Don’t be blind…. Do some Supplemental Research
Anybody that is serious about building muscle knows the importance of refueling your body after exercise. To supply your body with nutrients throughout the day, meal preparation is key. However, many people don’t want to put in the hours of chopping and cooking to do this step correctly. Instead, the athlete would rather buy a precooked meal that he or she thinks is relatively healthy and balanced, while in reality is not at all. Or even worse the athlete will replace a meal with a supplement thinking it will provide the same nutritional benefit. Although there is scientific evidence supporting some supplements (protein powders and creatine monohydrate) others have minimal or no scientific evidence backing up their function and are taken merely based on popularity.
Athletes today appear to be excessively dependent on nutritional products to help them achieve their desired body composition. Almost everybody I see in the gym today is carrying around a shaker cup containing a concoction of various supplements, but when asked what nutrients do the supplements provide your body with and at what concentrations many don’t know and say they just know it helps get results. If the athlete believes these products will work, they may realize an even greater benefit, which is known as the placebo effect. This is what I call blindly consuming supplements. Most athletes are so wrapped up on getting the “proper” amount of protein, carbohydrates and fats that individuals blindly consume supplements to reach these levels rather than eating a proper balanced meal. When supplements are blindly consumed, the athlete rarely knows what specific vitamin and minerals are supplied and at what concentrations.
Vitamins and minerals are always pushed to the back burner due to the over emphasis on consuming protein, carbohydrates and fats. Vitamins are substances that are needed by cells to promote specific cellular chemical reactions. Some vitamins (mainly B vitamins) are involved in energy reactions that allow the body’s cells to obtain energy from carbohydrate, protein and fat sources. Other vitamins work to maintain mineral balance in the body, such as Vitamin D, which helps to increase the absorption of dietary calcium and phosphorus. The synergism between vitamin and minerals is extremely important in understanding dietary requirements. Supplements often provide excessive concentrations of vitamins or minerals that exceed the tolerated upper intake level. This can cause more harm the good as some vitamin and minerals compete for absorption or inhibit the absorption of others, which can lead to a toxicity or a deficiency. Large amounts of any vitamin should be used with caution, although almost all of the water-soluble B vitamins will be excreted in the urine. Large quantities of niacin and vitamin B6 can have toxic side effects as well.
The best way to avoid putting yourself in harms way is by reading all the labels and don’t be afraid to do some background research on the supplement (such as its ingredients, concentrations and function). Not only will this protect your health but your wallet as well. Consuming nutrient rich foods can simply fulfill almost all energy demands needed by an athlete. However some exceptions do apply for those athletes that are on a calorie-restricted diet. Overall, consumption of a wide spectrum of foods that expose athletes to all the nutrients is the best strategy, with supplements playing a role only where adequate intake of energy substrates or nutrients is impossible.
So, this weekend rather than sitting around watching your favourite tv shows, spend some time preparing your weekly meals. When you’re finished a hard fought work out you can be prepared with your food ready to eat. DO NOT just take a protein shake or eat a protein bar. Although these are good in a pinch, do not get sucked into becoming dependent on these products. If you’re willing to put in all the long hours at the gym, the least you can do for your personal success is spend some time in the kitchen.
Author: Cameron Thorn
Cameron Thorn is a Sport Nutritionist at Rebound Physiotherapy in Barrie, Ontario Canada holding a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition and Nutraceutical Science. He is also a Professional Athlete playing for the British Columbia Lions Football Club as an Offensive Lineman in the Canadian Football League.