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For years now, I’ve relied on supplements to keep my diet on point.
You see, while I always try my best to make healthy food choices, the reality is that my busy lifestyle doesn’t always allow me to eat like I know I should.
After a long + stressful day it’s often easier to grab take-out on my way home from work. Or when I’m constantly hopping from one thing to the next, it’s hard not to just grab a pick-me-up at the gas station.
And this is exactly why supplements have been so beneficial with keeping my diet on track.
For me, supplements are a convenient alternative to healthy eating; they allow me to consume the nutrients I know I should be eating even when my schedule makes it feel impossible to do.
The truth is supplements provide my body with nutrients above and beyond what my normal food diet is capable of providing. And for me, this simple truth has been the ultimate game-changer.
Because even when I’m too tired to cook, or even when I don’t have the time to sit down to a full meal, I can still feel confident that I’m giving my body everything it needs to actually stay healthy.
Supplements have made all the difference in helping me simplify my healthy eating habits.
And I share this with you because this wasn’t always the case…
You see, before I truly understood the role supplements played in maintaining a healthy and balanced diet, I avoided them altogether because I was afraid.
I was so confused by what supplements were + how they worked that I convinced myself that they weren’t for me.
And through the years of working with women who want to improve their health, I’ve noticed that this is a common theme: we don’t understand how supplements can actually make our lives easier so we avoid the topic altogether.
That’s why in this blog post, I’m helping you make sense of it all! Yep, I’m sharing everything you ever wanted to know about using supplements for weight loss.
Keep reading, my friend! You’re not going to want to miss this one!
This post may contain affiliate links, for more information, see my disclosures here.
If you’re reading this blog post right now, there’s a good chance that you’re confused and frustrated by the world of supplements. You may not have a full understanding of what they are; what they do or how they can help you to reach your fitness goals.
You’re probably curious about supplements but honestly, you continue to ignore the whole supplement thing because it’s easier to not think about it.. am I right?
So before we get too far, let me answer a very important question- one that allows you to know that this blog post is not a complete waste of your time
And that question is: Why should you even care about supplements?
I mean, so many fitness professionals say that they are not even necessary for getting healthy- so why bother?
Truth be told, supplements are not a shortcut or magic bullet for improving your health- they won’t do the work for you, BUT supplements get their power because they are a tool that can ultimately help make healthy eating more convenient + yes, even more cost effective- especially for busy men and women that often complain they don’t have the necessary time to eat in accordance to their health and fitness goals.
So let me unpack this statement a bit further + better explain what I mean…
The question I get asked most often in reference to supplements is- are supplements necessary to actually see results from a fitness plan?
And the short answer is: no- they are not a requirement for losing weight or improving one’s health.
But a more accurate answer is this: supplements are not necessary for healthy living, provided that an individual is consuming an adequate amount of nutrients from other whole food sources.
And this is where so many of us (myself included) fall short- we simply don’t meet our daily nutritional requirements because we’re not eating with either enough variety or with enough quality or even enough quantity to supply our body with ALL that it needs to function properly.
You see, nutrition matters. Whether we’re trying to lose weight; to increase our strength or to just improve the way our body feels- we rely on proper nutrition to keep us fueled and satisfied throughout the day.
And yet we often don’t think much about how we’re feeding our bodies- because our goal, especially with weight loss is to eat less…
We focus on strategies to diet down; we deprive ourselves; and fight off cravings and we push our bodies to work off fewer and fewer calories because that’s how we’ve been taught to lose weight.
We see weight loss as a simple math equation: eat fewer calories than we burn and then we’ll see results.
But weight loss, or any health + fitness goal for that matter isn’t quite that simple because here’s the thing: your body doesn’t run on empty.
The same way that your tv remote requires batteries to work properly, your body needs things like vitamins, minerals, protein and carbohydrates to operate at peak performance.
And when we fail to provide our bodies with those nutrients, our body’s ability to function actually suffers.
We may experience this in a variety of ways:
- For some they feel sluggish- more easily tired.
- Others experience mood swings- showing signs of more frequent irritability.
- And for others, their immune response weakens and they become more susceptible to illness like the flu or common cold
The lesson here is this: when you put good things into our body, good things come out.
You see, when you take the time to support your body by giving it what it needs, it supports you back tenfold.
Supplements are a tool that can simplify healthy eating so that we actually accomplish this.
So now that we see what purpose supplements have and why they can be beneficial for us, let’s go back to the beginning and work our way forward…
What are supplements?
When you hear the term supplements, most people tend to think of fat burners and diet pills- things meant to reduce cravings and suppress appetite.
But supplements are actually much more than that- they are dietary products that serve the purpose of providing nutrients above and beyond what would normally be consumed through food alone.
Supplements are meant (as their name implies) to supplement an already healthy diet; they are meant to fill the holes of our day-to-day nutrition so that our bodies feel their best.
