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To supplement or not?

Is this just a quick fix?
Is this just a quick fix?
Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

As if being physically fit and in shape are clearly not enough to the general public, advertisements and salesmen promoting synthetic supplements, mysterious sports drinks, and magic pills are coming at us from all directions. We are constantly being told to speed up our weight loss/gain performance, have better enhanced muscles on every inch of our bodies, and to pop a pill so we will eat a very minimal amount of food. Society is so impatient.

The occasional boost of protein and nutrients from a meal replacement shake may not hurt us, but when we rely on a product rather than a food to nourish us, we have a real problem. In 2013 alone, we spent several hundred million dollars on supplements for these goals, yet there are still many of these consumers sitting around today wondering why they haven’t met their goal, or why the product didn’t completely transform their lives for the better and for good. Can these supplements really work? Absolutely. Will they work long term? Sure, if your plan is to continue using them until you die or reinvent your lifestyle 100% and prepare to only eat completely healthy food and work out like a maniac. Any foreign substance or supplement we put into our bodies throws off our natural metabolism and the way our hormones react. Imagine taking an anabolic drug for several months or years only to find that coming off it will cost you those “hard-earned” muscles that have been created by the drug, while gaining depression and fatigue? If you finish your bottle of appetite suppressants and decide to get them next week at the grocery store, will you be upset that you have gained weight because you have been eating what your body asks for until then? When the doctor tells you to stop taking OTC weight-loss drugs because you’re damaging your liver and kidneys, will you feel that the weight loss journey you have been on is at an end and you’re sacrificing that for your major organs’ health? If so, that’s the problem. As a nation, we have full-access to drugs and supplements of all types and choose to give them more consideration than the guy at the farmer’s market down the road, the Kroger produce aisle, or simply working out for thirty minutes. It’s important to take responsibility of our bodies and respect and appreciate the work they do in keeping us alive and well, but we need to nourish them with real food and fitness.

Pills come with all kinds of side effects, many that are still unknown, as new dietary products come out on the market nearly every week and haven’t been fully studied yet. Before jumping at the next chance to pick up any of the above supplements, evaluate your current health state, where you want to be in a month, and where you want to be years from now. Sorry to burst any bubbles, but there is no healthy way to cheat your body of what it needs, which is real food and exercise. Finding an appropriate regimen for your fitness and nutrition goals is the hard part, but it is very possible through research or the help of a Registered Dietitian (RD) who has your best interest in mind and once you start getting truly healthy, you won’t want to give up or try another drug again.