As a follow-up to last week's nutrition and body type post, we thought we would write a little something on nutritional supplements. As you've seen, nutritional supplements are flooding the performance enhancement field. Everyone and anyone interested in enhancing sport performance from high school wrestlers to the current women's world cup superstars are thinking about it. Some performance enhancers are legal—others are not. What’s more, the FDA does not regulate this stuff. There are hundreds of books and articles written about supplements. For right now let this post be a simple why, how, and what in regards to supplements. Furthermore, it offers some reference guides towards those companies and third party researchers we believe to be reputable.
Why - Before you start wasting an extraordinary amount of time and money trying to find what supplements work for you there is a little work that should be done. First, answer a couple questions:
What are the chances that you are deficient in the essential nutrient that you believe is worth you supplementing?
First ensure that you are getting enough calories from great whole food, ensure that your diet and your lifestyle is diverse, and that fruits and vegetable are a staple at every meal. Supplements aren’t always needed if you are eating appropriately for your life and activity level. Parts of the year when you might be doing some intense training or competing might be one example when supplementation might be the way to go.
What physiological system am I hoping to target with this supplement?
For example, creatine targets the fast/explosive (ATP-PCr) physiological system so if your exercise includes high intensity and heavy training. This might be a useful supplement. As with anything, consult a nutritionist or doctor about what supplements help and when the yare most beneficial.
What does the research say?
Do some research on your own. It is best to find peer-reviewed studies. Set up a conversation with your coach or a nutritionist. Or find a reputable online resource (they’re out there if you look hard enough). More on this below...
How - Nutrients aren’t always necessary if you are practicing a solid diet regimen (this doesn’t mean a perfect diet, that is only necessary for certain athletes at certain points in the competitive year for a short duration). However, there might be times when supplements are appropriate and very useful. When choosing supplements, here are some good online resources that can confirm the efficacy (or lack there of) and the safety of what you choose: www.pubmed.com, www.nsf.com, www.hfl.co.uk, www.consumerlab.com, and www.dietarysupplementu.com.
Additionally we find it best to:
· Chose large reputable distributors
· Choose supplements with small ingredient lists
· Make sure there are no crazy interactions with other medications you may be taking.
· For supplements that are directly related to performance, protein (in some cases) creatine, beta-alanine strongly consider the timing and always follow appropriate dosing suggestions.
What - Here are the essentials for supporting health and performance: Protein, Fish oil and greens supplements should be the staples.
Although some what controversial the research states pretty clearly that a high-protein diet is perfectly safe in healthy active individuals. Furthermore, it is important in regards to performance and body composition. A reasonable dosage guide is 20-30 grams for women and 40-60 grams for men per meal. Or Approx. 1g/lb of body weight per day (150lb athlete= 150grams per day)
The research supporting the health benefits of fish oil is rather extensive. Among other benefits it plays a huge role in the body’s inflammation pathways which can in form heart heart and joint health, obesity and arthritis. With the standard North American Diet the consumption of unhealthy trans fats, highly processed foods and sugar; supplementing with fish oil can bring omega 6: omega 3 ratio within balance. Which generally means a 3:1 ratio. Consider checking out- http://www.nutrasource.ca/ifos/ for reputable, safe products and for dosing recommendations. as fish oil can become oxidized very quickly and much of our fish supply is laden with toxic heavy metals. A general dosage recommendation is 2-3 grams per day.
It’s true! Veggies should predominate your diet. A green supplement is fruits, veggies, grasses turned to powder form. Try for 8-12 servings a day. As an FYI, a serving equals about: one medium sized fruit, ½ cup raw,chopped fruit or veggies or 1cup of leafy greens equals one serving.
Most Americans consume 2-4 servings. If you are getting about 10servings than supplementing is not necessary. To up your servings throw a handful of spinach in your morning or post workout shake. Green supplements are exactly that, a supplement. And should not replace your intake of god whole fruits and veggies. Just because you take a green supplement or two a day does not mean you are free to remove them from each meal. They can help with energy, ph balance in the body, recovery and a host of cardio vascular benefits.
Peter Athans the author of this post is a Level 1 certified nutrition coach with Precision Nutrition. He is not a nutritionist or a dietician - simply a coach who provides nutrition advice. The contents of this article are never meant to treat or cure illness or disease. For advance dietary guidance consult your physician or we would be happy to refer you to a nutritional professional in your area.
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