consistent for a long period of time in order to lose weight, get stronger or improve your health.
When people ask me about supplements, specifically which ones they should take to help them reach their fitness goal, my usual answer is “None. Eat healthy food.”
For the most part you can get all the vitamins and minerals you need to look and feel good from eating fresh, nutrient-dense whole food. You do not really need anything else.
However there are a few things which can be supplemental to your healthy diet and have benefits.
They are not all for everyone, and they aren’t really necessary for anyone but for those looking to increase their performance or perhaps enhance their recovery there are a few things you can include in your routine.
(Keep in mind these are generally safe but you should talk to your doctor or a Registered Dietician about any vitamins or supplements before taking them.)
Like I said, if you eat fruits and vegetables and a variety of healthy, whole foods you probably are getting plenty of your vital vitamins and minerals. However, a multi-vitamin taken daily is a good cover-all just to be sure you’re not missing anything.
Branched-chain amino acids are a good thing to include if you strength train frequently and with heavy weights. If you find you’re often sore after every workout you might not be recovering well. Including BCAA in water before and after your workout can help. Studies show it can even make you feel more full when sipped between meals and help your body be better at burning fat.
Many Americans do not get enough Omega 3 fatty acids in their diet. You should absolutely include more Omega rich foods like salmon, nuts and seeds, but supplementing with fish oil has proven benefits, too. Researchers believe it lowers the risk of post-partum depression, it is known to be good for heart health and musculoskeletal health, and also lowers inflammation which can lead to a number of heath issues.
Once thought to be only for meat heads and bodybuilders, Creatine is actually a great supplement for active people. It is a good recovery agent, helps take water into cells and prevents muscle cramps, and is good for memory and brain function. Studies also show it can help performance in the gym and make strength workouts more effective. Some people will notice a slight bloating effect and digestive discomfort from Creatine but this typically subsides after a few weeks of consistent supplementation.
Often when people ask me if they need to use protein powder because they are working out my answer is no. You don’t need it, not at all. You can get protein from food. However some people struggle to consume the necessary amount of protein from whole food sources. (They don’t like to eat a lot of meat and poultry.) This is where whey protein can help. It is great post workout because it helps with muscle protein synthesis, along with recovery, repair and rebuilding of muscle tissue. It also is a great way to get more protein in your diet without making you feel full, and is easy to take on the go.
If you have some tummy troubles, even occasionally, a probiotic is a good addition to your daily diet. These decrease bloating, improve mood and decrease fatigue, and help balance the gut. The health of your digestive tract is linked with everything from depression to obesity. Taking a probiotic can help keep everything balanced and running smoothly. And don’t we all feel better when we’re regular?
As I said, there is no need to take any of these supplements and often times it is just extra money that could be better spent elsewhere. If you find you’re buying supplements or vitamins then forgetting to take them, you’re essentially throwing your money away. No supplement works if it is not taken consistently (or at all). Before investing in any of these products be sure you’re going to follow through on taking them daily or as directed.
Along with a healthy, nutrient-rich diet and regular exercise, these supplements can improve how you feel and how you function.