Are You Making These Common Supplement Mistakes?
Today, taking supplements like multivitamins and protein powders is as normal as eating anything else. Unfortunately, making supplement mistakes is as common as using supplements themselves. The lack of regulation and the lack of quality information and education is typically to blame.
So, we’d like to address common supplement mistakes we see so that you can avoid them. Avoiding supplement mistakes is the best way to ensure you’re getting all that your protein powder and other supplements have to offer. By doing this, you’ll be able to crush any fitness goal you can think of!
Supplement Mistake Number One: Not Educating Yourself about Protein Powders or Other Supplements
Many people, especially those new to taking supplements, fail to understand the importance of educating themselves before beginning. People generally think of sports supplements in the same way they think of food—they don’t research a new kind of lettuce before they eat it, so why would they do that with protein powder?
This is our first supplement mistake because dietary supplements should be considered more as medication than food. Therefore, you should do some basic information gathering when you are considering adding a new supplement to your daily regimen.
Now more than ever, we see this supplement mistake, and it’s primarily thanks to the growing influence of social media and fitness “experts” online. One issue is that many fit-fluencers are not experts—they’re simply people with a passion for fitness and the right aesthetic to gain social media attention. These people share the supplements they take under the guise that the products are what make them look the way they do, and BAM, you’re influenced to buy the same products without doing your due diligence.
How To Fix It:
This supplement mistake (along with many others on our list) can be corrected by doing a little research. The following are the basic questions you should ask and answer before consuming supplements:
- What is my goal in using this supplement?
- What does this supplement do?
- What is the effective dose of this supplement?
- Does timing matter when taking this supplement?
- Are there any potential medicinal or food interactions of which to be aware?
Using a supplement simply because someone you know (or know of) uses it is not a good enough reason for you to use it. Dietary supplements should be used to supplement your nutrition to meet a specific goal.
For example, if you are trying to increase muscle mass, then your goal is likely to increase your protein consumption. So, you can include a protein powder in your daily regimen to help meet your protein goal.
Next, ensure that the supplement does what you think it does. For example, protein powders help you to increase your overall protein consumption (among other things), so it is indeed a good addition if that’s your goal.
For things like protein powders, you should gain a general understanding of how much protein you need to consume to determine an appropriate serving amount for your protein powder. However, this question is especially important for things like vitamins, minerals, caffeine, or other micronutrients.
Maybe most importantly, you should have a general understanding of whether the supplement you’re using will interact with any medications, other supplements, or foods you consume. An excellent way to do this is to talk with your general physician before introducing a new supplement.
Lastly, some sports supplements are most effective when taken at a specific time of day or time relative to your workout. Your investigative process should involve determining if that’s the case with the supplement you’re considering. In our example, protein powders are typically most effective if taken within the short period following a workout, known as the anabolic window.
Supplement Mistake Number Two: Taking Your Supplements at the Wrong Time
Our last point leads us to the next most common supplement mistake—taking your supplements at the wrong time. While not applicable to some supplements, many are most effective when taken at a specific time.
Sometimes, this supplement mistake comes down to simply not reading the label—which should always be the first thing you do after purchasing and before taking! Many supplement labels include when to take the supplement. However, just because the label doesn’t recommend a time doesn’t necessarily mean it doesn’t matter.
How To Fix It:
Do yourself a favor and include a quick search on timing for your new supplement. Below, we’ve listed common supplements that should be taken at certain times and when, but please don’t consider this an exhaustive list!
- protein powder
- pre-workout supplements
- vitamin B complex
- collagen supplements
Protein powder is best taken within 30 minutes of completing your workout. While there is some debate about protein powder and the anabolic window, this seems particularly important if you fail to regularly hit your protein requirements.
Pre-workouts are one supplement that is obviously designed for a specific time—right before your workout. However, many people still don’t take this supplement correctly. Pre-workout supplements should be consumed 15 minutes before exercise and on a relatively empty stomach.
Generally, multivitamins should be taken in the morning on a full stomach. Food helps reduce the risk that the vitamins upset your stomach or cause nausea.
Minerals like magnesium should be used at night because they tend to make you sleepy.
If you use a calcium supplement, consider splitting the dose in two. For example, take half in the morning and half at night. A high dose of calcium can raise blood levels and increase the risk of developing painful kidney stones.
B complex vitamins are best taken in the morning or afternoon. This is because they provide a boost of energy, so you might as well use that when you want it, and not right before bed!
As for collagen, read your specific product’s label, but it is common for collagen supplements to be less effective when consumed with acidic beverages like orange juice. If you’re an OJ drinker in the mornings, don’t take your collagen supplement until later—but if you don’t drink juice, you can skip this tip!
