As a fitness professional, I am bombarded with questions about everything health related but there is one topic that comes up more than any other.
It's a industry that produces tens of billions of dollars annually and there is a good reason for it. No, it's not because they work, but rather because people want to get results as fast as possible and are willing to pay for it.
In short, we want shortcuts to those six pack abs and bulging biceps.
I'm not saying this is a bad thing because it's just plain human nature to want things instantly. We are a society built on instant gratification and for the most part, we get it.
Unfortunately, the human body doesn't work on those terms and you're probably familiar with someone (or you) that has quit exercising/dieting because the results weren't coming quickly enough.
Personally, I don't recommend supplements to most people because they are largely unnecessary. In fact, my most popular article discusses the negative side effects of pre-workout supplements.
However, I do think many supplements do have a place as part of an overall fitness program, but there are a lot more reasons not to take them.
Here are my top 5 reasons why you shouldn't take workout supplements:
1) You aren't covering the basics first.
Now I'm going to assume that you're thinking of taking supps or have taken them in order to accomplish one or all of the following:
- Losing fat
- Adding more muscle mass
- Having more energy
- Performing better at a specific sport
And here's what I'll tell you.
If you aren't spending time on the basics of good health and fitness, then you have zero business taking supplements, period. Forget the whey protein powders, the creatine, and the post-workouts.
First and foremost, make sure you are doing the following consistently before heading to GNC to load up on supps.
- Strength training 2-4 days per week for lean muscle gain.
- Doing some form of conditioning/interval/circuit/HIIT training for fat loss and boosting your metabolism.
- Eating high quality, nutrient dense foods every day.
- Drinking 80-128 ounces of water daily.
- Getting 7-8 hours of quality sleep.
- Reducing your stress levels as much as possible.
There are just the very basics and the very first place you need to start when your goal is fat loss, muscle gain, and better health and longevity.
2) You want results right away
You and I would both love to get ripped with 8 minute abs or be able to make total body transformations like the people on the Biggest Loser, but we know that those things aren't real.
The problem is that companies spend massive amounts of money to make us believe that super fast results are not only possible, but easily attainable.
I fucking hate seeing these shady companies promoting crazy results that have happened overnight and with little to no work.
Of course you want fast results and I don't blame you. However, there simply is no workaround for the hard work and commitment necessary in order to achieve real, lasting results in your body and health.
3) You are on a budget
Let's be honest here, most of us don't have hundreds (or thousands) of extra dollars to spend of food each month and do our best to shop smart and save money at the same time.
And if you're eating high quality foods as you should, you'll be using most or all of your hard earned cash on it when it comes time to go food shopping.
I completely understand that people are driven by emotions when buying things and because the desire to get quick results is so strong, it's easy to justify spending that $40 on that whey protein supplement or that $30 on that fancy pre-workout powder.
And what I'm saying is that your money is MUCH better spent on whole foods versus the latest and greatest supplement.
If you have the cash flow and you're covering all the basics of health and still want a boost, by all means go for it. Not all supplement are bad; far from it.
4) You don't know why you're taking it
This is a big one. Supplement companies are known to try and confuse the ever living shit our of the consumer and they do a great job.
Everything from deer antler spray to horny goat weed is claimed to have some kind of amazing and groundbreaking effect on our testosterone production or muscle building capabilities, but the vast majority are nothing more than snake oil and you'll get little benefit (or even adverse reactions) from them.
When was the last time you had a bad reaction to grilled tuna, a baked sweet potato, and a heap of steamed broccoli?
The key here is to educate yourself and this video does a good job of pointing out some of the major flaws within the supplement industry.
Just because your gym bro tells you that his supp is working doesn't mean you should take it. And just because you read testimonials on the XYZ company website doesn't mean they are legit. The supplement industry is largely unregulated and is much like the Wild West.
Do your homework and know why you're taking it. Someone asked me what creatine was for the other day and then told me he was already taking it!
Now I'm a big fan of taking creatine for the right reasons, but you should always know WHY you're taking it!!
5) You don't know what you're doing
Listen, the world of health and fitness is confusing as hell and evolving at a speeding pace. There is just soooo much information online that it's hard to know what's legit and what's not.
And many of you are relatively new to fitness and/or are inexperienced when it comes to training, dieting, and using supplements.
And this is yet another great reason not to use supplements.
As a fitness newbie, your job is to first educate yourself of the proper ways to exercise without getting hurt, how to eat most efficiently for your goals, and how to progress consistently.
Some of you hire coaches, buy DVD's, or read T-Nation.com and every little bit helps.
Your best weapon is knowledge and I'd rather not see you use yourself as a human guinea pig when trying out the latest and greatest supp.
Not All Supps Are Bad
I realize that this post may have come across of negative towards the supplement industry and although I think there is a lot of shady shit out there, there are plenty of reputable companies and plenty of reasons to take workout supplements.
Over the years, I've taken dozens of different supplements to help me reach my goals and some of my favorite are:
- Creatine monohydrate (remember, know why you're taking this)
- Whey protein isolate (My favorites are Designer Whey and Dymatize)
- Fish oil
- Vitamin D
- Pre-workouts (although I'm taking a long hiatus from these)
- Meal replacements shakes (Myoplex was my favorite)