All About Fitness Supplements

Do fitness supplements really work? Are they really needed for a fit and healthy functioning body? That scaremongering that goes on in the name of supplements and their health effects – is it valid? Here are some ‘pills’ of wisdom – science-backed and no-BS style.

health and fitness supplements
All about supplements

It happens to each and every person who’s ever stepped into a gym or run a race. Fitness supplements are so prevalent in fitness freaks that they baffle any average gym-goer. Beginners feel confused when they hear the word ‘supplement’, and see others popping a wide array of pills, each one seeming to contain a magic elixir in the name of a fitness supplement. There are others who overenthusiastically join the supplement culture too, without understanding their role and usefulness, yet not wanting to miss out on the alleged benefits and wanting to get in the trend.

Are you also wondering about the role and need for supplements along your journey towards a fitter, leaner, stronger you? For the purpose of my blog, I’m going to keep this limited to dietary supplements related to optimum health and fitness.

 What is a Dietary Supplement

A dietary supplement is a concentrated source (artificially synthesized or naturally extracted) of nutrients, like vitamins, enzymes, fatty acids, protein, minerals, etc meant for the purpose of supplementing one’s diet and thus render a beneficial effect. Our modern-day, stressful and fast-paced lives unfortunately leave a lot to be desired when it comes to health and nutrition, and most people cannot get all the essential nutrients their bodies need via their diet. This added to their diet preferences, habits and lifestyle leads to the need for usage of certain supplements – some doctor-mandated, others expert-recommended.

Some Common Health and Fitness Supplements

Multivitamins & Minerals

By the time food reaches from farms to end-customers via processing centers, stored and then cooked, a considerable amount of the nutrition is lost. Eating freshly-procured high-quality diet can help, but sometimes even that cannot guarantee 100% absorption of all the essential nutrients required for a healthy body. While individual vitamin and mineral supplements are a needed for specific problems or deficit, multivitamin and mineral pills are a good way to make up for the nutrients that might be missing from diet, to ensure optimal functioning of the body.

While the scientific community is in consensus that taking a multivitamin is safe and doesn’t generally pose a health risk unless in case of a pre-existing/ underlying specific health concern, it is best to consult a physician and/or your certified nutritionist and trainer before you decide to include these.

A supermarket shelf displaying dietary supplements
How to choose the right supplement from a mind-boggling variety? Image Source: Wikicommons

Fatty acids

Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are essential, where as Omega-9 isn’t, as the latter can be produced by the body. While Omega-6 & -9 can be easily derived from the plant oils, seeds and nuts we consume generally, the best source of omega-3 fatty acids is from fish. Unless your diet includes fresh fish on a daily basis, most health experts and doctors recommend omega 3 supplements for their research backed benefits.

Omega-3 fatty acid supplements can aid in improving heart health by increasing the good HDL cholesterol and controlling arterial plaque formation. It’s a boon for weight watchers as well – Omega-3 supplements can actively help in reducing body fat, especially when combined with daily exercise and an active lifestyle.

Whey/ Protein Powder

We all know (or ought to, at least!) that protein is essential for building/ repairing tissue in the body. Depending on your activity levels, exercise frequency and intensity, you should consume somewhere between 0.7 grams/ kilogram of body weight (below which you risk catabolic state) to 2 grams/ kilogram of body weight (advisable for serious bulk-building, athletes and intense activity) of protein every day. While the required protein quota can come from food, your body may not receive complete amino acid profile. As a result, you may be deprived of the essential amino acids your body needs for tissue damage that results from intense training. Also, one may need to consume enormous quantities of food to derive certain limit of protein, which could set them off their calorie limit and appetite.

Wondering which whey protein to choose? You can choose between whey concentrate (70-80% protein, rest is sugars + fat which ensure better tasting blends), whey isolate (at least 90% protein, low on fat and sugars hence not the best tasting powders, BUT it can be your best bet if you add flavours like chocolate concentrate or blend into fruit shakes), and whey hydrolysate (pre-digested whey formulae that get absorbed faster).

