Supplements. There are so many. They make so many claims. What do they actually do? Do they even work? Will I lose weight if I take this one? Will I gain muscle if I take that one?
I know, I know, so confusing, right?! For years, I didn’t believe in the effectiveness of supplements, not even a multi-vitamin. I remember someone saying, “Well, you could take a multi-vitamin or you could go bowling.” I am sure I heard that somewhere. It could have been a doctor or it could have been a dream, but either way I always thought of that when I considered supplementation. It wasn’t until my first women’s physique competition prep that I learned the power of proper supplementation and the role supplements played in reaching my goals.
First, let’s talk about what a supplement is. Webster’s defines supplement as something that completes or makes an addition. A supplement is just that – a supplement. Are you getting it yet? A supplement is only a small part of your training program and diet. It supplements, it is an addition, it completes your training program and diet. Here is an example: If you typically sit on your couch all day eating Cheetos and watching Netflix you are probably going to be overweight. You decide you don’t want to be overweight anymore so you go to your local health/vitamin store and purchase a fat burner. You take the fat burner as recommended but you continue to sit on the same old couch, eating the same old Cheetos watching the same old shows on Netflix. Do you honestly think your body is going to change? If you said no, you are right. Here is another example: You’re a dude. You look like a dude. You wear stringer tops in the gym like a dude. You carry your gallon jug in the gym like a dude while you half ass (excuse my French) your training sessions every day and eat a piss-poor diet. You decide you want to get bigger. So, you go to your local nutrition shop and purchase a SARMS (Select Androgen Receptor Modulators) Stack or something of that nature that is supposed to help you gain muscle. You begin taking it while you continue to train the same way, barely breaking a sweat, and eating the same type of foods you were before you started the supplement. Do you think your body is going to change? Heck no! Are you following me? A supplement is just that – a supplement. It is not a magic pill that will make all your dreams come true.
If you want a supplement to work you must put in the work. It can’t work unless you do. On another note, all those people who think others look good just because they take a specific supplement, you are wrong. They worked hard to get there so stop discounting their hard work and start working on your own goals.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about the power of proper supplementation. There are supplements for just about everything. Supplements for increased energy, supplements for burning fat, supplements to balance blood sugar, supplements for improving post-workout recovery, etc. I am here to say when used properly…they work. I have many real-life examples but one really stands out. During my competition prep for my first women’s physique competition I was experiencing some blood sugar imbalances. We tweaked my diet multiple times to try to get it under control but couldn’t quite figure it out. My coach at the time told me to try Chromium Picolinate. Guess what? It did the trick! Chromium picolinate is used for improving blood sugar control in the body. When I start dieting and carbs and fat decrease Chromium helps to keep my blood sugar balanced. Experiencing this was life changing for me because, like I said before, I didn’t really believe in supplements. Another first-hand experience was the role Glutamine played in my recovery. Glutamine is the most common amino acid found in your muscles. During your training sessions, the level of glutamine in your muscles is depleted significantly causing decreased strength, stamina and recovery. When I began making sure Glutamine was incorporated pre-, intra- and/or post-workout I noticed a noteworthy increase in strength and endurance during my training sessions and experienced faster recovery. These examples are just a few of my first-hand experiences with the direct effects of proper supplementation. When supplements are taken correctly and combined with an appropriate diet for your training style and hard work here are 4 things supplements can do for you.
- Increase strength, stamina and improve your recovery time. Whether you are taking a whey protein powder, an amino acid or a muscle building supplement and you combine them with proper diet and exercise you will find they work in more ways than one. How can you be sure? Pay attention to your body. Write down the amount of weight you are using at each training session. Has the amount of weight your lifting increased? Can you do more reps with the same weight? Are you able to do more sets in your workouts? Are your as sore as you have been? All these questions are important to ask yourself when trying a new supplement.
- Increase lean muscle mass, therefore decreasing body fat. That’s right. The right supplements (again, combined with a consistent diet and hard work) will increase lean muscle mass, thus decreasing body fat. The phrase “muscle burns fat” is true. The greater amount of lean muscle you have on your body the more calories you burn throughout the day and the less fat you have on your body.
- Help with any imbalances in your body. You read how Chromium Picolinate helped regulate my blood sugar. This is what I am talking about. Even though you are eating healthy there may be some deficiency in your body. Supplementing with the right vitamin or mineral can help with any imbalance you might be experiencing. How do you know if you have an imbalance? You pay close attention to symptoms you are experiencing, learn your body and can tell when something is not quite right. If you feel you need to visit the doctor, then you should certainly do that!
- Help you perform at optimum levels. I do not like to be mediocre or average at anything. Therefore, I do not want my body to perform at an average level. I need my body to perform at its maximum potential. If you like being mediocre or average that is your prerogative, but it isn’t mine. Proper supplementation can help your body perform like a well-oiled machine. I see my body as a fancy sports car and I only want to put premium gasoline in the tank and performance enhancing oil in its engine.
There are many supplements out there that claim to do x, y and z. Supplements in the health and fitness industry are often not regulated by the FDA so I advise you to do your research. You want to go with a reputable brand/company when it comes to taking any kind of supplement from a whey protein powder to a multi-vitamin. Do your research, read reviews and ask people who have taken the product. And, well, I don’t go to the doctor often, but if you feel you need to talk to your doctor before taking any kind of supplement then you should!