Supplements have always been a hot topic, mostly because of industry’s deceptive and aggressive marketing methods. And while supplements remain to be often discussed and widely used, very few trainees address necessity for supplementation. After all, you’re more likely to hear “what supplements should I be taking?” before you hear ”should I be taking any supplements at all?”
While it’s easy to paint everyone with the same brush, it is impossible to assess and address each and every individual’s needs-state in a 1000-words blog. I am not saying everyone should stop what they are doing and flush all their supplements down the toilet – you’re pretty much already doing that anyways – but I hope you will start to question necessity for supplements. Simply because your body’s preference is, always has been, and always will be – biology over chemistry.
Without going over any scientific jargon, lets get to the meat of the matter. Below you will read what couple expert coaches have to say about supplementation. Lets start with Mr. Mujika.
Inigo Mujika works with recreational and professional athletes. This is important because these folks will push envelope of performance much further and more often then an average gym goer. Consequently, his clients will be more likely to become deficient in nutrients, and their “needs” (whether for recovery or fueling) will require great attention to details. Another important point to keep in mind is that Inigo has no investments – whether monetary or emotional – in supplement industry, which makes his opinion rather fair and unbiased.
Inigo Mujika is a Director of Physiology and Training at USP Araba Sport Clinic, Associate Editor for the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, Associate Professor at the University of the Basque Country. Inigo earned his Ph.D.s in Biology of Muscular Exercise (University of Saint-Etienne, France) and Physical Activity and Sport Sciences (University of The Basque Country). He is a Level III Swimming and Triathlon Coach. He coaches olympic distance, Ironman and XTerra World Class triathletes.
When asked whether or not supplements play role in attaining maximal performance in professional and recreational athletics, he commented:
“It depends. Each athlete is different and I don’t think general rules can be applied in this area, neither to suggest that all athletes should take supplements, nor to suggest the opposite. There are a lot of things to consider, and I am not only talking about the demands of the sport and the athlete’s nutritional habits. Psychological aspects, the “culture” of the sport, social and even financial aspects also need to be analyzed. This issue is more complex than it may seem at first glance.” (MUJIKA, I. Encuentro con Iñigo Mujika. Sportraining Magazine 38: 39, 2011.)
I could easily write a separate blog to introduce Scott Abel and cover all of his roles and accomplishments – consider this a very short summary. Scott at one time was knows as “The Trainer of Champions” and “Star Maker”. He has written articles for many popular magazines and websites, worked for many supplement companies, trained athletes from all walks of life, and produced many books and DVDs. Scott is the coach of the coaches. He has written tons of articles on supplementation; below you will find only few quotes taken out of his 2010 Kelowna Workshop Workbook.
“Because writers, consumers, educators and athletes are not trained to properly address these questions (e.g. how much of purported health benefits of various supplements or threats of their absence are true?), the supplement industry takes full advantage. Misleading, false, fabricated and even fraudulent marketing perpetuates consumer belief in supplements consumption. The vast majority of supplements currently being sold in the market place for health or sports performance are simply unnecessary. The demand for most products is based on a created false need for them; and false promise on what they deliver. The supplement marketer’s goal is to create and re-create the false need. In the process the consumer is a willing participant in their own exploitation. Time to stop just reading what you want to belief or already belief and instead be able to not belief everything you read.” (pg. 63)
“It is a myth to think the body uses up nutrients and micronutrients quickly and excretes what is left. As we have studied thus far, nutrient excretion rates easily and quickly change from rapid when intakes are excessive; to very low excretion rates when intakes are low. Moreover, nutrient and macronutrient turnover is drastically reduced during times of increased need or decreased nutrient availability. This delicate balance of the body’s tremendous ingenuity once again begs the questions for supplement consumers, ‘how much are you willing to spend, for more nutrient-dense, feces and urine?’
It is also a myth to think because a certain nutrient or micronutrient plays a specific biological role, then taking more of it will enhance that role or effect. (for example, bodybuilders taking zinc to enhance testosterone metabolism)
However, absorption, excretion, and retention adaptations, are not enough to protect the people who ingest large doses of supplements. The body didn’t have any supra-physiological doses available in nature. Sometimes, mega-dosing therefore can exhaust or surpass the body’s abilities, as we will study.” (pg. 71)
What always baffles my mind is how emotionally attached (addicted?) people become to supplementation. I know what you’re thinking – “this doesn’t apply to me” – so I challenge you to stop all supplements for 3-4 weeks. Are you down?