How to save money when buying supplements

I am about to save you a lot of money.


Because I’m gonna let you in on a little secret.

Until you get your diet in order, you’re wasting your money if you’re using a bunch of supplements like preworkout, BCAAs (branch chain amino acids), fat burners and mass gainers.

Now, I’m not saying all supplements are worthless (although some are). And I’m not talking about any supplements your doc might have recommended for health reasons (like Vitamin D or magnesium, etc.). What I am talking about here are the supplements that claim they’ll boost your performance, cut your fat, build tons of muscle and generally turn you into a strong, ripped, super-sexy beast.

Save money.Eat healthy.Be a sexy beast.Your money and effort is better spent toward laying a healthy foundation by eating a nutritious, balanced and varied diet. Then, when you get that nailed down, you can get fancier if you want (but I’m guessing you won’t want as much you think you might).

I see people cart bags of supplements into my gym on a regular basis, and I hear them during their workouts, talking with their friends about their eating/partying escapades, and can’t help but notice the disconnect.

And if you spend much time leafing through fitness magazines, you really can’t blame the disconnect because they are filled with images and claims. Important reminder: many fitness magazines are funded by supplement advertisers.

If I have one regret when it comes to health/fitness, it’s that I didn’t figure out how vital nutrition was to our workout results sooner. In my own defense, I grew up in the heyday of the high-carb, low-fat diet (Snackwell cookies, anyone?). And when you’re young it can be harder to feel/see the difference in how your body feels when when fueled one way versus another.

But now that I’m older and wiser, I can tell you firsthand that when you eat a healthier diet your body functions better, right? (duh). Your body is primed to perform better. You have less inflammation. You can work out harder and longer. And you hurt less.

What does “eat a healthier diet” mean? This is a loaded question because everyone’s system is different (as, more importantly, are their beliefs about diet), but there are some basic rules. Cut back on the sugar. Ditch overly processed foods. Eat more vegetables, lean proteins, fruits, starchy carbohydrates (especially after your workout) and healthy fats.

And for those looking for the fast track to being a super-sexy beast, I know that’s not very sexy advice. But saving money and having a healthier body is pretty darn sexy.

If you need a preworkout boost, have a cup of coffee or green tea.

If you need a postworkout meal, make your own (it’s easy and cheap!). If you’re trying to lose weight, come up with something that’s 2 parts carbs to 1 part protein (maybe with 30 grams of carbs and 15 grams of protein). If you’re trying to muscle up, take that ratio to 3 parts carbs to 1 part protein (45 grams of carbs to 15 grams of protein). Keep the fat low in both cases.

You could drink some fat-free chocolate milk (that’s an old standby recommendation). You could eat rice cakes and sliced turkey or chicken. Have an apple or banana and cottage cheese or nonfat plain Greek yogurt. Heck, if it’s postworkout, I could even make an argument for flavored Greek yogurt (in small amounts, from a low-sugar brand).

Back when I was writing the Fit for Duty fitness column for the military newspaper Stars & Stripes, I interviewed a nutritionist who suggested people ditch mass gainers and instead eat a peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole wheat bread, washed down with a glass of 100 percent percent fruit juice.

Once your diet is in order, you can start laying in the supplements that you believe will help you get to your goals. Before you take them, though, do some investigation to make sure they are worth it both in terms of the cost and your health.

I’m not affiliated with this site but it’s my go-to source for supplement info — it’s science-based, takes no ads and its writers/editors examine human research studies to explain the benefits (or not) of supplements.

Protein powders can be helpful if you have a hard time getting adequate protein in your diet (I use them). Creatine can be helpful for many people when it comes to improving performance in strength training. And if you have health issues, ask your doctor what s/he thinks about what you’re taking — I’ve brought a bag of supplements to my doctor before and I saved some cash (and I also walked out with recommendations for replacements for what I was taking).

That old saying is true: you can’t out train a bad diet, and you also can’t out supplement one, either.

Do you take supplements? What are your go-tos, and why?

Wendy Watkins

About Wendy Watkins

Wendy Watkins is a Bangor-based personal trainer, fitness coach, studio owner, and writer/editor. She is the author of The Complete Idiots Guide to Losing 20 Pounds in 2 Months. Visit her website at