Dietary supplements are available at your local mom and pop grocery store, at large retail chains such as Meijer, and at every big and small supplement store in the country, if not the world. Supplement usage is widespread and the industry behind it is big, with hundreds of billions of dollars spent by consumers worldwide. While supplements can have a place in a training and nutrition plan, all too often people use supplements they do not need. Here are three of the top reasons why you do not need that supplement.
1. Your training program is lacking
Common goals for a training plan include:
- Build strength
- Improve performance
- Run faster
- Run further
- Build muscle
- Improve endurance
- Get fit
Each goal depends on a training plan. The exact plan for each varies based on the goal type or combination of goals. A training plan for building strength will be different from one for running faster and both plans will be different from one that targets building strength and running faster. The plan should be thought out, well designed, and goal specific. To be a bit more specific, the plan should
- Program for the goal (specificity)
- Account for situational factors (individual differences)
- Create a structured plan (periodization)
- Make the program progressive (progressive overload)
- Manage intensity and recovery (fatigue management)
These are common points all trainers, coaches, or other persons professionally designing program take into consideration. We covered these in more detail in the blog post “Things to consider when designing or selecting a training program”, which you can read here. If your program does not include these aspects, you are winging it at the gym and need to improve your program. No amount of supplementation will change that.
This does not mean you need to design the program or even that you need to consider the above points. You can follow a program in a training app, download a template, or work with a trainer who will consider the points and create a solid plan for you.
Again, the plan should be thought out, well designed, and goal specific. At the same time, you need to put in effort. If you always put minimal effort into a well-designed workout program, you are not going to see the best results. No amount of supplementation will change that. For example:
- Taking a pre-workout supplement can help get you stimulated (“jacked’) and focused for training, but if you do not work hard, that stimulation is wasted.
- A hormonal supplement may help you boost testosterone, which can aid strength development, build muscle, and improve performance, among other benefits such as better recovery, but if you never put in hard work, you are not going to receive the maximum benefit. Such products work best in the presence of hard training using a solid plan.
- A weight gainer can help increase caloric intake to build muscle, but if you never push the muscles to the point where the body is encouraged to build muscle, then you may just put on fat, and your money as well as time will be wasted as you move in the wrong direction (away from your goal).
A thought out, well designed, and goal specific training plan is needed for any physical goal. You must put in the effort to make the most of such a plan. If you do not have a plan and put in the necessary effort, supplementation will yield little to no benefit and you may just have expensive pee, since you are pissing your money away.
2. Your nutrition plan needs work
Supplementation is meant to be an addition to proper nutrition or viewed as part of the bigger nutrition strategy. Supplementation is not meant to take the place of proper nutrition or to somehow magically fix issues with your nutrition plan.
If you have a poor nutrition strategy, or even worse you do not have one and just eat whatever, then you should not supplement. You need to fix your nutrition plan first, and then if progress is not ideal, consider adding supplementation, given that there is not another issues that needs corrected, such as your training plan.
Too many people think supplements are a fix for crappy diets or that supplementation is “needed” to achieve results. Neither point is true. Want to lose weight but you are not in a calorie deficit? That fat burner will not work. Fix your nutrition. Want to build muscle and are already eating a caloric surplus but your training program sucks? That mass builder will not help. Fix your training program. Stop looking for the quick fix. It does not exist, no matter what a popular YouTuber or Instagrammer tells you.
Every day we help people achieve results without supplements. We do not sell supplements. We do not push supplements in any way. We are not against supplements, but the products need to be used correctly as an addition to a proper training and nutrition plan.
You might wonder if we use supplements. Yes, but the only thing we use regularly are a few vitamin and mineral supplements. We are not sucking down 3 protein shakes or mass gainer shakes per day, we do not use pre-workout supplements (though we do like caffeine/coffee pre-workout), and we do not use handful of hormonal boosters, fat burners, or similar products. While we might add a supplement in here and there for a short time, it is never to fix our diet or to overcome bad programing, it is as an addition to a good training and nutrition program.
3. You are inconsistent
If you are inconsistent with you training and nutrition, no amount of supplementation is going to significantly change your progress. Supplements support consistent training and nutrition work, but do not magically create results.
For example, if you want to lose weight and take a fat burner or appetite suppressant to help, but still eat above your caloric need while doing so, the supplements will have no benefit. You will have expensive pee, since you are pissing your money away.
By that logic, if you take a pre-workout supplement and weight gainer to help you smash workouts and put on muscle, but always lift with low intensity or regularly miss workout, you will not perform well or add the muscle you want. In fact, you might lose muscle and gain fat. Again, you will have expensive pee.
The only way to achieve results is to consistently put in work. Whether you, us, or the fitness personalities you see online, this logic applies. We got to where we are due to putting in work consistently over time. The fitness personalities you see on Instagram and other media channels got to where they are due to putting in work consistently over time, regardless of the supplements they tell you they use and try to sell to you.
There are no shortcuts. If your training is lacking, if your nutrition, is lacking, if you are inconsistent, or even worse, if all three apply, you are not going to reach your goals or the process will take much longer than needed. No amount of supplementation will change this. If you want to reach your goals, put in the work.
Nathan DeMetz holds degrees in Exercise Science, Business Administration, and Information Technology as well as certifications in strength and conditioning, sports nutrition, run coaching, and other areas. His credentials come from organizations such as Indiana Wesleyan University, Ivy Tech College, and the International Sports Sciences Association. Nathan has 17 years of personal and professional experience in the health and fitness world. He works with people from across the globe, including locations such as Kuwait, Australia, and the USA.