By definition, a supplement is ‘added to something in order to enhance or complete it’. In a perfect world, I do not believe that supplementation is necessary: if we all had access to nutritionally dense food, ate perfectly, our environment wasn’t polluted with toxins and chemicals, we were never exposed to pharmaceutical drug, and we were never affected by physical, emotional or lifestyle stressors. Unfortunately, this perfect world doesn’t exist.
This does not mean that I recommend supplements to everyone. Supplements do not fix a poor diet, and they are not sustainable meal replacements. There is a time and a place for them, but until you have understood and addressed the basics of sound nutrition and lifestyle practices, supplements will be a waste of time and money. Worst case scenario, they can even cause health complications. And just like with training and nutrition, supplementation is a very individual process. I suggest asking your GP or naturopath for a simple blood test that could help determine any vitamin/mineral deficiencies and/or hormonal imbalances.
The most common supplements I get asked about are protein shakes and fat burners.
To be honest, I very rarely recommend protein shakes, especially for women. If I do recommend them, it’s post-workout for recovery, and they will be vegan in base (pea protein is ideal). I tend to avoid whey protein as it’s commonly included in the top food allergen lists (many people are lactose intolerant), and it tends to cause a big spike in blood sugar which isn’t ideal for fat loss. However, if your aim was to build lean muscle mass or size, or you struggle to eat enough throughout the day, then protein shakes are not only a convenient source of calories, but the protein is much more easily utilised by the body in liquid form.
When it comes to fat burners, you need to be more careful. Thermogenics which are stimulant based are effective short-term, but can also be dangerous if the user has health issues, is caffeine sensitive or they are not cycled correctly. The safer option is to opt for a more natural alternative like L-Carnitine, which effectively encourages the body to shuttle fat into the cells to use as fuel. I use the pre-workout Ignite by FitMiss which contains all my favorites: L-carnitine for fat loss, caffeine for focus and beta alanine for the tingle!
The best advice I could give is to make sure you go for quality over cost (avoid supermarket brands), and introduce them one at a time to see how your body reacts to each one. My recommended brands are Bioceuticals, Metagenics and Poliquin, and I order them all through myvitaminpacks.com.au.
Here is what I’d suggest to start you off:
1. A pharmaceutical grade probiotic. Your gut is your second brain, so its health should always come first.
2. A good multivitamin to address any nutritional deficiencies and aid in detoxification.
3. Fish oils. You need fat to burn fat, and they are natural anti-inflammatories.
4. Magnesium in the evenings for recovery, quality sleep and stress management.