My Opinion on Supplements: Questions to Ask Your Personal Trainer, Part 3

April 15, 2014 8:31 am / Posted in , ,

Many people wonder if supplements should be a part of their fitness or weight loss programs. The question is a fairly controversial one, as supplements have become an $11.5 billion industry in the US alone.

Nutrition - Lean Protein - Burke Cleland, Ottawa Personal Trainer

If you have been following the controversy, you might have come across any number of articles that weigh in on one side or the other.

I’m not a doctor or a nutritionist, but as a personal trainer, my opinion on the matter of supplements will have an impact on the program that I recommend for you, so I want to get this out of the way right up front.

Whole Foods > Supplements

I’m categorical about this: there’s simply no better substitute to eating whole foods. I’ve written about this in multiple posts, like this one, or this one, or even this one.

I want all of my clients to work hard to integrate unprocessed foods into their diets. Among a number of reasons, they are the best way to get the nutrients you need to get through the day, and contain few if any added preservatives.

That said, there are a few circumstances under which I might give a green light to supplements.

Trouble Integrating Whole Foods Into Daily Habits

Moving to entirely whole foods can be more difficult for some people than others. In some circumstances a client’s partner might not be following a fitness program, which makes it difficult to change diets—especially at communal meals like supper. In other cases, someone might just have bad nutrition habits that are difficult to shake.

When a client has difficulty adapting to a whole foods diet I often recommend supplements such as protein shakes. Protein shakes are part of a family of supplements that contain macro-nutrients such as protein, fats, and carbohydrates. That said, I won’t recommend supplements with non-essential nutrients to these types of clients. Non-essential nutrients are reserved for clients who are looking to enhance their performance.

Performance Enhancing Supplements

I train some clients who are looking to achieve more ambitious fitness goals. They aren’t training to lose weight; rather, they want to be in fitness competitions, or dramatically increase their strength after having already reached a work-out plateau.

In these cases, I will occasionally OK supplements such as creatine to allow them to offset the effects of muscle fatigue a little while longer. These are clients who have been very compliant with their programs and are looking to take their workouts to the next level. They aren’t looking to use supplements as a substitute for proper nutrition.

The Bottom Line

From where I stand, supplements aren’t for people who are looking to lose weight. You have to earn the right to use them by working hard and being compliant with your fitness program. In some circumstances I will help clients who are struggling with nutrition by offering protein shakes, but I won’t recommend performance enhancing supplements freely to anyone who asks for them.

Read the other articles in this series:

1 – Part 1: My Personal Training and Fitness Philosophy

2 – Part 2: How I Stay in Shape

3 – Part 4: What Certifications do I Have?

4 – Part 5: Are My Personal Training Clients Long Term or Short Term?

5 – Part 6: How Many Times a Week Should I Work Out?

6 – Part 7: Why Did I Become a Personal Trainer?

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