I’m Not An Athlete, Should I Consider Supplements?
Updated: Aug 5
Supplements are to be considered a supplement to a healthy diet and lifestyle. If you want to get a little extra from your effort that you put in, then look no further than a good quality supplement.
That said, supplements are simply intended to be a supplement to getting each aspect of a healthy life in balance: nutrition, exercise, sleep, recovery, sunlight, social and psychology (and the author’s addition – a balanced use of technology).
Should I consider supplements?
Metaphor for taking supplements:
The author likens the use of supplements as part of a healthy lifestyle to the use of different transport methods to reach home from the airport.
Using a trolley, which will stop by the time you reach the outer radius of the airport, is like not having exercise, sleep and nutrition balanced. It will get you so far but you would never reach your destination of your home (your goal).
Using a bus is like getting exercise right, you get closer to your house, it takes longer but the bus doesn’t stop at your house, which is where the addition of nutrition would get you to your house (if you take a shuttle). The shuttle doesn’t go directly to your house, but it does get you delivered to your door.
Finally, using supplements is like a taxi. The taxi is the most direct and fastest route directly to your door. This is the addition of supplements to an already solid nutrition, exercise and recovery program.
The difference is time and budget, and just like getting the correct exercise and nutrition for your goals, supplements are not a panacea. The correct supplements can help you get to your goals, and help you get there with fewer struggles, but they are intended to contribute to an already intelligent exercise and nutrition plan.
Tips for consumers:
Check the ingredients list of supplements. Many are made up of more than one ingredient, and there are certain levels and ratios that are shown to be of benefit (for example, BCAAs are the ratio 2:1:1 of leucine to isoleucine to valine, and ZMA of Zinc to Magnesium and B6).
Look for supplements that have a high bioavailability. Simply put, it is not just what you eat or ingest in terms of food and supplements but what you can absorb and your body can use. Some poor quality supplements might use inferior ingredients to look like they “fit the bill” but the real question is, can your body absorb these ingredients to achieve your ultimate goal?
One confusing area is “proprietary blend”. This can be difficult to determine how much of an active ingredient of interest is part of the proprietary blend, especially since there are usually a number of other listed elements in the described “matrix”.
The combination and stacking of ingredients from different supplements should be considered prior to the addition of different products. Some might have similar ingredients and therefore the dose of a supplement might be unintentionally twice a recommended amount, or (positively) it can be synergistic (beta alanine plus creatine); or work on competing pathways (amino acids and L-Tryptophan/ or glutamine and creatine).
The best way to take supplements is to follow the dosage and intake recommendations on the container. There are optimal levels that are prescribed and these are the ones that have been determined by the manufacturer to be the most beneficial. Taking more of that supplement (beyond the dosage) is not of more benefit and can be of a determent to the user.
Supplements are a convenient way to reach your daily requirements for intake that you struggle to make, for instance, many people struggle to reach their protein requirements and having a protein shake is a delicious and convenient way to meet the demands placed on the body for protein and carbohydrates without busting out a slab of steak on the gym mats.