A huge part of the fitness industry is supplements and therefore supplement companies. These companies make billions of dollars each year off the claim that what they are selling will get you the results you want. I am not saying this is not true, a lot of the supplements out there can really help you reach your health and fitness goals. The main issue is whether or not you need any supplements and if so which ones. First off, anything as simple as a vitamin would count as a supplement. This would be anything extra you add into your diet that does not include food. Whether it is Vitamin C or zinc, it is considered a supplement. A supplement should be just that, something that is added to your diet. You should stay away from taking things in replace of food or meals. When taking vitamins, you are trying to add what your body needs, that you are not getting from your diet. It is possible to get most of your nutrients from diet alone (unless you have some sort of deficiency or absorption problem). Most of these deficiencies can be detected from taking a simple blood test. Another supplement people always ask about is adding protein (in form of protein shakes). There are several different types of protein that are available to you. The main concept behind adding this into your diet is to gain weight or build muscle mass to your body. Ideally this is done within 30 minutes of your workout, because that is when your body starts to rebuild itself after working out. Some protein shakes out there are beneficial, but just remember it does not replace the eggs, chicken, steak, or fish that you should be having as your main protein source. Another popular supplement, especially with athletes, is creatine. Creatine is responsible for increasing ones power output. If you increase the creatine stores in your body, you are able to produce more force/power (in about a 10-15 second window). This would be beneficial for power athletes as in football or baseball players. Increasing power output for a cross country runner is not beneficial, being that they are endurance athletes. Once again it leads us to the point that you have to compare your desired outcomes with the purpose of the supplement before you take it.
BCAA’s or Branched Chain Amino Acids, are another popular supplement that is on the market today. The purpose of this supplement is to give you more energy and the ability to have your muscles recover faster after a workout. This as well as protein and creatine are usually taken after you workout. But in today’s world there are so many different supplements out there that most of the time they are specifically designed for before, during, or after the workout. The one problem with supplements are the side effects that are associated with each one. For example, when you supplement with creatine you have to make sure you drink enough water, if not it can dehydrate you. Because of the side effects, it is important that you pay attention to what can possibly happen to you and address it, before it becomes an issue. Another not recently known “side effect” per say of each supplement is once you stop taking them, the effects wear off. Lets say you were taking creatine to get stronger and add muscle to your body, and then after two months you stopped taking it, your strength and weight would start to diminish. I have heard from several people that once they went off the supplement they were on, any strength or size gains they have made, went away. This is just a warning that you can lose any gains made while using a supplement. If you have any questions or comments regarding any of this information, please feel free to do so below. Supplements can be a great addition to (not replacement of) what you eat. You should take them if you want there desired outcomes and are willing to live with the side effects associated with each one.