Is Taking Workout Supplements OK in Recovery?

For many people, getting sober is not just an opportunity to get healthy mentally and spiritually, but physically as well. People that may have never run a single mile or lifted a weight in their lives find a new outlet and oftentimes, passion, in exercise and healthy living.

Recovery is a total package deal, so the new-found interest in self-care and health is a logical progression once we stop drinking and using. Part of being sober is taking care of ourselves, and a commitment to physical improvement is arguably an important part of any well rounded spiritual program for living.

While this statement is hardly controversial, is there a point where the methods used to pursue athleticism or physique become unhealthy and unspiritual? There are a wide range of supplements available and actively used by a lot of people, which allow an individual to perform better, for longer, and oftentimes to achieve results more quickly. Because supplements are classified and regulated as food and not drugs, they aren’t subjected to the same scrutiny as pharmaceuticals and sometimes ingredients are not listed. Are supplements like pre-workout and fat burners questionable for someone in recovery? Lets explore both.


Pro Supplements


The first argument in favor of supplementation is that they work. Anyone who has tried lifting weights after drinking a pre-workout powder can attest to the fact that they experienced heightened endurance, intensity, focus and energy during their workout. In addition to the efficacy of these supplements, they are all legal – being sober and in recovery means abstaining from mind altering drugs and alcohol, but these supplements don’t affect the mind any more than nicotine does. Some are mildly stimulating in the way that caffeine is, but do not possess any intoxicating or inebriating effects.

Drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes are both widely accepted in the recovery community, why wouldn’t supplements be as well? In fact it could be argued that utilizing a legal and widely accepted tool to increase performance and help to push through plateaus can help an individual stay motivated to exercise and maintain a healthy lifestyle because of the quicker more consistent results that they often provide. Is it considered spiritually questionable to supplement with vitamins in order to allow your body to operate at peak efficiency? Why should taking a supplement designed to target physical performance within legal boundaries be any different?


The Flip Side


The argument against these types of supplements is quick to point out their lack of regulation however. Because of this, the consumer cannot be assured of what they are actually ingesting. With no definitive ingredient profile, is it smart for an individual in recovery, whose sobriety depends on abstinence from intoxicating substances, to roll the proverbial dice? Additionally, these supplements can be looked at as shortcuts. For someone striving to live a spiritual lifestyle, aren’t shortcuts supposed to be avoided in favor of putting in the work and effort to achieve one’s goals? One of the big supplement controversies in 2013 centered on Craze, a pre-workout produced by Driven Sports. The company took the product off of the shelves of stores because of accusations that it contained compounds that were said to be analogous to methamphetamine.

Situations like this could compromise someone’s sobriety. It could be argued that once someone begins to rely heavily on supplements to achieve their fitness goals, the spiritual component is taken out of the picture and the exercise and supplementation becomes one more unhealthy fix. If supplements are ok, why not cut to the chase and take steroids – another group of substances that are foreign to the body and are designed to produce quicker, more noticeable effects on athleticism and physique.

Leave it to the alcoholic to do everything in excess. Today, athletic supplements address all types physical enhancement. This is no longer about choosing the best protein powder or creatine. There is a power or pill for everything whether its before, during or after a workout. Where does one draw the line dividing healthy living and over consumption of dietary supplements?

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What Are Your Thoughts?


The argument is obviously not black and white. While there are widely varying opinions and beliefs surrounding the topic, one thing is for sure – supplements comprise a large market and are here to stay. Are pre-workouts and other athletic and training enhancement aids detrimental to sobriety and spirituality? We would love to hear your thoughts on the topic!


  • Sian
    Posted at 07:35h, 09 August Reply

    I am a gym goer myself, not that you would know it as I am still a few stone over weight but I am. There are a couple of supplements I take when I am looking after myself and training properly. Protein shakes as a meal replacement or as a muscle repairer after an intense work out and if I need a boost I will take a fab burner but to be honest, they have undesired affects as in shakiness and quick burn out.
    I also take an effervescent multivitamin and an effervescent 1000mg vit C. These keep my body healthy and stop me becoming tired or poorly. I still get poorly but when doing what I know is right and not slipping in to old habits, these get rid of any illness far quicker than I’d normally get rid of illnesses.

    Supplement shakes should not be seen as drug highs as those who are uninformed see them but if someone was an addict I’d warn them to keep a close eye on their new found health program. I have seen too many get obsessed by muscle gain and fall in to using Steroids. Steroids are lethal and you will lose as many friends as you may have done as an addict. Steroids leave people aggressive and paranoid.

  • Howard Barker
    Posted at 13:59h, 11 August Reply

    Thank you for your input Sian! As a recovering alcoholic it is easy to fixate on things – unfortunately some people take this to a dangerous level with steroid use. Not only are steroids illegal when used without a doctor’s supervision and in my opinion un-spiritual, they have a lot of long term health consequences that can indeed be ultimately fatal.

  • Diana
    Posted at 12:18h, 12 August Reply

    I would warn that because fat burners are high caffeine doses, they can make people dehydrate fast and the aspirin can cause palps.
    Good old fashioned hard work and BCAA supplements are a much more natural way than older forms.

  • derek
    Posted at 23:58h, 10 March Reply

    I’m in recovery myself. I have personally found that my addictive nature comes out in my passion for lifting now that im sober. I would highly suggest any addict not to touch pre sups of any kind ever. A single scoop of most leading brand pre sups have anywhere from 3 to 5 cups of coffee equivalent in cafine. Caffine greatly hightens the intensity of PAWS. No more needs to be said. I’d also like to add that plenty of other post are against steroids and i agree with them. But dont be so nieve to think these presups are better for you. They are all bran new with absolutely no long term testing about the effects on our lasting health. Odds are they are just as bad as roids. That being said i took various presups for years and loved the results. Jack3d being my fav before they took the meth like sup out of it.. yes as an addict i can tell you first hand it got me geeked.i

  • PamelaParker
    Posted at 11:47h, 22 June Reply

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