An Extra Edge? – The Real Deal with Supplements

Text Only LogoI’ll admit, I’ve taken my fair share of health supplements and additives over the years. After all, if you’re struggling to lose that clinging weight or frustrated by stalled strength, why wouldn’t you go for a pill or powder that promises to solve everything for you? Who cares about actual hard work and persistence when you see ads of ripped models claiming they got their body thanks to a particular supplement product line?

Here’s the reality upfront: 99% of all supplements out there are either a downright scam or absolutely unnecessary for you to achieve your fitness and health goals. They are a waste of your money. The other 1%? They might help in certain situations (such as a true nutrient deficiency), but many of them are also just as superfluous if you have a comprehensive, healthy diet.

If this is the case (it is), then why is the supplement industry cashing in on $60 billion+ each year? Because we love shortcuts. We love the promise of “easy and fast.” We hate the idea that true, lasting change only comes about through effort and being intelligent about what and how much we eat.

Can certain supplements give you more energy? Yes. However, these are primarily just cleverly disguised caffeine pills with a few other vitamins and such thrown into the mix. A cup of coffee before your workout can often achieve the same effect.

Can certain supplements help you lose fat? Sorta. What I mean by that is no supplement is going to cause fat to “melt off your body!” or whatever other ridiculous claim it makes. What some do is dampen your hunger so you don’t eat as much (hey, portion control). Others claim to boost your metabolism and burn extra calories…mostly through caffeine again. It’s not magic. Nor is it necessary. If I can achieve the same thing by not stuffing my face and having some coffee or tea, why should I buy a $50 bottle of pills?

Can certain supplements help you build muscle? Sorta. Protein powders or supplements such as creatine can help rebuild muscle…but simply eating enough actual protein in your meals achieves the same thing! I have used and still occasionally use protein powders and shakes for the convenience factor. If you have a hard time affording enough lean meat or have a diet that’s restrictive about that sort of thing for whatever reason, a protein powder might be worthwhile. Again, it’s helpful at times, but not essential.

Do I still take supplements? Yes. I take a daily Vitamin D pill because my blood work usually shows a deficiency there. I take fish oil (some folks like flaxseed) for its various benefits. I often have a protein or BCAA powder sitting to the side if I’m doing a lot of fasted strength training and am struggling to meet my protein needs. That’s it. And if I chose to for whatever reason, I’d be okay dropping them all tomorrow. They can help, but my fitness is not defined by them.

Note: BCAAs are branched-chain amino acids. These are the building blocks of protein itself which can be quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, bypassing digestion, and used to rebuild tissue, repair muscle faster, and prevent lean muscle loss.

So, anyone selling a supplement as a miracle-maker is lying or at least fudging the truth enough that they might as well be. Anyone who claims you can’t reach your fitness goals without a particular supplement is lying. Anyone who claims their fitness program can’t be followed without a hefty stack of accompanying powders and pills is…well…you get the point.

Want a writing perspective of this? Think of supplements along the lines of writing conferences and conventions, writing apps and software, writing retreats, books on writing, etc. Can you get a little boost from all these? Sure. Are they required for you to become a better writer? No. That only comes about through you actually applying yourself to the craft, day after day, year after year. It’s up to you, not anyone or anything else.

Also Note: Unlike my stating that many supplements have a scammy or deceitful approach to sales, I’m in no way saying conferences, conventions, etc. are rip-offs.

What have your experiences with supplements been like? Which, if any, are you currently taking? Do you feel that they truly make a difference in your health and fitness performance?