Updated: Feb 21, 2019
In the course of my work I am often asked about the value of sports supplements to those who train regularly in the gym.
One of my favourite books on the subject, Food Rules: An Eater's Manual by Michael Pollan, provides an excellent answer to this question by offering the suggestion that it is better to be the kind of person who takes such supplements, without actually doing so.
As Pollan argues in his book, we know from the research that those people who take supplements are generally healthier than those who do not and also that controlled studies appear to show that most of the common supplements taken today have little effect on health or fitness.
Pollan seeks to explain this conundrum by arguing that supplement takers are healthy for other reasons than taking the supplements in the first place; that they are typically more health conscious, usually better educated and more affluent, more likely to exercise and eat well during the course of their exercising.
Polland then goes on to suggest that if you can adopt the mindset of the kind of person who takes supplements you can get the same benefits from fitness training as they do, without having to spend money by taking supplements yourself.
This approach focusses on a particular mindset; that of being clear in your own mind as to why you are training; to go to the gym to feel good, to work up a sweat, to release tension and to achieve real, measurable training results.
You need discipline to achieve this kind of success, of course, and a regular training regime. This typically should involve training between 2 - 3 times a week as part of a consistently maintained programme and with a specific amount of time allocated to each workout session (45 minutes to an hour should do it).
Respecting this kind of schedule while training is in itself a valuable form of mental disciple.
That's why I find Polland’s book to be so interesting, as it is spot on about the importance of having the right mental attitude to achieve training results and exactly identifies what some people can miss most when they do train (i.e. a lack of focus and discipline when embarking on any serious routine) which in the end can be self-defeating.
To achieve that right mental attitude my advice would be to become part of the process.
In the gym you will be surrounded by people conscious about their health and who demonstrate focus and disciple. Observe those people, absorb their mentality and build it into your own training programme.
Then you will succeed in your goals and will also have no need to pay out for costly protein shakes, or other such supplements in the process.