Beginner’s Guide Part 4: The Supplements You Shouldn’t be Taking

By Laura Smith

Supplements are a multi-billion-dollar industry, and unless you have been living in a cave for the past twenty years, you probably have numerous supplements that you have bought over the years after being advised to do so by friends or family, or possibly reading some information on the internet.

However, there’s a smarter way to go about this and to get the biggest bang for your buck. How? By skipping certain supplements that are not necessary in the beginning of your fitness journey, or even at any point on your journey!

Let me make myself clear – calcium is an important mineral for bone health. Osteoporosis and osteopenia are two debilitating conditions, so taking care of your bones is vital. Sure, there are studies out there that suggest taking calcium increases bone density, however the problem with those studies is that they always include other variables such as exercise and vitamin D. An osteoporotic bone isn’t just lacking adequate calcium, it also lacks magnesium, manganese, zinc, copper, and collagen.

So, why is supplementing with calcium usually a waste of money? Calcium is found naturally in dairy products, dark leafy greens and sardines. In addition, supplementing calcium by itself doesn’t actually help bone density significantly, even though that’s why most people take it.

Calcium works best with other nutrients like vitamin D, vitamin K2, and magnesium. The combination of all these forms a stack, which is when supplements work together towards a common goal.

So, in my opinion, the bottom line is, calcium deficiencies are rare, and can be easily fixed by slightly modifying your diet.

Fat Burning Supplements
You may have heard of fat burners – the magic pills that can make fat melt off your body, like ice in the Dubai heat, right? Not exactly.

Fat burners are supplements that are designed with ingredients that MAY give you an extra boost to help burn fat, but they can’t replace a solid diet and exercise plan.

Fat burners work in a variety of ways. They can boost energy, help curb appetite, promote fat to be used for energy, and even increase your metabolism and core temperature so you burn more calories throughout the day. But, if you take a fat burner and then feast on burgers, pizza, and bagels, you won’t be seeing fat loss any time soon.

Even the mildly effective fat burners (e.g. caffeine) don’t make THAT big of a difference. Fat burners are also likely to cause side effects like sleep disruption (since most of them are stimulants). That can backfire, since poor sleep can cause overeating the next day, high cortisol levels and reduced recovery, all of which can result in lack of motivation to head to the gym.

All of the these side effects negate any small benefit that fat burners may have. Bottom line: most fat burners don’t have a great cost to benefit ratio.

Testosterone Boosters
Having low testosterone is not fun – it can cause issues such as mental fog, irritability, lower libido, lack of body composition changes. So taking a testosterone booster may sound like a great idea. But unfortunately they simply do not work.

Supplement companies may tout studies showing their supplements increase testosterone. However, keep in mind – too many people think that libido and testosterone are the same. Some supplements marketed as testosterone boosters can actually help increase your libido, yet make no difference in your actual testosterone levels.

Glutamine is an essential amino acid that has many roles in your body. It’s found in muscle tissue, so meat products naturally have high levels of glutamine. Adding glutamine to muscle cells causes them to grow.

Unfortunately, supplementing glutamine does not work for muscle building, because little of the glutamine ingested makes it over to the muscles. The intestines absorb much of it for themselves, so supplementing glutamine is actually really good for your digestive tract, but it’s not going to drive your muscles to grow more.

It should be noted that whey protein is also high in glutamine, so if you eat meat products and drink whey, then you are good to go and can save your money.

Bottom line: supplementing glutamine for muscle building does not work, however it does work for improving gut health along with probiotics and digestive enzymes.

Whey Protein
The benefits if whey protein are in no way being questioned. Whey protein is a superior protein source that provides many health and body composition benefits. This is a true statement that I am not going to argue with. There’s loads of research supporting the benefits of whey protein and it would be crazy for me to try and deny that it improves insulin sensitivity, suppresses appetite, has a high thermic effect, builds muscle, reduces oxidative stress, etc.

