02 Dec To Supplement Or Naw: Have You Asked This Question?
I received a package in the mail containing some supplements that I would be testing over the course of a month to see the potential benefits of parkour training. This isn’t the first time I’ve become a substance consuming science experiment in the name of parkour either. I was excited until I opened the box.
Why did I just receive a weight loss supplement? My body fat percentage is ridiculously low and I’m already skinny enough. On top of that, few people within the realm of parkour need to lose weight and this would never sell within our market anyway. There was no chance I was going to write a review on this, but out of curiosity, I decided I would continue with the experiment to see what would come from it.
For the next month, I consumed this questionable, pink-powdered drink that tasted like some of leveled-up Kool-Aid to see what effect it would have on my body. I didn’t lose any weight, and I didn’t expect, and actually managed to gain a couple pounds due to my current high-caloric bulking diet. It did seem harder to put on and keep that weight as opposed to the previous month. To be fair, any weight loss that might have occurred was thrown out the window as I was eating an entire table filled food at almost every meal. While my weight stayed relatively the same, I felt noticeably better across the board. Reaction time, memory, alertness, focus, stress levels, energy, recovery time, inflammation, circulation, mood, and digestive issues had all slightly improved.
That leads us to the question: to supplement or naw? The answer to this question isn’t a simple yes or no and should be filled some additional questioning. The first thing to ask is if you need them in the first place. Have you spoken to a health care provider? Have you had diagnostic testing to show you what is up? What does your current diet look like? In my case, the answer to most of these was no: I was a lab rat.
There has been a lot of excitement about supplementation over the years and for good reason. Studies have shown certain supplements to be beneficial in the prevention of various conditions and diseases, beneficial for overall health, and they may help those who aren’t getting sufficient amounts of essential nutrients due to lack of a nutritious variety in their diet. One of the major issues faced by these studies is their observational nature and the missing of controlled elements and setting. They aren’t being tested against placebo or accounting for an individual’s dietary and exercise habits, which could very well attribute to the observational successes, just as my own test had.
Supplementation is a simple way to fill dietary gaps, but does that mean it is the best way? Research has shown that many diets are lacking nutritionally, and the American diet, which is rampant with processed foods and added sugars, is certainly no exception. Nutrition has also been a lacking component of our culture, as budget-conscious, minimalist travel and lifestyle have always had strong roots in our sport. As athletes practicing a high-performance discipline, what we put into our bodies to maintain that performance and general well-being should be slightly higher on our lists, but it’s easy to focus that minimal spending on things that are cheap, filling, and not nearly as beneficial for our performance and overall health.
While supplements do have their benefits, they are not a replacement for whole food, and can’t replicate the nutritional composition and benefits that whole food provide. Whole foods are structurally complex and contain many beneficial, non-essential nutrients such as flavonoids, tetraterpenoids, trace minerals, antioxidants, and essential fibers not found in many supplements. I’m no doctor, but I do know that nutrition should start with your diet.
So taking a look at my own trial results, I did see an improvement in a handful of areas, but was it the supplement alone providing these benefits or were there other variables involved? While I haven’t been training parkour as heavily due to rehabilitation, I have been focusing on strength and mobility training, and exercise is known to provide many of the benefits associated with my observable changes. However, I did feel those same benefits shortly after taking the supplement on rest days, so it does lead me to believe that the supplement played a large role as well. But what about the psychological effect of consciously watching for observable results? My diet has been rather strict and nutritionally lacking in comparison to my usual habits, and while I am trying my best to include many of my regular nutritional habits, I am focusing entirely on weight gain after a substantial loss from parasitic infection. I can’t be certain as I have nothing to measure these results against, but I do feel better.
If you’re a healthy person who eats a wide variety of food, you probably don’t need to be supplementing a ton, but there are exceptions to every rule, and supplements or fortified foods may be extremely beneficial in some situations. Do you have a medical condition that affects how your body absorbs nutrients (allergies or intolerance)? Are you following a vegan/vegetarian lifestyle while eating a limited variety of food or follow a diet that restricts entire categories of food (you only eat McDonald’s dollar menu and ketchup is your only source of fruit)? Do you eat a terrible diet because you’re lazy, picky about your damn flavors, or have a crippling fear of vegetables? Or do you survive on Redbull alone? If you answered yes to any of the above, please talk to your doctor about what changes could be made to help improve your health and overall athletic performance. Oh, and please stop eating shit, your body will thank you.