Are sports supplements neccessary?


The fitness industry has changed a lot over the last decade. People are told not only how they should exercise, but what they should eat. Professional bodybuilders, and the regular exercisers looking to build a bit of muscle, are perhaps the most affected by this. If you want to make gains in lean muscle tissue in this day and age, a healthy diet isn’t enough. You need sports supplements (apparently).

Bodybuilders -well, all types of athletes- and regular exercisers require more protein than the average Joe; no one is going to argue this point because it’s common knowledge. But since when did consuming protein in the form of a heavily processed powder become necessary?

I know a guy (a big guy). He trains at the gym 5 times per week, week in week out. On top of a decent diet, he consumes a kilogram tub of protein powder each week. He also uses supplemental pills, which provide him with extra vitamins, minerals and amino-acids. He calls it a “muscle building cocktail.”

I once plucked up the courage to ask the big guy why he was pumping so much stuff into his body, to which he enthusiastically said: “I need it to provide me with strength and power so I can lift heavier and make more gains.” This puzzled me, though. He seemed to be under the impression that he couldn’t achieve the physique he wanted without using these supplements. Instead of eating a few more chicken breasts throughout the week, he was drinking protein shakes.

Supplements (protein powders and bars in particular) are convenient. Sometimes you don’t have time to prepare a meal, so what’s the harm in mixing some strawberry flavoured powder with 300ml of milk every now and then? What I find disturbing is the fact that there is now a culture where people are made to think that they NEED supplements no matter what. It’s simply not true.

Look through a fitness magazine and you’re bombarded with adverts every three pages or so. The adverts are there to promote the latest supplements, promising you a grade-A physique, just like the chiseled men and women in the pictures. “Make huge gains in lean muscle, fast!”…”The fat around your gut will melt off!”…”Use X-Rated Mega Protein for more gains in strength and power!”

The claims made by these companies are just absurd. Fruit and vegetables are full of nutrients, vitamins and minerals. So why do you need to supplement them? Lean meat (such as chicken), fish and Quorn (if you’re a veggie) are packed full of protein. Eggs for breakfast, chicken or fish for dinner, and nuts for a snack will provide you with all you need. Do you really need a powder to reach your protein requirements?

My advice to anyone looking to use sports supplements is to determine whether or not you actually need them first (you don’t). Try not to get sucked in by the promises the adverts give you; consuming a 50g bar of mush, or a 30g scoop of mysterious manufactured powder won’t make your progress any more real than a healthy chunk of meat.

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