Although nutrition and exercise are based on what is changing along the way to achieving different goals, nutritional supplements can contribute to this. If you start in this area, let’s start from the beginning.
What are nutritional supplements?
The very name “supplements” says a lot more, but not everyone pays enough attention to these two words.
Nutritional Supplements are just that – a food supplement.
They can supplement your diet if, for one reason or another, there are gaps in it. Some products, such as whey protein, can be viewed as powdered food. In the process of making cheese, one of its components, which is called whey, is separated from the milk and, through an additional production process, is converted from a liquid to a powder.
Other products are an isolated substance from a food or plant. L-carnitine, for example, is an amino acid naturally found mainly in meat. Creatine is also a substance found mainly in meat.
What are NOT supplements?
In our practice we often come across people whose opinion about food supplements is quite different. For various reasons, such as wrong media information or more specific packaging, supplements are often confused with steroids or so-called “chemistry”.
You should know that:
Nutritional Supplements have nothing to do with steroids
Steroids are derivatives of the male sex hormone testosterone and although nowadays they are often used in professional and non-professional sports, their rightful place is in medicine. Here is another place to note that supplements are not – they are not drugs. Supplements contain nutrients and are intended to supplement food, while drugs are chemicals used in the manipulation, treatment, prevention or diagnosis of disease.
Although in certain situations drugs and supplements have common ground, there is a difference and it is significant.
What types of supplements are there?
Once you have an idea of what supplements are and are not, let’s introduce you to their types. Under the category of food supplements you will find a variety of products, and they can be divided according to their purpose and nature.
The most basic types of food supplements are:
- vitamins and minerals – these are those trace elements that our body can not produce just to be healthy, we must get through food;
- fatty acids – this is a component of fat in the diet. Omega-3 and omega-6 are two types of fatty acids that are essential and must be obtained through food. Nutritional supplements on the market mostly offer omega-3 fatty acids, as they are more difficult to obtain than omega-6.’
- herbs – these are extracts or parts of various plants that can have certain benefits for us;
- digestive enzymes and probiotics – they are the foundation on which good digestion is built.
- sports supplements
The category of sports supplements contains a very large range of products for different purposes. Let’s introduce you to her in more detail. The name “sports supplements” suggests their purpose. Their main goal is to improve sports results, as different types of sports supplements have different mechanisms through which to do so. The disputed additives can be categorized as follows:
- supplements that improve the recovery and increase of muscle mass – here we include mostly supplements such as protein powders and amino acids.
- supplements that increase strength and energy – this includes pre-workout products (also known as nitrogen boosters), creatine, beta-alanine and some others.
- supplements that help lose weight and reduce excess fat – this includes various fat burners and substances that in a way stimulate the body to expend more energy and support the process of “burning” fat.
Of course, these categories are not fixed, but they are the most basic. Some of the products can fall into more than one category, and there are some that do not fit well in any of the categories and are somewhere in the middle.
What can they do for me?
Nutritional supplements are not mandatory for anyone. Everything that is offered in the form of a food supplement can actually be obtained through food. However, this does not mean that they are completely unnecessary and useless.
Some people have the opportunity to devote more time and attention to all the details of their diet and exercise. If you are not among them and due to hectic daily life or other personal reason you fail to get everything you need from food, nutritional supplements are just for that. Some supplements, such as creatine, which is perhaps the most effective strength-boosting supplement, are extremely difficult to obtain from food to provide food-like amounts. To get 5 g of creatine from food, which is a standard dose as a dietary supplement, you need to eat about 1 kg of meat every day. It doesn’t sound very easy, does it?
You may be a vegetarian, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but a vegetarian diet carries its own risks, as excluding certain foods from the menu significantly reduces the supply of some very important substances, such as vitamin B-12. Deficiency of vital substances leads to health problems. In this case, nothing prevents you from getting these substances through supplements. You may not like fish, but you know that it is the best source of omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which are vital for the optimal functioning of the body. No problem, fish oil is sold as a dietary supplement and you can easily take advantage of their health benefits.
Want to get rid of a few pounds of excess fat and have written your homework for diet and exercise, but still want a little extra help? There are products for this purpose. Some substances taken in higher amounts than those we get from food have the ability to positively affect certain health diseases. Research in this area is being done constantly and some products can be really helpful.
As you can see, there are countless reasons why you can resort to supplements. Yes, they are a last resort, they are not mandatory, but they are an option. An opportunity that you can take advantage of if you need, desire and opportunity.
Are these products safe? Can I overdose or harm myself?
One wisdom is that the dose makes the poison. Nutritional supplements are no exception.
Let the fact that these products contain nutrients not mislead you. You also have to be careful with them. At certain recommended doses and within certain limits, food supplements are safe and if you follow the relevant recommendations, you have nothing to worry about. However, if you cross these boundaries, there is a risk. With some ingredients it is practically impossible to overdose, but with others it becomes much easier. Also, not all products are suitable for all people. If you suffer from a certain health problem or are taking medication, you should be even more careful in your choice and, in addition to the consultants in the store, consult a doctor before buying a product.
There are so many products. Which to choose?
In our practice we often face this question. Over the years, more and more products appear on the market, which confuses consumers. Of the general health supplements, there are some key ones that many people would benefit from. Probably you too. First of all, this is Vitamin D. If you can afford only one food supplement, we would not recommend that it be a multivitamin, but Vitamin D. The vitamin plays a key role in the work of our body, and its deficiency worldwide continues to grow.
The other additions to our “mandatory” list are:
- Fish oil
We have also looked in detail at the issue of the most important nutritional supplements in our blog.
We recommend that you read the article on vitamin D.
You may have been told that there is no point in taking supplements until you have gained some training experience. This may be true for some sports supplements, but for others it is unnecessary advice. Protein, whether it is casein, whey, beef or other, is just a kind of pure food and can be taken at any time, whether you do not train, now start training or have many years of sports experience.
For other supplements it is not contraindicated to take at the beginning. We think it’s just unnecessary. When starting active training, beginners have a wide field for development and progress, and do not need additional stimulus. That’s why you can include most of them later.
The moment you are ready, we recommend only proven and effective supplements. Our list includes:
- creatine monohydrate
- beta-alanine branched
- chain amino acids (BCAA)
What you have read so far is the most important thing you need to know about nutritional and sports supplements, but there is much more you can learn. That’s why we have prepared great manual articles. We have tried to cover most of the most frequently asked questions. We recommend that you take a look at them and we believe that you will find answers to many of your questions.