Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Supplements in Their Proper Context

                The topic of dietary supplements is a confusing one in the health and fitness industry, the opinions are as diverse as the people who hold them. Many people hold to one extreme or another (love them or hate them) rarely do you find somebody right in the middle who can use supplements to reach goals but not be dependent on them. But that is right where I am, smack dab in the middle. And while in the past I have held both extreme views (loved them, then I hated them) I feel that I have an argument adequate at defending my current position.

To me supplements are all about convenience, either for time purposes or ease in the kitchen. If you stopped by the gym before you way to work do you really have time to fix a meal containing 3-2-1 parts of carb, protein, and fat? Or do you trust that drive through on your right to supply you with the nutrition you need? The answer to both is an obvious no, and in this case, a meal replacement bar washed down with a sport drink (carb based) may be just what you need to recover and br energize for whatever activity is next. But maybe you do have some time to go home and get a nice meal on the table, the only problem is you realized that you haven’t been grocery shopping in the past two weeks, and nutritious choices are in short supply. Now would be a great time to use the last of that low-fat milk with a scoop of protein powder, or maybe throw both of those in a blender with some ice and fruit of your choice for a great fruit smoothie (On a side note: do not be fooled by this smoothie craze going around fast food places. Sugar and a little fruit will be the only ingredients found in those.)

Whether you are looking to prime or recover, supplements can aid you in both, but only if you are willing to pay the price. Go to your local GNC and you will not be har pressed to find tubs (yes, I said tubs) of some mystery powder going for $75-$95. If you can afford this, and are willing to pay, then supplements are a great way to go.

                If you’re like me however, and you don’t want to see your hard earned cash go to synthetically engineered nutrients you won’t necessarily lose out on gains in the weight room. There are many ways to get the nutrients you need in a quick and easy way, all you have to do is pick foods that are dense in nutrients and calories (hold off on the leafy greens for now.) If you need carbs to fuel long workouts bananas, raisins, jelly beans, and pretzels are not only portable enough, but can be eaten quickly and without weighing you down. If its proteins and healthy fats you need to recover from a grueling workout try foods like almonds, walnuts, lean deli meats like turkey and ham, and beef jerky (Make sure it’s real jerky and not those meat stick with god know what in them.) Also, eating at the right times will help ensure that your workouts won’t go to waste. Eat a high carb snack before your workout, and a high protein/healthy fat snack about a half an hour after your workout.

                But if you are still convinced that supplements are the way to go just remember this: supplements will never make up for a good diet, only enhance it. If you’re eating like crap now, adding supplements to your diet will make no difference. A sound diet is the foundation of every healthy lifestyle, supplements are the addition.

                There is a lot more to discuss as far as supplements go like, which ones should I take? Should I use creatine or not? And how much should I take? These are all great topics of discussion, but what I really wanted to do with this article was to put supplements in their proper context: helpful but not necessary. 

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