I’ve been getting a lot of questions about supplements lately.
“What do you think about ‘this supplement’?”
“Will taking ‘this supplement’ improve my performance?”
“Which pre-workout is best?”
And so on…
If you came to me and asked me any of these questions directly, I would likely respond with my own series of questions.
“What are your goals?”
“What does your current training look like?”
“What does your current nutrition look like (in detail)?”
“How are your sleep, stress management and recovery?”
My reason for asking these questions is to determine whether adding supplements is your logical “next step”. It’s only human to want to find that “easy button” thing that will make us better, allowing us to reach our goals faster, but supplements only stand to make us a little bit better (if at all), while dialing in the things I mentioned can make you a LOT better, as they give you a solid foundation on which to build. Frankly, if you’re adding supplements to a regimen of training only 2-3 times a week, eating anything you see and sleeping 4 hours a night while not properly dealing with the stresses of daily life, you’re really just wasting money.
So, having said that, my thoughts on the most commonly inquired about supplements (pre-workouts, BCAAs, creatine, etc) is that while they may provide a competitive edge in athletes who have addressed all of the larger issues, most of us won’t notice enough benefit to justify the costs.
What to do instead?
- Train on a consistent schedule. You should have a general training plan that focuses on overall fitness, hitting all muscle groups and energy systems on a regular basis. This training plan should be followed 3-5 times a week, or more as your body allows. Additionally, if you have specific training goals, you should have a training plan specific to those goals in order to achieve them in the shortest amount of time.
- Dial in your nutrition. Good nutrition is the FOUNDATION to long-term success, both in the gym and in life. You will never be able to outwork a poor diet. By ensuring you are eating quality foods in the right amounts, you will adequately fuel your body to look better, feel better and perform to your full potential.
- Pay attention to recovery. Learning to listen to your body and respond to its needs is a skill worth learning! Excess stress can manifest in lots of harmful and negative ways (decreased performance, increased risk of injury, inability to shed fat or increased fat storage, etc), even if the sources of stress are “good” (like exercise).
- Active recovery and rest days should be built into your program. These days are not “do nothing” days, but may include low-intensity/low-impact exercise (walking, swimming, etc) and/or body work (stretching, mobilizing, Yoga, etc).
- Adequate quality sleep is crucial for recovery of body, mind and soul. For some awesome tips on improving sleep, check out this article by Precision Nutrition: https://www.precisionnutrition.com/hacking-sleep
- Make time daily to destress. Stress management could take one of many forms, so pick which works best for you. Some ideas include: reading a book, taking a salt bath, meditation, listening to music, time spent in nature. Note: alcohol is not on the recommended “destress” list.
Considering and making improvements to the things listed above will pay much greater dividends in performance improvement than taking any supplement will (unless you are treating a nutrient deficiency, which is NOT the topic of this discussion).
If you need further guidance with any of these, we can help!
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While supplements can be helpful for some, it’s more beneficial to your success to get the basics in line first. There are no substitutions or “easy buttons” for time and effort spent on the right things.