You’re reading an article on our blog – so of course people should use all kinds of supplements! Or, should they?
Apologies if my answer disappoints you but: it depends.
Boring, I know. Useless, perhaps. But it does open up for diving deeper, figuring out what exactly it depends on, and hopefully answer a much more interesting question: what supplements should you use for your goals?
The use of supplements can be found in its definition.
Supplement, noun (/ˈsʌplɪm(ə)nt/)
- a thing added to something else in order to complete or enhance it.
You’ll often hear recommendations for this supplement or that, on the basis that it’s “good for training”. But training can mean so many things.
You can train for a marathon or you can train for a powerlifting meet. You can do CrossFit or you can do yoga. Your exercise can be tough and intensive or it can be light and mostly for fun.
Should you really “complete or enhance” all those modalities the same way?
Of course not.
Further, supplements add to your existing diet and no two people eat exactly the same food. Even if you’re following a specific diet, chances are it’ll still be different from everyone else following the same diet.
Someone loves broccoli (me!) while another hates the green mini trees. Someone else gets a lot of their protein from nuts and another from beans.
So does it make sense that everyone complements their diet with the exact same supplements?
Of course not.
Supplementation should be specific. What to choose, if any, depends on what your goals are and what you need help with.
Thus, supplements should be taken in a targeted manner.
If supplements “complete or enhance” your training, you will first have to have do that training properly. Else there’s nothing to enhance!
I like to think of it as arithmetic. (Don’t worry, this will be easy!)
Say that your training effort is a scale from 0 to 100. The lowest being a couch potato and the highest an Olympic athlete training three sessions per day.
You probably land somewhere in-between.
Let’s say an imaginary Joe’s training effort is 30 – he trains a few times per week but nothing too strenuous; a brisk jog, some light machines, that sort of thing.
An imaginary Jane’s training effort is instead 70 – she hits the gym multiple times per week, lifting heavy weights, moving with a purpose, and does complementary hill sprints on top of that.
Then we factor in supplements. Let’s say they add something like 0-10%.
Joe buys everything he can get his hands on: 30 + 10% = 33 training effect.
Jane instead only uses the basics: 70 + 5% = 73.5 training effect.
Jane got more out of her supplements than Joe did, even though she used a lot less. Joe on the other hand would’ve been a lot better served by instead simply training harder.
So, should you use supplements?
Supplements do work but you have to work too if you want to get the most out of them.
So before you hit Buy, ask yourself the following:
- Am I doing the most I can in training and recovery?
- What exactly are my goals and what do I want help with? What’s the best supplements to help with that specifically?
Then go ahead and boost your effort in a targeted manner. Get specific help for your individual needs.
- If you want to lose weight: low calorie foods can help keep your kcal count down.
- If you’re in a caloric deficit: vitamins & minerals can help make sure you get your micros.
- If you’re an older submission wrestler like me: joint care can keep you going.
- If you train multiple times per day: extra carbohydrates can refuel your glycogen storage.
- If you’re looking to build muscle: protein powder makes it easier to get enough protein.
These are just some examples. What’s important is that you determine what you need, for your goals, and based on your training.
About the Author
Tobias Sjösten is the founder of Athlegan.com, a blog about the rise of Veganism. Tobias shares his stories as he learns to create the strongest, fastest and healthiest version of himself possible.