Essential versus Non-essential Supplements

Fitness and performance supplements are everywhere. The number one question I hear on a regular basis is "what supplements should I take for XYZ results."

Honestly, the answer is usually "It depends..."

The number one thing you have to consider when thinking about supplements is how do they complement you nutrition program.

First thing you need to do is make sure you have a solid nutrition plan. Second, you need to make sure you stick to that plan consistently.

If you don't already have both of those things under your belt, then stop and get it figured out.

Once you have a solid nutrition game plan, then, and only then, is it time to consider nutritional supplements. If you skip those two steps, then you're just wasting your money.

Essential Supplements

So what does it mean to be "essential?"

It does NOT mean that you are required to take this or that supplement. Rather, it means that these supplements could be used to increase your overall intake of a whole-food nutrient that you're struggling with or that you find to be scarce in your diet.

You should chiefly be consuming these nutrients from whole-food sources, only resorting to supplements as a backup.

Here are a few examples of common Essential Supplements:

  • Protein Powders - Look to whole food sources from meat, chicken, eggs, dairy, fish, nuts, legumes first!
  • Fish Oil - Great for helping lubricate joints, reduce inflammation, and feel better. You'd consider this if you rarely eat fatty fish like salmon.
  • Greens Supplements and Multi-Vitamins - These may be looked to if your diet is notably lacking in a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) - Assist in muscle gain and/or maintenance while losing weight. If you're doing a good job with your whole-food protein, you'll likely be getting plenty of these.

Non-Essential Supplements

These nutrients are never required, but could provide an added advantage when they complement and solid nutrition program.

As with Essential Supplements, a solid nutrition program and adherence to that program are minimum requirements before taking any of these supplements.

Here are a few examples of common Non-essential Supplements:

  • Caffeine - provides a "boost" of energy.
  • Green Tea Extract - said to help boost metabolism and fat burning
  • Creatine - assists your body's natural strength/power energy system by increasing the availability of PCr.
  • Beta Alanine - said to aid in the buffering of lactic acid during exercise.
  • Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) - said to help mobilize fat stores for fat loss.


Until next time,