Thursday, 20 February 2014

Sports Supplements – Yes or no?

Sports Supplements – Yes or no?

I am always asked about sports enhancing supplements such as protein, caffeine, energy drinks, fat burners and strength enhancers. I always ask three questions.

1. How is you diet?

2. Are you training properly?

3. Do you think you would be wiser spending your money on a personal trainer than on lots of drinks you don’t really know much about?

Sports supplements in my opinion do have their place in enhancing athletic performance and recovery….If and when used correctly.

Firstly though I always, always, always advocate a healthy, varied, whole food diet.  The more we learn about nutrition, the more it seems we should eat the way people did a hundred years ago. Recent research appears to be pointing us in the direction of eating mostly "whole foods" – that is, foods that are as close to their natural form as possible.

If you have a healthy balanced diet you should not require protein shakes, fat stripping pills or energy drinks.  You can obtain your healthy protein from such sources as white meats, nuts, pulses, beans and vegetables, your hydration needs from constantly sipping plain old water and your fat burning needs from regular eating of small healthy meals and physical activity. By eating and exercising regularly you will increase your metabolism and therefore burn off excess calories.

Far too many regular gym users I see come to the gym mixing powder and popping pills before and after they work out.  Are they carefully measuring what they have put into their bodies? Are they aware of what potential reactions one substance will have on another? I’m not sure.  I hate to think what overloading the body with foreign, synthesised chemicals does to a person’s hormone levels and homeostasis.  (The body’s natural working state)  Many of these people are training with poor form, poor workout structure and no periodization plan.                                                                 

On that thought something for readers to note is that much of the time people overload their system with supplements which they don’t need and therefore can’t be efficiently metabolised. This mean the substance pass straight through your body potentially damaging the kidneys.

 I believe you would be much wiser to spend your money on a good personal trainer or strength and conditioning coach, like myself to optimise and customise your workouts over a course of three months.

A lot of trainers, athletes and gym goers justify their supplementation because substances like creatine (produced from amino acids which increase skeletal muscle strength) are naturally found in our bodies. What they are really saying is their bodies are not efficient enough as they currently are and that they are too impatient to improve their body’s efficiency through hard work and adaptation.

Maybe I am a hypocrite as I use isotonic drinks (drinks which replace your salts, electrolytes and hydrate you quickly) with the racing drivers I train and work with at the circuit. I will only use them however when in hot climates taking part in an endurance events. As you can appreciate having a helmet and fireproof overalls on whilst being strapped into a hot, confined rocket on wheels, a driver will dehydrate quickly causing severe lack of concentration and loss of salts.  I also appreciate that 100kg athletes like rugby players need to quickly replace their carbohydrate and protein levels as well as rehydrate after a long bruising training session or match. They still however have post exercise snacks and often a whole meal provided for them too. Remember that the supplements they take would be carefully selected and measured out by the clubs highly qualified sports nutritionists.

To conclude I think that for 95% of people who train, supplements are an unnecessary expense and should definitely be used only if a meal has been unavoidably missed. Supplements should never replace food and be used only as a backup. Individuals with certain medical conditions may require vitamin and mineral supplements but once again not at the expense of diet.


For me, I will gain all my nutrients from natural sources thank you very much.


Just an opinion.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Fitness Industry - Obsessed by Aesthetics.

As a personal trainer and sports therapist I love my job but I despair at the extent to which the fitness industry media, celebratory worship culture and (in my humble opinion as a result) public perception dictates that we should all look like Barbie dolls and action men.  The concept seems very fake to me.
Please don't misunderstand me. I wholeheartedly believe in pursuing a healthy active lifestyle, of course I do. There is a lot more though, to exercise than looking like a front page magazine model. Everyone has heard how keeping your heart and lunges healthy and body fat low can reduce the risk of heart disease , obesity and a whole host of other medical conditions but exercise also helps elevate positive hormones levels such as endorphins and adrenaline as well as promoting the psychological feel-good factor. As a trainer I also believe in helping improve the quality of my clients lives.

In such a busy culture, is it not enough to exercise to our means, eat healthily and accept…. no embrace who we are? More trainers should be instilling these values into their clients although many are not. Maybe if they did their clients would achieve better results.


Media, including fitness magazines and infomercials relentlessly depict scantily clad models advertising their products. The reality is 99% of women and men don’t look like that, nor ever will. In fact the chances are the front page model doesn’t look like that either.  I think it is wrong to tell the public this is how they should look. At no point in our evolution have we looked as some of these images would have us.

Inside respective fitness magazines, they advocate various exercises and work outs misleading the reader into believing these routines actually work. Many of them don’t and in fact high numbers of the exercises you read about and attempt can actually result in injury.  It seems a tad unfair to the poor individual who has shed out their hard earned cash on the magazine.

Would not Western society not be more content if it relaxed it's vice like grip on the absolute need for cosmetic acceptance? I say people should train or play sport just for the enjoyment and fulfilment it brings. If people want to adapt their psychical appearance, great, as long as they feel good about themselves in the process and stop chasing the proverbial rainbow. Unlike modern media, be real, train towards realistic attainable goals.
Take athletes, many don’t have the stereotypical “perfect body” yet they are the quickest, strongest and most agile people on the planet. That's not fake. Their body's are carefully manipulated to undertake and cope with the demands of their sport.  Not to look good or for the sake of vanity or public perception.

At the end of the day though I guess (to quote Edward Bernays) “Sex sells”; and people believe what they are told.

Just an opinion.