This is a trick blog because the answer to the question is, it depends. There is absolutely no one right answer despite what Joe from the local supplement store says. The odds are good that he will confidently load you up with processed proteins, a pre workout, a store brand multivitamin and some amino acids. You can end up spending a lot of money real fast. But, the question is, do you really need that as an athlete? I’m a strong believer in getting what you need from your diet and not via supplementation. After all, when it comes to supplements, you may be surprised to find out that not all supplements are created equal. However, I also realize that a lot of athletes eat poorly and are not willing to modify their diets on a consistent basis.
“Not all supplements are created equal,” it’s a line I find myself saying a lot in my clinic. There was a study done that showed that multivitamins “weren’t worth the money.” You can check that out here: http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/news/20131216/experts-dont-waste-your-money-on-multivitamins My opinion of this article is that the supplements used were most likely poor sources. This is not the only example of a study about supplements that showed that they didn’t help. I have seen lots of these types of stories popping up in the news here and there. You really have to be careful what supplement companies you use. The source of the supplement is really important and so is the ingredient list of the supplement. A lot of the cheap supplements add in ingredients that I wouldn’t recommend consuming.
So what ingredients do I recommend avoiding? Honestly, every time I buy or recommend a supplement, I do my own research and you should too. However, some common ingredients that I see in supplements that instantly raise a red flag are magnesium stearate, artificial colors, hydrogenated oils and maltodextrin to name a few. Whenever I investigate a supplement, the first thing I do is check the ingredient list, the more ingredients it has, the more cautious I am. Sometimes, I spend hours on the internet to make a decision about just one supplement and that is time well spent. If a company hides information about how they make their supplements or the source of the supplement, then that’s probably a good sign of a supplement not to buy! Again, I highly stress the importance of getting most of your nutrients via your diet. For the amount of money supplements cost, you could use that money to eat healthier and in the long run, that will make more of a difference.
As Hippocrates once said “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” To summarize, be careful what you buy for supplements and always do your own research. You should always strive to improve your diet as an athlete. If you get one thing out of this blog, get this, you can’t supplement hard work! There is no magic pill or supplement that can make you dramatically improve as an athlete. It takes dedication, hard work and doing the little things to get better!
-Dr. Brian Damhoff