So you may be asking the question, why have I included whey protein on my list of supplements that are not needed? Whey protein is often used as a substitute for whole foods, which can prevent optimal nutrition being achieved. This can result in a lack of macronutrients, micronutrients, inflammation, poor gut health, and decreased physical performance.

One of the most common issues we face is bad digestion. By this I mean for one reason or another your digestive system is not able to make the most of the foods you eat. One of the most common food groups that we are unable to optimally absorb is dairy and whey products.

Too often whey protein is used as a meal replacement, not as a supplement. Additionally, some brands contain cheap fillers, artificial flavors and added sugars, which again can cause absorption issues, poorly functioning gut and inflammation.

So, bottom line regarding whey protein is that despite the countless benefits, it should not be used as a replacement for whole foods. Until gut health is functioning effectively, absorption is a major issue and whey protein can make things worse. My advice is to start with whole foods and progress to protein shakes and drinks.

Good luck!


Reblog: Protein Powders 101

A lot of you may be wondering about protein powders… Should I be taking them? Which one should I buy? How often? And so on.

Read a summary of fellow blogger Deniza’s guide to protein powders to help you make the right decision.




Guide to Protein Powders: Which kind is best for what?

Which protein powder is best to build muscle, lose weight, boost immune system and more? This guide explains the different kinds of protein supplements, choose the one that fits your lifestyle best!

Whey Protein Concentrate
This is the most basic form of protein. It is oftentimes cheaper compared to the other kinds of protein powders and best suited for those starting out.

Make sure to choose a protein that comes from grass-fed cows. Otherwise, your body will not be able to use all those amino acids to build and repair muscle tissue.

Whey Isolate

Whey Isolate is one of the quickest absorbing proteins. This kind of protein is best for those dieting. As Whey Protein Isolate contains the highest amount of BCAA’s (branched chain amino acids), it will help you sleep better, recover quickly and reduce appetite as well.

– Casein
Casein-rich protein is most found in all kinds of dairy products. It is broken down very slowly, over the course of several hours. It is great to reduce hunger when taken either at night or in the morning for breakfast.

– Milk Protein Isolate
This kind of protein is a blend of both casein and whey protein. It is typically a little bit pricey, but worth the money. Again, opt for grass-fed kinds to get all health benefits.

Egg White Powder
Along with Whey Protein, Egg White Protein is the best way to get in as many essential amino acids as possible. Egg albumin is an excellent supplement to reduce muscle soreness, boost immune system, prevent I nsulin resistance and improve sleep.

Brown rice protein
Brown rice protein is a good source of complex carbohydrates, vitamin B, and fiber. However, make sure to use rice protein from a brand whose products are laboratory-tested, as most rice proteins contain pesticides. These induce cancer and speed up the aging process of our cells.

In addition to that, rice protein does not contain all essential amino acids, thus it is not suited for those looking to get complete protein by using this supplement.

– Pea protein
Pea protein comes from the yellow split pea and is very popular among vegetarians and vegans. Pea protein is hypoallergenic and is a great whole-food source. However, again, it is not a complete source of protein, as most plant-based proteins.

– Hemp protein
Hemp protein is derived from the seeds of the cannabis plant. It is one of the only plant-based proteins containing all 21 essential amino acids. It is vegan-friendly and hypoallergenic as well. It is higher in calories compared to the other protein sources, but well worth it.

Almond flour/ protein
Almond flour or protein is not a complete source of protein. However, just as hemp protein, it contains a high amount of essential fatty acids and calcium.

Soy Protein
Soy protein is a good source of protein as well. It contains all essential amino acids and is loaded with glutamine, arginine (helps dilate blood vessels and allows for quicker digestion of nutrients) and BCAA’s.

However, I never recommend anyone to use soy products. I just want you to know that it is nearly impossible to buy truly organic soy protein products nowadays. Most of them are loaded with additional growth hormones, which increases the phytoestrogen content. This is a plant-based form of estrogen. Too much of this has shown to contribute to breast cancer in women, as well as colon cancer.

