Nov 262011

What’re you doing?

It’s funny how often I find that, when I speak to people regarding fitness or nutrition (which is almost too damn often for many people to stand, having this blog is partly so I can relieve some of that desire in constructive way), it is expected that the most efficient way forward would involve adding something to what already exists.

It’s a very attractive desire to think that the reason we struggle is because we are missing something. If we are missing something or have not yet encountered some important information, it is almost a confirmation that we “weren’t doing anything wrong”.

The news is: you just might be doing it wrong.

A popular request is regarding supplements.

“What do you think I should be taking? What could I buy to increase my recovery between sessions? What should I take pre-workout so I can get the most out of it? What do you take?”

I don’t take much in the way of supplements at all. Not none, just not much. Not because I think they are useless either, I just don’t think they rate THAT highly in the scheme of things. Let me give you my run-down order of priorities regarding improving fitness and health (as formulated off the top of my head, subject to change).

  1. Exercise methodology.
  2. Food-based nutrition.
  3. Rest optimisation.
  4. Supplementation.

So, as you can see, though I believe there is a place for supplementation, I would have to say that it ranks at the very bottom. I am also not saying that everything else above it should be perfect before you investigate or utilise supplements as a tool, I’m just saying that I think there are some very important questions I’d like you to try on for size first.

For example:

  • How are you making sure that the exercise you take part in is progressing in a useful and effective fashion, rather than wasting time with inefficiency or, even worse, sending you backward?
  • Do you believe that you are achieving a high rate of nutrition from the food you consume, given budgetary and time constraints? What positive changes do you think you could implement?
  • Do you believe that, within lifestyle demands, you are achieving a reasonable/high amount of quality rest? What do you think you could try to improve the quality of the rest you are achieving?

How would I answer these questions?

  • Using my knowledge of Gym Movement Protocol (Gym Movement as interpreted in Australia by DVD and advice, haha) I test my movements to make sure my body is ready to progress in them and monitor/record my work, assuring that regular and measureable progress is made.
  • I attempt to make sure I have regular supply of high nutrition foods (such as eggs and sardines, like in my Bang For The Buck Nutrition series so far) on hand. I set up a regular order for delivery of local organic fruit and vegetables, to assure a variety of micronutrients. I have a good relationship with my local butcher to obtain high quality meat, persistantly consuming large-ish amounts of protein. I have a few changes that I am currently in the process of implementing (post soon, perhaps).
  • Rest is definitely an area in which I lack, due to shift-work and sharing baby-care duties. Life prioritisation does not allow me much room in this area, but I am attempting to improve quality by testing different sleeping positions and conditions and changing habits to allow more potential sleep time and “waking rest”.

I would say that’s not too bad. So, I am currently using supplementation in the following ways.

  • I consume between 3.6g to 5.4g of Omega-3 EPA & DHA daily in the form of Fish Oil capsules. (Not 3.6g-5.4g of Fish Oil. It ends up being about 12g-18g of Fish Oil.)
  • I semi-regularly consume a few tablespoons of Chia Seeds, for Omega-3 ALA and soluble fibre (primarily).
  • I consume Vitamin D3, partially due to my shiftwork lifestyle.
  • I am beginning to test MSM to see its effect on my joint recovery.
  • I take a multi-vitamin (most days) as cheap insurance, especially on lower micronutrient days.
  • I occasionally consume a protein shake, but it is currently a rare occurance.

I have many many more experiments that I COULD run, with supplements, that may have merit. I’ll let you in on something though…

I believe that it is highly likely I could continue to refine the first three areas indefinitely.

So, why use supplements at all? Cost. The biggest cost that I can not afford is time.

  • I don’t really need more training advice that badly, I don’t have time to run all my most promising experiments as it is (I PR every day, but I could do better, haha.)
  • I could always consume higher quality foods and could change my tastes/habits to include consumption of even more vegetables and things like organ meats, but this costs extra money and/or takes time investment in shopping and habit changing.
  • I don’t have more hours in the day to sleep; I already achieve less in my waking hours than I desire and can’t always refine the processes successfully.

I resort to supplements when the convenience outweighs that of other options, but it is always a last resort.

How would you answer those questions? Are you ready to weigh up the cost/benefit of supplements? Curious why I chose what I chose or what I think is worth considering?

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