Now, examples of dietary supplements include products such as vitamins, minerals- like calcium and iron, herbs or botanicals, even specialty products like probiotics and fish oils.
To be clear, supplements are NOT medicinal- they are not meant to treat or cure an existing condition. What’s more, they are not a band aid meant to negate healthy eating; they are not a magic bullet or a shortcut to seeing results, and they certainly are not a hall pass that allows us to eat unhealthy food whenever we like.
Moving forward, I want to address some of the common fears people have regarding supplementation and erase the roadblocks that may be preventing you from introducing supplements into your own daily routine.
Specifically, I want to talk about 3 supplement myths that you’re likely believing…
Supplement Myths that You Need to Stop Believing:
Myth 1: Supplements aren’t for me, they are only for those ‘serious’ athletes…
The Truth: Sure, It absolutely makes sense that supplements are a staple within the diets of athletes whose livelihood quite literally depends on keeping their bodies at peak performance.
But that doesn’t mean that supplements don’t also serve a purpose for even the average woman like you or me.
You see, we all need a variety of nutrients each day to stay healthy. Nutrients like calcium and vitamin D to protect our bones; folic acid to produce and maintain new cells; vitamin A to preserve a healthy immune system; vitamin B12 to keep nerve and blood cells healthy, and even fish oil to promote heart health.
Yep- it takes a lot to keep our bodies going on a daily basis.
And when we find ourselves too busy to cook a healthy dinner at home because the kids have sports practice; or when work keeps us late at the office yet again; or when we find that our schedule has us too worn out to even grocery shop- that’s when supplements can be a convenient fill-in; for those moments where we may be tempted to just go without….
In an ideal world, everyone would eat plenty of whole grains, vegetables + lean proteins from whole food sources, but given the reality of our busy lives- it’s not always possible.
And this is why supplements can serve a purpose in your life whether or not you’re a serious athlete.
Myth 2: They are too expensive- and if I don’t ‘need’ supplements i’m better off saving my money.
The Truth: I’m not going to argue that supplements aren’t expensive. Like any other part of a healthy lifestyle, supplements are an investment. BUT when you really break everything down and compare apples to apples- supplements may not be as expensive as you really think. In some instances, they may even be more cost-effective.
So let me break it down for you, using a multi-vitamin as an example:
Now micro-factor is the vitamin pack that I personally use on a daily basis to provide my body with the full spectrum of micro nutrients it needs. A 30-day supply runs me about $65, which breaks down to $2.16 per serving (or per day).
And for that $2.16 I’m getting all these nutrients:
- A complete multi-vitamin
- Fruits and veggies superfood blend
- Essential fatty acids
- And CoQ10
Now, in comparison, to meet my micro-nutrient needs through food alone: I’d need to consume all of the following:
- Vitamins B6 and B12: 1 cup of plain yogurt ($1.05), a banana ($0.25), 1 oz sunflower seeds and 3 oz roast beef ($2.20)
- Vitamin C: 1- orange ($0.79)
- Vitamin D: 8 oz of skim milk ($0.14), 1 cup yogurt ($1.05), 1 cup cooked spinach ($0.95) , and 1 fig ($4.99)
- Vitamin K: 1 cup of raw brocoli, or a spinach salad ($0.62)
- Zinc: a cheeseburger ($1.33) on a whole wheat bun ($0.38)
- Folic Acid: ¾ cup of fortified breakfast cereal ($0.27)
- Iron: A large spinach salad ($0.95), one cup of lentil soup ($1.00) and a 3 oz serving of red meat ($0.25)
- Magnesium: 2 slices of whole-wheat toast ($0.25), 3 oz of almonds ($1.78), and 3 oz of grilled halibut ($3.09) with a baked potato ($0.45)
- Vitamin E: 1 cup raw brocoli ($0.62), 2 oz of almonds ($0.56)
So while I may be consuming some nutrients throughout my normal day through the food I’m eating, I can tell you that I know I’m not checking all the boxes necessary.
And while it’s hard to put a price on health- when I see the comparison of the prices listed on the food side (about $23 compared to that $2.16 that my multi-vitamin costs me), it’s hard to ignore the cost-effectiveness of popping a daily mulit-vitamin.
Now my point with this example isn’t meant to sway you one way or another; I’m not trying to convince you that one method is superior to the other; rather my point is to show you that there is more than one way to reach the same end result.
If you’re in a season of life where you’re too busy, where you don’t have the money, or for whatever reason just don’t have access to food in the necessary quality and quantity – it doesn’t have to prevent you from living a healthy lifestyle.
You have options. my friend!
Now, I know how it goes… when it comes to health and nutrition – we want perfection- we want to nourish our bodies with home-grown, nutritious foods straight from the garden or from the local farmer’s market, but this is your reminder and perhaps even your permission slip- it’s alright to do what you can, with what you have.
