Supplements and Weight Lifting
When people start into the sport of bodybuilding, the question tends to be whether supplements are essential to working out and getting the best results. You’ll see ads in magazines, on TV, and on the radio telling you about the latest supplement to maximize your gains from bodybuilding workouts.
The truth is many of these supplements aren’t really needed at all. Most of your deficiencies after working out can be remedied by a healthy diet geared toward the results you want. Be wary of supplements that promise the world, because usually hard work under the bar will get you farther than the supplement with the fancy name will. But to answer the question, we need to establish exactly what we’re talking about.
All supplements are not the same
There are two types of supplements: basic ones that have very few ingredients, and ones that tend to have many ingredients. The first type usually consists of multivitamins, protein powders and branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs).
A multivitamin is a good idea even if you normally eat a balanced diet because you might not always eat healthy or not at all before training. A protein-rich diet with lots of dark leafy greens like kale and spinach will solve most nutritional deficiencies, but it doesn’t hurt to have a good multivitamin as a backstop. Before selecting a multivitamin, check the ingredients carefully in case you have allergies.
Protein powders can be helpful, but a protein-rich diet is just as important. A good rule of thumb is a minimum of 15 percent of your calories should come from protein, with meat and dairy products being the best. You should be taking in one gram of protein per day for every pound of body weight, so if your meals are lacking in protein or you’re a practicing vegan (meaning the meat and dairy is out) protein powder may be a solution. But Tony Gentilcore, co-founder of Cressey Performance in Hudson, Massachusetts, says just eating breakfast is a good start.
“When someone asks me about the best way to gain weight, my first response is always, ‘What did you have for breakfast this morning?'” he said in an article for Stack.com. “Typically, I get nothing more than a bunch of ‘ums’ and ‘uhs’…If you’re not making an effort to eat what’s arguably the most important meal of the day, you have no business asking about supplements.”
BCAAs consist of three amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. They’re part of the essential amino acids for humans and are building blocks of protein. But like many supplement ingredients, BCAAs can be found in any food containing protein. If your diet is properly balanced, you probably won’t need BCAA supplements.
The second type of supplements is where it gets tricky
Supplement cocktails tend to combine a number of ingredients and have exciting names. The company promises incredible results with minimum effort, and their ads are slick and inviting. You’ve seen them. In reality, these cocktails won’t do anything for you that hard work in the gym won’t do. You’ll see weight loss enhancers for sale, yet the Food and Drug Administration has issued repeated warnings about using them. The results aren’t permanent and can damage your organs. Water pills and diuretics fall into the same category. Again, a balanced diet and dedicated training are a better solution.
There are some good supplements out there, depending on your goals. If you’re lifting for general weight loss and fitness, look at fish oil to reduce inflammation and improve joint and heart health. For those looking at powerlifting or hardcore weightlifting, fish oil along with creatine (which increases the body’s ability to produce energy rapidly) would be a good pick. In any case, consulting with your doctor is a good idea before starting a new supplement.
Supplements aren’t a substitute for a balanced diet and correct training practices, despite what the label on the can or bottle says. With careful monitoring of your protein and carbohydrate intake, a rigorous workout schedule put together by a professional, and dedication to your goals, chances are you’ll probably need very few supplements. Don’t let the marketing gurus fool you.