One of the biggest industries in the sports and fitness world is the supplements market. The global sports nutrition market was valued at 50.84 billion dollars in 2018, so there is a lot of money to be made! As a result, there is a lot of marketing and advertising money pumped into it, telling you why you need the latest “Mega Pump Power Protein Powder XXXL”.
But what supplements do you really need?
The simple answer is none. First and foremost should always be real food before you pick up the pills, powders and potions. Once your diet is good and you are consuming adequate good quality food, only then should you be looking into supplements. Read on to find out where you should be spending your hard earned money.
We’re not bodybuilders so we don’t need to be mainlining protein shakes into our arteries. We can easily consume enough protein in our diets even if you are vegetarian or vegan so we shouldn’t really be looking at processed and artficial supplements to get our protein in. If you have had a big training day, and know you aren’t going to be able to take in much protein in for the rest of the day (travelling, social occasions etc) then a high quality protein powder can be useful to increase your protein intake but it shouldn’t be used as a crutch to over come a consistently poor diet. If you want a protein powder, look for one that is from grass-fed cows and is organic. These can be quite pricey compared to some out there, but if you are not taking it too often it should last you quite a while. If you are vegetarian or vegan, hemp protein is a very good option. Cheap protein powders are usually just full of fillers and sugar, and the protein in them is of low quality.
If you want to take a pre-workout supplement, I won’t stop you but I wouldn’t recommend it. A good, strong coffee 30 mins before your workout will give a great kick and will taste 1000 times better as well as not giving you some of side effects of pre-workouts (tingling, sweats, heart palpitations, unpleasant toilet visits etc). Some of them are full of sugar and artificial stimulants and if you are racing at a high level, can contain banned substances. Many people take pre-workout to get pumped up and motivated before they step into the gym, but come race day that pre-workout won’t be available so what will you do? Motivation should be internal, and the drive to want to be the best you possibly can be and continually improve should be all the motivation you need and will be readily available on the start line.
If there is one supplement I would recommend taking, then it would be creatine. Creatine is used by the body to create ATP, which is the fuel used by your muscles in short, maximal efforts (such as strength training). It is cheap, leaves no after taste and doesn’t contain any other sugars or nasties aslong as you buy the plain and simple creatine powder, and not another pre-workout supplement that contains creatine. Creatine is one thing that is very hard for us to get enough of in our diets, especially for vegetarians and vegans so a supplement is very important. There are a few people that still believe that creatine is bad for you and can cause health problems, but the International Society of Sports Nutrition regards creatine as extremely safe and as one of the most beneficial sport supplements available.
A lot of people who find it hard to put weight on, often turn to weight gainers in a bid to consume extra calories. Whilst there are some good quality ones out there, the majority of weight gainers are full of sugars like maltodextrin and dextrose along with powdered full fat milk. A much cheaper and healthier way of taking on some extra calories is to get some powdered oats. They are what they say they are, simple porridge oats grounded into a fine powder that you can add to milk and drink. Not the most tastiest thing you’ll ever drink, but it will provide you with high quality and low GI carbohydrates (and therefor extra calories).
The supplement market is a minefield full of rippling abs and monstrous biceps, trying to entice you to spend your money on the latest powder that is full of outlandish claims about what it can do for you. Unfortunately, the only real way to get them rippling abs and monstrous biceps is by training hard and eating right!