Athlete Empowerment Tip: Sift Your Supplement Stash

We all know that the supplement industry is a multi-billion dollar business. Unfortunately, the market is rampant with supplements that are harmful, low quality, useless, and a waste of your hard-earned cash.

How confident are you that the supplements you are taking are meeting your needs and efficacious?

Because the topic of whether or not to supplement is HUGE, I want to bypass the nitty-gritty of the “why and how” for now. Instead, I’d like to raise your Supplement AF (Awareness Factor) by giving you endurance athletes a little task. [I should add that even if you are not an endurance athlete, you will benefit from this exercise.]

Here’s what I’d like for you to do:

  • Collect all of your supplements… bottles, containers, packages, and so on. Do me an extra favor and collect all of your sports nutrition supplements as well (i.e., anything you use before, during, or after training for fueling or a performance boost). Lay them out on a table. Check all of the nooks and crannies of your home, gym bag, work space, closets, bathroom, etc. Think of it as cleaning out the closet, Marie Kondo style, where you literally pull all of the contents out of their current storage space and pile them up for a careful and strategic once-over.

  • Sort the supplements into 4 groups as follows:

    • Dietary/Health: such as vitamins, minerals, omega-3s

    • Sport: engineered sports nutrition/hydration products such as energy gels/chews, electrolyte powders/tablets, recovery formulas

    • Ergogenic: athletic or cognitive performance boosters such as caffeine products, creatine, beta-alanine, nootropics

    • And lastly, the “WTH is this anyway?” group: any supplement that you really have no idea what it is or its purpose

Next, answer the following questions:

  • For dietary/health supplements: Do you need these supplements currently?

  • If yes, to the above:

    • How do you (really) know you need it? (Who prescribed it? Did you get this based on credible evidence or from a legitimate health professional?)

    • Do you really, truly, pinky promise understand the reasons WHY you need this supplement?

    • Is it time for blood testing and/or to consult with the health professional to determine if this supplement is still needed? (Hint: the answer is likely ‘yes’ if it’s a supplement you were prescribed based on a medical/clinical condition, blood work that was over 6 months ago, or you have recently changed your dietary patterns significantly.)

  • If you realize you have supplements you no longer need, or they are expired, clear it out. If you don’t have a local pharmacy or other local agency that collects unwanted/expired medicines and supplements, you can go here for information on proper disposal. Scroll down the page to read about disposal of supplements.

  • For sports nutrition supplements, reflect on your past use of each supplement. How well did it work for you in previous training and competition? (Note: If you hesitate or answer “not great”, then put the supplement aside as a ‘questionable keep’.) Do you need a refresher on best practices for this year ahead? Or maybe even a fresh look at what products are ideal for you now? High five on that, my friend.

  • For all other supplements, ask yourself “How do I know these are helpful, safe, and that I am properly using them?” For example, “Is the powdered lizard’s tail I bought from my cousin’s multi-level marketing company really helping me?”

I could ramble on with the questions, but will pause here. Hopefully, your “Supplement Awareness Factor” has come back on the front burner and is lit up hot.

I’m not joking as to the seriousness of supplements. They CAN be harmful and in many cases, more ain’t better. Plus, for all you podium-seeking athletes, the purity and quality of supplements need to be closely examined. You don’t want to be the one getting the call from WADA/USADA that there is a suspect amount of XYZ compound in your body.

Need some personal guidance? Give the Mechanic a shout and we’ll figure it out.

Thanks for reading,