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Will supplementation be necessary to improving fitness levels?

Supplements are not necessary if you eat right.  However most people don't eat right, skip meals and just have poor nutrtition habits.  Supplements have been marketed to think you really need them no matter what and this is not true if you eat properly.  With a proper meal plan of 5-6 meals a day, balancing out your carbs, proteins and fats you can hit your goal.  However if you can't do this then you will have to supplement to get your needs in for the day. 

Supplementation can be defined in different ways.  Usually, individuals refer to supplementation as multivitamins, energy drinks, protein shakes, or muscle enhancer so I will respond to this arena.  Supplementaion is not a critical part of improving physical fitness levels, most nutritional needs can be met through a well-balanced diet.  The 'Average Joe' in the weight room who is trying to get in better shape would see limited results from filling their body with supplements.  While workingout, the human body is depleted of many nutrients but most of these nutrients can be replenished through a proper diet.  A multivitamin can be beneficial in maintaining a well-balanced system.  Unless the individual knows the specifics of the supplement-what it is for-what it accomplishes-why it is important, and they have a workout routine which would utilize the benefits of the supplement, then the supplement may be (for lack of a better term) a waste.

Eric Beard
Sports Medicine
Supplementation will help you reach your health and fitness goals faster when you eat, sleep and train right but you do not have to take them. When trying to lose body fat, you must eat less food and exercise more. When you restrict calories, you miss out on nutrients that can easily be replaced with supplements. When trying to gain muscle or improve athletic performance supplements can assist with the timing and delivery of key nutrients to help you recover from workouts and perform at your best at all times. It is almost impossible to eat perfectly in the 21st century. Supplements help us to fill in the gaps in our nutritional plan as well as help to take our results to the next level when we are doing the best that we can with diet and exercise. 
Kat Barefield, MS, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics
The long term answer depends on your current state of health, daily diet, desired body composition and daily activities for the rest of your life. Therefore assuming you don’t or won’t eat and exercise “perfectly” for the rest of your life, AND you want to hedge all your bets on living a longer and more productive life, then at a minimum, everyone should have the supplements listed below readily available and use as shown:

1. Multivitamin & Mineral including 600-1000IUs of vitamin D: Take 1 daily immediately following breakfast or any other larger meal
2. Fish oil: use a supplement containing ~600mgs of a combination of DHA & EPA and take 1 daily with multivitamin if NOT consuming 2-4 servings of fatty fish weekly. Or simply use daily when not consuming fish.
3. Calcium: do the best you can to get 1000-1500mgs from the diet. If you fall short use a supplement containing 500mgs per tablet to make up the difference.
Dietary supplements are not a cure or prevention to disease brought on by smoking, weight, lack of exercise or other poor lifestyle choices. Supplementing important missing nutrients IS part of a healthy lifestyle but don’t wait till the “engine is broken” before adding oil. Do it while it’s still working.
In other words, by supplementing throughout life while we are healthy, the goal is to build a stronger foundation by taking advantage of our body’s youthful development machinery and supply ALL the necessary building materials (nutrients).We then leverage the result into our advancing years. We continue to add the compounds our older body can still use but may no longer manufacture or can’t receive in proper amounts from food alone. Again, we now have them at a point in time BEFORE it’s too late, while the body can still use them. In other words, we continue to add these natural substances because our body’s internal “machinery” still works so the nutrients are used rather than waiting until the machinery is worn out, rendering any additional compounds less effective or useless. Properly supplementing the diet is health care not disease care.

No matter how much we plan, there will always be "gaps" in our health and fitness programs. Supplements, whether they be supplemental workouts or actual vitamin and mineral supplements, play a pivotal role in helping achieve superior levels of fitness.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.