Supplements are a massive, relatively new industry that are marketed to everyone from high level athletes to sedentary individuals. If you have a heartbeat there is a supplement that will make you healthier, stronger, faster, and better in the sack. I am a huge proponent of focusing on your diet first to see the changes in your health and body that you require, then adding supplements after this has been achieved and only if there are still deficiencies that are causing issues with your health or performance. I think too many people buy into a comprehensive supplement program, only to rely solely on the supplements for their nutrition so they can keep eating the garbage diet that they prefer. This is not only wasteful, but potentially harmful. Very few supplements are independently tested and can actually verify that what the label says is in them is correct. Another point to consider is how nutrients will affect the body differently when they are in isolation in a supplement vs. working with various other compounds in whole food. While I recommend everyone focus primarily on balanced nutrition, there are a couple instances where supplements may be advisable.
1. Specialized Diets – If you are moving to a more restrictive diet based on a food allergy, ethical preference, or medical reason, then ensuring you are getting all the nutrients for optimum health may be a challenge. Talk to a registered dietician about what nutrients are most important for your specific case and see if there are whole food options for getting adequate amounts of those crucial nutrients. Anything that food won’t cover can then be supplemented with high quality, independently tested supplements.
2. Peak Performance – If you are an athlete with a well balanced diet that matches your caloric and nutrient needs you may still need some extra help getting the nutrients that will maximize performance. This becomes more and more the case the more elite you are at your given sport. Since the margin for success gets tighter and tighter as the level of competition increases, supplements can give you an edge that may mean the difference between being a champion and a runner up. This being said athletes need to be especially careful about the purity of the supplements being taken as they can contain significant amounts of banned substances if they are not regulated and independently tested. Many athletes have been disqualified from competition because of a supplement they took that was allowable but contained a substance that went against the rules of their sport/event.
We have complete control over the destiny over our health with regards to what we put into our bodies. What you choose to eat every day should be looked at as a significant decision that can have life long effects. If you do decide to include supplements into this decision please ask yourself if they are really necessary, and do your research to ensure that they are worth the money!
Yours in good health,