Question: Supplements. Do you need them?
Answer: If you are serious about reaching optimum health and achieving the body of your dreams then ABSOLUTELY!
I hate to break it to you but the modern Western diet is crap! Not to sound too harsh…but most of our food supply is severely lacking in the nutrients that are needed to support a healthy, active lifestyle. Often times the choices that we are given have been mostly stripped of all the vital things that make our bodies function at their best.
I could write an entire book about this topic. In fact, there are many good books that go into detail about just how bad things have become. For the purposes of this post I will just focus on the three main supplements that you need in order to create a stronger, leaner, better functioning body. In the future I will also write about other supplements that are more geared towards specific goals such as mass building, cutting fat and improving athletic performance. While all of these supplements are naturally occurring items, you should take a good health inventory before introducing any new product into your body. Ready? Great!
1. Multivitamins: Generally speaking, a multivitamin is a supplement that contains several vitamins and minerals. A good multivitamin will always contain Vitamin C, B Complex, A, E, D & K along with the minerals Zinc, Calcium, Magnesium and Iron. Multivitamins are important for providing people who don’t have the best diet with all of the daily nutritional needs that they are lacking.
Chances are, you are one of these people. You’re probably not getting your recommended daily nutritional requirements. If you are a physically active person (which I hope you are!) then you definitely need to be taking a multivitamin. There are several great “multi’s” on the market today and they are even available upon level of activity. For the average person I suggest a name brand multivitamin like Centrum. It will provide everything that you are lacking in your diet. For a hardcore athlete or weightlifter I suggest the Optimum Nutrition products or Animal Pak by Universal Nutrition. They offer basic supplementation as well as extras to support muscle growth and endurance.
2. Whey Protein: For all of you out there attempting to build and tone muscle I cannot stress the importance of Whey Protein. Current daily dietary suggestions for anyone who is engaged in weight training are for 1 gram of protein per lb. of bodyweight. This is a minimal suggestion. For those people who are trying to gain muscle, 1.5 grams is more appropriate. For example, on a perfect day a 180 lb. man should eat 6 meals with 30 grams of protein each. This can be a difficult task for a busy person. A great way to quickly get extra protein is to scoop some Whey into your morning oatmeal. Or better yet, take a couple of scoops in a mixer cup and drink it during the day. 5 minutes and you’re done!
I’ve tried many Whey Protein brands and for most of you there will be little difference between brands. However, because I am a serious weightlifter, I prefer to have Whey Protein that also contains Branch Chained Amino Acids (BCAAs). BCAAs are a precursor to protein and work to fuel the body with the raw building blocks that it needs immediately after intense weight training. If you are a looking to gain lots of muscle I suggest you look for a brand that has BCAAs also. Optimum Nutrition makes 100% Gold Standard Whey, which I consider to be the “Rolls Royce” of all protein powders!
3. Probiotics: I tossed around many choices for my #3 “must have” supplement like Creatine, Thermogenics (fat-burners) and Natural Caffeine. But all of these are really “extras” for the hard training, highly active athlete. I settled on Probiotics. Probiotics are absolutely necessary for proper digestion and absorption of nutrients. The dictionary describes probiotics as naturally occurring live microorganisms that are beneficial to the host (You!). These little guys are miracle workers. Their proven health benefits include: the easing of bowel disorders and lactose intolerance, reduction of inflammation and even the possible reduction in blood pressure and cholesterol.
Common “Probiotic” foods are: yogurt, soy yogurt, Greek Yogurt, dark chocolate and pickles. They are also supplied in supplement form. I prefer to get my probiotics in the form of Greek Yogurt (which also has amazing protein content). But, if I were to use a probiotic supplement I would recommend the Align one-a-day brand. It promotes overall digestive health and is relatively inexpensive.
As you can see, supplements are vital for improving your body’s functionality and taking your game to the next level. However, they should not be used in place of good dietary practices! Once you have gotten your meal content and timing down pretty well then the next step is to see how you can use supplements to fill in the small gaps in your diet. If you are strict with yourself and stick to a well-rounded diet plan then you may find that you have little need for any supplement at all. If your fitness progress has tapered off though, yet you are still working hard then consider adding one or all of the supplements found in this post into your arsenal. That’s it for now…
Dream Fit. Live Fit.