Now, this may seem like a contradiction after our previous blog, where we detailed how, sometimes, food supplements can be superior to ‘actual’ food. However, the clear distinction in this is the word sometimes.
Yes, on occasion, it can be more beneficial to have a food supplement instead of actual food; but this does not make food supplements in any way necessary for the vast majority of us. What we must also make clear at this point is that most food supplements on the market aren’t even worth purchasing.
Unfortunately, the supplement industry is a big business - worth several billion dollars per year, so we should not be surprised that we are told the importance and necessity of hundreds of different nutritional supplements and powders at every turn.
They love to tell us the importance of different supplements, due to the increased concentration / ‘bioavailability’ of specific micronutrients which we definitely need…
However, the evidence just doesn’t back up these claims. Anyone following a well-balanced diet, and without any nutritional deficiencies, will gain very little from supplementing with a multi-vitamin, for example.
Many foods you buy at the supermarket nowadays are already fortified with the same nutrients that are found in multi-vitamins and other supplements, and super-dosing (having higher than needed amounts of something) with micronutrients does not provide additional health benefits.
Now, when supplementation can become important is when we have genuine nutrient deficiencies - however, this is something that should be diagnosed by a medical professional… in which case they will likely be prescribing you the specific nutrient you are lacking (Vitamin D and Iron would be common deficiencies).
In terms of micronutrients (Vitamins and Minerals) it is far more important to try to eat a balanced, varied diet with plenty of fruit, vegetables, whole grains and good protein sources (animal or plant-based) than popping a multi-vitamin every morning.
Now, as we’ve previously stated, there are a few supplements which have been shown to be effective… but that doesn’t necessarily make them a ‘necessary’ part of anyone’s diet. Creatine Monohydrate is great for strength, power and recovery - but is not something everyone (or anyone) actually needs. Whey protein is an excellent source of protein, but if you are able to reach your daily protein requirements without it, there is little to be gained from having a shake every day.
The bottom line is, supplements can have their place in our diets, but don’t believe the marketing hype! The benefits of many supplements are grossly overstated, and most of us don’t need supplements for our health, recovery or performance. Focus on the big things (calorie intake, macronutrient intake, eating plenty of fruit and veg, exercising regularly) and you probably wont need to go looking for nutritional supplements.