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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Nutritional Supplements: Worth the Money?

Stop into your local GNC or Vitamin World and you will see thousands of nutritional supplements promising bigger biceps, less joint pain, better colon health...  You name it, they got a supplement to cure it!  Is taking a daily multivitamin essential to good health?  Do you need to take calcium and vitamin D supplements for strong bones?  Will a post workout protein shake help you recover faster?

I have mixed feelings about nutritional supplements.  Some have been proven to be beneficial, while others are a complete waste of money.  Following are a few popular supplements I have strong opinions on...

One of the most widely studied supplements on the market.  Creatine supplementation has been proven to  "improve our ability to sustain near maximal force generation during repetitive bouts of intense exercise".  There are very few known side effects to creatine supplementation; other than some water retention, which is not usually a big concern.

Creatine supplementation is one of the few supplements I would recommend to anybody trying to improve performance.  It works and there are no negative side effects.  I personally do not supplement with creatine at this time.  I am training for the 2012 Crossfit Open.  Creatine supplementation would benefit my training but I want to see if I can make it to the Crossfit Regionals with a 100% natural diet.

Fish Oil
Fish oil is another supplement I would recommend to just about anybody.  The benefits of fish oil have been well documented.  From reducing the risk of heart disease to reducing risk of Alzheimer's, it seems fish oil is a miracle supplement.

If you look at the countries with the longest life expectancy, you will see most of the top countries are surrounded by water.  Which means most of their citizens eat large amounts of fish.  I do not believe this is a coincidence.  The consumption of fish, and fish oils, improve health dramatically.

I currently do not take fish oil supplements, but I do try to eat a lot of fish.  If I were to begin supplementing my diet, fish oil would be first on my list.

I have seen figures that nearly 40% of people in the United States take some type of multivitamin.  I believe people are wasting their money!  You will hear the following arguments for multivitamin supplementation...

  • "People don't get enough vitamins in their diet." 
Change your diet!  Stop eating french fries and hotdogs.  Those foods have no nutritional density.  Eat more fruits and vegetables!

Don't Eat These!
Eat These!
  • "Fruit and Vegetable production within the past few decades has stripped fruits and vegetables of their nutrients.  An orange today doesn't have nearly the amount of vitamin C it had 20 years ago."
I have no doubt this is true.  But we have no idea how much less nutritional density a fruit, or vegetable, has.  There has been very little research done on the subject.  I believe the difference is not that substantial.  An orange is still going to give you plenty Vitamin C.  There is no need for the over 1000% intake some vitamin supplements give you.

I don't think multivitamin supplementation is necessarily bad.  I just believe it is not necessary.  You are much better off getting your vitamins by eating a lot of fruits and vegetables.

Protein Shakes
Protein shakes are a complete waste of money.  People love the convenience.  People love having one as a post workout meal.  They are advertised "to give you a 30% increase in strength, increased muscle size, and a 100% improvement in exercise efficiency."

The problem is, none of these claims are regulated.  Nutritional supplementation, including protein shakes, do not have to be approved by the FDA.  The companies can perform their own "clinical studies" and advertise whatever they want.

Don't waste your money on protein shakes.  Get your protein from real sources.  Eat beef, pork, fish, eggs...  You will spend less money in the long run and get much better results.

Some nutritional supplementation can be beneficial.  But try to get your nutrients from your diet.  Eat a lot of fruit and vegetables.  Eat nuts and seeds.  Eat meat (especially fish!).  Eat foods with a lot of nutritional density.
How many in green are part of your every day diet?


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