There are a lot of myths and misconceptions floating around when it comes to supplements. As more and more people look to supplements to help them reach their fitness goals, it's important to separate fact from fiction. Here are some of the most common supplement myths debunked:
1. Supplements Are Unnecessary If You're Eating A Healthy Diet.
This is one of the biggest myths- no lies, that people tell themselves, especially women. The fact is, even if you’re eating a so-called “healthy diet”, chances are you are still not getting all the nutrients your body needs to function optimally. This is because our food supply is seriously lacking of nutrients, due to things like soil depletion, pesticide use, and other factors. Even if you are eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, you might not be getting enough of the nutrients you need, owing to the sheer quantity you might need to consume.
2. Supplements Are Only For People Who Are Trying To Gain Muscle.
No. this is the equivalent of saying that good nutrition is only for people who work out. Everyone can benefit from taking supplements, regardless of their fitness goals. Whether you’re looking to build muscle, lose fat, or simply improve your overall health, there are supplements that can help.
3. Protein Supplements Are Only For Bodybuilders.
Nope. Try again. Yes, bodybuilders do fall high on the scale of people that are likely to consume the most protein supplements, but they are certainly not the only ones that can benefit from them. If you are lacking in protein, it doesn’t matter what your fitness goals are- protein supplements can help.
Vegetarians, the elderly, or anyone who needs to increase protein intake can benefit from using well-timed supplements, so don't allow anyone to tell you otherwise.
4. Creatine Is Bad For Your Kidneys.
There has been a lot of controversy surrounding creatine and its potential side effects, but the truth is, there is no evidence that creatine is bad for your kidneys. In fact, creatine has been shown to actually improve kidney function in people with kidney diseases.
Creatine is actually one of only a handful of supplements that has been meticulously studied and tested, so you can be confident in its safety and efficacy.
There are, however, some people that don't seem to respond well to creatine supplementation since they might have had a diet naturally high in it prior to starting supplementation (diets high in red meat, for example).
5. If You're Not Training Hard, Supplements Won't Do Anything For You.
This one might sound like it makes some sense, but it's also very conditional. There are some supplements that can help you train harder, and there are others that can help you recover from training better. So even if you're not working out as hard as you could be, certain supplements might still give you a boost.
Plus, there might be other uses for supplements that don't relate to training at all, such as taking a superfood powder in order to help meet daily recommended intake of fruits and veggies.
6. All Protein Powders Are The Same.
No, they aren’t. If you have ever tried more than one protein powder, you know this to be true. Not all protein powders are created equal- some taste better than others, mix better, and have different nutrient profiles.
When choosing a protein powder, it's important to find one that meets your specific needs. If you're vegan or lactose intolerant, for example, you'll want to find a protein powder that suits your dietary restrictions. If you're looking for a protein powder to help you build muscle, you'll want to find one that has a good ratio of protein to carbs and fat.
Speed is also another consideration, as some protein powders are designed to be digested and absorbed more quickly than others. Whey protein is the perfect example of a fast-acting protein, while casein is a slow-acting protein.
On the flip side, other types such as collagen protein are marketed as being more bioavailable, meaning that your body can actually utilize more of the protein you're consuming. Its amino acid spectrum might be superior for recuperation as well.
7. Supplements Are Expensive.
This one is relative. When you compare the price of supplements to the price of other things, we regularly spend money on, such as coffee or going out to eat, they don't seem so bad. And when you consider the potential health benefits of taking supplements, they become even more cost-effective.
Of course, there are always going to be some that are more expensive than others, but that doesn't mean they're not worth the investment. In fact, many of the most expensive supplements on the market might be the most effective.
It's just the cost that comes with the territory when you consider research and marketing that goes into a product, plus a profit margin. But this doesn't mean that all of them are worth it either- some are notoriously overpriced with very little research to back up their claims.
You just have to be a savvy shopper and do your research before you buy anything.
8. Carbs Are Bad For You And Will Make You Fat.
Maybe, or maybe not. It depends on the person.
For some people, a high-carb diet can actually help them lose weight and improve their performance in the gym. This is because carbs are the body's preferred source of fuel, so when they're properly fueled, they can train harder and longer.
On the other hand, there are people who do better on a low-carb diet. This is because they tend to be more insulin-resistant, meaning that their bodies process carbs less efficiently. For these people, too many carbs can lead to weight gain.
The bottom line is that it really depends on the person. There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to nutrition. But remember, if you increase intake of said macronutrient without working out even harder to make use of it, getting fat is a sure thing.
9. Fat Burners Are A Waste Of Time.
We can see where this myth comes from. Setting too high expectations. It's not like a fat-burning supplement will magically melt away all your body fat while you sit on the couch watching TV.
But if you're using a fat burner in combination with a healthy diet and exercise program, it can help you lose weight by increasing your metabolism and reducing your appetite.
