Here – take one of the green ones when you wake up, then twenty minutes later take three of the orange ones, with two of the red ones. Right before your workout take four of the purple and white striped ones. After your workout take six of the green ones. Before you go to bed take one of each. Now go to the store and buy new clothes that are two sizes larger than what you are wearing. When you wake up you will be something new.

Last week I was approached by a guy in the gym. He asked me, “What can I take to get big really quickly?” My answer was swift and simple – A good diet. He looked at me like I was an idiot, and he asked me again, “No, I mean what protein or other stuff can I take that will make my muscles bigger in the shortest time possible.” To complete the circle, I told him again that he needed a strong diet, but there were supplements he could add to help strengthen an otherwise incomplete diet. What he responded with next practically knocked me down. He said, “I don’t eat food.”

I chuckled and exclaimed, “Well there’s your problem! You have to eat – A LOT!” He further explained that he simply does not eat food and he goes very long periods, up to a day, without a meal. Instead, he wanted to replace whole food with a quick fix protein shake that would solve all of his problems and do all of the work for him. He actually wanted a shake that he could take in the morning and then just forget about eating. Then he asked me how long it would take for him to see results if he started taking whey. My answer for him on that one – “Never.”

It seems that the definition of supplement has been lost somewhere along the line. I have said it before and it is worth saying again, a supplement is just that, a supplement. But oh, silly me, I defined a word by using the word in a sentence.

Supplement – something added to complete a thing, supply a deficiency, or reinforce or extend a whole.

Believe it or not, you don’t need supplements, and I addressed this in my previous article, Where There’s a Will. This however, is not the point I want to make. What I really want to discuss is how we have become so susceptible to the marketing of supplements,that we actually believe The Magic Pill exists.

Which of the following two items would you rather eat? Muscle Milk, or chicken, rice and veggies? Both have a place in a well formulated diet – but I am more curious to know which you would rather eat and why.

Clearly the Muscle Milk is the best choice, right? I mean, look at the name, and look at the stats. It’s MADE for building muscle. With 32 grams of protein, I am surely on the right path to incredible lean gains, correct? I need something quick, something proven. I don’t have time for my body to digest a piece of chicken and then bloat me from the rice. Veggies? Yuck, I get all the vitamins and minerals I need from my morning multi. Now, if we are talking nutrient timing, say post workout – yes, I would agree – a shake will deliver what you need, when you need it, and in a dose you can measure with a high degree of accuracy.

This is the logic and reasoning I am hearing more and more each day. People are starting to misinterpret the meaning of supplementation. I agree, it is much easier to take a fish oil pill or creatine powder to meet your daily requirements. It would take massive amounts of food to meet the effective requirements of these items, so naturally supplementation is logical in terms of cost and convenience. Who has the time to prepare massive amounts of food, let alone take frequent breaks from their hectic schedules to eat, when the answer lies in a pill or shake?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of supplements. I have my favorites, as does anybody else, but I don’t rely on them as the foundation of my diet. I don’t expect miracles from them and I consume them in moderation. When given the choice, I will always take a well-balanced home cooked meal over a prepackaged or instant one. This is no lie – as my earlier article indicates, my protein powder consumption is minimal. Unless I am dieting down for a show, I rely very little on any form of supplement.  I realize, too, time is sometimes an issue and ‘you gotta do what you gotta do.’

Real food not only has more nutritional value than supplements, but also offers the nutrition in a way that our bodies can absorb that no supplement can. Let’s not forget where we came from. We evolved around nutritious, unprocessed, unrefined whole foods. Our bodies are designed to process whole food and take from it exactly what it needs.

So where did we go wrong? How did the appeal of a nutritious hot meal lose out to a manufactured and/or powdered product? Unlike whole food, the supplement is designed for one purpose – to make you big and strong. The whole food is different. It is viewed as sustenance, a means of surviving, but does not carry with it the prestige of anabolic properties. When was the last time you read a label on a pack of chicken that boasted three grams of Leucine per six ounce serving. Never mind the fact that a standard chicken breast alone will yield 40 plus grams of protein.

What if chicken was package in bright colored wrapping with massive text and attractive words like anabolic, lean mass, muscle building, and fat burning? Just as toy commercials around Christmas drive a child into a fit of desire, so do the claims of nutritional supplements on fitness enthusiasts. We are being taken advantage of. Preyed on for our desire for a quick and easy fix to an otherwise difficult and complicated issue.

Despite these claims, you still cannot dispute the convenience factor. But too much convenience can be a bad thing. I find that the more supplements one takes, the more the need for an additional supplement increases. Using the guy I mentioned earlier as an example, let’s take a quick look at what would happen if he did choose to stick to a supplement driven diet.

To remain healthy he is going to need adequate intake of vitamins, minerals, protein, fat, and carbohydrates. He can easily pop a multi vitamin or two to get his basic vitamins and minerals. Ok, he has that taken care of. To grow muscle he will need protein. A couple scoops of powder for breakfast, lunch, and dinner will take care of that. Assuming he takes two scoops at a time, because more is probably better (oh brother!), he is looking at about 150 grams of protein per day.

Most of us should know by now that fat is vital to any fitness or bodybuilding diet. Where can he get fat without eating? There will be a little in the protein, most likely about three grams per scoop. At six scoops in a day that’s only 18 grams of fat. Wait, he will most likely need fish oil, add three grams of fat. Still way below par. Better buy a bottle of liquid fish oil or flax or something similar to add to your shake.

Now let’s look at carbohydrates. Most protein powders are low carb also, usually about four grams per scoop. At six scoops he has 24 grams of carbohydrates. That is way too low for anybody looking to gain serious mass. Looks like he’s going to need to supplement his supplements. Let’s add a carb powder to bring those carbs up to decent levels.

So now he has his carbs, protein, and fats at somewhat decent levels -and all he needed to buy was large quantities of whey powder, carb powders, and oils. Wait, there is a good chance he has absolutely no fiber in that diet. He doesn’t eat veggies, so a fiber supplement will be added to his shake also. You can’t forget creatine either – that stuff is guaranteed magic. Add some powdered creatine to the shake too. I see this is getting pretty expensive pretty quickly. What else can we add to that shake? Glutamine? Aspartic Acid? Caffeine? Beta Alanine? It goes on and on…

It’s starting to look like the convenience of supplements has become just as complicated as planning out a well-balanced and nutritious diet! In conclusion, I will agree that few people can or will obtain all of their required nutrition from food alone on a daily basis. A daily supplement program is great, but it should never take the place of a good, hearty meal.

Sorry folks, there is no Magic Pill.

Happy Lifting!

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