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Supplements! The Good, The Bad or the Ugly?

This blog takes you through the basics behind supplements, what they are and how they can either help you in your healthy lifestyle


The Role of Supplements in the Diet

Dietary supplements should play a very small role in your diet, if any. Consumption is unlikely to have a significant impact on your overall dietary success and certainly will not be the deciding factor influencing whether or not you achieve your goals. However the use of some supplements may play a role in the diet that food source perhaps cannot and may aid health, improve performance, recovery ability and body composition.


Reasons For and Against

Before adding any dietary supplements to your diet you should thoroughly research the product and consider all possible advantages and disadvantages. If you would like further guidance can have a chat with your doctor or contact me here  

There are many reasons why some supplements perhaps should be considered and can be very useful in playing their part iin helpin your body work efficiently. For example, some dietary supplements such as Vitamin B complexes, D and Omega 3 fish oils may serve to avoid nutrient deficiencies in your diet

Likewise, some sports supplements such as caffeine and creatine have extensive evidence demonstrating their performance enhancing effects which could give you a competitive advantage in your sport. I also think that easy to consume protein based products may be a convenient tool for athletes who struggle to balance training, work and their social life and lack cooking time. And of course, some supplements must be consumed with water and so will increase your water consumption without any real conscious effort

On the other hand, there are several reasons that could be used to argue that supplements should not be considered. Many come with a significant financial cost that you could argue could be invested in your diet prioritising nutrient dense foods

Another consideration is the risk of contamination as many companies do not offer batch tested products at an affordable price, if at all. Many believe that supplements go against the ethos of sport and competition, further separating certain athletes from a “level playing field”

Finally, ‘celebrity’ endorsement has created an industry where the quality of a brand is based upon the athletes they sponsor, not the products. Many people can be mislead into buying products their idols endorse rather than doing their own research and coming to a personal informed decision

Whether you decide to take a supplement or not is your decision. YOU are responsible for YOUR decision and any consequences! The purpose of this blog is not to recommend for or against the consumption of specific dietary supplements, instead I want to provide another information source that can be used as part of your own research

So let's go through some of what's on offer out there ....

Whey Protein

Whey protein sources rank very highly on the biological availability index - particularly whey isolates - meaning our bodies are well able to absorb and utilize the majority of the protein content. They are also high in the essential amino acids and the branched chain amino acids leucine, isoleucine and valine which are very important for building and retaining muscle mass. Whilst consumption of whey protein sources is likely to be safe for healthy individuals and there is limited evidence of any long term effects of consumption

Mass Gainer

‘Mass Gainers’ are an alternative sports supplement to whey protein. Typically these products are extremely energy dense, often containing over 1,000 calories. These are products are often marketed towards those who struggle to consume enough food to create positive energy balance

Whilst these products usually contain a blend of protein sources and little fat, the majority of the energy content comes from refined carbohydrate sources such as maltodextrin. A potential health concern is the considerable rise in insulin levels post consumption. Frequent consumption of such products alongside a poor diet over long time periods could enhance the risk of insulin resistance and consequent health concerns

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is classified as a non-essential vitamin as our bodies are able to produce it naturally following exposure to sunlight. It can also be found be found in food sources such as oily fish and eggs

Ensuring adequate levels of Vitamin D is critically important for regulating calcium levels. Any deficiency may result in rickets or osteoporosis; both of these conditions are detrimental to health and may increase the risk on bone fractures

Some sources recommend supplementing at least 600IU/day, perhaps more for those who are particularly susceptible to low calcium levels or bone fractures. However this may not be necessary if you can get exposure to sunlight.  This however, is dependant upon a number of factors such as length of time exposed to sunlight, the area of the body exposed - are you in a shorts and a vest or jeans and a long sleeve shirt? Also the the time of day, air pollution and geographical factor also come into play

Fish Oil

Omega-3 fatty acids are examples of essential fatty acids. Essential fatty acids are those that cannot be made by our bodies and so must be consumed in the diet, 2 crucial examples include EPA and DHA which are typically found in fish produce

Omega-3 fatty acid consumption has significant health benefits, such as reducing inflammation, reducing blood triglyceride levels as well as playing a key role in organ and immune system function. Consumption is especially for those who put their bodies through the stress of high intensity exercise or weight training

Supplementation may be beneficial for those who do not regularly consume fish produce or other sources. However those who are considering supplementation should consider the ratio of Omega-3 to omega-6 and 9 fatty acids in such products and how this will fit in with their current diet


There are heaps more supplements out there and we've just started to scratch the surface in this blog, so if you have any questions then just drop me an email here and I'll be happy to try and help you make the choice that's right for you and your goals!