How Supplements Ruined My Training

If you know me well, you know I don’t generally promote the use of a laundry list of supplements. Really, I have my super-food supplement (Gelatin) and Progenex for added protein requirement and that’s “if” and “only if” I cannot obtain the macronutrients requirements via whole foods.  Beyond that, I take Xendurance for recovery and to aid in fighting muscle fatigue and soreness. Thats it. Protein and calcium carbonate tablet.

I used to have this perception of supplements that I needed to take as many and as much as possible to gain the results I desired and if I didn’t, well who knows what I was missing out on! It couldn’t be further from the truth. I also awknowledge that there are many other folks like me that have that similar expectation. There is something “wrong” in my opinion with the personal agendas of supplement companies trying to market and advertise towards weight loss clientele. There is a false hope that “if I take these powders or pills, I will look like the model on the packaging.” Never mind the  pre-existing level of fitness these models have, but it’s the supplements that did all of the work. I just have a hard time accepting that.
I used to navigate my training regiment as a slave to my supplements. Pills before cardio, pre-workout drink before lifting, post workout drink, protein drink, more pills throughout the day and never mind the mix of enhancement pills and powders that I “tried” along the way. It was ruining my experience of fitness and overall goal. Supplements were ruining my training! I was constantly seeking the “result” that the supplement “promised.” At no time, did I really ever examine WHAT it was that I was putting into my body.

A green light went off. So I stopped everything. I went back and examined everything along with ingredients, company research and credibility and ultimately cut out 100% of my supplements. I decided to start with food first and build from there if I wasn’t meeting my goals. Ultimately, I slowly added back in two protein powders (gelatin or Progenex for days I couldn’t hit protein needs via food) but ditched everything else. And guess what? The results came and I’m in the best shape of my life. No pills or powders or gimmicks. Just food and consistency in the gym.

Before you supplement your diet, your diet should be worth supplementing. That means, if you haven’t yet mastered the consistency of eating your caloric requirement to meet your goals (whether it’s a cut or bulk) you should probably hold off on supplementing until you get closer. Pills to burn fat won’t help you if you haven’t gotten in the swing of eating at maintenance of a caloric deficit. A pill isn’t going to do jack sh** if you are eating above your caloric maintenance. (This is a crappy example, but don’t eat a large pizza by yourself and take a fat burner and expect results). It won’t happen. From an aesthetic perspective, I think adhering to what is outlined in my program and individual plans will get you the results you are looking for AND (gasp!) save you bucket loads of money you are likely wasting on supps. Most of which are ineffective and exaggerated.

There are cases where folks have vitamin or mineral deficiencies in which case a vitamin supplement may be deemed appropriate. Just please, don’t take one because every else is, or because it is cool. If you are deficient because you are eating like an a**hole, a vitamin won’t correct this. Fix the problem without the pills and then know why you are taking one.

My advice? Take supplements that support your goals and enhance your training not as a shortcut to results. Keep it simple. Support companies whose brand sends a positive message to the community and best represent themselves.

Further advice…

Caffeine: Totally okay in moderation. Sort of a no-brainer. We all love it. Caveman Coffee, Pannikin (sorry guys if you aren’t in SoCal), etc. I prefer a cup of coffee over a pre-workout ANY day of the week. Caffeine is a widely known stimulant which means it can suppress appetite and increase energy. While a thermogenic can be widely regarded as unsafe, caffeine can boast that it is researched and safe for even pregnant women (in moderation).

Protein: As I’ve already mentioned, there is a time and place to add protein to your diet (if and only if you are unable to make goals with whole foods alone). The great thing about protein powder is its bioavailability. It’s also a bit cheaper than organic grass-fed meats (or any meat product for that matter). There are many brands and types on the market but let me do you a favor and tell you most of them come from the same place and it’s almost all the same sh** aside from flavor nuances.  I personally choose high quality, fast-absorbing protein from Progenex, which is a company that delivers a positive message to athletes along with a superior, great tasting product. When I’m not taking Progenex, I’m supplementing with Great Lakes Gelatin which has added health benefits. See my post on that  magic fairy protein dust here.

BCAAs: Branched chain amino acids are essential nutrients and another awesome tool for optimizing protein synthesis (particularly leucine). Because of the importance of amino acids, supplementing your diet with BCAAs can be helpful in preventing muscle breakdown (especially for those of you on a cut). The choices are also overwhelming here but also like protein, it’s a lot of the same stuff. Choose a company and product that is well-researched and reputable.

Supps for the Elite Athlete: There are many other supplements out there on the market that are proven to aid in the performance and recovery of elite athletes. There are just too many to cover in this post. It’s an area where I am admittedly not well-versed but I am continuing to study the subject matter so I can better support my clients and athletes. Until then, continue to get a solid grasp on my program and flex dieting and slowly work on finding the right combination of supplements for you. I urge you to explore the Journal of The International Society of Sports Nutrition if performance supplementation is something that interests you.

NourishSara Nelson