Your body and wallet with thank you in the long term.
“Impatience is a hindrance. As with all things if you attempt to take shortcuts, the final destination will rarely be as good…” — Chris Bradford
EDITORIAL DISCLAIMER: Any advice or recommendation given in my writing is what works for ME and may not be the best regimen for you based on your psychological or physiological makeup and stability. Please consult a doctor when making decisions about your health.
When I started working out in 2005, I was your quintessential gym-goer.
I wanted to be as strong as possible as quickly as possible and benching 315 lbs (known as “getting 3 plates” to most gym-goers) was my ultimate desire.
I found myself looking at all the different supplements in the GNC shop and being so confused as to what I was supposed to take versus what was optional based on where I was on my fitness journey.
I remembered reading all the different magazines and the advice of various fitness coaches and thinking how many different things they were taking at one time.
I wanted to be strong and maximize my fitness level, so this appeared to be the way to do that. If I followed the regimen as outlined to me by one of the fitness gurus that I followed, I could easily be in the neighborhood of $200–250/month.
I started by trying as many things as I could afford at the time and, as time progressed, probably did get up to about $150/month in supplements when you added in L-carnitine and a few other pills to the daily routine.
I tapered this down a bit as I learned and landed on the three staples, BCAA’s, creatine, and protein, as the ones that I had to take consistently to have any chance of growing and maximizing my abilities.
As I’ve aged, however, and put more focus on living a more holistic, healthier life, I have now come to the conclusion that supplements are no longer the thing for me for three distinct reasons.
They were just too time-consuming and confusing
When I first started working out and had all the energy in the world, I was always focused on trying to ensure I was doing everything correctly to maximize my gains.
This of course involved reading all the Men’s Health and fitness magazines I could find and then walking through all the advice they would give on what supplements to take and how often.
The challenging part of this was the information could be a bit overwhelming when reading about all the different ways you could utilize them. There were so many different types and various combinations of the ways in which you could combine them that I would find myself not really sure which way to go.
Some articles would say that you didn’t need to load creatine at all and that this was a waste of time, while others would say that if you didn’t load you were missing out on maximum gains in a short amount of time.
You would read some articles that say creatine could be dangerous to the kidneys unless you drank large amounts of water to make sure they’re flushed consistently, while you’ll read others that’ll swear there are no issues at all.
Overall, I just found that the various schools of thought were so confusing that it was easier to just focus on getting the nutrition I needed naturally than going the supplement route.
Also, the time to make and keep track of all the various shakes and pills just started to take up so much time and energy it was too much.
At one point, I was taking up to five shakes a day when you looked at the combination of creatine, BCAA’s, and protein shakes in my regimen, and it just became all too much.
They took away my focus from eating enough nutrients to naturally get what I needed.
Supplements are helpful in that they can give you many of the nutrients your body needs in one quick shake or pill, but they can also be a bit harmful because they can take away your focus from getting these nutrients naturally through your everyday meals.
While it is convenient to be able to take a protein shake that will give you 48 grams of protein in five minutes, it is not as good as consuming a meal that will give you almost that same amount or even less through a meal.
The reason this is true is based on the complexity of food and how, through its natural decomposition in our bodies, we not only get the nutrients that it provides but also the positive side effects of various protective substances that are created during this process.
One group of these substances, known as “phytochemicals,” can help prevent various diseases like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
The three amino acid combinations of leucine, isoleucine, and valine that we get from BCAA’s can be found in many of our everyday foods such as dairy, poultry, fish, legumes, and nuts.
By not falling back on various supplements to provide these nutrients, one is more inclined to stay focused on eating a more well-rounded diet daily to provide these.
This focus will often lead to a more natural balance inside the body, as very few nutrients act alone. Eating foods with a combination of various nutrients usually helps keep the body well-regulated based on how these nutrients will interact with each other over time.
This isn’t something that a fitness supplement can often reproduce.
They are just not necessary for this phase of my life for the price of them
Lastly, the main reason I don’t take fitness supplements anymore is pretty related to what I said at the beginning of this article.
Regardless of the added benefits that it may give to help me get stronger than I may have ever been before, at this stage in my life at 41 years of age, there isn’t much of a reason that I’m looking to get that much stronger for the cost of them.
I’m not going to the Olympics or playing any professional sport, so the thought of having to absolutely max out my physical abilities just isn’t something that makes sense to me anymore.
Therefore, as long as I’m able to stay in good shape and consistently improve upon my calisthenics routine to have more functional, day-to-day strength, I feel that I’m in a good spot.
To get and improve upon this level of strength, I just don’t need the large gains that come from taking supplements like BCAA’s and creatine anymore.
It is much easier for me to be able to get the 120–160 grams of protein I need to maintain this lifestyle to be able to lift my bodyweight consistently, as opposed to the 200–240 grams I was recommended when I was lifting heavy daily.
Therefore, when I think about the extra cost of adding this to my monthly bill (conservatively we are talking an extra $100/month), I just don’t think it’s necessary anymore.
This now allows me to just put that extra money away for whatever purpose I desire and get all that time back to focus on just living an overall more wholesome and healthier life — something that’s way more important than benching 315 lbs now.