The vitamin, mineral, and supplement industry is a billion-dollar industry. You may think it’s a dry subject, but there are a few things you should consider before popping little mystery pills into your body on a regular basis.
When choosing supplements, you should keep two things in mind:
- Do I need this?
- Are any of the ingredients harmful to my body?
Most of the time, supplements appeal to our desire for a result that we feel we can’t achieve on our own. Examples include losing weight quickly, gaining massive amounts of muscle, or achieving superhuman immunity. Often, the results promised from supplement companies are undeliverable and unrealistic.
To build muscles (hypertrophy), you need to fatigue your muscles with a specific amount of reps and sets. To avoid breaking down the muscle you just built, your body needs glucose (carbohydrates) within one hour of your workout. You also need enough complex carbohydrates (vegetables) and healthy dietary fat to balance your body’s energy needs. Getting adequate — but not too much — protein helps maintain the new muscle you’re building (adults are encouraged to get about 10-35 percent of their daily calories from protein throughout the day). Some health experts maintain that getting more than 35 percent of your calories from protein may put stress on the kidneys and liver. Ensuring proper, balanced nutrition through your diet will maintain and build lean tissue more effectively than pre-workout, during or post-workout supplements or shakes.
Supplements are meant to infuse your body with essential vitamins, minerals, or nutrients that you’re not currently consuming through your diet. Supplements are also meant to boost nutrients that your body is not absorbing adequately.
On their own, supplements are incomplete. For example, if you want to boost your vitamin C intake, you could take a supplement with JUST one ingredient, vitamin C. Or you can eat a large orange, which contains more than 100 percent of your daily intake for vitamin C plus many other nutrients like dietary fiber, B vitamins, folate, vitamin A, calcium, copper, and potassium, which all increase the potency and bioavailability of vitamin C. The bottled supplement (which is oftentimes synthetic and very hard to digest) is incomplete, as it does not have the other nutrients that make the vitamins and minerals more bioavailable to your body compared to whole fruits and vegetables.
Similarly, if you desire more protein, a protein supplement is usually lacking the natural carbohydrates, minerals, and healthy fat that a complete protein source includes. When manufacturers realize this, they try to include synthetic (cheap) versions of the real thing (maltodextrin) and vegetable oil (in place of nutrient-dense animal fat).
In summary, getting most of your nutrients through whole fruits and vegetables and quality meat sources like grass-fed beef, free-range poultry, and wild-caught fish is ideal in
creating a healthy body and in avoiding disease. Supplements should be taken only when there is a need (for example, I take fish oil on days that I don’t eat fish and I take probiotics on days that I lack probiotic-rich foods like kefir, plain yogurt, and pickled vegetables.
I also take specific supplements short-term when I’m fighting off an infection or preventing one if my family members gets ill). I also work very closely with a
nutrition response tester (NRT), a holistic professional,
to balance my supplement needs in various seasons of
Let’s look at a list of a few common ingredients found
in workout supplements. If any of these ingredients
are in your supplements or food, I would consider
looking for other options as these ingredients are doing more harm than good in your body.
- Maltodextrin. This is sugar that is used as a
food additive. It is produced from starch by partial hydrolysis and is usually found as a white hygroscopic spray-dried powder. Usually made
from corn, there is nothing healthy about this substance.
- Artificial flavors. Get in the habit of not purchasing anything that says “artificial” in the ingredients, as this means that the product has been created in a lab. Nothing healthy here.
- Sucralose. This is artificial sugar that is consistently in news and medical journals linked to all sorts of cancers and most recently in an Italian study, leukemia. American studies show that people who consume artificial sweeteners consume MORE calories than those who consume regular sugar and are more likely to be overweight. Artificial sweeteners are excitotoxins and are harmful to the brain.
- Artificial food dye (example: Red #40). Food dyes are highly controversial, with some experts saying they cause food sensitivities and allergies. Some neuroscientists also say they have a long-term negative effect on the brain. Adults should steer clear of these chemicals and children should NOT be allowed to consume artificial food colors. Many countries have banned food colors altogether.
- Vegetable oils. Vegetable oils are highly processed and highly damaging to our bodies.
Remember, what you put in your body directly affects the health of your bones, skin, gut, and brain. Educate yourself and make common sense choices. Your health will flourish as a result. You are worth exceptional health!
*Be sure to check with your physician before beginning a new fitness or nutrition program.