Supplements – Sports drinks and Protein Shakes. Do you need them?

Look in any sports shop, fitness magazine or gym and there will be adverts for supplements and protein shakes promising to change your body in ways you only ever dreamed of.

But should you spend your hard earned cash on them?

I’m going to give a very quick run down of the 2 most popular things you will see out there:

  • Sports/energy drinks
  • Protein shakes

Sports/energy drinks.

These are usually marketed with funky science sounding words like “isotonic”, and “rehydration”.  The bottom line is, they are sugar and water.  Simple as that.  I actually make my own by mixing up a lemon flavoured cordial drink.

But they do work.  They do replace water you have lost by sweating loads, and they do replace carbohydrates used during hard exercise, allowing you to continue training hard.

BUT…this is only an issue if you are training HARD for about and hour or more (eg cycling/running/rowing/swimming HARD).  Notice the emphasis i’m placing on the word hard?

Training hard is not a nice jog on the treadmill, or a 30 minute pedal on the bike.  Training hard is when you have sweat literally pooling on the floor under you (not a single trickle of sweat on your brow).

Under these circumstances, then energy/sports drinks have been proven time and again to help people continue training hard.  If this doesn’t sound like your training (and unless you are a budding athlete, i doubt it does), then you will do just as well filling your bottle with water from the tap.  It will do you wonders, and its free!  Remember to drink little and often.  Thats the best way.

Protein Shakes.

Protein is the building blocks of the body.  When people want to get big and strong, they need to do lots of heavy weight training and have enough spare protein sloshing around in their body to be made into that new muscle.  So, many strength athletes top up the protein in their diets with protein shakes around their training times.  Again, protein shakes are an easy way to get plenty of protein in your body so it can be made into muscle, after you have been training hard.

BUT…when it comes to getting big and strong, doing plenty of heavy weight training must come first.  You will not get big and strong by drinking loads of protein shakes and not putting in the hours and hours of bloody hard work in the gym.

And anyway, all but the most hard-core weight trainers will probably get plenty of protein in their normal diet.  Any excess protein is treated in just the same way as any other excess calorie.  It will end up as fat.

And a small thought for everyone who is using protein shakes.  Have you ever thought of using milk instead?  Evolved over millions of years to be the perfect substance to help every mammal on the planet to grow up fast.

Just a thought.  What do you think?

In Conclusion…

Sports/energy drinks and protein shakes do help people who are training hard.

But, (and this is the important bit, so listen carefully!) unless you are training hard, you won’t see any benefit.

It is like having a massive spoiler on the back of a car.  Yes, it makes a huge difference when your driving round a track very very fast, and performance will suffer without it.

Useful spoiler

Useful spoiler

But, unless you are going round a track very very fast, you won’t notice any difference, it won’t really help…and you risk looking like a bit of a knob 🙂

Pointless spoiler

Pointless spoiler

One last point for everyone to remember (from normal people to top athletes)…sports drinks and protein shakes are there to supplement a healthy diet, not substitute it.  You must have a healthy diet sorted out, or there is no point spending money on any supplements.

Just like there is no point putting big spoilers on a car…if you’re not putting petrol in, but trying to run it on recycled chip-shop-fat!