I think this is an approach I'm going to follow much more than I have in the past in the coming months. Makes a lot of sense to me!
1st principle of "sensible supplementation": Restriction
"Sensible supplementation" requires that you understand that it is not normal to have 10 different pills for breakfast and that the race is not won by the one who's popping the most pills, but by the one who has his nutrition and training regimen 100% in check and takes the right pills. The first principle of sensible supplementation is thusly:
Limit the number of supplements you take and constantly revise which of them you actually need to supply a deficiency or defect, or to aid you in reaching your current goals.Let's take the example of the multivitamin: If you have been following the twinkie-diet for the past couple of months, a multivitamin would obviously have been part of a "sensible supplementation" regimen. After switching (back) to a nutrient-dense whole-foods diet, its use will yet become obsolete, so that the first principle of "reasonable" supplementation requires that you ditch it from your "regimen".
2nd principle of "sensible supplementation": Specificity
The necessity of vitamin and mineral supplementation on the "twinkies diet" takes us directly to the 2nd principle of "sensible supplementation", which is:
Select supplements according to your specific needs and goals at a specific point in your life.It would, for example be plain-out stupid to continue taking the stimulant-based fat burner that helped you to get rid of the love handles, when you are "bulking". Other than maybe before an intermittent fast or a long workout, the fat, the ephedrine, caffeine, geranamine or whatever "-ine" the product contains is liberating from your adipose tissue (remember: these products don't "burn" fat, they will just "stress" it out of the cells), will at best be restored to where it came from - in the worst case it will be redistributed from the subcutaneous to the visceral fat stores.
You contemporary goals are yet not the only thing you have to take into account: The sensible selection of "specific" supplements also depends on your age, your body composition, your diet your training status, your metabolic and endocrine health and obviously the other supplements and/or medication you take. To give you an idea of what that means, I will give you a few examples:
Knowing how vigilant you are, you probably have already noticed the italicized "could's" in the examples, which lead us directly to the last of the three main principles of "sensible supplementation".
- Jimmy, 16 years old does not need a DHEA supplement. His grandpa Joe, 58 years old, however could derive huge benefits from it, after all, after a peak in your mid-twenties DHEA is on a steady decline and though the medical orthodoxy has done a pretty decent job in giving it a bad rep, even the non-quack faction of the "anti aging docs" prescribes it regularly to patients with an established deficiency
- Janet, 22 years old, and hitherto at best "moderately active" wants to start weight lifting. She could benefit from taking creatine (increased performance, increased glucose uptake, general health benefits), although the product is marketed mainly to male physical culturists.
- Bobby, 22 years old, competitive physique athlete and splendidly healthy, could benefit from taking OxyElite (or any other stimulant based fat-burner) during on a "cut" (cf. "USPLabs finds OxyElite Works"). His mother, morbidly obese and hypertensive, however, runs the risk of having a heart attack after popping two of the violet pills and hopping on the treadmill for the HIIT cardio session her son prescribed.
3rd principle of "sensible supplementation": Experimentation
Regardless of how much research there is and how many positive and maybe even credible testimonials on the efficacy of a supplement you have read. No matter how well it appears to suit your current goals, your age, your life-style, your diet and training regimen, etc. you can never be 100% sure that supplement X is going to work for you! The third principle of "sensible supplementation" is thus:
Experiment with those supplements of which you have good reason to believe that they will either fix a deficiency or defect or aid you in achieving your contemporary goals.The idea is to do a carefully planned and well-conducted N=1 experiment, which means:
- You have selected a single supplement based on the specificity criterion.
- Never stack two new supplements, or you will not know which of the two is giving you high blood pressure and a headache and which one is responsible for the 2 inches you already lost off your waist.
- Also make sure that you keep all other parameters the same, if you start your taking one of those fancy new creatine products, for example, it would not be smart to completely revamp your workout plan at the same time, after all you would not be able to tell if is the creatine or just the new workout that leads to strength and size gains.
- You have selected a marker against which you will measure the "effectivity" of your new supplement
- Oftentimes this marker will be pretty straight forward. In the examples in 1) this would be the waist line and your bench press strength, for example; for fish oil, for example it could be general well-being (I doubt that will improve ;-) or your triglyceride levels, etc.
- It is imperative that you evaluate the effectivity on a regular base. While some supplements, like pre-workouts, lose their effects within weeks, others start to work only after taking them for months and still others may have been working great in the first weeks and eventually begin to backfire (this by the way is almost always the case with high doses of isolated micronutrients, such as vitamins or minerals).
- Don't fool yourself and honestly admit that you wasted money on product X; also, always remember the placebo effect is HUGE!
- You have done your homework and know the optimal dosing (time + amount), the time it is supposed to take until the first effects occur and which side effects may be arising at various time-points.
- If you just rely on the dosage scheme the supplement manufacturers suggest, you are lost. Taking a supplement which contains 200mg of l-carnitine once a day will do nothing (no conditional necessary here)
- Use your marker from 2) and monitor it very closely, when after +20% of the time that you should see initial effects you still don't see any results, you should contemplate that the supplement is not working for you.
- If any of the side-effects you expected or other side effects occur, do a cost-benefit analysis and decide whether it is really worth taking the supplement.
- Based on what you know about how the supplement should work, you have set an obligatory endpoint to the experiment, after which you will carefully take stock before you either re-order or discard the supplement as "not useful for me at the moment"
- It may sound counter-intuitive, but I can tell you that "running out" can be one of the best things that can happen to you; especially if you have tricked yourself into believing that a supplement works, you will save tons of money if you "run out" and realize that a) nothing happens or b) you feel better than before (I suggest you try that with your multivitamin ;-)
- There are also supplements, like beta alanine, and most of the minerals, like zinc, where it is simply unnecessary to take them chronically, once you have (re-)established optimal levels. With beta alanine, for example, it takes max. 6 weeks to top off your carnosine stores, which, as you should know (cf. 3) is what you are actually interested in, when you supplement with BA, with a >9 weeks wash out period and in view of the potential downsides of unbound beta alanine floating around in your system (cf. "Beta Alanine Suffocates Myocytes") it would thusly be prudent to cycle it.