Are SUPPLEMENTS Necessary?
Updated: Nov 12
What are SUPPLEMENTS? Are SUPPLEMENTS necessary? Do SUPPLEMENTS have side effects? Are SUPPLEMENTS natural or artificial? Who should consume SUPPLEMENTS?
Let's seek answers from science for addressing common concerns about supplements, clearing cobwebs, busting myths and most importantly, setting our thinking in the right direction.
A lot of people believe that SUPPLEMENTS are full of side effects. It is sad to know that people have such opinions about supplements and that nobody takes the effort to understand what supplements are, what is their need and why do people have them.
Here is where bro-science or pseudo-science comes into the picture. Often, people are given incorrect advice on supplements like whey protein, branched-chain amino acids or BCAA, glutamine, creatine monohydrate, etc.
Before you ingest any supplement, it is essential to know whether or not you require it and how it is going to help you.
Are supplements going to help you lift heavier, run faster or recover quicker? Or are they going to increase your mental focus, enhance sleep or delay lactic acid onset?
Alleged side effects of SUPPLEMENTS:
Liver failure etc.
The reason people believe in tragic side effects of SUPPLEMENTS:
We are bombarded with information from authentic and contaminated sources and are overwhelmed with the amount of data. The media has miserably failed at educating the mass about the facts and busting the myths of supplements. That is the reason one can’t entirely blame the people for being misguided.
The media talks a lot about the ill effects of supplements in general and the consequences of protein supplements in particular. Ironically it’s the same media that talks about responsible drinking. It’s like promoting the consumption of alcohol under the tag of responsible drinking and scaring the guts out of people when it comes to protein supplements.
The Anabolic Anderogenic Steroid angle:
Most athletes who take supplements are also using anabolic-androgenic steroids. Anabolic-androgenic steroids are banned in most of the sports and are associated with a social stigma. No athlete would want anyone to know that they are using steroids. It’s an open secret of the sports industry. Many athletes abuse steroids without understanding what they are putting into their bodies for performance gains. It’s like playing with fire.
Since people do not know that athletes are on steroids and see that they are having tons of SUPPLEMENTS, they associate all side effects with SUPPLEMENTS rather than steroids.
Anabolic-androgenic steroids are scheduled H drugs. All scheduled H drugs have side effects. Yes, they are illegal but, do we know that alcohol and tobacco which are readily available and accessible to anyone are the most prominent killers. They are entirely legal. Smoking and drinking are steadily gaining social sanction. Unfortunately, the same is not valid with regards to SUPPLEMENTS.
Alcohol and tobacco continue to kill millions of people every day. There is no documented case where a person died from consuming the recommended dose of SUPPLEMENTS.
Parents are comfortable with their child drinking alcohol once in a while. But, they become worried when the same child consumes those damn protein powders. We sure know at least a few parents who indulge in the consumption of alcohol with their kids. How many parents do we know who consume protein shakes with their kids? Probably none!
Supplements as we know it:
People have inherently become scared of the word SUPPLEMENTS. SUPPLEMENTS are incredibly healthy and productive when consumed in the right quantity.
Supplements are necessary when we can’t obtain good quality or enough amount of micronutrients or macronutrients from our diet alone.
Horlicks, Complan, Boost, Cerelac, etc. are supplements we all have comfortably consumed in the past without thinking twice. Chyawanprash is also a supplement. Our mother always wanted us to be healthy and fit, so she ensured that we consume that glass of Complan before we went to bed or before we left for school.
Our lifestyle is changing at a fast pace. The first-class protein in our diet is steadily diminishing, and carbohydrates and sugar are replacing it. Hence, our reliance on supplements is increasing by the day.
The natural vs artificial supplement theory:
Not everything we find in nature is always good for us. Snake venom is entirely natural. There are poisonous mushrooms, and there are non-poisonous mushrooms. There are toxic berries and non-toxic berries. We should take an informed decision with our knowledge and common sense before making a choice. Being derived artificially doesn’t mean it is bad for us. Most people believe that anything derived naturally is always good for their health; this may not always be true.
We have been using artificially derived foods for a long time. Cooked food is human-made; honey is extracted using a human-made process; grains are human-made (humans cultivate grains). We consume and interact with human-made things all the time, everywhere, throughout our lives. It makes our life easier and more comfortable.
Supplements are meant to supplement our diet and not replace it.
We should have supplements when we can’t obtain good quality or enough amount of micronutrients or macronutrients from our diet alone.
There is no evidence of side effects of SUPPLEMENTS when consumed in recommended dosages. Choosing the right supplement and calculating the right dosage is the key.
There are various classes and levels of supplements depending on what we have to achieve and our budget.
It is highly unethical to associate side effects of anabolic-androgenic steroids with supplements.
Supplements are not medicines. Even if they come in the form of a tablet, capsule or powder, supplements are way different than medicines and can’t replace medication.
We have been using supplements in one form or the other since the time we were born.
Not everything derived from nature, including food, is beneficial.
Not everything obtained artificially or from a human-made process, including food is dangerous.
Now that we understand if SUPPLEMENTS are necessary, let science of SUPPLEMENTS take precedence over all the opinions of the same in the world.