If you’re following a lot of fitness blogs and social media, you’ve probably found yourself inundated with supplement promotions. How important are these products, though? While many influencers would lead you to believe that workout supplements are critical to success, the fact is that most don’t do anything that you can’t achieve with a balanced diet.

The Protein Problem

One of the most popular fitness supplements is protein, whether that’s protein powder or meal replacement bars packed with extra protein, but here’s the thing: most people actually consume more protein than they need, so supplementing is basically a pricey waste of money. 

Even if you’re strength training with the goal of bulking up, a moderate increase in dietary protein should get you the results you’re looking for, especially since our bodies can only use a certain amount of protein at a time. We’re simply subject to our own metabolic limits.

Are you getting enough protein and still not seeing the gains you’re looking for? Consider this your reminder that more protein won’t solve the problem. One of the most common reasons people use protein supplements is because they think it will help them bulk up when they’re struggling at the gym. 

In reality, though, if you’re not seeing progress, it’s your nutrition that needs work; not your supplement plan.

Pre-Workout Makes Waves

Another product that has gotten a lot of press recently, largely due to a dangerous fitness “hack,” is pre-workout powder. These supplements are supposed to get you geared up for your workout, but do you know how they do that? 

Pre-workouts are largely made up of large amounts of caffeine and other energy boosters, along with amino acids. They’re not great when consumed properly, but they can actually be deadly when “dry scooped,” a bizarre trend that has sent a number of people to the hospital. 

Instead of buying pre-workout supplements, have a cup of coffee and a balanced breakfast and then hit the gym.

The Meal Replacement Mess

No one loves meal replacement shakes the way fitness buffs do, but most consume them out of some misguided belief that they’re a balanced source of nutrition. In reality, though, when you consume meal replacement shakes instead of whole foods, you’ll likely miss out on important elements like dietary fiber, and may end up gaining weight since these shakes aren’t sufficiently satiating. 

Hydration Products – The Jury Is Out

Overall, experts generally agree that supplements are unnecessary, barring a specific nutritional shortcoming; for example, a lot of people don’t get enough omega-3 fatty acids, so many doctors and nutritionists recommend fish oil supplements. 

For athletes, though, the jury is out on hydration products, which have proliferated in recent years. If you sweat a lot and put in a very intense workout, a traditional hydration product like Gatorade, which is high in sugar, can be helpful, but it’s not absolutely necessary – you can choose to make it part of your nutrition and hydration plan or not. Similarly, for people who don’t like drinking water, choosing different rehydration products can be motivation to stay hydrated.

All that being said, there are plenty of ways to stay hydrated without these supplements, including just drinking water, eating a balanced diet, and picking products like coconut water and fruit. Additionally, if you are going to use rehydration supplements, make sure that they contain a balanced mix of electrolytes and not just salt. 

When it comes to choosing supplements, whether or not you’re an athlete, the bottom line is that you probably only need those supplements that your doctor or nutritionist recommends. 

Beyond that, most supplements are just poorly regulated money pits. Ditch them and focus on your nutrition and you’ll get exactly what you need to keep your body operating at its peak.