And if supplements can make healthy eating, more sustainable for you- there’s no shame in that.
Myth #3: Supplements will cause me to gain weight- I’m trying to lose weight, I don’t want to get bulky:.
The Truth: Supplements by themselves will not cause weight gain.
This myth of bulking up tends to stick around because people often confuse dietary supplements with anabolic steroids. Now steroids, which are synthetic variations of the male sex hormone testerone, because they are a pharmacuital drug, they require a prescription.
But dietary supplements- they are simply concentrated forms of natural food nutrients.
The very fact that supplements, by nature are a concentrated form of food- is exactly what makes them so beneficial especially for women trying to lose weight.
You see, when you consume supplements as part of your daily routine, you get the freedom and flexibility to consume exactly what you need- without any of the extras…
Take for example protein powder, which in general, is very concentrated. What I mean by this is that the product tends to leave out the added carbs & fats you would normally find in protein-rich whole foods.
Ultimately with protein powder, what you’re left with is fewer calories- which has obvious benefits for anyone trying to maintain a caloric deficit for weight loss.
Think of supplements as the stripped down versions of your favorite nutrients.- you can pick and choose what you need without any of the extras.
Pretty cool, right?!
How-To Build an Effective Supplement Plan
Now we’ve covered a lot so far in this blog post, and while I’ve thrown a lot of information your way, you’re likely still wondering how exactly you can use supplements within your personal life?
And so right now I want to transition into answering those questions. Specifically, I want to touch on: how to build an effective supplement plan.
In order to set yourself up for the greatest success and to ensure that you’re not wasting your money, there are three steps you have to follow.
Step 1: Uncover the gaps within your current diet.
You see, If we’re going to improve our diets + the way in which we support and nourish our bodies, we first must identify the nutrients that are actually lacking from our diets.
When we jump in and take action without an awareness of what holes exist in our current meal plan, then at best, we’re just guessing with our supplementation.
Here’s the deal: you can spend all the money you want and buy all the supplements – but if you’re just taking products to take products, then it’s unclear if you’re actually supplying your body with the nutrients it needs.
So, what I recommend is that you keep a food diary for at least a couple of days. Record what you eat + get a feel for what your normal eating habits are.
Then, compare the amount of nutrients you consume to the amount that your body actually needs. A good base line is to compare your average intake to the recommended daily nutritional requirements and double check that you’re taking in, at the very least, the minimum recommendation.
Step 2: Prioritize your Nutritional Gaps
You see, in step one it’s likely that you uncovered several holes (I know that I did when I first did this exercise) While you may be tempted to fill them all at once, I encourage you to start small so you don’t get overwhelmed.
After all, supplementation is like any other healthy habit- it takes time to build.
Now deciding on supplements can feel a lot like playing whack a mole- all those gaps are staring you in the face and they all feel important- so where do you start?
In this step, in step two of building your supplement plan, I’m going to help you prioritize the order in which you focus on these nutritional gaps. I want to help you increase the effectiveness of your supplement plan so that you can enjoy real results.
PRO TIP: Start With a Solid Foundation
Now, building a supplement plan is a lot like building a house- you gotta start with a strong foundation otherwise everything else just crumbles.
In the supplement world, the foundation starts with your micro-nutrients. Out of all the nutrients your body requires to function- micronutrients tend to be the hardest to consume from food sources alone.
This is because we generally don’t eat fruits and vegetables with enough variety to consume an adequate amount of all the nutrients our bodies require to function on a daily basis. Plus, actions like the way we prepare our fruits and vegetables, or even how we store them can greatly affect the nutritional content of these food items.
I’m always adamant that women start with the micro, start with the small things because the micro has the potential and power to influence the macro.
Adding a simple mulit-vitamin to your routine may feel like a small step when it comes to improving your health, but the ripple effects that this one action has can produce massive change in the way our bodies look and feel .
The reason that I love this multi-vitamin, in particular, is because it’s a capsule and not a hard-pressed pill like you often get at the drugstore- so I know that my body is actually absorbing the nutrients I’m feeding it.
What’s more, this micro-nutrient pack brings 6 different critical nutritional components together in one easy to use pack. Nutrients that work together to:
- Help support healthy metabolic function.
- Promote better energy production.
- As well as improve cognitive function.
And because its 6 nutrients in one- it travels especially well – meaning even when I’m on the go or running out the door (which is practically every morning), it’s convenient enough that I never have a reason not to take it.
PRO TIP: Don’t Skip Over Post-Workout Nutrition
If micronutrients are the foundation of your supplement plan, the nutrients that lay the groundwork for everything else that you’re doing, then post workout nutrition is the actual frame of the house – it supports the activity you are doing to live a healthy lifestyle.
And why this is so important and ranks second in my list of priorities because it’s an area of fitness that cannot be replicated through food.
