The supplement industry has seen huge growth over the last few years, with what was previously a fairly niche range of products now available in most supermarkets. With the market set to hit almost $9 billion by 2020, health and fitness supplements aren’t likely to disappear from the shelves any time soon.
While the industry is booming, fueled largely by the weight loss industry and the increasingly sedentary lifestyles we lead, there’s still a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation around the purpose and effectiveness of sports supplements. While your favorite Instagram fitness celebrity might credit the latest fat burner or protein powder for their physique, the reality is that a whole lot more goes into being in great shape that pills and powders.
The cornerstone of any good nutritional plan is a balanced, healthy diet designed to meet your own physical needs. These needs will vary based on things like your activity levels, your age, and your overall goals.
While there are more variables to consider, the come general rules to follow are:
- If you’re a skinny person looking to add muscle, you’ll need to eat more calories than you burn. For optimal results, a high proportion of these calories should come from protein to help with muscle building and repair.
- If you’re looking to drop some body fat, you’ll need to burn more calories than you consume. This time, to help with muscle retention you should look to keep your protein intake high and reduce the amount of carbs and fat in your diet to create this shortfall.
There are countless other nutritional plans design to cater for specific goals, but in general, they will involve a calorie increase or reduction and a specific macronutrient split designed to help recovery or reduce muscle loss. In an ideal world, everyone would be able to hit these macronutrient targets through healthy, natural foods. However, the reality of the situation is that incorporating sports supplements in your plan can make things a whole lot easier.
Say your plan calls for 200g of protein a day (not an uncommon target for a 6 foot plus male looking to build muscle). To hit this target, you would need to eat the equivalent of almost 6 chicken breasts every day – not the most practical or cost-effective solution for most people. Through the use of protein powder supplements, you could easily get around 90g of quality protein by consuming 2 shakes, covering a large chunk of your daily target. While it’s not designed to replace your normal diet, you can see how it makes things easier to supplement your diet with these additional products to help you meet your goals.
Many people find it challenging to reduce their calorie intake to lose weight. While there’s an element of mental strength involved with losing weight long-term, the use of dietary supplements can often make things easier for people. The claims of many ‘fat burners’ are often grossly overstated, but many of these products can be useful for things like appetite suppression and energy levels. In the end, it all comes back to diet and exercise, but the use of supplements can make it all much easier.
So do you need supplements to meet your fitness goals? No, but they can make it far easier to achieve them that sticking to whole foods exclusively. The clue is in the name – supplements should be used to supplement an existing healthy eating plan. Use them properly, and you’ll achieve your results much easier than without them.
Stuart works with Simple Again, a provider of naturally healthy foods and supplements.