Are dietary supplements really necessary? – it’s a commonly asked question floating around the fitness industry.
I mean… sure, supplements make sense for those ‘serious’ athletes, the ones whose careers rely on them being able to perform at optimal levels. And certainly, supplements are worth the investment for those professional bodybuilders lurking around the weight room- you know, those guys + gals who have built their entire image on having big biceps, tight + toned abdominals, etc.
But you- you don’t have aspirations to compete in any sort of powerlifting meet, nor do you want to step on stage in one of those itty-bitty bikinis while a panel of judges critique your every curve.
No, you’re more likely working out to lose that little bit of weight that crept on after one too many nights out with the girls. Maybe, you are trying to look + feel better in your skin before summer rolls around. Or perhaps you are just aiming to improve your health enough to get you back to feeling like your younger, more energized self.
So then, are supplements really for you?
The truth is, when it comes to seeing results- regardless of whether you’re working out to gain muscle, lose fat, or become more athletically conditioned- your nutrition AND training must work with one another.
Simply put: What you lift counts. And what you eat counts just as much.
You see, strength training would be nothing without proper nutrition. While the fitness industry has taught us for years that weight loss is a numbers game- nothing more than calories in vs. calories out- I’m here to tell you a slightly different story.
Yes, the quantity of food you eat in a day does matter, but that shouldn’t be your first priority. Ultimately the quality of food you put in your body makes a huge difference. Think about it: Although 100 calories of candy is technically the same as 100 calories of rice (from a caloric energy perspective), they are broken down and used very differently in our bodies.
Every calorie is considered one unit of energy. However, what happens to that unit of energy largely depends on the type of food it’s coming from. Your body can either use the calories consumed or simply store them as fat. The second option is indeed what’ll make you gain weight.
If you were to think of your fitness journey as three parts to a whole- resistance training, nutrition + adequate rest – each part could be representative of one leg of a three-legged stool. Pull ANY one of the legs off the stool, and guess what happens?
Yep, your results fall flat.
So, the answer to the original question becomes: No, supplements are not necessary…
…IF you eat in enough quantity to satisfy your body’s need for protein, carbohydrates + fats. [After all, it’s these macro nutrients that fuel your body’s activity.]
…IF you eat with enough variety to take in all the vitamins + minerals required for your body to function properly.
… and IF you do both of the above objectives with enough quality that you’re not consuming a surplus of calories that would result in a weight gain. [Yes, too much of even ‘healthy’ calories can cause weight gain].
In an ideal world, everyone would eat plenty of whole grains, vegetables + lean proteins. Given the reality of our busy lives though, it’s not always possible. So yes, while we can live without dietary supplements, it’s important to recognize that they can help even the average gym goer like yourself.
The truth is, supplements will help you stay on track when you’re running out the door for your early AM meeting and you only have two minutes to grab breakfast. Because drinking a protein shake rather than eating one of those donuts sitting on your counter, will, in fact, keep you on track. [And at only $1.80 per serving, that shake is easy on your wallet too]
What’s more, supplements can help you when you’re low on energy after a long day at the office. I mean, taking a pre-workout to help you through your workout is better progress than no workout at all.
Not to mention the days where you fail to get in enough servings of fruits + veggies- on those days a multi-vitamin can provide the right micro-nutrients to keep your energy levels maximized and to ensure the metabolic processes in your body are functioning properly.
As someone who uses supplements to provide nutrients to my body, above + beyond what my diet is capable of providing, I can attest that my stack isn’t huge. I definitely prefer quality over quantity. It helps knowing, however, that I have a little help on my side when I need it.
We all juggle different priorities in our life. Careers, relationships, kids + what have you- I get it, at times fitness feels like the furthest thing from possible in your life. I assure you though, it doesn’t have to be that way. You are capable of living a healthy lifestyle.
So, no matter your fitness level or goal- supplements are an important tool for all of us because they provide convenience + quality to keep us on track when we’d otherwise fall off the fitness bandwagon!
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