I don’t want to sound like a broken record but as I said supplements won’t do the work for you, but they will support the work that you are doing.
And so when you decide to support your healthy lifestyle by committing to exercise, it’s important to recognize that recovery is part of that process.
Exercise is a process that uses up a lot of the nutrients we’re putting into our bodies, so if we want to continue to feel good- we have to replenish those.
By now, we’ve probably all heard of the importance of drinking a protein shake after we workout- and yes that does help, but it’s truly only one part of the equation.
You see, protein helps rebuild the muscle tissue that we use in a workout, but the energy we used to complete that workout- that energy came from carbohydrates.
Now I don’t want to get too technical, but when we workout what we’re actually doing is depleting our energy stores- we’re emptying our body’s glycogen stores.
And so after a workout the first thing that our body looks to do is to refill those energy stores. Your body needs a quick digesting carb to do this. When that carbohydrate source isn’t available, our body will use other sources (like protein) to fill that void.
So, if all you’re drinking post workout is protein- you’re not giving your body everything it needs to recover properly.
This is exactly why I pair a fast digesting carb with an easy to digest protein source post workout.
Now I promise, it’s not as complicated as it sounds. What this looks like for me, is pairing my favorite post-workout protein (I use Phormula 1 by 1st Phorm) with just ½ scoop of Ignition– which is that fast digesting carb source.
The great thing about ignition is that it’s flavorless so it pairs with any protein powder that I choose. I simply put one scoop of the protein powder with ½ scoop of ignition in the same shaker cup- I add water, shake and in about 30 seconds I’ve just given my body everything it needs to start that repair process after my workout.
You see, the sooner I replenish my energy stores, the sooner that protein can go to work repairing and rebuilding my muscle tissue (remember, ladies lean muscle is the ultimate fat-burning machine so this is important).
The faster that protein goes to work, the faster my body can recover from the workout, the less sore I’ll feel afterwards, and ultimately the sooner I’ll see results!
All of this because I choose to be intentional with the nutrients I feed my body post workout- pretty cool, right?
PRO TIP: Make Sure You’re Consuming Enough Protein
So, if micronutrients are the foundation of our house and postworkout nutrient is the supporting frame, then protein is the actual construction workers that keep the project running smoothly.
Like I mentioned in the previous step, protein has some pretty important responsibilities when it comes to the way our body functions.
I mean, your body is continually using protein to support hormones, enzymes, immune cells, hair, skin, muscle, and other protein tissues,
And yet many of us fail to get in enough protein throughout our day simply because we’re too busy- we’re constantly on the go.
Protein-rich food sources include things like beef, chicken, seafood, and dairy- foods that tend not to fit into that on-the-go category.
And this is where protein powder can be beneficial, especially for a busy woman that values living a healthy lifestyle.
Level-1 is a meal replacement protein that is the perfect option to fill in the gaps when you’re lacking in protein.
The great thing about Level-1 protein is that it’s so delicious you’ll think that you’re cheating on your diet- a perfect substitute to help you stay on track with your nutrition needs especially when your cravings come on strong.
And with so many great flavors (flavors like blueberry muffin, cinnamon cookie batter, strawberry milkshake, german chocolate cake, and so many more), you’ll never be bored or stuck feeling like you’re eating the same foods over and over again.
Plus, this protein powder is great quality! It’s so smooth that it easily dissolves in just plain water. What’s even better is that you won’t have to deal with the bloat, gas, burps, or upset stomach that some of those other protein powders can cause you to feel.
What About ‘Other’ Supplements?
Now there are quite a few supplements that I haven’t referenced within this blog post. Things you’re probably familiar with like pre-workouts, BCAA’s, fat burners and more…
My point isn’t to say that these products aren’t useful or that you shouldn’t use them. These products do all have a purpose even though we haven’t talked about them in depth.
Sticking with our house analogy, I like to think of these products as being the curtains and the furniture and the decorations- they serve a purpose and they have function yet they don’t necessarily make or break a nutrition program, so they aren’t products I typically recommend women start with.
For most women, it makes sense to start with the basics and grow from there.
Step 3: Be Flexible with Your Supplementation
Step 3 is simply a reminder that as your nutritional needs shift depending on the season of life that you’re in, it’s alright to adjust your supplementation.
However, I will encourage you maintain some level of consistency within your supplement plan. Supplements are not an overnight fix- and so it’s not enough to start and stop supplements on a whim.
The results of supplements are felt over time. So, in order to get the most from your supplement plan, stay consistent with it and introduce change gradually as you become more aware of how your body responds.
I hope you take away from this blog post that healthy eating doesn’t have to be complicated and that supplements don’t have to be something to fear.
Let me know in the comments below what supplements have helped you the most in your health + fitness journey!
As always, here to support YOU!
XO- Britney (ms.fit.farmer)