With more and more people getting aware each day about the benefits of exercise and correct nutrition, it is no wonder that the fitness industry has become one of the fastest growing in the world. However with this tremendous growth in demand for all kinds of products and services related to health and fitness, a huge amount of misinformation and myths has also surged in. Not a single aspect related to health and fitness is free from misinformation; and out of all, the one product that has been most misunderstood and misinterpreted is the one called Dietary Supplements, also known as Nutritional or Food Supplements, and very commonly referred to as just SUPPLEMENTS.
Supplements happen to be misunderstood due to various reasons. Lack of proper knowledge about what supplements leads to creation of uncertainty and fear in the minds of people. Fear of the unknown. So, let’s get some most common questions answered about supplements while demystifying this very useful and valuable product.
What are supplements?
Supplement, the word literally means something that enhances or completes something else when added to it. Thus, when we are talking about dietary supplements it means they enhance or complete nutrient requirements which are not sufficiently got from food. An example of a very common supplement used by mostly everyone is the chocolate health drink given to children with their milk. They are added to the daily diet to provide necessary nutrients which might be lacking in food. Only difference is that they are not formulated for adults and thus, they lack in nutrient quantity and variety to meet the dietary requirements of adults. Supplements are not whole food and are not meant to be used as replacement for a proper solid food diet. They are meant to supplement the solid food diet to meet the nutrient requirements and also because of their convenience of use.
Difference between Health Supplements and Steroids
Steroids: Anabolic steroids are chemical compounds or drugs that boost the production of male hormone testosterone. Steroids have medical usage for treating certain conditions and are used by doctors to treat patients. Because of their ability to boost testosterone which is a highly anabolic hormone and provides the body with an optimal environment for muscle building, anabolic steroids are used by many athletes to enhance performance and body-builders to attain maximum muscular growth. Since use of steroids results in change of hormone levels, potential side effects are involved.
Supplements: Dietary supplements are food products made from natural sources like dairy. The use of supplements is to provide essential nutrients to the body. The most commonly used is the protein supplement. Our whole body is made of proteins; hair, nails, skin, blood, organs et al. Protein is a nutrient that helps in tissue repair and building. We need protein to survive. Protein supplements make sure that the body is provided with adequate protein to meet the daily requirements.
Supplements are food. Steroids are pharmaceutical drugs that alter hormonal ratios. Both are totally two different things and are in no way related to each other. It is unfortunate that people are more afraid of dietary supplements than they are of alcohol and smoking.
Do supplements have side effects?
Supplements do not have side effects. However, as with any other thing, irresponsible or excess intake of supplements can have adverse effects too, but none as harmful as a pack of smoke or a bottle of wine. Even something as harmless as drinking water can be harmful or said to have side effects. Excess intake of water may cause Hyponatremia, a metabolic condition in which there is abnormally low level of sodium in the blood. Thus, responsible and informed usage of health supplements is always encouraged. Consulting with a qualified and experienced sports nutritionist is advisable. But to say that dietary supplements have side effects would be totally and completely wrong.
Who needs supplements?
In India, the Government’s Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. And this RDA is set for sedentary people. In exercising individuals the requirement is higher. This means for an average adult female weighing 50 kg, the protein requirement would be (50 X 0.8) 40 grams per day if she is not an active/exercising individual. To give you an idea, a whole egg contains about 6.5 grams of protein. Now do your math.
An exercising individual needs supplements to meet their daily nutritional requirements. Supplements are used for their convenience and the ability to supply exact amount and type of nutrients as per the requirement. For the human body to perform at optimal levels, a combination of exercise and proper nutritional support is required. A lot of nutrients are not abundantly available from food sources. That is where supplementation becomes very important. Also for people who are vegetarian, which by the way is a huge number in our country, the only practical way to fulfill their daily protein requirements is to rely on supplementation.
Please note that effect of supplement usage is never tested on infants, children, and pregnant women for obvious ethical reasons. Irresponsible use of anything can be harmful. Consider taking guidance from qualified and experienced health professionals and help yourself achieve your fitness goals and also save money by not investing on the wrong things.