The fitness and supplement industry want you to believe that you NEED supplements in order to achieve the results you want. Whether it be muscle building, fat loss or wellness people have bought into the supplement hype. So much so that it has become a billion-dollar industry. This blog is not to tell you that you shouldn’t take supplements or that there aren’t good supplements out there. This is to inform you on the supplements you’re taking that could potentially harm your progress and health, and let you know what you SHOULD be doing instead.
1. Pre-Workout Supplements
The most popular supplement on the market is pre-workout. Why you might ask? Pre-workout drinks and powders are addicting. They’re loaded with stimulants and make you feel very good in the short term. The problem is that most of the performance benefits you get from pre-workout comes from caffeine. All of the other added ingredients are not giving you much benefit, if any at all. Pre-workouts are typically pretty expensive, and you can get the same benefits from drinking a coffee before your workout. The other issue is that after using these stimulants over and over again, you can have a negative impact on your body. You will start to feel dependent on these ingredients in order to have a “good” workout.
What to do instead:
A. Drink a coffee (if you don’t like coffee, drink tea or buy caffeine pills) before you train if you want the added benefits of caffeine. I recommend having days where you have coffee, and some days when you don’t. Just like anything, your body will get used to having caffeine every single day and if you don’t take a break, you’ll need more and more to get benefit from it. I’ll typically have coffee in the morning, and before my workout. When I start to feel that I need more to get benefit, I’ll take a few days off from any caffeine. Then when I reintroduce caffeine a few days later, I feel its benefits even more so than before.
B. Invest/create some kind of “warm up” or something to get your body ready for the work it is about to do. If you’re going into the gym and jumping right into your routine without sending proper signals to your body before exercise, your odds of injury increase significantly. I know because I did this for quite some time, and am paying for it now. If it takes you 10 warm up sets before getting into your working sets on a specific exercise, you’re not taking the necessary steps to prime your body for exercise.
2. Branch Chain Amino Acid Supplements (BCAA’s)
This is another popular supplement on the market. The idea is that you drink them before workouts or throughout the day and your body will stay in a more “anabolic” state so you can gain the muscle and lose the fat you desire. This is not true and there has been research to back this up. Meal timing and frequency (and drinking BCAA powders) have little to do with gaining muscle, losing fat or just overall health. It comes down to personal preference and consistent adherence to eating for the desired outcome. As long as you’re consistently getting the protein your body needs, you are not going to see any significant gains from BCAA’s.
What to do instead:
A. Focus on drinking plenty of water. The idea of BCAA’s a lot of people like is that they taste good so they can drink more water. The problem is that most of them are flavored with sucralose and have dyes that can negatively impact your gut health, preventing muscle gain and fat loss over time.
B. Invest in healthy foods. Eat a variety of different vegetables and complete protein sources. You can also use a good whey or plant based protein powder that is sweetened with stevia and/or monk fruit if you struggle getting enough protein in per day. Instead of wasting big money on a BCAA supplement, take that money and buy good protein sources so you can hit that .7-.8g per pound of body weight per day.
3. Fat Burners
Fat burners are marketed as something that are somewhat of a “magic pill” to heat up your bodies core temperature and give you more energy. They are similar to pre-workout in that they have many stimulants and are full of caffeine. Although caffeine has been shown to help performance, many of the other ingredients in fat burners are not proven ingredients and can actually have some negative side effects.
What to do instead:
Bottom line, fat loss is going to come down to proper sleep, good exercise programming (not overtraining), and eating in a calorie deficit over time. There aren’t any fat burner pills that you are going to notice the real change you’ll notice by taking care of sleep, exercise and what you eat.