Nutrition Supplements Explained

Your health is important to you, so it is no surprise that you may be wondering if supplements can boost your well-being. While in some cases, they can, it is important to note that some supplements do have side effects, or can interact with medications that you’re already taking. It is quite important to discuss any concerns that you may have about nutritional supplement with your doctor.

Unlike medications, supplements are not regulated by the FDA, so relying simply on the claims of the manufacturer could lead to disappointment. However, many supplements have been studied extensively and do provide legitimate health benefits. Here are some popular supplements, and why they’re used.

Antioxidants

Vitamins E, A, and C – along with beta carotene, in their supplement form, are often touted as disease-fighters that also increase the effectiveness of exercise. Unfortunately, these claims have not been proven. In fact, high levels of these vitamins have been tied to increased risk factors. The good news is, a healthy amount of antioxidants are found in everyday foods. Incorporating a variety of fruits and vegetables into your diet will provide you with all that you need.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is produced in the skin, so increased use of sunscreens and more time indoors has led to a deficiency in many adults. Besides being an important nutrient, vitamin D has also been tied to increased endurance and decreased risk of muscle weakness and neuromuscular problems. Fortified dairy products and certain types of fish do contain vitamin D, but for many, this is a worthwhile supplement to consider.  

B Vitamins

Vitamins B6 (pyridoxine), folate, and B12 (cobalamin) are touted as fighters of heart disease and stroke, and may also effectively repair damaged muscle. In recent years, these claims have been debunked, but these vitamins are still important for your overall health. Folate in particular has been shown to decrease the risk of birth defects. B vitamins are found in a wide variety of food products. But knowing that B12 is only found in animal based-foods makes it a good supplement choice for vegetarians.

Caffeine

Caffeine is well known for increasing focus and decreasing fatigue. Some also recommend it as a weight loss aid and performance enhancer. Caffeine can provide a temporary boost, but it has also been linked to dehydration. Caffeine affects each body differently, so caution should be used when experimenting with caffeine.

Calcium

We’ve been taught for years that calcium leads to stronger bones, and this is true. If you’re not getting enough calcium in your diet, a calcium carbonate or calcium citrate supplement could do the trick.

Creatine

Creatine is found naturally in meats and fish and many athletes believe that it increases stamina and performance. While some studies have shown positive results for weightlifters, creatine has also been shown to increase water retention, which can result in decreased performance.

Fish Oil

Scientific studies have proven that regular consumption of fish leads to protection against heart disease and stroke. The nutrients in fish are also known for their performance-enhancing benefits. Fish oil has been shown to have the same benefits. Eating fish at least twice a week can provide the same health boosters, but choosing a supplement can also do the trick.

Glucosamine and Chondroitin

Glucosamine and chondroitin supplements are well known, particularly for fighting the symptoms of arthritis. Recently, they’ve been recommended for all athletes as recovery aids and injury fighters. Unfortunately, careful studies have led to mixed reviews – so this supplement is not often recommended by doctors. Glucosamine is found in some shellfish and also in animal cartilage.

Leucine

Leucine is often recommended for endurance athletes. This amino acid aids in muscle repair and overall recovery, and for many cyclists, runners, and swimmers, it is considered the go-to nutritional supplement. Since it is found in all sorts of meat and dairy products, adding lean meats to your diet can be just as effective as relying on a supplement.

Whey Protein

Whey protein is a popular nutritional supplement and its proponents claim that it builds muscle quickly. Whey protein powder can be particularly helpful for athletes who are amping up their workout routine or recovering from an injury. Whey protein is a milk-based supplement, so some of these benefits can be derived from adding more dairy to your diet. This supplement can provide a boost, but too much protein can cause weight gain and dehydration.

The list of recommended nutritional supplements for athletes is ever increasing, making it occasionally difficult to separate fact from the fiction. It is important to remember that in this fairly unregulated industry, not all claims are true. Some supplements do indeed provide health benefits and contain performance-boosting properties, but others are hyped up by sheer marketing expenditures.  Before investing in a new supplement, do some research, check with your doctor, and take the time to decide which supplements are best for individual needs. 

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