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To Supplement Or Not To Supplement

To Supplement Or Not To Supplement

To supplement or not to supplement, that is the question. Now thing about this question is that it moves quickly from rational to emotional.

There are those who are passionate about their view that there is no need for supplementation. Their rationale is that if you eat a balanced diet, you should get all the nutrients you need from your food.

Often these people view the sale of supplements as a big scam and can’t see beyond that. And the truth is that they do actually have a point. So many supplements do very little and cost quite a substantial amount of money.

On the other hand you have some people who are passionate advocates for supplementation. The most notable example I can think of is one Dr Rhonda Patrick, a research scientist and occasional guest on  Joe Rogan podcasts. She has stated that some of the scientific studies that say there are no discernible benefits from supplementation are demonstrably flawed (One of the Joe Rogan podcasts, I don’t know which one).

Now, let’s tear apart the no supplementation argument. The first flaw with this argument is the ‘if’ in the middle of it. ‘If’ you are eating a balanced diet.

I would say that very few people eat a balanced diet as defined by government food triangles throughout the western world. In Australia I believe the figure is that only 20 per cent of people get the recommended amount of fruit and veg.

Issue number two  was identified a long time ago by Dr Fred Hatfield, AKA Dr squat, who squatted a world record 1014lbs. The issue is that even if you do eat a diet optimised to get all of the micro nutrients you require, the level of micro nutrients in the food are not guaranteed. Various factors such as the soil quality in which vegetables are grown and the amount of time produce has been sitting on the shelf and in store rooms can affect nutrient levels.

Issue number three is that in many circumstances, doing strenuous exercise can rapidly use up the available supply of a certain nutrient, causing a deficit that can affect exercise recovery. It is my opinion that the best way to improve at any given sport is to improve your recovery, so eschewing supplementation may impede your progress. That is the last thing we want to do.

The question then becomes how do you know what to take and what not to take? As usual it becomes a case what is necessary to achieve your goals.

For example, I believe that one of the most important supplements you can take if you exercise strenuously is magnesium. Magnesium is vital to the production of energy in cells and as a result is rapidly depleted by exercise. I recommend that you always supplement with magnesium if you work out.

Another example is glutamine. Glutamine is an amino acid that is fairly abundant in food. But once again, exercise depletes glutamine levels. If you want to recover from exercise more quickly it simply makes sense to supplement with glutamine.

So that is my view on supplementation. Use them when it is apparent that they offer you a benefit that you are not getting from your diet and when they offer you a specifically defined benefit as in the two examples I have given.

Image source: Mr. Granger – Own work, CC0,

About The Author


A guy obsessed with stripping down whatever field he studies to get the optimum return from effort expended. Sort of like Tim Ferriss, except with zero fame.

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