One of the hottest topics always in the nutrition and fitness industry are supplements, what are the best ones? When should you take them? What brand is superior? These are all questions that I have been asked and I know many of my colleagues in the world of health get asked about them too. Supplements are a unique category in the food world, supplements are not mandated for testing through the FDA (the branch that determines if our food is safe) they have no overhead to make sure they are putting what they say they are putting in it is actually there! Scary right? I sure think so, but there are some supplement companies who spend the extra pennies to third party test their products! These are the companies you want to purchase from and support if you are using supplements.
Supplements should never be a first choice, they should always be a gap filler after you have a solid, consistent and well-rounded nutrition plan. If you have a solid fitness regime and have your daily meals on point then you should investigate supplementation if you need more protein, fiber, energy etc. As always unless your medical doctor has prescribed you to take a certain supplement for health reasons then you should be focusing on diet first.
You can’t expect the supplement to do all the work, you need to be actively trying to eat the rainbow, get enough protein, fat, healthy carbs and fiber! You can’t just take a supplement and now you are going to be healthy! Eating like absolute garbage and then take a supplement does not make you “healthy now”. If you drink a greens and reds drink each day but you still go get fast food for every meal it is not doing much if anything for you, plus depending on the brand of supplement it may not even be fruit and veggies in there unless they were tested by a trusted third party.
The supplements I feel most people should be taking consistently are calcium and vitamin D, a vitamin and mineral most do not get enough of and that can have many health benefits like support bone health as well as mental health. Any other supplements taken should only be to enhance or fill in a gap of the food you are already eating. If you are vegan or vegetarian a protein shake of some kind might be needed to get a concentrated amount into your system if you are struggling to get it elsewhere. Going to work out? Need some energy? Some find pre workout to be super helpful at getting them going and pumped to sustain, some just drink a small cup of coffee instead, both work and both are stimulating to give you energy for the workout. These are just a few examples of where supplementation might be needed to improve a current diet or enhance a program.
Eating the rainbow and a healthy plate is the main take away from supplement talk, if you eat the rainbow/ healthy plates you are going to be getting an array of vitamins and minerals:
-Red fruits and veggies contain Vitamin A, Vitamin C and potassium
-Orange fruits and veggies contain Vitamin A, Vitamin C, potassium, Vitamin B6 and fiber
-Green fruits and veggies contain Folate, Calcium, Vitamin K, Iron and magnesium
-Purple/ blue fruits and veggies contain antioxidants which can reduce the presence of cancer
-Yellow fruits and veggies contain the most Vitamin C and Vitamin E
-Eating foods that are rich in whole grain can provide fiber to the diet along with B Vitamins, Selenium and Magnesium.
-Dairy will provide calcium, Vitamin D, Vitamin A, Vitamin B12, potassium and phosphorus
-Meat protein provides things you can’t always get in just plant protein, things like vitamin E, iron, zinc, magnesium and other B vitamins.
Long story short, if you eat the rainbow and build a healthy plate first then supplements should sit on your back burner until all of that is dialed in and working consistently for you. Then if you see gaps in your nutrition of need more for training sessions, add in some extra supplementation! Simplicity is your friend and will make things easier for you to plan and stick to it. Variety is nice and luckily there are so many options in this world for us to eat and get our good healthy diet from.
Keep it simple always and Be Fit. Be Well.