There is much confusion when it comes to supplements. Just how important are the additions of supplements into your diet? Are supplements only important for muscle gain? How do you decipher a high-quality supplement from one stuffed with fillers? With so many mixed messages, it’s no wonder many people question the importance of taking supplements at all.
For starters, supplements make it much easier to get the necessary nutrients and can even give you an advantage and enhance your training when combined with a clean, nutritious diet.
Current commercial agriculture techniques leave soil deficient in important minerals, causing the food grown in this soil to share the same mineral deficiencies. When produce is shipped long distances, picked too soon, and stored for long periods of time, there is a depletion of vitamins in the food (important B-complex and C vitamins). Many fruits and vegetables are genetically bred to improve visual appeal and crop yields. Not for nutritional value. Food processing and preserving leads to nutrient depletion in our food supply.
Aside from the changes in our agricultural techniques, there are many other reasons why we are not getting a sufficient nutrient intake. Erratic eating habits, stress, the increased use of pharmaceutical drugs (which deplete make people more vulnerable to deficiencies) all decrease our essential nutrient intake.
This being said, supplementation is very important! Here are some important supplements to consider adding into your daily regime.
- Fish Oil
A source of Omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce inflammation, improve heart health and improve joint health. Omega-3’s have also been shown to support weight loss, healthy pregnancy, athletic recovery and thickening hair and nails.
- Vitamin D
Alleviates or reduces chronic fatigue, seasonal depression, joint pain, osteoporosis and uncontrollable weight gain.
If you’re frequently exposed to the sun (the main source of vitamin D) in a warmer climate, you don’t need to worry about taking additional vitamin D. However, vitamin D supplementation is often necessary in colder climates where you spend more time indoors.
Note: Make sure you consult with a physician before supplementing with vitamin D.
- Amino Acids
Branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) are essential amino acids which help to prime your body for protein synthesis. You would supplement with BCAAs in order to help build muscle, or to help preserve muscle mass while getting lean (since BCAAs are preferentially used as a fuel source).
- Protein Powder
Amino acids from protein are the building blocks of muscle. It’s essential to have a sufficient supply of protein after a workout so your muscles can use it to recover and get bigger and stronger. Also, remember that protein is no stored in the body, so needs to be continuously taken into the body through diet and supplementation.
Whey and plant based protein powders are on the market. There are many different sources plant protein can come from (Peas, rice, hemp, sunflower). Whey protein is one of the two main proteins that are derived from milk.
To assure that your body works properly, it needs complete proteins. Whey based protein are ‘complete proteins’, yet plant based proteins are not. In order to be labeled as a complete protein, a protein needs to have all of the nine essential amino acids. These nine essential amino acids are not formed in your body and can only be obtained through diet or supplements.
Getting a complete plant-based protein can be a little tricky. Some plant-based proteins on the market today don’t offer complete proteins. For example, pumpkin protein by itself doesn’t have all 9 essential amino acids.
When looking for plant-based protein, it’s best to look at those that have a blend of different types of plant proteins. It’s through this variety that you get all nine essential amino acids.
Good multivitamins (with minerals) can help make up for any of the areas where you may be nutritionally deficient. Since these deliver so many vitamins and minerals, it’s worth getting the best multivitamin you can afford; however, bearing in mind that many foods are fortified with vitamins and minerals, you may want one which is low in vitamin A and iron to prevent overloading these particular vitamins.
- Creatine Monohydrate
If you are looking for muscle gain, creatine allows you to train your body at higher intensity and higher volume because it increases muscle strength. Not only that, studies have also shown that creatine also improves your anaerobic threshold, delaying the onset of lactic acid forming in the muscles. We get most of our creatine naturally from red meat and fish, so the less of these you eat, the more you will benefit from creatine supplementation (e.g. especially vegans or vegetarians).