It's the age-old question asked by women in gyms everywhere - "is this it?" And the age-old follow-up question asked by diabolical maniacs like me, "for real?"
I'm talking about the hand of cards we're all dealt on Day 1 - our genetic makeup. I've said before, mine kinda sucks. I want a do-over. But I'm getting over it and making the most out of what I have to work with. It's not fair and I'm bitter, but whatever.
As I continue on this journey towards my MGP (maximum genetic potential, if you haven't been taking notes), I've started to wonder about the ground rules. Since it is my own game, I guess I can make them, right? I've been wondering about the definition of "genetic potential" and whether the use of supplements should be allowed. After all, if I am supplementing my efforts with herbs, minerals, and vitamins, am I toying with nature? Or are they elements of nature that should be considered fair game play?
I have always equated supplements with steroids, and never touched them. Well, for a while in college I took creatine, but I was too poor to buy enough to make a difference. But now supplements fill the shelves of the drug store, grocery, and local health food shop, all innocently whispering the advantages they can provide. It could be very easy to load up on a bunch of snake oil, not really knowing what to expect, and end up hurting your progress in the long run. A trip into Vitamin World for some protein powder can make you wonder if you need a medical degree to figure out the hundreds of little bottles standing at attention, ready at your service.
I already take a multi-vitamin and glucosamine for my knee, so technically I guess I am supplementing my diet. But a recent read in a fitness magazine planted the seed of whether to add to my regimen and give my nutrition an edge. It was an article about how to get the most from your workouts by using arginine, caffeine, and creatine in combination with whey protein, fast-digesting carbs, and apparently a lot of water to wash it all down with. Another article recommended taking glutamine to enhance nutrition, and online boards discuss the merits of CLA and others. Of course, you can peruse a magazine stand any day of the week and you can find all sorts of research to support and disprove 31 flavors of fitness gimmicks. It is the responsibility of the user to research these supplements and determine their own personal comfort level with using them.
For me, what it really comes down to is not whether these supplements work (I am sure some do, and others are just a placebo effect) but whether the use of them dilutes the exercise of reaching your maximum genetic potential. Can you really say you are at your MGP when you've relied on something other than nutrition and exercise to get there? Or are they considered a "food group" of their own, just another aspect of nutrition?
I can't decide, so I am asking you. Leave me a comment and tell me what you think!