Carissa Cockings of Mass Nutrition knows the ins and outs of vitamin and workout supplements.
Carissa Cockings of Mass Nutrition knows the ins and outs of vitamin and workout supplements. Lee Constable

The pros cons of using supplements

TO BE fit and slim is the ultimate goal.

To achieve this it requires the balance of good food and regular exercise, right?

Fitness supplements were once seen as a stimulant used by men.

These days there is a significant rise in women choosing fitness supplements to give them a boost when it comes to their workout sessions.

While supplements have grown in popularity there are still questions.

Do we know what they are, do they actually work, are they beneficial, are there side effects to taking them?

Carissa Cockings and her partner Nev Heath own Mass Nutrition where they have noticed an increase in women using fitness supplements as part of their workout routines.

Miss Cockings said goodbye to her corporate job to follow her passion of fitness.

She said before opening their store, which sells fitness supplements from fat burners to protein, she openly admits that she knew very little about the industry.

She said Nev was the one with the knowledge and drive to open the store.

Since then she has learnt a lot about supplements, even taking courses through HPC on the Gold Coast.

"Even before we opened our store we thought it would be heavier on the male side, but not, we get the girls because of people like Ashy Bines, where she recommends supplements. They will come in and have their list of six or seven products.

"Most of the time I say you don't need all that.

"Sometimes people come in as a couple. There is hardly ever a couple that if the guy gets something, the girl is totally not interested, they will be like 'what can I get', even if they didn't come in looking for something.

"It definitely is rising, people are wanting to know more, especially females, because the typical belief is protein makes you buff and with muscles, but that point of view is changing."

Miss Cockings said weight loss is the biggest reason as to why women use supplements.

"Some people do come in and think they can get a 'quick fix' and they want to have all the fat burners - but I tell them they can only have one.

"There are still a lot of women who don't realise the benefits of protein in your diet. Protein should be the number one thing to use before a fat burner."

Miss Cockings said she goes to the gym twice a day and she and her partner spent a fortune on a home gym.

She said while it is not hard for her to get up and go to the gym, there are a lot of people who think they need supplements to give them a kick of energy.

"Most people don't enjoy the gym, but with the pre-workout drinks and fat burners, they use it because they think they need it.

"A lot of girls buy protein for recovery, because they find they are really sore after a workout."

Nutritionist, exercise physiologist and associate lecturer at the University of Queensland Courtney Hargrave said the popularity of supplements in recent years had made many people consider them as essential or a normal requirement in order to get fit.

"Many people buy supplements in order to trial them, often convinced by the marketing campaign behind the product 'gain lean muscle', 'improved recovery', 'increased strength' - these claims are often emotive. There is an abundant amount of sports supplements on the market.

"Some supplements and sports foods can help an athlete achieve their nutritional goals and performance, however only a small number actually have scientific evidence to support their proposed benefits."

Courtney said there is no doubt that many people have what is called a placebo effect when they start taking a supplement and continue to exercise regularly.

"People perceive they have made improvements simply because they have taken a supplement that claims it can improve your fitness," Courtney said.

"In some cases the results they have obtained from exercising regularly are often attributed directly as a result from the sports supplement, when in many cases the results are actually only from the exercise and not the supplement."

Femnasium Health and Fitness for Women owner Robyn Agius said there is an element of the "quick fix" going on, with supplements giving you a boost of energy which enable you to work harder than you might have normally.

"If you can only get a great workout when you are taking supplements, you probably need to review your nutritional intake and your workout routine.

"We should be using our food as our primary energy source - real food, the stuff you chew."

Ms Agius said at the gym when she discusses supplements with women, her staff suggest a good multivitamin/ mineral and a fish oil supplement.

"If they're not big on eating vegetables or salad, we recommend a greens supplement (preferably organic fermented greens).

She encouraged women to incorporate some form of protein with every meal, with a protein shake a useful source if ladies are inclined to skip snacks.

"Protein shakes are also useful 30 minutes before a workout if you haven't eaten a solid meal within two hours, or immediately after a session, as they give the body the nutrients it needs to repair, rebuild and keep the metabolism going - but food is better - nothing beats real food."

Ms Agius said there are always questions, and an interest in supplements.

"We encourage ladies to get their food sorted first - good nutrition is all about balance - and it needs to be sustainable, something you can do for the rest of your life - supplements are generally not a healthy option long term."

Ms Agius said a simple, healthy eating plan was the key, with real food close to nature and less processed the better.

She said women have many issues to deal with now and not enough time is a big one.

"We are all so very busy, and ladies aren't in the habit of putting themselves first, so it's more like once I get everything done, I'll go for a walk, or get to the gym. If ladies would just tick the 'me box' first, they would be able to power through the day, and feel all the better for having made themselves a priority."


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