Sweet lupine flour
Sweet lupine is not well-known, but it is actually a complete source of protein. In addition to its high protein content, it contains complex carbohydrates as well. Thus, it is not suited to be used alone as a protein supplement.

People allergic to peanuts could have problems digesting this kind of protein though, so be careful at first.

Read Deniza’s full post on choosing protein powders here:


Supplementation 101: Amino Acids

Yet another pro on the list of contributors of this blog. This week we will hear from Elliott Speed on the importance of supplementation and personal training.


“Since a very early age I have been an avid sportsman, which led me into both playing and coaching at a very high level. This has implemented a thorough understanding of the high standards, dedication and motivation required within elite personal training. A strong body and healthy lifestyle is within everybody’s reach and I am devoted to assisting others to achieve their fitness goals in a way which works for their lifestyle.”

Unfortunately in the world that we live in there are many variables that can actually have a serious negative effect on our bodies. A lot of these factors are unknown by a large number of people. These include pollution, hormones and fertilisers used on the produce that we eat, smoking, drinking alcohol and many more. 

The impact these elements have on our bodies is incredible as they can actually prevent us from properly digesting our food, meaning we can not function at our full potential. If this was not bad enough these factors can also cause a lot of the nutritional values of our food to be lost before it can even be eaten. 

Due to this we must find other sources to ensure that we are efficient with the food that we eat. This is where supplementation can be extremely beneficial for the body. There are many people who believe that supplementation is not necessary, however there has been substantial research carried out on the benefits of Aminos more so than many other supplements and I believe that any supplement that can improve your life and fitness by even 1 percent is worth it.


When discussing supplements, one of the most renown products on the market is Amino Acids. When dieting the body is in a catabolic phase meaning that it is breaking down muscle. The reason this happens is because the body breaks down protein to use the amino acids as a form of fuel. 

If the body breaks down protein faster than it can synthesise it you begin to lose lean muscle, this is where supplementing with Branched Chained Amino Acids(BCAA’S) can be very helpful. BCAA’s will actually stimulate protein synthesis whilst also preventing breakdown meaning that a person can diet whilst maintaining their muscle to create a more toned body when losing fat. 

Many supplements advertise a lot of false promises but do not provide results, however BCCA’s are not one of these products and should definitely make an appearance in your gym bag. 

BCAA’S are not the only Amino Acid supplement with major benefits, there are also EAA’S(Essential Amino Acids). EAA’s have numerous benefits to the body these include recovery and repair of muscle which essentially leads to growth. Similar to BCAA’s they also prevent the breakdown of muscle tissue. These factors are very helpful when exercising for long periods of time. 

Research on EAA’s has also shown that they can actually be used by the body as an energy source when required, this can lead to the muscles becoming less fatigued when training at high levels of intensity, ultimately allowing you to work out for longer with a better quality of performance. 

By supplementing with both these products it is inevitable that your performance will improve and your results will be improved.  

Protein Powders vs Real Protein

By Adrianna McDonald

There is no doubt and never will be about the importance of protein in your diet. It is an essential nutrient that helps the body to build, repair and maintain its organs, cells and tissues.

You can meet your daily protein requirements whether you drink shakes and/or eat whole foods, but nutrition from both is not equal.

Protein-rich whole foods are more nutritionally complex than shakes, so they offer a greater variety of vitamins and minerals. Chewing them takes a longer period of time and they satisfy your hunger, keeping you full for longer.

Protein powders were always present in the bodybuilding world but lately became popular with the general public as people realized the full potential of protein supplements in their everyday life.

“Before I start elaborating I want you to know that there is NO real substitute for real food!”

Protein powder is a supplement to your diet and should not be a replacement.

Protein quality has also been enormously overstated and even distorted for marketing purposes and most brands are full of sweeteners and other additives which your body may struggle with.

