The first question I get asked by any athlete I have ever worked with is “what supplements should I be taking”? This is because the supplement industry has created a perception that anyone involved in sport must need to supplement. Young lads joining a gym will straightaway want to be taking protein supplements. This is partly because media hype has convinced them that this is necessary and sometimes (unfortunately) because a gym employee has recommended it. So what is the truth when it comes to supplementing your diet?
The clue is in the sentence, this should be considered only to supplement what is missing from the diet. The first thing that strikes me about this is: Why are these nutrients missing from the diet? At the elite level of sport this is often because it is nigh on impossible to get sufficient amounts of some nutrients from food alone. Creatine would be a good example as you only get small amounts in meat and certainly not sufficient to load the muscles. An athlete with a large protein requirement would struggle to balance protein and fat intake if trying to consume protein requirements using food alone. Also protein is required in quite specific amounts at specific times whilst training. Again this is not always practical when training. But this is at the elite level of sport and most people don’t fall into this category.
The average person training in the gym perhaps playing club level sport would be better off getting their daily diet spot on first. In fact even at the elite level of sport this advice still applies. You need to ensure your diet is providing the correct levels of all nutrients as well as the correct levels of energy. Only if this proves impractical should you then turn to supplements. The multi-billion supplement industry makes all types of claims for supplements. Most of these are completely unsupported by any current scientific evidence. The list of supplements that don’t work is far longer than the few that do. What is more the supplements that do work tend to work in quite specific circumstances, often with a very specific population.
Lack of knowledge about the use of supplements, and indeed the risks is a real issue, even in elite sport. This has been shown with elite level triathletes who were surveyed at the world championships. Over seventy percent of them believed that caffeine was ergogenic (boosts performance). What is interesting is that most of this 70% could not tell the investigators how much caffeine was in specific foods and beverages. What is more most were not taking sufficient caffeine for it to be an effective ergogenic aid. This complete lack of understanding of how to use supplements to boost performance highlights that there is a real need for education.
If you want advice on how to get the most from your diet and perhaps the use of supplements then you really should seek professional advice. You need to have a consultation with a registered nutritionists (RNutr) who has a sports nutrition qualification or a sports dietitian. I can guarantee the first thing they will want to look at is your current diet and training regime. This is the starting point for any type of sports nutrition intervention. The LEAN Fit System is designed for both club and elite level athletes. This system helps individuals redesign their diets as well as educates them in the more specific aspects of sports nutrition. Click this link if you want to learn more about LEAN Fit.