In addition to having all these products shoved into your face, how do you know if they work? What they do? What the hell are they? Let’s discuss some of the more common supplemental products, there are hundreds of kinds out there so make sure you do your research before you decide to lay down lots of $$$ for something.
· By far the most common supplement is your basic protein supplement, which commons in many varieties including shakes, powers, bars and such. There are two basic types of protein supplement, whey and soy.
· Whey Protein
o This source of protein is derived from (you guessed it!) Whey! Which is the milky by-product leftover from the production of cheese. This type of protein is popular due to it’s perceived anti-inflammatory effects and role within disease prevention although research is still being done. It is most often sold as a powder and is a good source of Branched Chain Amino Acids. It commonly used by body builders and athletes to aid with gains in muscular strength and mass.
· Soy Protein
o This source of protein is derived entirely from soybeans, it is a vegetarian and vegan friendly supplement, and since it is not an animal product it does not contain cholesterol and is very low in fat. It is also a rich source of Vitamin D, which aids in the absorption of calcium. It is more popular among women due to its high estrogen content, it has been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer and help alleviate other common health concerns.
· The best time to consume protein is following your workout; I recommend no later then 2 hours following your exercise bout. The key with protein however is that your body will only use what it needs, whatever is left over will be converted to fat and stored as fat. A single serving of protein will suffice for your body, which varies based on a variety of factors.
· Fish oil is very popular as it is a rich source of Omega-3 Fatty Acids, these fatty acids most commonly found as monounsaturated fat. Omega-3 Fatty Acids are anti-inflammatory and can aid in heart health and can significantly reduce your risk or effects of disease. They are also beneficial to brain health, they are not a fuel source for the brain but are highly concentrated within the brain and can aid in cognitive functioning. Omega-3 are not just found in fish oil but also in plant oil as well, when looking at a nutrition label, if the product contains “Monounsaturated Fat” They contain Omega-3 Fatty Acids.
· One of the common issues with fish oils however is the high concentration of Mercury, Due to human interference, mercury levels within the bodies of water (specifically oceans) have risen and are often consumed by fish, which is not harmful to them but can be dangerous to humans. Fish oil supplements contain concentrated levels of fish oil, which has been process, and in turn has lead to concentrated levels of Mercury. It is not required to list mercury levels on products and is often impossible to determine how much mercury is contained in a specific product.
· Other sources of Omega-3 include fresh water fish (salmon, trout) as well vegetable sources including olive oil, vegetable oil, canola oil, sunflower oil etc.
· Creatine is an amino acid often found in many lean protein sources and is also created by the body itself through the liver and kidneys. It is popular due to it’s a quick fuel source for the body during high intensity and spring exercise. It is one of the first amino acids converted to ATP for energy and is used by many athletes to increase muscle mass and improve athletic performance.
· No studies have shown that Creatine supplements have indeed enhanced athletic performance, particularly if the user already has high stores of creatine phosphate.
B-Vitamins and Caffeine
· B Vitamins and Caffeine are often blended into a single product due to the perception that it will give you more energy and make you feel more awake and proactive throughout the day. B Vitamins are beneficial in that they help the body produce ATP and process fuel for energy, however as they are vitamins they do not contain any energy themselves and do require ATP from the body to process.
· Caffeine is a stimulant that is associated with increased levels of adrenaline and energy production, again, containing no energy itself caffeine does take ATP to process and can lead to short term increased energy however too much caffeine can lead to various undesirable mental and physical effects on the body including restlessness, anxiety and the such. It is considered toxic when consumed in high doses. Unfortunately many caffeine (and B-Vitamin) supplements including energy drinks contain very high levels of caffeine as well as high levels of sugar that can cause a crash in blood sugar and lead to long term diseases including diabetes, obesity, heart problems and the such.
· Multi-Vitamins are often marketed and pushed to ensure that you are getting all the recommended intakes of the daily vitamins and minerals your body requires. However many of the vitamins are not necessary for the majority of the population due to the high vitamin content often found in fruits, veggies, meats and the such. Many of these vitamins as well are best effective when consumed with other vitamins from the natural source, this makes them more bio-available as well can work with other vitamins and minerals to have benefits on the body that may not occur when consumed alone. Multi-vitamins are most beneficial for those with nutrient deficiencies, food deficiencies or those who are pregnant or may become pregnant.
· More is not always better, vitamins and minerals can be toxic if too much has been consumed by the body, multi-vitamins often do contain much more then a recommended amount per day. For example too much Vitamin C (over 2000mg a day) can lead to upset stomach and diarrhea. It is important to consume a moderate amount of vitamins and minerals, preferably from their natural source.
In my personal opinion, supplementation is a highly ineffective and unnecessary waste of money. It’s nothing more than a business and industry to make money. The fact is if you stick to a healthy diet consisting of lean meat, fruits, vegetables, dairy and grain you will consume plenty of the vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbs and fats your body will need. There is no magic pill, powder or product that can improve anything over the natural foods your body is designed to eat.
If you still choose to partake in supplementation, I recommend sticking with the most basic and natural kinds. The products filled with all the additions, extras and the stuff are nothing more then fancy labeling and unnecessary additions that provide no extra benefit to your health. Please do your research on a particular supplement, look past the company and try to find a 3rd party source for information, education and government institutions are usually the most reliable. Remember the sales guy at the gym or store is working on commission and will say whatever they need to sell the product so be especially cautious with them.
As I said before, stick with the real stuff! A healthy and well rounded diet will be most effective in supplementation to exercise and ensuring you are at your healthy peak!
Muscle and Strength “Expert Guide to Whey Protein” http://www.muscleandstrength.com/expert-guides/whey-protein
Montgomery, K. Journal of Perinatal Education “Soy Protein” J Perinat Educ. 2003 Summer; 12(3): 42–45. doi: 10.1624/105812403X106946 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1595159/
University of Maryland Medical Center, 2011
University of Maryland Medical Center, 2011