Why whey?

Biggest and foremost advantage of whey is for weight watchers, fat loss aspirants, athletes and bodybuilders. Additionally, whey can reduce unhealthy cravings and promote fat-loss, aid in muscle recovery, keep you satiated for longer, as well as keep your energy levels high. What is more, a study on 70 overweight individuals revealed that whey supplements helped lower the LDL and cholesterol levels significantly over a period of 12 weeks.


Seeing from how it is the new favourite buzzword on everyone’s lips, from experts in cosmetics and beauty industry, down to health and fitness, you might not be able to guess outright that collagen is present abundantly in your body, from bones, cartilage to tissues, skin and blood. However, the production of this miracle protein that is majorly responsible for the elasticity of your skin and holding together your bones and ligaments, reduces with progression of age.

Collagen supplement could aid muscle growth and help reduce body fat percentage since it contains glycine, an essential amino acid that is needed for synthesis of creatine, another essential amino acid that is recommended for boosting energy levels during a workout and muscle growth.

A pair of hands holding fork and knife along with food on plate, and supplements
Good quality diet plus good quality supplements (chosen upon due assessment of health and fitness goals) plus a good workout (sorry, no getting away from this :D) can mean a healthier, stronger you. Image Source: Wikicommons


If you indulge in intense physical activities like strength-training or sprinting, chances are that you’ve heard of creatine supplements. Studies establish that creatine can provide quick bursts of energy by boosting the production of ATP during intense training sessions, thus avoiding muscle fatigue. Creatine may also aid quicker muscle recovery, allowing one to improve his or her performance. Some studies point out that minor side effects of creatine intake may include slight weight gain and water retention. However, if your goal is to boost lean muscle mass growth that results in burning body fat, by all means go for it upon recommendation by a physical trainer or doctor.

Before You Take a Supplement

Evaluate your fitness supplement needs carefully

Choose and update your supplements according to your goals from time to time. Do remember that you do not have to take a supplement just because an article or a friend said so. Consult with a qualified professional/ personal trainer/ health expert you trust to decide on the supplements according to your training/ fitness/ health goals. This would also help you understand the RDAs (Recommended Daily Values) and the DVs (Daily Values) of the essential nutrients.

Consider your physical/ health condition

Get your health tests done and results duly considered before deciding on supplementation. For example, someone with an underlying kidney or liver problem would be risking further stress on their organs by adding whey or creatine supplements to their diet. The role, need and potential benefits of a supplement should ideally outweigh the potential risks involved. Pregnant/ lactating mothers/ diabetics etc and individuals with other health conditions should consult their doctor before taking any supplements.

Hydrate frequently

Fitness supplements can potentially put one’s kidneys and liver under duress IF they do not hydrate sufficiently. Drink plenty of water (ideally 4-5 litres daily) to keep your organs and system healthy. If you’re the forgetful kind, the digital age has made it really easy for you to remember – download the least annoying and ad-free mobile app you can find for timely reminders for downing a glass of water through the day!

Know when to take a supplement

Do pay attention to when and how to take a supplement. For example, Omega-3 fatty acids are best absorbed and least prone to cause unpleasant belching if taken in combination with healthy fats, and right after your meal.

Trust only good quality products

Do not, in the pursuit of saving a few bucks, opt for a cheaper/ less-known variant of a supplement. You may risk a fraudulent/ cheaper quality ingredient which would not render the benefits they are supposed to. This is especially true for products like whey powder and fatty acid supplements – too many fake products exist out there. Trust products only from known sources and reputed brands.

Educate yourself

Sadly, we often ignore this too often for our good. Do ample research before deciding which supplement is right for you as per your current and desired health and fitness levels.

What are the supplements you take? Do you feel strongly about some of the supplements/ points I mentioned? Let’s discuss!

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