Is a weight lifting supplement necessary if you are a serious athlete? Do the popular weight lifting supplements available today really make a difference in health or performance?
Some fitness experts highly recommended athletes use a weight training supplement while others say such supplements are unnecessary. Some fitness and nutrition experts even believe some supplements contain ingredients that can be harmful to your health. A registered dietician, exercise physiologist or physician can make specific recommendations about whether or not weight training supplements would help you, but we can share with you some general information about supplements.
Nutrition We Need
While each person may have slightly different nutritional needs – for instance, you may need more calories than I do because you exercise more, but I may need to limit my carbohydrates more than you do because my blood sugar tends to drop – there are some basic building blocks of nutrition that we all need. We all need protein, some fats, complex carbs, and a variety of vitamins and minerals. It’s completely possible to get all of those things from a healthful diet but many of us don’t eat an ideal diet. If you don’t get all the nutrition you need from your diet, you might benefit from a weight training supplement.
What’s in Popular Weight Lifting Supplements?
The ingredients in weight training supplements vary widely, but many of the most popular weight lifting supplements contain protein, vitamins, minerals and creatine. Some contain herbs and some also contain caffeine. Don’t assume all weight training supplements are created equal and don’t assume that just because you buy it in a health food store or because the label contains words like “all natural” that it’s good for you. Read the label of any supplement carefully before deciding to use it.
Popular weight lighting supplements usually contain plenty of protein. We need protein to build and maintain muscles as well as repair any stress or damaged inflicted on muscles during strenuous workouts. Look for a weight training supplement that contains whey protein isolate, whey protein concentrate, soy protein isolate or a combination of those three types of protein because that’s what you’ll absorb best. Don’t go for the supplements that promise huge amounts of protein in one serving, like 60 grams of protein in an eight ounce shake. You don’t need that much protein at once and you’ll just be packing in extra calories.
Vitamins and Minerals
Many weight lifting supplements contain a variety of vitamins and minerals. Things like vitamin A and vitamin C help build and repair muscles, while vitamin B12 increases your energy level. If you eat a varied diet and especially if you take a multivitamin supplement daily, you don’t need to worry too much about what vitamins or minerals are found in your weight lifting supplement. However, you should be cautious about choosing a supplement that contains very large amounts of any one vitamin or mineral; the fact that you lift weights or play basketball may mean you need a bit more nutrition than the average person but it does not mean you need hundreds or thousands times more than the recommended daily allowance of any vitamins or minerals.
Many popular weight lifting supplements contain caffeine, to boost your energy. Caffeine does give you a burst of energy initially, although people often complain of “crashing” later on when the initial effects of caffeine wear off. In addition, caffeine can cause restlessness, irritability, insomnia, anxiety and an irregular heartbeat.
Many weight training supplements also contain creatine, meant to increase stamina and endurance. Studies show that creatine helps build muscle, but it also has some harmful side effects, especially when used in excess. It can lead to stomach problems, muscle cramps, irritability, restlessness and aggression.
Read the labels of any supplements carefully before you use them and make sure you understand the risks and benefits of all ingredients. Ask your doctor if you have questions.