Do you need supplements?

If you go into any health store or gym, you’ll see a range of diet supplements stacked up and ready to sell.  Everything from crash weight gain through to fast weight loss, along with plenty of energy drinks, and protein bars.

There are a lot of wild claims made about different dietary supplements that are available in the gym, and they can be expensive.  In a lot of cases, the kind of supplements that you see people taking at the gym are unnecessary for them.

If you’re a person who goes to the gym basically to get fitter, who eats a sensible diet, and exercises at a moderate level – a 30 minute jog, or a half hour weights session, then you probably don’t need to supplement your diet.

If on the other hand, you’re working very hard towards a specific goal – aiming to increase muscle mass, or really extending your cardio work to run a marathon – then you may well want to adapt your diet, and this may involve supplements.

Why Supplements rather than Diet?

Diet supplements are just that, an extra to your regular food intake that will help you achieve certain goals.  It can be pretty impractical to get the amount of protein and other nutrients needed for big bulk muscle building through food alone.  A chicken breast contains about 30 grams of fat, and costs about £1.  If you buy in bulk, a similar amount of protein in supplement form (a shake) will cost less than 35p.  It’s also easier to store large amounts of protein supplements.

The acid test of whether you need to add supplements into your diet is whether you are achieving your goals on a regular diet alone.  If you find that your recovery times are long after working out, or that you’re not making gains in terms of strength or size, then it may be that your diet is lacking in areas that you need to cover.

If after you modify a diet to include more natural protein (eg meat or beans), you’re still not recovering from exercise well, that’s when you should consider supplementing your diet.

Don’t just buy a giant bucket of cheap protein because it’s cheap though, speak to people at your gym and in a health food store what they’d recommend for you based on your goals and body.