Supplement Mistake Number Three: Allowing Your Supplements to Mess with Your Hormones
Now, we talk often about how many dietary supplements can help balance hormones—so why are we talking about supplements disrupting hormones? Well, first, the supplements we recommend if you suspect your hormones are out of whack are natural and herbal ingredients that have been shown to help the body naturally restore the balance of hormones—it’s not actual hormone therapy, which is a pharmaceutical therapy prescribed for certain medical conditions.
This supplement mistake is more specific than any of the other mistakes on our list because this one is specific to only supplements that contain caffeine (and when you’re taking them).
In her book “Woman Code,” holistic health coach Alisa Vitti mentions that through her research and trial and error with herself and her clients, she discovered that consuming caffeine before eating in the morning can severely disrupt your hormones.
Making this simple switch can all but eliminate unpleasant symptoms associated with hormonal imbalances like:
- irregular bowel movements
- irregular or missing menstrual cycles
- low libido
- weight gain
How To Fix It:
Easily correct this supplement mistake by ensuring you always eat before you consume caffeine. This applies to your pre-workout supplement, your coffee, and any other supplement or beverage that contains caffeine or any other stimulant.
Supplement Mistake Number Four: Taking too Much or Too Little
Remember when we talked about researching any new supplement you’re considering? In the list, we mentioned determining the proper and most effective doses. That comes into play with our next common supplement mistake.
Many people ignore the accurate dose versus the dose that’s in their product. This is a shame because a surprising number of supplements contain less than the dose with which studies used to prove the supplements effective.
This means that while you may be taking the right supplement to meet your goal, you might not be taking enough of it. Alternatively, and potentially more dangerously, you could be taking more than is recommended or known to be safe.
One of our favourite and most popular pre-workout supplements contains 3 grams of creatine per serving. This is a nice maintenance dose, but studies are typically conducted using 5 grams of creatine per day. So, to get that effective dose with this pre-workout, you need to be taking more than the recommended serving or consuming the rest of your creatine elsewhere.
How To Fix It:
Again, this supplement mistake is easily corrected with research. After you know the correct dose, ensure that your product contains at least that much or that you can get the remainder elsewhere. Be it food, like red meat for our creatine example, or potentially another supplement like your protein powder.
Supplement Mistake Number Five: Neglecting Complementary Foods and Vitamins
Many people fail to consume supplements (especially vitamins) with their complementary foods or vitamins, like supplement mistake number two.
Again, this supplement mistake isn’t applicable to every supplement, but there are a few well-known ones to note. This is not an exhaustive list, so make sure you’re doing your research before you start using a new supplement.
- vitamin D
- vitamin C
- fat-soluble vitamins
Alternatively, some vitamins and minerals should not be taken together, like calcium, magnesium, and zinc. These are competing minerals, so they should be taken at different times to ensure you’re absorbing the vitamins in their entirety.
How To Fix It:
To correct and avoid this supplement mistake, always research whether your supplement needs a complement to absorb or if it competes with others.
For the above list, make sure you:
- Consume calcium and vitamin D together. Vitamin D plays a crucial role in helping the body absorb calcium.
- Consume iron with vitamin C. Vitamin C has been proven to enhance iron absorption in the body significantly.
- Consume turmeric with a pinch of black pepper, as pepper dramatically increases the absorption of curcumin—the active ingredient in turmeric, which is absorbed very poorly by the body alone.
- Consume all fat-soluble vitamins with a dietary source of fat. Again, this helps increase the body’s absorption of these vitamins.
Supplement Mistake Number Six: Using Poor-Quality Protein Powders and Supplements
Lastly, many people underestimate the importance of using a quality supplement brand for everything from their multivitamin to their protein powder, making this our last common supplement mistake.
This supplement mistake is most common for beginners, but even some seasoned supplement users might skip out on the good stuff for things like vitamins and minerals to save a few bucks.
Unfortunately, the reality is that all supplements, from multivitamins and pre-workouts to protein powders, aren’t regulated in similar ways (or at all, in some cases).
Meaning that supplement companies can:
- put anything on their label without proof
- have relaxed policies and practices when it comes to formulating, processing, manufacturing, and delivering their products
For you, this means if you’re choosing protein powders and other supplements from an untrustworthy source, you’re risking using products that are potentially contaminated with heavy metals and other dangerous substances, or even using ingredients that are harmful or, in some cases, illegal.
How To Fix It:
This one’s probably the easiest fix—shop only with reputable, trustworthy supplement companies. At Supplement Superstore, we do the digging, so you don’t have to. We only sell products we’ve used ourselves and that we believe in for quality and results.
For more education, check out this blog on how to select a quality supplement brand. This information applies to protein powders, vitamins, and everything in between.
Now that you understand some of the most common supplement mistakes we see, you can avoid the mistakes and become an educated consumer. By doing so, you get the most out of your supplements, which means more bang for your buck and faster fitness results. Before we go, let’s mention these supplements, which are, in general, more likely to be misused with common supplement mistakes: protein powder, pre-workout, and vitamin D.