Should you try a supplement? I have been getting this question A LOT from clients unsure if they should “try out” something as well as from trainer’s that aren’t sure if they should recommend supplements (everything from protein powders, energy bars, collagen, etc.). While this may be a controversial topic, I think it’s something we need to discuss. And before I get started, by no means am I an expert and/or qualified to give you medical related advice. This is just my opinion & hopefully can help guide you in the right direction.
So what are supplements? Well the actual definition of this is “something that completes or makes an addition”. So when we think about vitamins, proteins powders, green powders, creatine, etc. they are meant to complete your daily nutritional value, however, the supplement companies have taken full advantage of consumers and decided to pump out everything from tummy teas for “weight loss”, cute little collagen gummies that “promote hair growth”, protein powders that taste like cookies but are pumped with filler and added sugars, I could go on…These products are targeted at you to buy them and “try them out” and in our head we say “well what do I have to lose?”. Based on what your body needs and the ingredients in these products, depending on the supplement they can cause everything from constipation, upset stomach to things more severe like liver damage, kidney stones, anxiety, heart palpitations, and more.
So how confusing is all of this?!?!? Very. And it’s meant to be because that’s what keeps us coming back to try more. So you think you may be deficient in something or you want to try a supplement. What’s the next step for you? The first step is to meet with your primary care doctor and get your routine blood work. If you think you are deficient in something, ask them to order it and test it on the blood work. Another first step could be meeting with a Registered Dietitian. Registered Dietitians are qualified to help pinpoint where there may be gaps in your diet and take an even deeper approach to bloodwork that your primary care doctor may not. A Registered Dietitian can not only order blood work, but they can interpret it, and recommend supplements.
In full transparency, I have tried different supplements. I have experienced hair LOSS, lightheadedness, stomach pain, constipation, and yoyo weight loss and gain. Last year I said enough is enough and went to a Registered Dietitian who helped me not only with supplementation (I was deficient in certain vitamins as well as calcium) but helped me find foods that fit in my diet. I have never felt as healthy, strong, and in control of my diet!
But the Registered Dietitian or your Primary care doctor told you to avoid pre-workout or that you actually DON’T need a collagen supplement, but you want to try it anyway. What I would say is just know what the potential side effects could be. I know more people than I can count on two hands that have taken pre-workout and had to go to the hospital for heart palpitations & panic attacks. Or people that are taking protein powders and I ask to look at the ingredient list to find all this filler and sugar. Yes, sugar! This is very commonly used in protein powders to add to the flavor.
So while it might sound like I am “anti supplement”, I’m going to tell you I am not. When it comes to supplements, it’s just knowing the benefits and making sure they are right for you and your body as well as they use quality ingredients. The best way to get the nutrition you need is through your food so if you feel you may be deficient, a natural first step would be to look up recipes that incorporate the vitamins you are looking to get more of (or of course work with a professional). Also, in the fitness world I would say protein powder has become a staple for most people so you will hear about different powders to try. The BEST way to get protein is through your food and prioritizing protein in each meal, but if you did want to try a protein powder just look at the ingredient list and avoid anything with added sugars.