Let’s start off by saying I’ve been in the industry as a whole for about two decades. I’ve seen a lot of things as well as made many mistakes during my time. Heck, I was once the kid who would walk into a supplement store and buy everything under the sun to either put on size or cut depending on the time of year and watched my money disappear without anything to see from it. So, with that being said, if that sounds like you… I’VE BEEN THERE. This brings up the topic of should you go purchase whatever supplement you want or should you prioritize and have a reason for your madness? As you can probably tell from how I’m wording all of this, the answer should already be known.
How Fat is Your Wallet?
Unless you have a money tree, you’re going to be dipping into your own pocket to pay for supplements. We all need to remember one thing… Supplements are just that – SUPPLEMENTS. They are not an end all be all. While they all have their claimed benefits, everything should start by following a solid nutrition plan along with a good training program.
Once you get some time under your belt with both of those, THEN and ONLY THEN should you think about supplements (but even then, they aren’t 100% necessary). I’ve seen so many people (myself included) who purchased supplements that were overly hyped and regretted that decision after using it for a month with no results to be had. You live and you learn. But it’s for that reason that I, personally, believe that you should make sure you know what you’re getting into, the research behind it and if it is something you really need.
You Don’t NEED All Those Supplements
Each supplement has its purpose. That being said, you don’t need every supplement under the sun. For most of us, we can get what we need through our nutrition. But if we have gaps, that’s where supplements can come in handy. For instance, if you aren’t a big vegetable eater, taking something like a multivitamin or greens powder would be a good idea to help take in all of the micronutrients your body needs. In fact, it’s a good idea to take a daily multivitamin regardless on a daily basis since the majority of us don’t consume a wide variety of foods to take in all the nutrients we need.
If you are trying to take in one gram of protein per pound of body weight, it can become a lot to eat. A liquid source, such as a protein shake, can come in handy – especially post-workout. You should still strive to eat as much from whole food options as you can each day and not rely on supplements out of convenience. It can be very tempting to simply grab a protein bar or protein shake and be on your way. But you’re going to be missing out on some key nutrients by skipping real food.
Focus on Nutrition and Exercise FIRST
We should take a step back and think about where we are in our sliding scale of health and fitness. If you’re just starting out and are all the way on the left of the scale, you absolutely need to focus on your nutrition and exercise program first and foremost. There’s no reason for you to dabble in supplements when you’re just starting out. In fact, for many men, they may find their beginner gains to be amazing. Unfortunately, that won’t last forever. So, take advantage of the “noob gains” you see when first starting out. As a beginner, I would only recommend you use a multivitamin and maybe even some fish oil. At most, grab a protein powder to use post-workout because at this stage using a supplement isn’t a priority.
If we continue down the sliding scale to the middle, you should already have the nutrition and exercise aspect down to a science. Next is where you can start to get your feet wet in the supplement realm. On top of the multivitamin, fish oil, and protein powder, if you’ve already added it, can come some more specific supplements that align with your goals. If you’re looking to put on muscle, something like a pre-workout and creatine supplement would serve you well and even a BCAA/EAA supplement for enhanced recovery. Again, we aren’t going super deep with supplements. The point is to help move you one step closer to achieving success and seeing results from your time in the gym and kitchen.
Then when you slide all the way to the right and would be considered an “advanced lifter” is when you can go a little wider with the products you use. On top of what’s already been mentioned (assuming we are still using the muscle-building example), you can work your way into things like natural testosterone boosters (assuming you’re over the age of 30 and could use one since your testosterone levels may be going downhill). This would be the area where you really niche down what you need into specifics. Do your homework as many supplements are overhyped and don’t provide you with all the benefits they claim. For that reason, it would be wise to do some research and look for specific studies that show the various ingredients to actually be beneficial.
Prioritize What Supplement You Need and For What
Picking up on where we left off in the last section, the key is to prioritize exactly what the need is for each supplement. Just because a supplement is sitting on the shelf does not mean you need to buy it or that it is specific to the goal you’re looking to achieve. Or just because a salesman is saying you NEED a supplement doesn’t mean you actually do – they are just trying to have you spend more money.
If health is your main priority then maybe you focus on things like a multivitamin, fish oil, vitamin D3, curcumin, apple cider vinegar, cinnamon and other supplements that have been shown to have a positive influence on health. If weight loss is your goal, add in some cardio FIRST before you try to add a supplement into the mix. Once your weight loss progress has stalled, then maybe implement something to boost your metabolism and get things revving even more.
Bottom line is, a supplement is not a magic pill. There are many factors that come into play when striving to achieve results and reach your goals. Build a solid foundation of nutrition and exercise and once you have a solid foundation, then and only then, start implementing a supplement into the fold. And even then, it’s not 100% necessary. You can adjust your nutrition and training protocols to break through plateaus. Just know that the use of a supplement is more of a crutch and filling in the gaps from deficiencies. A supplement won’t work if you don’t. You need to make sure you’re committed and put in the work.