In today's society you can pretty much find a supplement claiming to give you anything you want. More muscle, less fat, better digestion...
The list of all these products claiming to do everything you could of imagined and more is endless.
The problem comes when you start to view supplements as the key to your fat loss goals or your muscle building woes.
As you probably guessed from the title of this post, supplements aren't the be all and end all for your goals...
Below is a nutrition pyramid, think of it as the hierarchy of setting up your dieting/building framework for success.
What you'll notice is that supplements are right at the top of the pyramid.
They are there purely to supplement your diet NOT to substitute or patch up the fact that you aren't getting in quality nutrient dense, single ingredient foods.
But, they do have their place, If you had to push me to tell you which ones are proven to work (provided your diet is in working order)...
I'd probably say the next 4 supps…
Aside from bodybuilders, most people could do with eating more protein, and because if you're strength/weight training you probably need somewhere in the region of 0.6-1g/lb of bodyweight (depending how lean you are, the leaner you become the more you need, that's for another post though), adding in a protein shake isn't going to hinder your results. Higher protein intake is shown consistently to increase satiety (feelings of fullness) and also a higher thermic effect of food (metabolic boost if you will) and increased muscle mass (if bulking) OR better muscle retention (if cutting), yet generally, most people often fall short.
Protein shakes will NOT make you big (not gonna happen females), and for the hard gainers out there, increasing your food intake via protein shakes is a sure fire way to increase your calories and help you pack on some solid muscle mass.
They're also a convenient/cheap-ish way to increase your protein intake for little to no fuss.[The damn western diet].
Creatine is possibly the MOST researched supplement out there to date. And no, it doesn't wreck your kidneys.
A quick run down of how creatine works;
When you lift weights, the main energy system your body uses is the ATP-PC system. You have enough adenosine tri-phosphate (ATP) for about 10 seconds of maximal intensity exercise. After this, creatine phosphate (CP) steps in to donate it’s phosphate molecule to adenosine di-phosphate (ADP) thus creating more ATP, and sustaining high-intensity exercise.
Basically if you have more creatine readily available, you can last for longer.
As a side note, creatine is also ridiculously cheap in comparison to other supplements. Sure it's somewhere in the region of £10/500g, and considering you only need to take 5g/day, your money goes along way. I'll let you do the math on that one.
Vitamin D or the sunshine vitamin is what makes you feel good when you go outside in the sun.
Unless you're british, in which case we're gonna need to supplement with it. As I'm pretty sure we can't absorb vitamin D from rain clouds and miserable days.
Vitamin D has been shown to increase bone density (insert dirty joke here), and also reduce our risk of CHD.
The dosage of vitamin D is where there is a lot of discrepancy though. Government guidelines states that intake should be somewhere in the region of 600-800iU/day.. With an upper limit of 4000iU/day. Personally I have a 5000iU tablet every day and it's worked wonders for me, especially during the British Winter (which we all know, lasts about as long as a game of thrones Winter).
Now. Fish oils are great. They have a massive body of evidence behind them.
BUT if you eat oily fish regularly, you know like salmon, mackerel, trout etc at least 2-3 times per week, you probably don't need to supplement with fish oil. But if you don't. Because oily fish often is too 'fishy' for some people, supplementing with these could see benefits such as:
– Improving cholesterol levels
– Lowering blood pressure
– Reducing the risk of heart disease
– Ditto for diabetes
– Managing arthritis symptoms
– Preventing osteoporosis
– Reducing the risk of cognitive decline
– Ditto for macular degeneration
– Reducing the effects of asthma
– Reducing the risk of breast, prostate and colon cancers
So what's the take home message from this:
If you find yourself lacking in obtaining these things, and can't get them from food OR from a british summer...
Then adding them in to your daily routine will definitely be of benefit to reaching your goals.