Dietary supplements should be used to assist you in achieving your calories, macronutrients and micronutrients goals. The extent of the effects of the dietary supplements depends on how natural they are and where the source of nutrients is taken from (animal or plant).
You can get all the nutrients you need from the food that you eat, unless a medical professional tells you that you can’t and require dietary supplements. This is why it is always recommended that you contact a physician before using any supplements.
The dietary supplements that I have personally used in my life is mass gainers, whey protein, creatine and Omega-3 tablets. These are the ones that I will be looking at in this post.
Common Dietary Supplements
- Mass gainers
- Whey protein
- Fish oils
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin B12
1. Pros and Cons of Mass Gainers
Mass gainers are recommended for those that want to build muscle mass. They are also recommended for those that have fast metabolisms and find it difficult to gain size.
To build muscle mass you have eat more calories than you burn, eat a lot of protein and a progressive overload when you train. Make sure you take the recommended serving size, unless you need extra to reach your macro goals.
- High in calories and protein: they are high in calories and protein, which is ideal for the muscle mass gainers. They source most of their calories from carbs, which is best when you don’t want to gain fat.
- Lack of knowledge: not knowing how many calories you need to sustainably build muscle can be detrimental to your fitness goals. When you drink mass gainers, ensure that they’re within your calorie goals to prevent gaining more fat than intended.
2. Pros and Cons of Whey Protein
The intended use of whey protein is to increase your protein intake. The different types of whey protein are concentrate and isolate. Isolate undergoes more processing which results in it having less carbs and fat and more protein than concentrate. It is also makes it usually more expensive.
Whey protein is usually low in calories, therefore it is recommended that you use it whether you want to build muscle or lose fat. It is ideal if you want to lose fat and maintain a calorie deficit.
Make sure you take the recommended serving size, unless you need extra to reach your macro goals.
- High in protein: They are high in protein which makes them great in supplementing your protein intake, if you don’t get enough from food. Always look for a whey protein that has at least 75% protein of its total grams on the package. E.g. 900g whey protein, with 27 servings. In this case, the protein should at least have 25g of protein since 900 x 75% = 675 which divided by 27 = 25.
- Stomach discomfort: depending on eating time and source quality, whey protein leaves you bloated or with stomach cramps that can be uncomfortable. The issue subsides on it’s own. It is usually due to the enzymes in whey protein that your stomach find difficult to digest (sometimes from cow’s milk too). I recommend never taking it on a completely empty stomach and buying some quality protein with good reviews.
3. Pros and Cons of Creatine
Creatine is a natural compound that is produced by the body. It helps recycle the ATP, which provides energy for your cells. When you supplement with creatine, you enhance your performance in training and sports.
It is low in calories and macros, since it is a natural compound that is taken in small quantities, so it doesn’t. Take the recommended dosages to reduce the cons.
- Increases muscle strength and size: due to creatine providing your cells with more energy, your performance in training will improve. This improved energy enhances muscle strength and growth.
- Water retention: when you start using creatine, especially if you undergo the loading phase, your muscle cells pull water. This causes the swelling of your muscles and bloating/weight gain that occurs when you’re using it.
4. Pros and Cons of Omega-3 Oils
These usually come in the form of capsules, they contain Omega-3 fish oils. Always take the recommended dosage to reduce the chances of the cons from occuring.
Their nutritional information in terms of calories and macros is low due to the dosage ranging between 250–500 mg.
- Fights inflammation: when you train, your body undergoes damage that causes inflammation. Omega-3 reduces the molecules that are produced linked to inflammation (swelling).
- Fish taste: these oils leave a fish taste in your mouth. This is something that is not nice, but depending on who you are, can live with.
Reasons to Take Supplements
The common reasons to take supplements are to build muscle or lose fat or a medical condition that requires you to add certain supplements to your diet.
- Building muscle: you want to build muscle and this requires you to eat a lot of protein and/or eat more calories than you burn. The food you eat doesn’t provide you with enough protein then you supplement with high-protein supplements (whey protein, mass gainers etc.). If you want to be in calorie surplus and eat a lot of protein, I recommend using a mass gainer.
- Losing fat: you want to lose fat and this requires you to eat a lot protein and eat less calories than you burn. I recommend using a whey protein for this reason.
- Health conditions: you’d want to use calcium supplements to help keep your bones strong and reduce you bone loss, especially if you generally don’t have strong bones.
- Overall well-being: some vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids and other dietary supplements enrich your overall well-being. You can get them from food, but if you can enrich your body more for cell reparation, renewal and growth, why not?
Reasons Not to Take Supplements
There are side effects that come from supplements that just make you a bit uncomfortable and there’s some which can dangerous to your overall health. The possible reasons you should not take supplements:
- Allergens: Some supplements are made from or in factories that work with eggs, nuts, fish and cow’s milk etc. which are allergens. They can be dangerous for your health if you’re allergic to the allergens.
- Metabolism: Your metabolism may not work well with supplements, which can result in them not being as effective as you want them to be. E.g. Mass gainers being high in calories, your body may not be able to handle the calorie surplus and you gain more fat than you expected or you may not even gain at all depending on your metabolism.
- Ineffectiveness: There are many dietary supplements that do not contain the nutrients they claim to have on the packaging or they do not contain the mentioned quantities in full. This can lead to you not getting the intended results of the products.
- Value: Supplements can be expensive, this is why it is important to do the necessary research before taking them. Consult medical professionals, check out reviews and ensure that it is worth every penny you pay for it.
- Health conditions: Some supplements affect internal organs. The common organ they may affect is the kidney, which can result in your bladder weakening. Otherwise, if you generally have kidney issues or any other internal organ issues, consult a physician before using any of them.
What You Need to Do Before Using Dietary Supplements
- Do your research on them
- Consult a physician or medical professional
- Read the nutritional information
- Take the recommended dosage