Don’t believe everything you read. Just because it’s sold in a health food store or marketed by your favourite fitness influencer on Instagram doesn’t mean a certain supplement is inherently healthy. By doing your research, knowing what to look for, and understanding the pros and cons of specific ingredients, you can make an educated choice that respects your goals, your lifestyle and your health.
Common Supplements with Potential Drawbacks
- Protein Supplements
Protein is key for muscle repair, but keep the following in mind before blindly adding a protein shake or bar to your daily routine:
- Protein supplements have the most benefits for people who don’t eat enough protein. If your diet is already high in protein, extra protein won’t necessarily help you, in-fact a bi-product of too much protein may lead to weight gain.
- Many protein supplements are loaded with unnecessary ingredients, including sugar. Read the label carefully before buying.
- Some of the bestselling protein drinks and powders on the market have excessive levels of lead, mercury, arsenic and other toxins. Look for 3rd-party testing, such as a “USP Verified” seal on a label, to ensure your supplements are pure and clean.
Every wondered why protein is important to muscle growth, whether from foods or powders? Check out "Protein and it's relation to performance."
Caffeine is commonly used in sports drinks or as a standalone powder or pill to dramatically improve exercise stamina and reduce fatigue. But it can also have serious drawbacks, specifically with sleep quality.
If you take caffeine in the afternoon or evening, it can ruin a good night’s sleep. Sleep is critical for muscle growth and recovery because it’s during sleep that your body releases growth hormones. Plus, lack of sleep increases your levels of the stress-hormone cortisol, which breaks down muscle tissue and can also lead to fat gain.
Bodybuilders love creatine because it enhances muscle growth. But for some people, this supplement has been linked with kidney and liver risks, nausea, stomach pain and even muscle cramping.
Many foods, such as fresh fish, are naturally high in creatine, and it’s hard to overdose on when you’re getting it from meals. If you’re taking it in supplement form, monitor how you feel before and after taking the supplement.
For more information on creatine checkout "Should you take creatine?"
What to Look For in Supplements
No matter what fitness or health supplement you’re considering, don’t trust the marketing:
- Always buy from a reputable brand, preferably one that has been in the industry for a while.
- Read the ingredient label. Avoid products with lots of fillers, excessive sweeteners, or extra ingredients beyond the main active ingredient.
- Look for third-party testing that verifies that what is on the ingredient label is true.
- Remember: If a claim is too good to be true, it likely is!
For a practical approach to knowing what supplements you should take, view the article "A practical approach to supplementation."