There is no substitution for a healthy diet. Want to lose weight? Eat better. Want to gain muscle? Eat better. Once you have that down, you might want to add some supplements to your diet, but there are so many out there making claims and promises. Proponents will tell you that supplements are a must-have and are better for you than most prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Opponents will tell you that most are gimmicks and that supplements are the most un-regulated, un-safe substances we can put in our bodies. A rational stance would be that there are plenty of practical and safe supplements, but there are also some that are untested and potentially harmful. Below is a list of a few supplements that have stood the test of time and are generally accepted as safe and effective.
Multivitamins – I’ll say it again: Good food first, supplements second. That said, a good multivitamin could be a good way to fill some minor nutrient voids in your diet. More and more doctors recommend multivitamins for most people, and always for pregnant and lactating mothers. There are a few skeptics out there that question the effectiveness of taking a multivitamin, but even so, they are generally regarded as safe.
Vitamin D3 – Vitamin D is best received by taking in sunlight, which causes our bodies to synthesize vitamin D. Some foods also contain levels of vitamin D, but not nearly what you can get from sunlight. Due to the fact that many of us work indoors, and many of us live in areas where skin exposure to sunlight is minimal as a result of cold weather and cloudy skies, many of us are deficient in vitamin D. More and more doctors are recommending a vitamin D supplement because of this. To know what level of vitamin D you need, a simple blood test and recommendation from your doctor can indicate the correct dosage of a vitamin D3 supplement.
Creatine Monohydrate – This muscle-building supplement has been around for decades, and unlike some that seem to hit the market only to get banned years down the road, creatine is mostly considered safe and effective for most people. While a good diet with an adequate amount of protein will put on muscle, creatine can help put on a little extra.
Whey Protein – Whey is a natural byproduct of cheese and is the most used protein in protein shakes and powders. It is rich in amino acids, provides protein (obviously), and digests quickly to support muscle growth. Because of this, whey protein has become the post-workout choice for many fitness enthusiasts. Some whey protein powders contain artificial sweeteners and flavors, while others have a more natural ingredient list.
Other Vitamins such as Vitamin B12, Vitamin C, and Vitamin E – Like other vitamins, these can fill voids in the diet and make up deficiencies that some people may have. Again, blood work can be done to determine if there is a deficiency in the body and if any of these are needed.
Nutrients such as Calcium and Iron – Again, get some blood work and/or a physical exam with a physician to get a recommendation on any nutrient that you may need.
Omega 3 and Fish Oil – One way to get omega 3s and fish oil is to – get this – eat fish a couple of times per week. Go figure. Omegas 3s, or fatty acids, are also present in other meats and foods such as eggs. Taking an omega 3 supplement may be beneficial for a lot of people including vegetarians or those that do not have a diet rich in omega 3s.
There are thousands of supplements out there with science supporting the claims of some, and disputing the claims of others. Most experts generally accept the ones listed in this article as safe, but as with anything there are always skeptics.
What about other herbs, extracts, and blends out there? Are those safe? Well, the best answer I can come up with is maybe. There are so many out there that it is difficult to validate all of them, or discredit them for that matter. There are some that use bad science (if any) to support their claims. Some work, some may be harmful, and some might not have any effect at all. My advice is to do a little research before you blindly put something into your body. Just because a label claims to bring you benefits, doesn’t make it so. On the other hand, there are others that do live up to the hype.
There are some supplements that people should beware of and take caution before taking. I will discuss these in the next article.
Supplements can be a good addition to an active and healthy lifestyle. Just remember: Diet and exercise come first – some supplements might be a great compliment your healthy lifestyle and bring you some added benefits.