I was looking through our twitter page @theheathgym the other day and saw this thought provoking infographic referenced by prominent sport scientist Asker Jeukendrop. It implies that many athletes, sport nutritionists & companies prefer a “supplement” focused diet as opposed to the more traditional “food” focused diet that many leading dietitians & experts have advocated for decades.
Now before I go any further I feel it is important to clear a couple of things up:
Firstly I regularly use supplements & I believe that they have a important part to play in sporting performance as well as healthy living as they can increase performance (caffeine & creatine), help recovery after a tough training session (glucose & protein) as well as help with nutrient deficiencies brought about by poor nutrition (multivitamins).
Secondly I do not sell & have never sold supplements, worked for a supplement company or gained any financial advantage from any sort of associated products (don’t get me started on “pyramid” companies but I will leave that for a future blog!) so my opinion is based on personal experience supported by proven science.
In this blog I will discuss the positives & negatives of both food & supplements & then discuss which, if any, should be the focus on any nutrition plan.
It’s no secret … natural foods are great for you & we have been eating them since prehistoric times, in fact it is fair to say that we would not be here today without them. Our bodies easily break down, digest & cannibalise every nutrient that food has to offer from the various macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, fats) used for fuel & energy to the numerous micronutrients (vitamins & minerals) that can fight off disease & infection as well as other health benefits.
Benefits Of Eating “Natural Food”
They are high in dietary fibre & contain natural plant compounds (phytochemicals) that have many, many benefits some of which are still unknown but have been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer & diabetes. Eating a range of whole foods from fruit, vegetables, meat & dairy product will ensure that you will be consuming all the vitamins, minerals and chemicals the body needs to grow, repair & survive.
Negatives Of Eating “Natural Food”
As good as whole foods are there quality cannot be guaranteed as there are many determining factors that will affect its nutritional value (NV). For example soil fertility & how we cook can affect the level of vitamins, minerals & plant compounds stored in food which can have a detrimental effect on its nutritional quality.
Knowing what food is good or bad for you, what type of nutrients each food delivers as well as how much of each food per meal we should be consuming makes having a balanced diet very confusing & frustrating.
- Helps fend of diseases (cardiovascular disease, cancer & diabetes)
- A wide array of vitamins, minerals & chemicals are consumed
- Quality of food not guaranteed due to soil & cooking practices
- Knowing what food is good / bad for you can be difficult
Supplements are gaining popularity all the time as a readily available nutrient source to aid in sporting performance as well as health & wellbeing. Supplements can take many forms ranging from tablets, liquids & powders (creatine, protein, vitamins) to products being directly injected into the bloodstream (steroids & growth hormone).
Benefits Of Taking Supplements
Supplements claim to help increase muscle size, strength & endurance, improve workout performance & recovery as well correcting various nutrient deficiencies brought about from poor diet or genetic / hormonal imbalances.
There has been some scientific research undertaken testing the results of supplement use & the results have been positive. In fact many doctors, nutritionists & health experts recommend using some form of supplement in your daily diet for both health & sporting performance related improvements.
Negatives Of Taking Supplements
Supplements have been shown to effect the body’s natural nutrient balance & in some cases interfere with the absorption of nutrients. One example of this is if calcium intake is extremely high it can interfere with the body’s absorption of iron, zinc & manganese.
Although supplements are recommended by scientists & other professionals none of these products are FDA (Food & Drug Administration) approved. This means that these products can be sold to anyone without being screened or tested to ensure the contents of are not harmful.
- Some scientific research supports the use of supplement use.
- Can increase performance & aid in certain nutrient deficiencies.
- Certain supplements can affect the absorption of other nutrients
- Not FDA regulated so no guarantee of what is in them.
The Final Verdict ……
The differences between eating natural food & consuming supplements are so small that there is no reason to choose supplements over natural food as the main staple of your nutrition programme.
Instead of looking at this as a “pyramid” with the most important nutrition source at the bottom we should instead look at it as more of a “square” with the three keys areas of balanced diet, sports nutrition & supplementation working together in perfect synchronicity to optimally effect both sporting performance & day-to-day health.
Well that’s it ……
Thanks again everyone for reading & I will be in touch again soon with my next blog update … good luck with your own training & see you all soon.