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Supplementation is a highly controversial topic because it’s a topic where there’s a lot of misinformation. A lot of people believe that having supplements will make life easier for them. That’s not really the case. The name explains it all. They are supposed to supplement whatever you’re already doing, not do it for you. With that said, are they worth it? What benefits do they have? Let’s try to answer a few of these questions.

The two types of supplements

Whenever the word ‘supplement’ comes to mind, people often believe it to be some sort of protein powder or something related to fitness. However, that’s not the case. In fact, we can classify supplements into two categories. One would be a workout supplement which could be anything from protein powders to branched chained amino acids (BCAA). The other could be a dietary supplement such as a multi-vitamin.

Image: Better Nutrition

Image: Better Nutrition

Both types of supplements have their different uses. However, both can be used in combination to maximize the benefits depending on what you want out of supplementation. For example, for people wanting to lose weight, perhaps a fat burning dietary supplement alongside a post-workout protein shake would be the optimal way to go about it.

Why is the difference important? It’s important because unless you have a specific reason in mind, not every supplement is supposed to be taken by a person. For example, you don’t need vitamin D or Calcium supplements if your vitamin D and Calcium levels are stable. Similarly, you don’t necessarily need a pre-workout or a BCAA supplement.

It all depends. For example, if your goal is to gain muscle and your workouts are highly intense, then a BCAA during the workout and a protein shake after would be the way to go. If you feel you’re not getting enough vitamins throughout the day, you could perhaps pick up a multivitamin supplement to help get fill that gap.

The myths about supplementation

As I mentioned before, a common myth amongst many people is that supplements will lead to success for whatever goal they have. In the case of dietary supplements, that may actually work. However, that doesn’t mean that only supplementation can ensure success. For example, a lot of people don’t work out but drink a lot of protein shakes. They think that the shakes will do some magic and they’ll develop big muscles.

Image: everydayhealth

Image: everydayhealth

That’s a complete myth and a big waste of money. Your muscles are only going to grow if you put them under enough stress. No amount of protein powders or any other magical supplement are going to make them grow. Supplements are supposed to take what you’re doing currently, and elevate it to the next level. If you’re following a general workout regime and you’re doing well, then perhaps it’s time to add a protein powder into the mix for faster recovery.

It’s no use if you’re going to skip the workout and just have the protein powder. Too much protein will end up damaging your kidneys instead. Therefore, stop taking shortcuts, because there are none. The only time one should consider supplements is when they actually need them.

Another popular myth about supplements, especially workout-related supplements is that they’re unnatural. The most common example is the hatred towards whey protein. The argument is that it’s not natural which leads to long-term health problems. That is not true. There are two types of protein, whey, and casein, both are found in milk.

Milk is 20% whey and 80% casein. The former is fast digesting whereas the latter is the slow digesting protein. A good post-workout meal would be something high in protein that’s also digested fast by the body. That’s why whey becomes important. A whey protein powder is just a concentrate of the low amount found in milk and thus, is completely natural. If the supplements are FDA approved, then there is no need to worry.

Should you take supplementation?

Now that we’ve talked about how supplementation can be good for you but it also doesn’t necessarily mean instant results, should one actually consider some form of supplementation? The answer depends on your daily needs, goals, and current situation.

If your age is below 18, then you should definitely stick to whole foods and other means of getting the required nutrients rather than resorting to supplementation (unless prescribed of course). If you’re someone suffering from deficiencies, then, of course, they will help in covering them. If you feel that your current diet plan isn’t incorporating enough vitamins and that you can’t alter it that much, then consider adding supplementation to fill that gap.

Image: arstechnica

Image: arstechnica

This applies to protein as well. If you can’t get your daily requirement of protein, then consider getting whey protein powder. If your workout is intense, then most likely you won’t be able to eat as much as you need to for optimal muscle growth and recovery. That’s why a protein shake becomes necessary. It’s a great way to cover your daily protein requirement.

If you’re someone who’s skinny with a high metabolism, then consider a mass gainer. Skinny people that tend to eat less yet have a naturally high metabolism are unable to gain weight no matter how hard they try. Mass gainers contain a lot of calories so you can get a lot of calories in without feeling the need to puke.

If age is catching up to you, then you should definitely take a few supplements. These will mostly be dietary supplements in order to cope with the dysfunctionalities aging brings. If you’re someone who works out then dietary supplements like performance vitamins might be able to help.

Vitamins are highly important. If one develops a deficiency, then life becomes really miserable. Therefore, always try to cover your vitamin requirements. Otherwise, take a multi-vitamin tablet every day or your body will begin to suffer big time.

Overall, as I said, the answer to the supplementation question depends. However, the general rule of thumb is to take them only if you need them and not for the sake of getting them. If your daily requirements are being fulfilled without supplementation, then that’s the ideal scenario. Otherwise, supplements are recommended for fulfilling body requirements.



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