Supplements, as their name suggests cannot and should not replace a varied diet, but at times are useful in order to ensure that one is not lacking in a particular nutrient, whether through illness, medication or a number of other reasons.
The fitness industry is awash with pills and powders that promise much and often deliver nothing, and the supplement industry is one of the fastest growing in the world valued at a staggering $32 billion in 2012! But does the average, healthy gym user actually need to supplement his or her diet if they consume even a semi healthy diet? Protein powders and drinks are huge sellers in gyms and heath food shops and the mad rush to consume protein in that 30 minute window post training has seen the convenience of quick to consume products push sales through the roof and increasing year on year.
Whilst it is agreed that those involved in regular exercise will require a higher protein intake than sedentary individuals, a range of between 1g/kg bodyweight and 1.6g/kg bw is more than adequate for the average gym goer with bodybuilders and other intense weight trainers needing up to 2.4g/kg. Intake over 2.8kg/kg bw has been shown to be surplus to requirements and may be stored as fat, so it can be seen that an active 80kg male would require in the region of 112g protein per day which should be obtainable through the diet, with drinks perhaps taken when solid food is not available for a period of time such as post workout if before work.
Carbohydrate drinks are another popular use of supplementation in the gym, with many a bottle of Lucozade to be found next to the weight rack, but unless the exercise lasts longer than 60 minutes and is at an intensity that causes mineral loss through persistent perspiration, then water is more than sufficient. I often feel that the protein drinks and Lucozade are used like lifting gloves and weight belts and purely as a ‘gym accessory’ (weight belts have their place, but not during bicep curls!). Pre workouts are usually loaded with caffeine, so have a strong coffee, and beetroot juice is a great alternative for those looking to boost NO production. And then we come to the weight loss pills.
If these worked, do you not think they’d be available from the chemist and the obesity crisis would be a thing of the past? These simply do not work and whilst many have been successfully trialed in animal studies, have yet to be as effective on the human animal. The fact is that if you are buying these pills then you are obviously looking to lose fat which means that you will be a little more careful with your diet and may add some exercise and hence calories in are reduced and calories burnt are increased and that magical little pill has done nothing except perhaps been the catalyst for a small lifestyle change.
These are just a few of the myriad of supplements that manufacturers would have you believe will turn you into a fitness model or bodybuilder overnight, but the truth is, if you wish to change the way you look then there is nothing better than hard work, simple as that. As human beings we are constantly looking for the quick fix or the easy way and often believe the marketing spiel in the hope that by taking a pill or some powder we can miraculously change overnight. Supplements do have a place, particularly for those training twice a day or those involved in professional sports, but the average gym goer is often better off ensuring that they consume a mixed and healthy diet and put their money to better use…… perhaps on personal training.
Train hard, keep a smile on your face, and don’t believe the hype!!