Supplements in Five Minutes
Julia Kirkpatrick, M.S. Sport Science & Coach Education, C.S.C.S
Walking down the supplement aisle of your local Target can be overwhelming.
Whey protein, vegan protein, BCAAs, fat burners, powders…you name it, it’s there.
It’s even worse when you head to your local supplement store or GNC. You’re just reading labels and figuring it all out when BAM! An overly helpful salesperson is right beside you, trying to convince you THIS protein will FOR SURE help you recover and burn fat overnight. And at $69.99 for a month’s worth of protein, it’s a real steal, right?
The supplement industry grows everyday. New Lines. New products. New ingredients.
But how do you know what’s really right for you?
Here’s a five minute breakdown of what you REALLY need to know:
First…What are Supplements?
- Supplements ADD to your diet. They CANNOT replace a well-balanced-diet!
- They CAN increase performance of an athlete…either directly or indirectly, by making it easier to acquire macronutrients
- Supplements CAN aid in a nutrient deficiency
- And..we’re only talking about the legal stuff that’s regulated by the FDA or FTC
When should you use them?
Ashley is a D1 collegiate tennis player that has been playing for about 15 years.
She’s spent countless hours honing technique, skill, and strength.
Now let’s imagine she goes up against another player, Lauren, in a match. Lauren has been playing for only 3 years, but uses better equipment.
When they go head to head, it’s no surprise that Ashley wins. Solid technique and experience beats a fancy racquet every time.
What does this have to do with supplements?
Think of Lauren’s tennis racquet as the equivalent to supplements. They can help you play a better game…but they don’t replace technique and training.
Supplements CAN boost your diet and offer an ergogenic effect. However, they DON’T produce superior results ALONE.
On game day, nothing can replace a sturdy foundation of technique and strength training. The same is true for your diet. As an athlete, you must consistently prioritize your energy and macronutrient needs over any supplements you take.
Without a strong training regime, a better racquet won’t help on game day. And, without a strong nutrition regimen, supplements won’t either.
AFTER you have a sturdy nutritional base, THEN consider supplements for an extra boost.
Popular Supplements: Quick Facts!
Caffeine is a stimulant. It’s been shown to increase performance in
- and maximal effort activities.[2,4]
Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system which can lead to increased alertness, lipolysis (fat burning), and neuromuscular function.
A caveat to caffeine is that an increased tolerance can be built over time, decreasing its physiologic effect.
2. BCAAs (Branch Chain Amino Acids)
This supplement is thought to decrease muscle damage during exercise and blunt muscle breakdown post-training. 
But…do they work?
Maybe in some specific settings, but mostly no.
Provided that the individual is already meeting daily protein needs, there isn’t much evidence that BCAAs provide an added benefit.
Plus, when compared to whey protein, whey protein is far superior in stimulating muscle building machinery! 
3. Fat Burners
Appetite suppression…increasing caloric burn… reducing your nutrient absorption…
…are they really able to do all this?
Don’t waste your money- it’s all marketing B.S. They might make you feel like something is happening (i.e. you might get sweaty) but there is no serious scientific evidence that shows real results. Sorry! 
There are SO many different types of creatine…but ONLY high purity creatine monohydrate (CM) has been studied enough in both short- and long-term trials to assess its safety and efficacy. 
CM is the most effective (legal) supplement to improve short, high-intensity work capacity and lean tissue. 
Other forms of creatine have not been evaluated as extensively…… so be careful! 
You already know this…there’s NO quick-fix pill or magic drank for success.
NOTHING can replace a solid nutritional regimen when it comes to fueling success.
- Andres, S., Ziegenhagen, R., Trefflich, I., Pevny, S., Schultrich, K., Braun, H.,. . . Lampen, A. (2017). Creatine and creatine forms intended for sports nutrition. Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, 61(6), 1600772. https://doi.org/10.1002/mnfr.201600772
- Astorino, T. A., & Roberson, D. W. (2010). Efficacy of Acute Caffeine Ingestion for Short-term High-Intensity Exercise Performance: A Systematic Review. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24(1), 257-265.
- Beaumont, R., Cordery, P., Funnell, M., Mears, S., James, L., & Watson, P. (2017). Chronic ingestion of a low dose of caffeine induces tolerance to the performance benefits of caffeine. Journal of Sports Sciences, 35(19), 1920-1927.
- Kerksick, C., Wilborn, C., Roberts, M., Smith-Ryan, A., Kleiner, S., Jager, R., . . . Jaeger, C. (2018). ISSN exercise & sports nutrition review update: Research & recommendations. Journal of The International Society Of Sports Nutrition, 15(1), 1-57.
- Maughan, R., Burke, L., Dvorak, J., Larson-Meyer, D., Peeling, P., Phillips, S., . . . Engebretsen, L. (2018). IOC consensus statement: Dietary supplements and the high-performance athlete. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 52(7), 439-455.
6. Wolfe, R. (2017). Branched-chain amino acids and muscle protein synthesis in humans: Myth or reality? Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 14(1), 30.