Even though it says it in the name people seem to forget. Supplements are just that; SUPPLEMENTS. They should be tools to assist your goals, not be the staple. I think too often people get caught up in wanting every supplement in the world because they think it will be the answer to all their problems. Absolutely not. It can definitely help if EVERYTHING else is dialed in, but it cannot replace moving the big rocks.
What ARE the Big Rocks?
The big rocks mean focusing most of your energy on the foundational things that will get you the majority of your results.
-Getting enough sleep
-Eating enough protein
-Eating in a surplus so that your body can grow
If you aren’t doing these basic things, then taking supplements isn’t worth it.
So When Are Supplements Worth it?
The best way to use supplements is when you are lagging behind on something (after following the basics above), or lack the time and need convenience.
For instance, whey protein is a great supplement if you have a higher protein intake than normal, you’ve spent weeks trying to get it from whole food sources, but still come up short. This is when you can buy a protein powder to help fill the gaps. Or maybe, you are good about getting your protein intake in, but are going on a trip, or on the road a lot, and need an easy way to hit your macros. That is where a protein powder can help.
In terms of filling the gaps, you may find throughout your lifting career that you need a boost to help with recovery, general health, or performance. That’s where supplements like creatine, vitamin D, or magnesium can help. There are studies that have shown most people are deficient in magnesium and vitamin D daily. Taking one or both of these has helped improve a cascade of hormonal benefits which in turn help performance in the gym. Taking fish oil can help lower inflammation which may help with injuries.
Do Your Due Diligence
There are a TON of supplements out there. This industry is not regulated by the FDA so you never really know if the quality is good or if the supplement even works. That is why you have to do your due diligence. For example, BCAA’s used to be THE go-to supplement until research came out showing if you are getting your 1g/lb protein daily, that taking BCAA’s showed no additional benefit. Only buy from reputable companies that you can trust and third-party test their products for quality.
If you talk to any successful bodybuilder, they will all tell you that while supplements can help, nothing beats the consistency and dedication of showing up to the gym, sticking to a diet, and getting good quality sleep. Supplements only make at best 1-2% of your success and that assumes you do everything else correctly.