weekly column by fitness experts Adam Wright and Jacqui Watson for the Waterford News & Star, in association with Kingfisher Fitness Club
“SHOULD I be taking protein?” I get asked on a fairly regular basis. Questions about other supplements come up regularly as well. Often enough that I thought some of you might like to hear some basics on the subject. So let’s talk about it!
There’s this pyramid or hierarchy you’ll see on a fairly regular basis if you spend as much time looking at fitness content online as I do. It’s pictured here and much like other diagrams of this type the larger lower layers matter more than the higher smaller layer. If you don’t have the lower layers in good working order then worrying about the higher layers is going to be less useful than sorting the lower layers. And you can see “supplements” way up there at the very top/least important layer. So that’s your first clue as to how much focus you should put on supplementation. Having said that there are some that are useful (others not so much/only in certain circumstances) and I’d like to go through some of them here.
Building muscle/toning up requires adequate protein. Whey protein (or filtered milk) can be really useful when it comes to achieving this. More often than not when I work with people on their nutrition they start out not really eating enough protein. Whey protein is a simple and (if you shop carefully) cheap way of upping your protein intake. It usually has a great amino acid profile and absorbs easily for most people (it is dairy based so if you have trouble with dairy it may not suit you). It’s not magic, it isn’t medicine, you don’t even really “take” it… you drink it, like milk. It’s a tin of tuna or a chicken breast that’s easier to eat/drink in the office as an afternoon snack. In my opinion it should be reclassified as a food as opposed to a supplement. That being said you don’t need it (I can’t remember the last time I drank a protein shake) if you get sufficient protein from your food.
Creatine is probably the most widely researched supplement ever. It has loads of benefits (I’ll let you google the others yourself) one of the biggest being improved performance during high intensity exercise. Basic creatine monohydrate is all you need if you’re going to give it a try. It’s suitable for almost everyone regardless of fitness level or gender. Take it with plenty of water. It can cause stomach upset and has been reported to cause water retention in some people, you won’t know unless you give it a try. Just like whey protein, you do not need to use it but there isn’t really a reason not to at least give it a try if you want to.
Branched-chain amino acids and essential amino acids (as supplements) are another form of protein and are very popular, but lack a lot of actual proof that they’re beneficial. Like whey protein they’re unnecessary if you’re getting enough protein from your food. They may have some benefits for vegans or vegetarians that might be missing some aminos acids from their nutrition but for most people there are cheaper ways to flavour your water.
Pre Workout supplements are stimulants. Usually large doses of caffeine and other things like beta- alanine that give you an energy boost/mask fatigue before and during training sessions. Can they work? Sure. Are they necessary? No, not at all. In fact I’d go so far as to say for general exercisers (including myself) a good night’s sleep and an Americano before training might be better for you. They can become less effective over time and they can become something people rely on. Managing fatigue better would be my preferred strategy, as opposed to masking it with stimulants, but try them if you want to. Just remember, like almost everything on this list, they aren’t necessary.
And last but not least, multivitamins and other similar things. Supplements do exactly that… supplement your existing nutrition, fill out things that might be missing. Taking a daily multivitamin is unlikely to be harmful (although talking to your doctor before embarking on any form of supplementation would be advisable) and could help prevent deficiencies. Omega 3 oils might be worth considering if you don’t eat much fish. Vitamin D could also be beneficial in this country as we don’t get massive amounts of sunlight, and vitamin C might also be recommended if you don’t eat much fruit. It’s been reported that there has been an increase in occurrences of rickets and scurvy in recent years suggesting Vitamin D and C deficiencies are becoming more widespread. Again, not absolutely necessary, but unlikely to be harmful either and usually not expensive (supermarket brands are fine in my opinion, other people might suggest otherwise… just be cautious if they give you a discount code for the more expensive version… it probably means they’re earning commission).
So yeah, supplements. In order of priority they come after everything else on that pyramid. And even then they aren’t necessary. I’ve taken/used/eaten all of these at one time or another during my life. Nowadays it’s vitamin D, vitamin C, omega 3, and a multivitamin. If you have questions after reading this send me a message on Facebook or Instagram @AdamWrightPT or come talk to me at one of my classes.
You can find the Kingfisher Club’s class timetable at waterford.kingfisherclub.com as well as more information on the facilities and services we provide. Have a great week!