Starter Guide to Dietary and Sports Supplements

Supplements are, by definition, elements that are artificially added to either a diet, or combined to an activity, to make up for something that is either missing completely, or that needs to be present in greater quantity. The types of supplements bought and consumed depend entirely on the person taking them, as well as the goal for which the supplements are taken; there are different types of products, each tailor-made to a specific group or activity.

Dietary supplements are by far the most common types of supplement taken by the general public. It is estimated, based on recent surveys, that up to 60% of adults take supplements regularly – i.e. once per day. This is usually in the form of a multi-vitamin, or a specific vitamin (B-complex, C, E, etc.). The reason most often cited for taking these supplements is that it makes people feel more confident about their health. Moreover, a significant percentage of those taking supplements regularly started taking them based on the advice of an expert. The proportion of supplement users rises based, among other things, with the overall level of education of the household, which may point to a socio-economic component to dietary supplement use.

A significant portion of users still purchase their supplements in brick-and-mortar stores, either large surface general merchandise retailers (Wal-Mart et al.) or in specialized health food stores. An ever increasing number of people make the choice to buy supplements online, both for the price and convenience.

While dietary supplements are meant to be used by the general public, irrespective of individual level of fitness, sports supplements are meant to be used only in conjunction with intense, sustained and regular physical activity.

Sports drinks and energy bars are products meant to be taken during or immediately after physical activity. Sports drinks contain mineral salts and potassium, which are essential to replenishing electrolytes levels in the body. A low electrolyte level can bring about the early onset of fatigue and the accompanying decrease in physical performance. Energy bars, for their part, should contain highly bioavailable carbohydrates for an immediate boost, as well as a lot of slower-acting glycemic content to ensure enhanced, sustained performance.

Other popular types of sports supplements are protein supplements and Creatine. Creatine is appreciated by all athletes, but specifically by bodybuilders, as it helps provide short-term energy boosts to muscle cells, as well as increase their volumization: with more Creatine, cells are encouraged to store water within their walls, making them bigger.

Protein supplements are usually found in powder form, which is then mixed with juice or water to create a shake. Bodybuilders in training and endurance athletes will need between 1.2 and 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day to ensure proper repair of damaged muscles, and protein supplements are a good way to reach those number without risking an unhealthy diet.

An increasing number of athletes now opt to buy supplements online, however many still favor specialized store, such as health food stores and gym stores because of the personal contact with other sports supplement users who may be willing to share their experiences. How and where supplements are bought is very much a matter of appreciation and valuation of various factors as they pertain to the transaction: price, level of service and convenience.