The Supplement Spewing Machine

Coach's Q&A The Supplement Spewing Machine

At some point or another, most CrossFit athletes will face the question whether or not to use supplements. Some will see their fellow athletes taking the latest “magic power potion”, while others will be influenced by marketing campaigns or Games athletes’ endorsements. If it’s a vitamin/mineral/protein, surely it’s got to be good for you?

CrossFit 360Vida Coach, William Schutte, doesn’t entirely agree…

1. If at all, at what stage should CrossFit athletes consider using supplements – i.e. beginner, intermediate, elite?

Supplements are a difficult topic for me.

I don’t believe that they really contribute much to our overall performance. Our hard work and dedication does that. Yet it is in our human makeup to believe that our ability lies in someone else’s hands, that there must be an easier way.

How eager are we to pay for results in any currency other than sweat and time? The supplement industry has taken advantage of this eagerness to part with our money for favourable results; and turned it into a goldmine.

The word “supplement” should be enough to make us wonder; what are we actually supplementing, and why do we need it to start with?

2. Is it ever unnecessary to supplement, and if so, when?

Whatever your body needs should be obtained naturally through good, healthy food. That being said, supplements for muscle recovery (like L Glutamine and Omega-3) are proven to have a recovering influence on muscles and anti-inflammatory properties. On occasion, I have recommended protein powder to athletes that cannot eat enough natural protein to maintain their training diet – that is all I have ever recommended.

Everything else just tastes good and makes you feel good (because it has to, you paid a fortune for it!).

3. Is there a danger in using supplements to try to counteract a poor diet?

The short answer is YES. Ninety-five percent of the branded supplements available have not been medically tested and the only regulatory body that governs this industry is the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority).

What this means - in a nutshell - is that any supplement supplier can advertise anything about the supplement in question, and only if it is found to be misleading the public from an advertising point of view will they be asked to adjust the wording or remove the product from the market.

There is no watchdog that checks if the medical or physical results promised are realistic. The branded supplement suppliers exploit this to no end. The brand and results are built on a promise that has no substance or depth. If they blatantly lie on the marketing material (i.e. “burns fat twice as fast as ever before” or “increases strength”) there is nothing to measure this by, nothing to compare it to. Too often people that are desperate to change or enhance their bodies fall for this marketing gumpf.

Why? Why not? It’s not like we’re buying the stuff in back alleys; it’s sold in reputable stores – therefore it must work, right? The fact of the matter is that the industry is built on a massive marketing machine that promises everything with no measure or recourse.

The real problem is that there is no authority with teeth to regulate the industry, so it will run unchallenged until it is adequately regulated. If everyone uses it, what could be the harm? I don’t know – we will probable see in a few years’ time… not too long ago nobody thought that smoking caused cancer. Why? Because the marketing machine was (and still is) very powerful.

I simply can’t understand why anyone would put anything into their body without knowing exactly what it does, why it’s needed and that it has been tested and proven safe for consumption - with proven results.

These products don’t really exist in the supplement industry – we have just been led to believe that they do.

4. Is there a danger in overusing supplements, and if so, what are the consequences?

Time will tell.

CONCLUSION…

The definition of the word “supplement” should be understood before implemented. Supplements are the result of an industry built on exploiting the human drive to be better at any cost, especially if you can pay for it and not have to work for it.

If anyone can honestly, from a correct medical point of view, explain why they are taking *insert brand name here* and show the measurable results they are achieving in isolation to any other factors… then go for it! I will sit at their feet and be schooled. If not, ask yourself why you are doing it, and evaluate your own answer.

Just like that fourth pair of CrossFit shoes are more fashion accessory than part of your athletic regime, most supplements are decorative at best. It looks cool, tastes good (or you’d never buy it again) and gives you a good feeling knowing that you are keeping up with the Joneses. Even if it doesn’t work, who would ever know…

Questions answered by William Schutte, Co-Founder and Coach at CrossFit 360Vida