Supplements are supposed to “supplement”, not replace

The two top questions I get asked when I’m at the gym are:

  • What are you training for?
  • What are you taking?

“Taking” of course means what supplements am I using. My attitude towards supplements is a bit of a mixed one. “Real foods” are packed with more nutrition, and a steadier stream of amino acids that your muscles crave and need for recovery. On the other hand supplements can help you out when you’re in a rush.

All the nutrients you need to burn fat and gain lean muscle can be found in real food, which should be your focus.

Supplements are meant to supplement a healthy diet, they aren’t going to have the desired effect on your body if you’re not starting with an already healthy foundation. If you have the time to make a healthy meal, then always make that meal. Foods like eggs, lean meats and fish, vegetables and good fats can’t be replaced by shakes and powders. But, if you’re in a rush or you want to get nutrients into your body as fast as you can, then a high quality protein powder, some carbs and a multi vitamin can help you out big time.

But, do your research first, don’t just buy the first thing you see. The supplement industry is, for the most part, completely unregulated. This means that most of the time we don’t really know what’s being put into those containers, and what the quality actually is. Read up on a few companies and make an educated choice. I use Prograde Nutrition’s supplements. They make a high quality product and they’re very “out in the open” about what’s in each supplement and who could benefit from taking it, and why.

But, please do your research when choosing your supplements! Don’t just take my word for it.

What should you take?

Start with the essentials, and it’s not necessary to go past this at all. This is what I’m taking if I’m in a rush, or within 15 minutes after I finish a workout. Every now and then I’ll add something in but these are the basics that are pretty much constants in my routine.

It’s a quick and easy way to get some high quality protein into your system and begin repairing the muscle tissue you broke down during exercise.

If you’re working out hard you need to put nutrients back into your body – that you deplete during exercise – and a multivitamin will help you to make sure you’re doing that.

Fish oils help you burn fat by speeding up your metabolism, they also help keep your joints healthy which is important if you’re lifting weights and exercising on a regular basis.

A few other “supplements” that I might have pre and or post workout: coffee, sports drink (like gatorade), greens.

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What supplements are you taking and how do you find they help your training?