Supplements - Do we need them?

Updated: Jan 14, 2020

Whether you're already taking supplements, or you're thinking about purchasing some. I thought I would give me 2 pence on whether or not they're worth having - and if so, under what circumstances.

I'll start by saying the majority of clients here at R5 are on some form of supplement. From protein powder to multivitamins, supplements should be used to assist your diet in giving you a good balance of micro and macronutrients.

Supplementation can also be used to assist in certain area's of your life that need optimising, i.e to promote higher energy levels, better quality of sleep, gut health etc.

I separate supplements in 3 categories.

  • Macronutrient Supplements

  • Stimulant Supplements

  • Micronutrient Supplements

Each of which I will give me opinion on below. You can then decide whether any of these sound like they would be of benefit to you.

Macronutrient supplements

I will only recommend supplements that replace someones macronutrients (protein, fats and carbohydrates) under special circumstances. Consuming macronutrients from natural fresh sources are far better because as they are broken down more effectively during digestion.

A macronutrient source that has a shelf life where the rotting enzymes are removed and preservatives are added e.g protein powder, will challenge our digestive system making it trickier to lose weight or gain muscle, whichever your goal may be.

There are a couple of instances, I believe, when a macronutrient supplementation should be used. The main one being when protein is low. I find around 85% of the food diaries I read through are low on protein.

If we can't seem to increase the protein count through natural food, I will recommend a whey protein supplement. This is usually for people with demanding jobs and very little time or vegans/vegetarians.

The second time I may prescribe a macronutrient supplement is when a client is looking to increase weight in order to build muscle mass. I often have 'hard gainers' (people with excellent metabolism's who struggle to put on weight) who come to me asking to get bigger.

To achieve this they need to consume more calories than they ever thought imaginable. The shear volume of calories, every single day, can often to a struggle to keep up with. This is when I may recommend a mass gainer. It's high in protein and carbohydrates when gives clients an easier method of meeting daily calorie requirements.

Again, both of the recommendations above are used alongside natural sources of macronutrients, not in replacement of.

Stimulant supplements

This includes pre-workout shakes, energy drinks or any other supplement that provide the body with a massive hit of fast digesting energy.

My views on these are very similar to the above. They should only be used as a last resort.

If you're taking these types of supplements regularly then something is very wrong. Either you need to focus on a diet that provides sustainable energy throughout the day. Or you need to listen to the response your body is giving you - you're tired! Which is when sleep may be the better option.

Hammering stimulant inducing supplements too often puts a huge strain on your adrenal glands, making you even more tired when not taking them, because your natural energy is constantly depleted. Ultimately this is counter-intuitive to the goal of a stimulant supplement.

I recommend clients take a stimulus supplement as a last resort and no more than once per week.

Micronutrient supplements

This includes multivitamins, cod liver oil, magnesium, zinc and any other essential vitamin or minerals.

I'm far more likely to recommend this type of supplement. Mainly because they can be found in very small quantities within food, meaning occasionally we could go far over our caloric intakes trying to get what we need.

Having these micronutrient supplements in a pill form, although not ideal, provides a huge help to health, performance and achieving our goals.

Daily, I take a Berocca tablet which is a dissolvable multivitamin. I take magnesium and zinc to aid sleep quality and recovery. And finally an omega 3 to aid joint health.

All the supplements I take I currently get from Bulk Powders. I've tried just about every company around and I find their quality and service one of the best available. There's a discount link for 25% off your first order...

The note I'll end on, is don't lose sight on the purpose of supplements. There aim is to supplement your diet. Not to replace it.


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