Just remember that there are no shortcuts to weight loss- it still takes hard work and discipline. That means you also need to do your part, and the fat burners can help you do a little bit more than you would normally be capable of.
10. You Don't Need A Post-Workout Supplement, Just Eat Some Protein After Your Workout.
This is a classic. I actually grew up with my dad telling me this, and that I was wasting too much money on supplements. Turns out, you don't know everything dad *rolls eyes*.
The fact is, your body is in a state of repair after you work out. This means that it's primed to absorb nutrients and put them to use repairing your muscles.
The man of the hour at that time is speed. Can you eat a whole meal? Sure, you can. But you'll be disappointed to know that you missed some prime real estate for amino acid and glucose absorption into muscle cells.
This is why a fast-digesting protein and carb beverage is the superior choice at this time. And if you want to get really fancy, you can add some BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids) to the mix which will further help in muscle recovery.
Then, an hour or so afterward, still have that muscle-building post-workout meal to keep the growth engine churning.
11. Herbal Supplements Are Safer Because They Are All-Natural.
No, no, no. I am not sure where this belief gained such a massive following from, but if I were to guess, it would be some naturopath nut (no offense!)
Yes, we will never argue against the fact that natural is "supposed" to be better than synthetic/artificial supplements, but you have to take into account the particular supplement we are talking about.
For instance, a whole food multivitamin is better than a synthetic lab-made version, when it comes to bioavailability and absorption.
Now, comparing something like Vitamin C (synthetic) against an herbal immune booster like the elderberry might be more contentious.
Why? Because vitamin C is virtually non-toxic, irrespective of the dose you take. Elderberry, the "natural" candidate, has a narrow therapeutic window and is more likely to not play nice with other supplements and medications you might be on.
Not to mention, we have mountains of evidence backing up the efficacy of Vitamin C, while we only have traditional use to go on for elderberry.
Do you see what we're getting to here?
Just because a supplement is "natural" doesn't make it inherently safe or more effective than its synthetic counterpart, or compared to a lab-made product.
12. You Can't Overdose On Dietary Supplements
This is a belief I see all the time. Because it contains the word "dietary" on the label, it's automatically assumed that it's approved as part of your diet.
This is absolutely false and downright dangerous.
Dietary supplements are not stringently regulated in the same way that foods and drugs are. So, that means it's possible to buy a supplement that contains way more of the active ingredient than what's on the label.
Take, for instance, a weight loss supplement called Acacia Rigidula. This supplement was recently found to contain BMPEA, an amphetamine-like stimulant not listed on the label.
What's more, this stimulant isn't even safe for human consumption!
The moral of the story here is that you really need to do your research on a supplement before taking it. Just because it's available for purchase, doesn't make it safe.
And then, there's the more specific case of vitamins and minerals. I've seen people stacking several different multi-vitamins together, but inadvertently overconsuming many of the vitamins and minerals, which might be dangerous in the case of micro-minerals and fat-soluble vitamins.
Out of all the micronutrients, Vitamins B and C are the only relatively safe ones, as excesses are eliminated via the urine.
The others are sequestered in fat tissue and may take months to slowly deplete. Overdosage is also more difficult to treat since there might still be excesses stored in fat for later use.
Do not go over the recommended amounts for any supplement, at least not before consulting with your pharmacist or doctor.
13. Pre-Workouts Are Dangerous
They might be. But for the majority of healthy adults that take them, they are not. Yes, many are timebombs loaded with caffeine, and if you possess a particular sensitivity to stimulants, they could lead to a hospital visit.
But for the vast majority of people, taking a little caffeine before their workout won't do much more than give them an extra edge in their performance.
Moreover, some newer pre-workouts have taken a more benign approach by using ingredients like beetroot juice and citrulline malate, which can improve performance without resorting to stimulants.
To each their own with this one; I personally have a very high tolerance to stimulants and struggle with energy and drive if I don't have my pre workout.
14. You Should Take A Break From Supplements Every Once In A While.
You really don't need to.
This is a common misconception that stems from the way drugs are regulated. Drugs, by their very nature, are foreign substances introduced into the body with the purpose of having a therapeutic effect.
Dietary supplements, on the other hand, are just that: dietary. They provide essential nutrients needed for various biological functions, and as such, there is no need to "cycle" them or take breaks from them.
Now, if you feel like you need a break from your supplements for whatever reason, that's perfectly fine. But know that it isn't necessary to do so in order to keep your body functioning properly.
Also- most supplements do not suffer from a reduction in potency as is believed, with the exception of some ergogenic aids such as caffeine.
Dietary supplements can be a great way to improve your health and performance, but only if they're used correctly.
Make sure you do your research before taking any supplement, and always consult with your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions.
And finally, don't believe everything you hear! There are a lot of myths perpetuated as a result of sheer ignorance or "bro-science" that can lead you down the wrong path.
If you take anything away from this article, let it be this: supplement intelligently, and always err on the side of caution.