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Do Supplements Really Work?

Today we’re going to cover one of the most frequently asked questions in all of fitness:

Do supplements work?

And if so, what role should they play in your health and fitness?

· There are a few supplements that are almost universally worth considering.

· Most supplements don’t have much (if any evidence) to back their efficacy.

· Supplements have VERY high margins, which means consumer beware, as companies that sell supplements have a powerful financial incentive to sell you lots and lots.

How my friends felt inside when buying a shiny new supplement in spite of being broke.

First off, I have to make a confession. I’m slightly biased against supplements.

As someone who added muscle through exercise plus extra protein in my diet at the same time as the rise of the supplement superstores, I saw friends spend sooooo much money on stuff that didn’t really work.

Instead of focusing on nutrition to support their training, friends were excited by the promises of powders and pills for easy gains.

As my obsession with fitness deepened throughout my twenties, I started questioning what I was being told. And lo and behold, much of what I had been led to believe by the well-intentioned-but-not-evidence-based young salesman turned out, in fact, to be false. Surprise, surprise!

The vast majority of powders and pills out there make wildly unsubstantiated claims that don’t hold up under the weight of scientific research. And that’s why I find myself a touch cynical on the subject.

However, this generalisation does have exceptions. There are a handful of high-quality, evidence-based additions to your diet that can be helpful in making your fitness dreams come true. But remember even the Australian Sports Institute comments that ‘Sports foods and supplements play a small…role in the sports nutrition plans of high performance athletes’. (

The key to successfully utilizing supplements is in understanding that they are just that: a supplement to support your diet, fill in any nutritional gaps, and give you an extra edge towards whatever your fitness goals happen to be.

First off, DISCLAIMER: you should always check with a doctor first before taking any supplements, especially if you have a pre-existing condition.

Some supplements are going to be a bit pricier than the fly-by-night, lower quality brands you can find on Amazon. But like much of life, you get what you pay for. If you DO want to use supplements, it’s important to use top-notch, high-quality products so you actually get the benefit you’re looking for, instead of a tub o’ fillers.

“Thanks! But what about {fill-in-the-blank-product}?”

Supplements generally have low risk ingredients so checking by the Therapeutic Goods Administration is not as rigorous as it is for medicines. These ‘low-risk’ medicines are listed as ‘Aust-L’ and the focus of the checks are on the safety of the product and the consistency of manufacturing and not so much on whether or not any of the claims they make.

The TGA relies on the manufacturers to provide the group with honest information about the quality of the ingredients used for the supplements and the manufacturing process but they don’t have to prove that their products actually work.

If you want to find out whether certain supplements are worth a shot, it’s a good idea to refer to research done by consumer advocacy groups like Choice. The group looks specifically at vitamins and supplements regularly and have detailed information available on their website.

You can also look up your favourite supplements with these organisations and databases that report the results of supplement tests, such as the Australian Food, Supplement and Nutrient Database by Food Standards Australia and New Zealand.

Rather than spending your money on expensive products that will make your pee a delightful colour, you’re better off investing that money elsewhere: in high quality foods, in high quality fitness coaching, or at the very least, in your savings account.

If you want to start with a great fitness Coach, talk to us. The Coaches at Fit Gym are Great!


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