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.
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?
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!