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Confession: I drank the Kool Aid

Yeah, I’ve drank the Kool Aid. More than once. Since I got into weightlifting and working out beyond traditional team sports when I was 16 years old, I’ve tried all sorts of diets, supplements, cleanses – you name it. The new scientific breakthrough in sports nutrition. The ultimate fat burning pill. The muscle building supplement that rivals anabolic steroids. I’ve tried some supplements with success, and tried others that were duds, and even tried some that were harmful. Now that I am a little older (okay, a lot older) and quite a bit wiser (okay, a little more wise) I am a much more cautious of what I put into my body. Maybe some of what I have learned can help you to avoid some of the mistakes I have made.

Mistake #1 – Believing magazine ads, labels, and claims from supplement companies.  Hey, a company can’t make outrageous claims about a product that doesn’t work, right? That’s false advertising. Wrong. There are several supplements that claim they have products that do this and that – build muscle, burn fat, boost testosterone, give you energy, etc. The truth is that many of these claims are based off of bad science or incomplete science – in other words, no long-term trials to test effectiveness, side effects, and such.

Mistake #2 – Believing references. I used to think, “Gee , this article about this product is full of references that back-up the claims.” Or I would read a book on nutrition where I would see little footnotes, citations, and references in the text that would seem to bring some legitimacy to the claims being made. That is until I started reading the references and actually reading the studies that articles and books referred to. What I found is many articles that have “scientific research” citations are cherry picking information from a full report. For example:

Claim: New research shows that people reported dramatic fat loss when taking Supplement A.

Actual study reads: Some participants in the Supplement A trial reported up to 10 pounds of fat loss in 21 days while others showed no weight loss of adipose tissue (fat). The majority of participants in the study averaged .9 pounds of weight loss per week when taking Supplement A while exercising 3 times each week and consuming foods from a calorie restrictive diet. The placebo group averaged weight loss of .8 pounds per week. More research is needed to prove whether Supplement A is effective for weight loss.

This is purely a demonstrative example, but it reflects what I have come across time and time again when digging a little deeper into some of the claims I hear supplement manufacturers making.

How to avoid such mistakes:

I have a couple resources that I like to check concerning supplement and diet efficiency and effectiveness.

The first place is the PubMed website. There are literally millions of studies on this site of the U.S. National Library of Medicine. If your supplement (or ingredients in your supplement) has undergone public and published case studies you will find it here. There are also studies on exercise, diet, and anything related to health. Click here to check it out.

Next is the website for the Nurses’ Health Study. This is a website that displays the information found by Harvard Medical School among other organizations in the most extensive and longest health study the United States has ever seen. You can check out the findings here.

These are two of my favorite; there are certainly others. Bottom line:  Check into things and do a little research before you put things into your body.

What about new supplements and new diets?

Well I guess at some point whey protein powder was a new product as was creatine and even multivitamins – all of which are safe for most people to consume. In regards to new products and new diets, just understand that there may be some risk involved. Be careful and be sure you are opting for the most natural sources for your food and supplement intake.

 

 
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