The supplement industry is a billion dollar industry. Tons of supplements on the market are cheaply made, not dosed nearly enough to provide actual benefits, and comprised of vitamins that many can easily get through their diet while lacking in those that are harder. The FDA does also not regulate supplements and companies do not actually have test whether or not their product is safe or that it works. We often times forget that supplements are meant to supplement our diets not replace them.
Before buying a supplement you should look at your diet, see what you are lacking, see what foods you can add to make up for the lacking nutrient, consult with your doctor to make sure it wont interfere with any medications, then consider buying a supplement. Looking at your diet first is important because overconsumption of vitamins can lead to vitamin toxicity. Supplements can be helpful but they will never replace quality sleep, good stress management, a balanced diet, and exercise.
What to look for in supplements:
The number one thing to look for in a supplement is whether or not the manufacturer includes a full list of ingredients as well as the amount of that particular ingredient. Many supplements are composed of proprietary blends, the number one being greens supplements. Proprietary blends are combinations of ingredients and do not show the amounts of each ingredient. For example, the blend might contain 3875mg of an “alkalizing blend” of barley grass, alfalfa, wheat grass, spirulina, plus seven other ingredients. The first ingredient is the most prominent in the blend while the following ingredients are the least.
Why does it matter if the supplement is composed of a proprietary blend or not? To make sure there is enough of an ingredient to show benefits. Lets look at spirulina. This is a super common ingredient in a lot of greens powders. A few benefits of spirulina include, improves cholesterol profile, increase muscle endurance, and helps protect liver health. The effective does shown from research is 2-10 grams with the most benefits seen in dosages of 5-10 grams. Looking back at the “alkalizing blend” above there is 3875mg of a combined 11 ingredients. Converting the amount from mg to g and you get 3.875 grams. That is almost 4 grams of 11 ingredients, which might sound awesome until we remember that for spirulina to be effective its dosage needs to be anywhere between 5-10 grams. Spirulina is also not the most prominent ingredient in that blend, barley grass is. Meaning there is probably not enough of certain ingredients to show any benefit.
Supplements worth looking into:
Creatine is the most researched supplement on the market. Creatine helps build muscle, can improve anaerobic endurance, and it can improve muscle recovery. However, keep in mind no supplement is magical you still need to put in the work in the gym. Creatine is produced by the body and is present in almost all of our cells. When you take a creatine supplement the total amount of creatine stores in your body increases. Creatine can increase muscle growth by increasing the amount of water in the muscle cells and it creates a positive balance of nitrogen within the muscles. The more consistent you are with taking creatine the better the outcome is going to be. Research suggests supplementing with 5g of creatine monohydrate daily, even on rest days. Contrary to early belief about creatine you do not need a loading phase, you do not need to cycle off of it, and it is not a steroid.
Most are deficient or do not get the recommended amount of vitamin D. Supplementing with vitamin D could increase cognition, immune health, bone health, and may reduce the risk of certain diseases. Research shows the upper limit of vitamin D is 4,000 IU with some research showing up to 10,000 IU. Vitamin D3 is used more efficiently in the body. Many supplements have vitamin D3 and K2 together. Vitamin K2 has been shown to break down plaque buildup in our organs. Vitamin D3 and K2 act together to promote healthy organs and bones.
Omega 3 fish oil:
Omega 3 supplements provide the body with essential fatty acids. Research shows that fish oil may increase cognitive performance, decrease inflammation, and could decrease the risk of heart disease. The best form of fish oil supplements are reesterified triglyceride oil as it has more EPA and DHA than other forms of fish oil. The minimum dosage of EPA and DHA is set at 250mg.
B12 is mostly found in animal products. Those who follow a vegan diet can fall short of their daily B12 needs. The RDA for B12 is set at 2.4mg.
Supplements not worth considering:
There is no evidence that supports that detox supplements are beneficial. There is however, evidence to support kidney damage and liver failure from detox supplements and diets. Most are not tested for safety or efficacy. Your organs detox your body.
Take Home Message:
There is no one supplement that everyone should take and are based on individual needs. They will not solve all of your issues and just because you supplement with something does not mean your meeting your daily nutrient needs. Look at your diet first, establish a good sleep schedule, manage your stress, exercise, and then look into supplementing whatever your body needs.
Disclaimer: The author is not a physician or a registered dietitian. The contents of this article should not be taken as medical advice. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any health problem – nor is it intended to replace the advice of a physician.
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