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How and why you should consider it for your fitness business.

Words: Jaime Rose Chambers

Should you stock supplements in your gym, or recommend certain brands and types to your clients? Jaime Rose Chambers discusses the pros and cons.

Supplements have blasted onto the market in recent years, offering everything from single nutrients, to herbs with unpronounceable names, to powders and tinctures claiming to do something close to magic. Encouraging studies and sensational marketing have hailed some, such as vitamin C and D, omega-3 fish oils and antioxidants as the answer to combating arthritis, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and ageing. Whey protein powder, green tea extract and African mango supplements had us in a tizzy for fat loss. L-carnetine and whey protein isolate were our answer for building great big muscles.

Unfortunately more often than not, the hype surrounding these supplements far outweighs the quality and results of the research behind them. For example, vitamin E, which was once thought to protect the heart was found to increase bleed risk for stroke and some B vitamins, the answer to stress and improving our energy levels, at high doses may increase cancer risk. Many supplements are also not regulated, particularly if they are bought from overseas and therefore their ingredients are seriously questionable. Aside from the safety aspect, often we’re simply left bamboozled with the enormous variety of supplements available and so it’s next to impossible to know even where to begin for ourselves, let alone make any safe and informed recommendations for our clients.

Food is naturally the ideal way to obtain all of our nutrients. Food components work synergistically, creating reactions and having relationships together, of which we are just beginning to uncover but our knowledge is still in its infancy. Sometimes however, obtaining all the nutrients our bodies need from just food is simply not possible and supplementing the diet is necessary. As fitness professionals, your goal is to achieve the optimal physical performance from your clients, from taking an overweight, sedentary man who’s never done structured exercise before to stripping and ripping an athlete for a body building competition. Not to mention training athletes who vary greatly in their disciplines and requirements. A specific exercise and diet plan is ideal for achieving any of their goals but there is undoubtedly a place for supplements in a health regime.I see them as having three major roles:


In many Western countries, regular diets can be sub-optimal with holes caused by following particular diets. It may be by choice for strict vegetarians and vegans, for example iron deficiency for women is rife. It may also be by force such as with food allergies and intolerances like coeliac disease or lactose-intolerance, during pregnancy and breastfeeding or with the elderly. It may also be the case when eating a lot of nutrient void junk food that substitutes nutritious foods. Lifestyle factors like stress and exposure to toxins and pollution may also strip our bodies of many nutrients or affect their absorption, causing deficiencies. Often our diet alone is just not enough to fill in those holes and a nutritional supplement is necessary. This however can only be picked up with proper dietary assessment or a blood test.


Supplements can be used like a nutritional insurance policy, to ward of potential deficiencies or disease. In saying that, there needs to be the potential for nutritional holes so this may only be necessary if dietary intake is erratic or limited. Studies at this stage don’t support the use of vitamin and mineral supplements above and beyond a healthy diet to enhance performance or promote good health. This is also where herbs are of interest. There are however many high quality studies available now supporting the use of some herbs for disease prevention. For example there is good evidence to support the use of St. John’s Wort for the treatment of mild to moderate depression, Echinacea for reducing the length and severity of a cold and Saw Palmetto for an enlarged prostate. As the quality, source, dosage, branding and purity can vary so dramatically however, refer your client to see a highly qualified naturopath or complementary GP you trust.


This is an extract from Fitness PRO Magazine issue 2. To purchase you copy email or subscribe online.

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