to supplement or not to supplement

Supplements are used to complete or enhance your diet: they are orally taken substances that can be in form of pills, capsules, powder, and tablets, to increase the number of nutrients made available to your body “to supplement or not to supplement”.

 For it to be a supplement it has to be naturally occurring i.e. you can get it from your diet and also taken orally.

“To be or not to be?” as Shakespeare asked.

There comes a time when you ask your self should I use supplements (dietary)?

We will be limiting our research to fitness or bodybuilding-related supplements.

In this post, we will be enlightening you about,

What are supplements?
Misconceptions about supplements.
Types and benefits of supplements.
When you should use supplements.

What are supplements?

protein powder

The word “supplement” means to enhance or complete. (Emphasis on the verbs,)

They are orally taken substances that can be in form of pills, capsules, powder, gel, and tablets to increase the number of nutrients made available to your body.

It is meant to provide the necessary number of nutrients to your body, either due to an increased demand for nutrients e.g.

When you work out, your body needs more protein for muscle growth or, not getting enough from your bad diet.

Supplements make up for these lapses.

Misconceptions about supplements

I know a few people who love to sound classy and uninformed and say “oh I don’t do supplements I am all-natural” well Flintstone,

  • Supplements are not performance-enhancing drugs.
  • They are not miracle drugs, you have to work harder and eat better to see any result.
  • It will not give you an unfair advantage over your gym bros.
  • They don’t have side effects when used in proportion, and the side effects are the same as eating a ton load of the nutrient from your regular diet
  • can never replace a balanced diet and good workout

Types and benefits of supplements

There are several types of supplements but we shall be focusing on those that are useful in bodybuilding or fitness. Examples are

  • Amino acids
  • Creatinine
  • Protein
  • Carbs and fat
Amino acids

These are the building blocks of protein, amino acids supplements are predigested i.e. they are absorbed and utilized  into the bloodstream  upon usage.

  • Don’t need to be broken down like protein.
  • Can be in pills, powered, or tablets.
  • Low in calories

Several amino acids are crucial for muscle growth e.g.

  • BCCA (branched-chain amino acids) are the responsible for  building muscles.

When they are taken, it is absorbed by the body and used in the formation of building blocks for muscles.

Your body cannot produce all the amino acids you require that is why you need external sources like meat, milk, eggs, fish etc.

  • Beta-alanine is needed for muscle recovery and preventing fatigue

Amino acids are good for cutting or losing weight while maintaining your muscle mass,

”it’s sort of a feed the muscle the rest can die scenario”

Creatine

 

This is a naturally occurring substance,

  • They are present in lean muscle.
  • can be in pills, powder, or tablets
  • It is needed for the production of energy, by making ATP available to your muscles; the more energy you have the better you will be able to work out.
  • Helps in preventing the breakdown of protein.
  • It also promotes lean muscle mass.
  • The most researched supplements.
Protein

Protein is the building block of muscles.

  • It is important for muscle cell growth.
  • When we work out we tear muscles by repairing the micro-traumas the muscles grow.
  • It is the most common supplement and can be in the form of powder, shakes, etc.

Protein helps maintain your muscle mass and if you eat a high protein diet it will lead to an increase.

Carbohydrate and fat

Carbs and fat are mostly present in mass gainer,

  • They are needed to add mass in people who find it hard to gain weight,
  • Some mass gainers may contain 800-1000 calories in a single scoop
  • The idea is to keep your body in a calorie surplus to enhance weight gain

When should you use supplements?

The answer is this

(When you have a good enough foundation in your exercise routine and a balanced diet).

What I mean is this, think of a pyramid…

  • At the base, you have a balanced diet.
  • In the middle, you have a good workout with proper form.
  • At the top, you have supplements occupying just a little space.

Supplements are the icing on the cake, not the cake.

 They give you that small but significant boost to reach your goals.

It should be your last step not your first.

You can’t be struggling with 5 pushups and you think I’ll go buy supplements.

There is the beginner’s boost i.e. when your body first starts working out the changes are rapid and the gains are massive till your body gets used to it then you plateau.

Scenarios of when you might need supplements

Weight loss

Weight loss comes from a calorie deficit. But in a case where you want to lose fat and preserve muscle, you need to

  • Maintain a high protein diet
  • Be in a calorie deficit

Now if you eat a lot of food containing protein, you will find it difficult to be in a calorie deficit.

The way supplement like amino acids work is this: it goes straight to your muscle and it gives you very little calories.

Competition

If you are a bodybuilder or a competitor and you need that extra edge, supplements like creatine can do that, by

  • Increasing the ATP made available to your muscles you can lift for a longer duration ultimately leading to a better result.
Gaining muscle

To gain muscle mass you need a high protein diet,

  • If your protein demand gets higher than your diet can provide, protein supplements might be the way to go.

A scoop of whey gives 20g of protein, 4 eggs gives 24 grams of protein, choose your poison.

Summary

You may decide to get all your dietary needs from your diet and you might be better, or you can go the supplement way, it does not matter, what we can agree on is the need to have a proper diet and good work out as your pillars of fitness and bodybuilding