The variety is enormous : whey protein, beef, casein, plant, etc.thumb_IMG_6459_1024

The most popular is Whey Isolate and is largely used in the bodybuilding world.

Even though whey has a higher BV (biological value) than beef, chicken, fish, or milk protein, if the total quantity of protein you consume throughout the day is sufficient (best if you know your macros), then there is no need to substitute whey for food proteins as it won’t give you additional muscle gains.


thumb_IMG_6457_1024Myself and most of my clients tend to use it as a post-workout drink only. There is no evidence that protein supplements digest more efficiently than whole foods but they definitely digested faster which is most important after training. There is still lots of debate amongst the experts as to post-workout nutrition. There is not much proof if a protein-carb drink will produce better muscular growth than whole foods, as long as complete whole foods are eaten within an hour or so post-workout.

No doubt protein powders are convenient and supplementing with a couple of scoops a day (especially post-workout) is not a bad idea.

If you are a very busy individual and you struggle with your protein intake try adding protein powders to your meals instead of replacing them.


To Supp or Not to Supp?

A Modern Day Dilemma

Supplements… where do I start? In a paradoxical world where some people are malnourished due to scarce resources and other are malnourished due to poor diet one has to wonder what is the best way to get the nutrients we need.

Enter the supplements – a modern phenomenon of adding man-made nutrients to our diets. From powdered vegetables to vitamins to amino acids, this has become and industry worth billion of dollars (US$104 billion as of 2013 to be precise).

Of course as a rule of thumb we should always try to get our nutrients (mind, not just vitamins, but also minerals, proteins, oils, essential acids and so forth) from natural whole foods. However, there are many factors that could undermine our efforts to hit our daily target of the good stuff.

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Nutrient thieves

Naturally we lose nutrients as we go about our daily activities, however certain situations may leave us a little bit drained. For example, when we are stressed our bodies use more nutrients at a faster rate. But it is not just proteins and carbohydrates that we lose.

Dr. Griffin, Dr. Neblett and Kissinger state that “The increased metabolism [due to prolonged stress] can also cause an increase in the use and excretion of many nutrients such as vitamins A, C,D,E,K, and B complex, and minerals such as magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, chromium, selenium, zinc, and potassium.”

“Eating right is just as important as managing stress
because vulnerability to stress increases with poor diet”

Philip Rice, Stress and Health. Moorhead State University

Another issue is the quality of food that we eat nowadays. It is not just junk food that is the culprit here. A lot of our groceries are either heavily processed or chemically treated to extend their shelf life. These processes significantly reduce the nutrients of the foods we buy and eat. In this case, the best solution is to opt for organic or locally grown produce (and check the labels!).

And of course there are certain personal situations which may make matters worse. Suffering from digestive problems may mean that no matter how much nutrients from natural food one gets, the body is not absorbing and/or converting enough of those into fuel. Other illnesses may also require specific supplementation (currently fighting a cold with Vitamin C, zinc, lemon and ginger 🙂 ) Also, intense training requires more nutrients such as protein, amino acids, trace minerals and electrolytes which are lost through sweat.


To Supp or Not to Supp?

So should we jump with both feet in to this trend? Personally, I like to avoid artificially made things, especially when it comes to what I put in my body. Deciding whether to take supplements is an important health decision filled with mine pits – there is so much information and so many supplements that haven’t been tested which make it very confusing.

My recommendation is to read, read and read some more! Check labels and consult with qualified professionals (not me!). But first and foremost evaluate your needs. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you eating enough natural whole foods?11882472_768857866556298_1315508989_o
  • Do you feel constantly tired or are you energetic?
  • Are you experiencing a lot of stress in your life at the moment?
  • Are you ill, undergoing intense training programme or suffering from specific health issues?

Think carefully about your answers and if you think natural whole foods may not be enough, do consult with an expert and make sure you choose high quality supplements.