Knowing What Supp!

The following is a guest post by Chris Burgess a personal trainer and nutrition expert from the United Kingdom.  He is here to begin a series of posts that tackle one of the most common questions personal trainers get; What supplements should I be taking?  I am glad he is here to shed some light on this topic for us.

Whether it’s a body composition client, an athlete or someone looking to simply improve their health, in every consultation I do with a new trainee one of the first questions I am asked is, “Are there any supplements I should be taking?”

Knowing What Supp!

by Chris Burgess

The supplement industry is huge and shows no signs of slowing – but are they worth the hype or do they fail to live up to the investment in money & faith that people put in them?

The answer to this question isn’t simple. The reason why it is not simple is because I don’t know a thing about your lifestyle or diet, so making a general statement that you should be using a supplement is pretty useless.

Things to consider before spending your money on a supplement are:

1)  What is lacking in my diet, and why can’t it be fixed with food?

2)  What Vitamins and minerals am I deficient in, and can they be fixed with food?

3)  Do I get a great quality of sleep?

4)  Is my training performance at a plateau?

The answer to some of the questions above are easy, some of them not so much, for example: the only real way to know if you are deficient in a particular vitamin is to be tested by your physician or a certified nutritionist.

There are some vitamins that people are increasingly deficient in though – Vitamin D in particular is a hugely important vitamin and it can only really be obtained by sunlight exposure, so those of you in sunny locations who get exposure to at least an hour of sunlight per day are more than likely to have great vitamin D levels and therefore the need to supplement diminishes hugely. For people who live in colder, darker locations and work in offices 10 hours per day and see very little direct sunlight – your need to supplement with vitamin D is MUCH higher and therefore the potential benefits that you’ll get compared to someone who lives near a beach is also much higher.

Get Some Sun

Of course it’s impossible to mention the word supplement without people thinking of Whey Protein. Both of these supplements hold fantastic benefits for some, but not all athletes – again it all depends on a person’s start point. Let’s say for example that an athlete needs to grow muscle – the general recommendation for protein intake would be somewhere between 1-1.5g of protein per lb of bodyweight:

Person A weighs 200lb – Therefore would need 200-300g protein per day

Person B weighs 150lb – Therefore would need 150-200g protein per day

Let’s face it, Person A having to eat 300g protein per day takes A LOT of doing! Even guys with a huge appetite may struggle with that amount – added to that fact, food also gets expensive when you have to eat as much as that – approximately 10 chicken breasts per day! So adding a good quality whey protein can help person A hit their protein targets AND save them money as the cost per serving is much lower than food.

Person B has a much easier task to hit their protein targets, so the need to supplement goes down hugely from a physique perspective, but could potentially still be useful from a cost perspective.

whey protein

The problem with the supplement industry is that it isn’t policed anywhere near enough, so some suppliers make crazy claims – my advice is that if something seems too good to be true with a supplement, it likely is. The best way to know if a supplement has any research behind it, and if that research is robust and free from bias is to use Examine.

For those of you who are competitive athletes, remember that if you are using a supplement you must ensure that the brand you use has independent testing done on their products – more and more athletes are picking up bans because they are using supplements that don’t state their full ingredient list – and are later finding out that some of the “magic ingredients” are on banned substance lists.

In my next article I will go into whether Creatine is a safe product (For those of you who check out you’ll know what the answer will be!), why Fat isn’t the bad guy it’s made out to be, and whether carbs are unfairly getting bad PR.

In the mean time if you have any questions, please feel free to tweet me @chrisburgesspt


Chris Burgess is a Personal Trainer based at The University of Bath’s amazing Sports Training Village

His website Chris Burgess PT  is designed to help as many people as possible lead a fit and healthy lifestyle, so if you are looking for some ideas on exercise and nutrition then you’ll find plenty of content here to get you started.

Chris Burgess