When I first started lifting weights, my thoughts on supplements were completely skewed. I had always thought of supplements as magical potions that helped build muscle better than other types of food. Instead of calculating my protein, carb and fat needs, I simply went to the gym, came home and drank a protein shake. I thought that the only thing I needed to do was consistently hit the gym and then take a shake after every workout.
I was your basic gym-goer who didn’t have a diet aligned with his goals and I feel like many people are still in the same boat as I once was. The thing to remember supplements is that they are exactly what they are named: supplements. Bodybuilding supplements are designed to supplement your diet, not make up for lacking crucial elements.
Let’s take protein, for example. Protein shakes are a good thing simply because they are easy sources of protein. Instead of having to cook chicken in the over, you can simply mix up a shake, chug it down and go. This is a very convenient way to get your protein, but it’s not (and shouldn’t be) the only way to get your protein.
Real Foods First, Then Supplements
The majority of your macros should come from real food. Supplements such as protein and weight gainers are convenient, but they are not the answer to all your bodybuilding goals. Supplements should be used as easy ways to meet the nutritional requirements that your regular diet alone cannot provide.
The reason I believe in actual food so much is because food contains more than just pure protein or pure calories. Real food also includes important vitamins and minerals that your body needs to function properly. Some supplements may even include important vitamins, but even those supplements do not have the same effect on your body as actual food.
Real food also includes other nutrients such as fiber and antioxidants that play crucial roles in body functions and overall health. If you rely heavily on supplements, you will miss out on some of the best things Mother Nature has to offer. Our bodies were designed to live off the food that nature provides.
For those of you on strict calorie-counting diets, natural food also has the added benefit of being more filling. It may be convenient to chug down a liquid protein shake, but you will be hungry again much more quickly than if you would have eaten a full meal. This is because the liquid form of supplements is absorbed/digested quicker than solid food. Additionally, the vast majority of supplements lack fat, which is more filling than pure protein.
It’s Not All Bad
I did not write this post to knock supplements. I believe supplements play a crucial role in helping bodybuilders meet their impressive calorie, protein, carbohydrate and fat needs. However, it is important to remember that the supplement industry is very lucrative for those who market supplements. Unfortunately, the desire to get additional sales has led many supplement manufacturers to overstate the place supplements occupy in our daily nutrition needs.
I still recommend supplements (and even advertise for them here at BodyBuildingFYI.com) but I want you to go in with your eyes open. You will advance much more quickly if you take the time to learn all about proper diet and nutrition first and then add supplements to your diet second. With the proper balance of knowledge, real food and supplements, you can do amazing things.