Every supplement company would love you to think yes, but as you can imagine the real answer is No! Supplements are not required to get good results.
However most people will benefit from a few that genuinely work.
Supplements are exactly what the name implies, to be used when needed to help supplement an existing (hopefully) high quality diet. Realistically most people including myself will choose to use them as a few can prove very useful. As they can be difficult to get in high enough quantities no matter how good your diet is. This is especially true for people training hard and/or short on time. Supplements can also prove useful for their convenience factor, and anything that makes life easier can improve nutrition compliance. Ultimately it is recommended to get as much nutrition from real food and then to add a supplement for a given area you may be lacking.
If I had to pick only 5 supplements to use, these would be in no particular order:
- High quality omega 3
- Creatine monohydrate
- Vitamin D
- Whey protein or similar vegan protein
The reason I recommend the above supplements for everyone, is that they help the body in a holistic way and would benefit your body 24/7 in and outside of the gym.
None of us have unlimited money to spend on supplements, and three tips I would give to get the best value for your money would be:
1. Don't place all your eggs in one basket
What I mean by this is don't spend all your money on supplements that have one area of focus. For example rather than spending £50 a month on various pre-workout ingredients, you will be better of spending less on your pre-workout and then spending the spare money on another area such as recovery (magnesium, omega 3). For the most amount of gainz you want your supplements to help as many areas of your body as possible.
2. Do your research
Supplement companies are great at telling you what you want to hear. Before believing the hype look up the ingredients online on sites such as examine.com. Not only will this allow you to find ingredients that actually work, it will also improve your knowledge of what is actually achievable via supplements.
3. Fix the root cause
As mentioned supplements are very appealing at times as they sound like a quick fix to our problems. For example if you currently have poor sleep and diet patterns, a pre-workout sounds like the holy grail and a way to avoid the real issues. While stimulants found in most pre-workouts will definitely help you get through that one workout, you'll often find yourself in a vicious cycle of depending more and more on these supplements which will have no end in sight as the cause is not being treated.
My tip here is anytime you feel like you need a supplement to help with a particular issue, try to look at the the bigger picture and see if instead there is a way you can try to fix the root cause. In the example above the trainee could perhaps get some protein powder and magnesium to help clean up their diet and get better sleep / recovery. They could then look into better sleeping habits and nutrition planning, which would help them have more energy not just for their workouts but for the whole day.