Nutrition 101: Part 4: Supplementation

Nutrition is the most important part of any fitness or sports performance goal.  Without eating right, you’ll never make optimal progress.  Why waste all those long hours of effort spent in the gym, only to get poor results?  For many people it’s because they don’t understand what to eat, when to eat it, and how food affects their bodies.  I’m going to address all of these basic issues, plus discuss supplementation, in my 4 part series “Nutrition 101”.  Stay tuned, and each week I’ll post a new installment in the series.  To follow the whole series and read older posts, become a member today.

Part 4:  Supplementation

There are 1000’s of supplements out there claiming to be what you need for optimal health or performance.  Some of them work, others are all hype, and some others are just plain dangerous.  Creatine, protein, BCAA’s, fish oil, GABA, multi-vitamins, minerals, testosterone boosters, pre-workout formulas, and countless other products crowd the shelves.  So, where do you start?

You know me.  I like to keep things simple.  I also believe that nature is a great provider, designed to give the human body everything it needs.  So, I don’t supplement heavily.  However, there are often nutritional gaps in our modern diet.  Some sensible supplementation will probably be a great addition to your training program.

Try to treat your supplements just like food.  If you don’t fully understand what it does for your body, you probably shouldn’t be taking it.  If a product’s ingredient list is full of long “science words” that you don’t understand, maybe you should steer clear of that one too.

There are a few supplements that I do recommend to almost everyone.

First, I suggest a whole food supplement.  These are a lot like multi-vitamins, but derived from whole and natural foods.  That way, you get all of the vitamins and minerals nature intended, and in the same natural ratios.  When certain vitamins are isolated, extracted out of foods, and added to a multi-vitamin, they are often added without the appropriate supporting elements.  Some of nature’s magic is lost.

Next, try adding Omega fatty acids to your supplement regimen.  The Omega fatty acids are Omega-3 and Omega-6.  Most people aren’t getting enough Omega-3 in their diet.  Adding this supplement can lower blood pressure and triglycerides, help with joint health (it acts as an anti-inflammatory), and even help with arthritis.  It can also help you achieve healthier skin and nails, and may have many other benefits such as reducing depression symptoms.  When choosing an Omega-3 supplement, I suggest a fish oil product containing DHA and EPA.

Finally, I use a protein supplement.  Especially if you’re strength training, a protein supplement can be valuable for fueling your muscle recovery.  Whey has proven to be the most effective form of protein for supplementing strength gains and/or muscle building, but there are many other protein sources commonly available in supplements.  Milk, egg, and soy protein are three of the other most common varieties.  I steer clear of soy protein because in many cases poor quality soy products contain lots of carcinogens.  I use mostly whey protein, but it can be smart to switch it up occasionally.  If you don’t, and you use one type of protein supplement for a long period of time, you may develop an allergy to it.

Try to get your protein from food as often as possible.  Save your protein shakes for post-workout snacks and emergencies where you need food on the go.

Are there cases where more supplementation would be helpful?  Absolutely.  For most people, though, those essentials are enough.  Try to focus on getting as many nutrients from your diet as possible, first.  If you’re eating whole and natural foods, like we discussed earlier in the Nutrition 101 series, you’ll be off to a great start.

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