A lot of people are serious about their health and physique goals. But there is always one thing they are always leaving out. It is time for you to learn how to optimize your health with this hidden secret: Dietary Supplements.
I have personally used a wide range of supplements and spent over 50.000$ in products over the last 20 years. I know which ones work and which ones do nothing. What I wish to do is guide users and potential buyers to make the right choices and to avoid the mistakes that I did.
On this section of the blog you will find articles on what supplements are, what they do, who should use them, safety concerns and much more. The idea is to let you in on everything you need to know about supplements and what I personally use to meet my body and healthy goals with safety and optimal results.
Table of Contents
- 1 What are supplements?
- 2 Who they are intended for?
- 3 Are they necessary?
- 4 Do I have to take them forever?
- 5 So does that mean I can read this article and go take supplements?
- 6 But what about safety?
- 7 So are supplements safe?
- 8 What about steroids? Are they a different kind of supplement?
What are supplements?
(Dietary) Supplements are usually classified as products taken orally and include vitamins, minerals, herbs, enzymes, amino acids or other dietary ingredients. They can be found in different forms such as pills (capsules or tablets), liquids, powder or they can be in food form such as energy bars, protein bars or meal replacement products.
They are called supplements for a reason. They are not intended to substitute consumption of food (aka eating real food) but rather ‘supplement’ our diet or nutrition.
Supplements can be made in the lab (such as creatine), by dehydration (such as protein powder).
They can also be botanical or herbal supplements (such as Nettle Root), or derived from natural sources such as the different kinds of fats (e.g fish oils and omega 3 fatty acids).
Who they are intended for?
This is a huge topic in itself. Some were created for health-related issues such as multivitamins or minerals while others such as protein powders serve a different purpose and are intended for athletes who need specific macronutrients or micronutrients.
Are they necessary?
The point is that if you are over a certain age and reading this, you are most likely in need of some sort of supplement to be in optimal health in the same way that you need food for energy and water for hydration to stay alive.
Another reason why supplements are important for our daily health is the fact that, as we age our bodies tend to produce less of the important acids and enzymes that are needed for the breakdown of our foods. Without those enzymes our body is unable to extract all the needed energy out of foods and spends a lot of energy for that purpose. So instead of getting energy out of the foods we eat, we actually lose energy trying to digest them. (Especially today since the foods we eat have half the nutrient capacity they once had).
However, this is usually a huge point of dispute and it depends on who you ask.
If you ask a doctor, and this has been my experience with them, they will most probably say ‘no’.
One would assume that a doctor would know enough about supplements and to be able to help you with supplementation. That is not always the case since doctors spend their years learning about body conditions and providing proper medication which is very, very different from nutritional supplements (and supports a different type of industry).
If you ask a nutritionist, some are very keen on using nutritional supplements and some are not. Either party might promote specific companies for their own personal benefit and profit but some genuinely care for their clients.
Same applies with coaches.
If you ask me, I would say ‘it depends’. Nutritional supplements are indeed what the word says they are: supplements. This means that it should be an addition to an existing complete nutritional routine, one that covers the basics of proper nutrition and it is custom-made to match the needs of the person.
Different rules apply for vegans in terms of supplementation since they need a complete amino acid profile from their existing nutrition. It is often the case that vegans need supplementation with protein powders or B12.
Strength athletes are also different. Their focus should be on getting adequate macronutrients in their diet and in proper ratios. It also depends on the goals of the athlete. Are they competing or is this more of a hobby? For the competing athlete, recovery and optimum performance are a must, while the hobbyist does not need to overload his system and should focus instead on supps that optimize recovery.
It is very normal as we age and because of the stress and bad nutrition in our daily lives that our systems become compromised. These systems include our digestive and hormonal, the dysfunction of which affect both our personal, professional and social lives.
When you are in your early 40s, you don’t have the same digestive system as when you were in your 20s. Add to that an existing condition and things become even more complicated. Medical examinations often offer more insight in such cases and proper supplementation is required and often 1 step shy away from medication.
Taking probiotics or enzymes will do more for your body than taking an antacid. The former targets the underlying problem while the latter is more like putting a band-aid over a bleeding wound.
Do I have to take them forever?
People today are so eager on spending tons of money on garbage, cigarettes, alcohol and other addictive substances that poison their bodies. They are also eager on spending billions on medications that battle heartburn, digestive problems and other drugs. Others spend money on Botox and plastic surgeries.
