There are NO magic bullets!!

I don’t think I’ll ever forget the tragic death of Steve Bechler—but not for reasons you might think. For those who don’t remember, Bechler was a minor league pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles. In 2003, he unexpectedly died from a heatstroke after a workout, the cause of which was linked to the use of the supplement ephedra.

Bechler’s passing was notable for many reasons; the most heart-wrenching of which was the premature death of a young man. But Bechler’s sad story hinted at a foundational flaw in the way most people approach their health. The young pitcher was in a unique situation: He was a highly competitive athlete, and he was trying to do everything he could to rise to the top. And while most people’s professions don’t depend on physical performance, the motivation to use a supplement was one that everyone could relate to. At some point, we all wonder if there’s more we can do to improve our workouts or finally lose some fat. And while most people pointed the finger at the supplement industry following Bechler’s death, the bigger issue was a culture shift that emphasized and rewarded a do-whatever-it-takes approach to health.

Let’s be honest: The supplement industry could use more oversight. But the problem with supplements isn’t their existence or your use of them—it’s the unrealistic expectation of their benefits that causes misuse. We have morphed into a society that craves the need for instant gratification. People want to see results—and fast. Whether it’s a 24-hour news cycle, instant updates from Twitter, or fast food—we have lost our patience. And nowhere is that more evident than the health field. Legal supplements, like protein powder and vitamins, and illegal products (think anabolic steroids) might be dramatically different in the health risks they pose, but the reason for use and experimentation is oftentimes rooted in the same motivation. We all want an edge that speeds the success curve. Something to make use lose fat faster, build muscle easier, or ward off the aches and pains that victimize so many people.

In the most general sense, there are two types of people who turn to supplements: Those who work hard and are trying to do all they can to maximize their potential, and those who desire the bottom-line results and are searching for a more efficient path to the finish line. In both situations, though, the motivation is the same: To do what it takes to become better.

So where do we draw the line?

It starts with understanding what supplements work and which one’s don’t. To that effect, we had our nutrition expert, Alan Aragon, research and create “The 20 Most Overrated Supplements” to help you identify what products to avoid. As I’ve mentioned before, education will always be the launching pad for empowerment.

From there, it’s important to realize that living healthy doesn’t manifest itself in one shape or approach. For any person, the drive to uncover their best is oftentimes rooted in an unrealistic or uninformed belief of what it means to be healthy. Health—much like beauty—is in the eye of the beholder. Your inspiration should come from within, and not some expectation of what is sold on a supplement label, in a magazine, online, or on television. As I like to remind people:

“The best inspiration is not to outdo others, but to outdo ourselves.”

In the end, Bechler’s death was less a warning about the potential danger of supplements and more about the danger of uninformed decisions and impatience. (That’s not to say their aren’t dangerous supplements, but it’s on the individual to protect themselves and not blindly trust the supplement manufacturers)

I have no problem with supplements. I’ve taken protein powders, multi-vitamins, and a day doesn’t go by that I don’t pop some fish oil capsules. But I recommend cutting out all supplements for a period of time and take on fitness on your own. You see, most of us fall victim to a form of the fundamental attribution error. Instead of seeing your success as a result of your hard work, you link it to your use of a supplement. After all, most supplements provide more of a psychological boost than a physical one, and we end up developing dependency without even realizing it. Or even worse, we doubt that we can make changes on our own and lose faith in our ability to become healthier. That’s why it’s essential to test yourself and see what you’re made of. Even if you’ve failed before, try again with a more informed approach: Work hard, stay patient, and assess what you can achieve. (Note: If your physician has mandated that you need to be on certain supplements, please follow that advice)

As you remove supplements, you’ll start eating more whole, natural food choices to help your body recover and reach your goals. And those foods will keep you fuller and have surprising benefits. As part of the process, you’ll essential rewire your diet to something healthier than it was before. And by removing your reliance on supplements, you’ll be able to better understand your body, your diet, and your exercise habits. After the experiment, you can decide what you really need.

The test should serve as a reminder and lesson that what’s missing from your approach isn’t a powder or pill, it’s just a little more patience and a bigger belief in you.
– Adam Bornstein

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