Whether you are looking to stay in shape, increase energy and performance, lose excess weight, or delay the effects of aging and prevent diseases such as diabetes and heart disease there seems to be a supplement marketed toward you. Supplement manufactures tell you to take protein shakes to build muscle or fish oil to improve heart health, but how do you know what you should or should not take?
What is a supplement?
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) defines a supplement as: “a product taken by mouth that contains a “dietary ingredient” intended to supplement the diet. The “dietary ingredients” in these products may include: vitamins, minerals, herbs or other botanicals, amino acids, and substances such as enzymes, organ tissues, glandulars, and metabolites.” Supplements are intended to supplement nutrients missing in your diet, not replace them.
How do I determine if a supplement is right for me?
You first need to ask yourself if you really need to be taking a supplement. You can generally achieve all of the health benefits promised by a supplement by simply eating a healthy balanced diet. For example; a protein shake label may tell you that you need to drink their shake after every work out to build muscle and improve performance and recovery time. While it is true that eating some protein after a workout is good for you, you probably do not need the amount they are suggesting in the supplement, plus you can easily meet the increased protein needs eating a healthy balanced diet. Not to mention save a lot of money! To determine your protein and calorie needs speak with a registered dietitian.
Vitamins and Minerals
Despite popular belief here in America, more is NOT better, especially when it comes to vitamins and minerals. Taking excessive amounts of vitamins and minerals not only creates expensive urine, but high amounts of certain nutrients can cause harm. Your doctor and dietitian can help you determine if you are deficient in a certain vitamin or mineral. Another misconception about vitamins and minerals is that they give you energy. Energy only comes from calories, not vitamins and minerals. The best way to increase your energy and to meet all of your vitamin and mineral requirements is to exercise regularly, get adequate sleep, and eat a balanced healthy diet.
Which supplements are safe to buy?
The FDA does not regulate supplements sold in the U.S. to verify their safety or efficacy. Some supplements do not even contain the main ingredient(s) listed on the label. Not only can supplement labels be deceiving, but some supplements can cause harm. Many performance enhancing supplements are even banned by the NCAA and professional sports like the NBA and NFL.
Some tips for determining if a supplement is safe:
- Do your homework. Before ingesting a supplement which may contain “organ tissues” or other strange ingredients, research the product. Find out if the supplement is safe and the claims are supported by evidenced based research.
- When buying supplements only buy from reputable sources. The supplement manufacturer can put almost anything he wants in that bottle, if you are buying supplements at a grocery store/pharmacy speak with the pharmacist to help identify which supplement sources are the safest.
- Only take the recommended dose. Again, more is not better especially when it comes to supplements. Too much may cause you harm.
Remember, before taking any supplement, even a multivitamin; speak with your dietitian and doctor, they can help determine your need for supplements and how much should be taken, if any at all.
Jessica Crandall is a Sodexo Registered Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator & National Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Tags: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, diabetes, Food and Drug Administration (FDA), health, health & wellness, heart disease, Jessica Crandall, nba, ncaa, nfl, RD, registered dietitian, supplements, Vitamins and Minerals, wellness