However, if their coach or nutritionist tells them to get supplements for their health and beauty, then they are immediately concerned about spending money and afraid they might get addicted!
So does that mean I can read this article and go take supplements?
Well it is not that easy and this is another reason that supplements get a bad rep. So no!
Some people go out and buy the ‘latest’ supplement for a condition they think they have and then start posting blogs on how the X supplement ‘didn’t do anything for them’.
There are as many so-called supplement gurus out there as there are doctors now.
I have seen good results with supplements that are often accused of giving no results (such as Vitamin B-12) and I have seen no results with supplements that are supposedly awesome (such as Maca). But this is my opinion and it does not show the effectiveness of good working supplements (in the case of Maca) or non-responsiveness of working supplements (such as B-12).
Again, different rules apply to different people. There can never be any cookie cutter solution for everyone. There is evidence to support that some supplements work for some people yet not for others. This is the case of non-responders and creatine is also one of the supplements that do work but not for everyone.
If you feel that your nutrition is lacking certain nutrients and often find yourself not having optimal performance in your daily life (at the office, in bed or at sports) then seek out the advice of an expert first before taking a supplement.
The type of expert depends on your goals
Most coaches today (including but not limited to fitness and martial arts coaches, strength coaches, life coaches, wellness coaches etc) have more than enough knowledge to suggest supplement protocols to their healthy clients.
Some even specialize in specific goals (optimizing performance) or improving health conditions (optimizing hormones to optimize life).
Note that only doctors (e.g. Naturopaths and nutritionists) can legally suggest supplements to treat diseases. Everyone else can only suggest supplements to improve the life of healthy adults so be very careful about whose advice you take when it comes to supplements.
But what about safety?
This is the most important and yet most overlooked aspect on this matter. Most people think that because they are available over the counter, that they are safe for consumption by the general public. That is not always the case.
Often times, supplements contain ingredients that have been proven to be not safe for human consumption such as artificial sweeteners or additives in pills such as magnesium aspartate.
And let us not forget the problem of over-consumption of supplements that contain stimulants such as caffeine. There are a lot of side effects associated with over-consumption of some supplements (especially N.O -Nitric Oxide- supplements) and if existing conditions are present, it can become life threatening. (rapid heartbeat and palpitations are typical side effects).
It is very commonly heard on the media about people dying or ending up in intensive care after an overdose of an otherwise ‘safe’ supplement.
Bear this in mind: The FDA does not fully regulate supplement safety and this is important. The user is actually responsible for making sure they are healthy enough to consume the supplement and taking the right dose that applies to their case.
So are supplements safe?
Yes, but only if they are taken under the supervision of an expert and if there is no existing health problem.
No, if they are taken for long periods of time and instructions of use are not properly followed.
This is common sense after all. As an example from the real world, if you replace a faulty light bulb with a new one, no harm will come to you as long as you are not immersed into water, it is not raining and no faulty electronics are present.
What about steroids? Are they a different kind of supplement?
To answer your question, anabolic steroids are not supplements. They are specific substances used by athletes (professional or amateurs) who should be under medical supervision at all times.
Not to be confused with steroids such as Corticosteroid drugs which are used to reduce swelling and inflammation, anabolic steroids or anabolic androgenic steroids which are not classified as supplements. Anabolic steroids or AAS often refer to synthetic substances related to the male sex hormone Testosterone.
These are different kind of substances that are only available via medical recipe, even though a lot of online websites offer such products. These products are not regulated, made in labs and can not only get you in legal trouble but you can also sustain irreversible damage to your health.
These substances are usually taken intravenously or some times orally by professional athletes or bodybuilders. They are also used in hormone replacement therapy by doctors in cases where hormonal enhancement is needed. Usually this is done in cycles where the user spends some time on it and then cycles it off (by not taking.) In the latter case, other substances might be needed for the user to maintain results and balance in the system.
I hope this blog shed some light on many of your questions. You must understand that you cannot read just 1 single article on the web and learn everything you need to know about supplements.
As this is a massive subject I will have other articles that will dig deeper into the specifics of nutritional supplements (health guidelines, safety, effectiveness) as well as which supplements I personally use and recommend.
I hope you enjoyed this article as much as I did writing it. Putting together this article took a bit of time but it will only take you a second to click on the Share buttons below and show your support to this blog.
Also if you have any comments or questions, feel free to leave a comment and I will get back to you as soon as possible. Until then live your life, strong, healthy and free!
by Nick Sigma SHF
C.W.C, E.H, YRT-200