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Supplements and Fitness: What Supplements Do You ACTUALLY Need?

Supplements and Fitness: What Supplements Do You ACTUALLY Need?

The wonderful world of supplements. Bright colors, great tastes, and promises of quick and immediate results. BUT,  if supplements are so great– why aren’t we all in super model shape? Something doesn’t add up. 

Honestly, supplements do exactly what they say–they will SUPPLEMENT your normal health regimen. Ever wonder why fad diets and workouts have a little asterisk at the bottom of the screen? In microscopic print it usually reads something like *Results achieved through a comprehensive diet and fitness program*

Yeah, well there you go.

How much of the work were the products actually doing? Well, I’ll leave that for you to figure out. 

Please note, that I am not saying that all supplements are bad. Like anything in the health and fitness industry, supplements aren’t that strictly regulated compared to other developed countries. This allows a lot of room for fillers, additives and watered down ingredients, making the supplement less effective. 

Instead of instantly trying to add in a protein shake, a fat burner or amino acids try to stick to a solid lifting schedule and cardio routine FIRST. Track your nutritional intake and add in some nutrient dense foods. See if you get results from this FIRST. If so, why waste money on supplements? There are special situations and some basic supplements that are a good idea to take in this day and age, and vary person to person based off of medical issues, nutritional deficiencies, etc. I outline some of the basics for you below that are a good place to start and WHEN you should be using these. 

Note: This is a lengthy article. If you aren’t much of a reader, be sure to check out the infographic at the bottom of the page!

FIRST THINGS FIRST: SPOTTING ANY NUTRITIONAL DEFICIENCIES

Before getting any supplementation, I would STRONGLY recommend that you get a comprehensive blood panel done to see what and if you are deficient in anything. Being completely honest, the average American’s diet isn’t that great. We are overworked and have no time, so we often grab the array of cheap, processed foods that are so conveniently available to us. So, there is a good chance that you are deficient in something!

Finding nutrient deficiencies is your absolute number one first step in your journey. Because, even a professional athlete doing everything absolutely right, often times find out that they are deficient in something. This results in hindering their performance and overall functioning. So, instead of working yourself to the bone wondering why you aren’t getting results, it can sometimes be as simple as finding some nutrient you are lacking. Lacking basic things can have some weird and hard to spot side effects on the body!

GREEN POWDER

A green powder supplement is essentially ground down veggies (and sometimes fruits) that you can chug down in one convenient cup.  The thing that I enjoy about greens is that they offer odd vegetables or fruits that you can’t necessarily find in the grocery store or something you wouldn’t sit down and munch on, but offer a unique blend of nutrients essential for optimum functioning. And how many of us actually get our 3-5 servings of vegetables a day? Even if you are, you most likely are sticking to some basic greens and maybe carrots, what about the other colors of the rainbow? There are so many options out there and so many nutrients we are missing out on!

This is why a greens powder would be great for really anyone to incorporate into their diet! I have noticed huge differences in my energy. It is clean and whole energy. I also have noticed after drinking the greens (which yes, have an earthy taste, but I enjoy it!) I have had a craving for more veggies! It’s like my taste buds are getting used to eating vegetables again.

Now as far as buying yourself some, greens can vary in price range. You can get cheap ones and you can get super expensive ones. How much better are the super expensive ones? I’m not entirely sure, but I use this middle of the road brand priced at $25 for 30 servings. They have a variety of blends so you can mix and match. I love it! They can be found at your local Walmart, GNC or grocery store!

Supplements and Fitness: What Supplements Do You ACTUALLY Need?

MULTIVITAMIN

Multivitamins are one of the most common supplements. Often a one stop shop to assure you prevent any nutrient deficiencies. While eating whole, nutrient dense foods and maybe adding in a greens powder will do just fine, some people need extra help. The most important thing about choosing a multivitamin is to DO YOUR RESEARCH. See what levels of what vitamins and minerals you are getting, and align them with your own personal needs. Some brands work better than others. Some vitamins and minerals you need other vitamins and minerals present for proper absorption. So, make sure you have a well-rounded and trusted multivitamin!

FISH OIL

Sticking with this nutrient deficiency trend–fish oil is another big one, especially as we age. If you aren’t getting a couple servings of fish every week, you most likely need fish oil. I eat fish maybe once a week–which isn’t too bad depending on where you live!

But taking fish oil everyday helps with an array of things like heart health and lubricating the joints from aches and pains.

You can take capsules or liquid, I prefer liquid because I feel that it absorbs more quickly. I use Carlson’s Very Finest Fish Oil in Lemon Flavor. It doesn’t have a fishy taste at all, and if you chase it with water or a drink it just tastes like lemon! You also don’t get the fish burps from this! 

Want a more in-depth science discussion about fish oil? Check out this great article.

CAFFEINE/PRE-WORKOUT

Supplements and Fitness: What Supplements Do You ACTUALLY Need?

The beloved Pre-Workout. It seems America thrives off of caffeine. It certainly isn’t a bad thing. Caffeine isn’t the enemy, it’s the added sugars we put in our coffees or in that Mountain Dew that are bad for us! Drinking black coffee with a bit of light creamer is what I use for my Pre-Workout most days. I am more caffeine sensitive, so I don’t overload on it. However, if you find a relatively low sugar option, I think Pre-Workout is great for giving you that extra boost to crush your workout, especially when energy levels are low!

Another option that sort of fits into the Pre-Workout category would be Gatorade. Gatorade is actually meant to be half water half Gatorade. That’s usually how sports teams mix their concoction. Nowadays, they have 0 sugar or lower sugar and calorie options, but I found that if you drink quite a bit of water throughout the day and you are quite active, you may be flushing your body of electrolytes. This is what Gatorade has. Having this drink every now and then may just give you the boost you need. Again, just watch the sugar content in these drinks, and like with everything–don’t overdo it. Electrolyte blends are also available in packet form which you can add to your water!

My husband was out in extremely hot desert conditions and they drank so much water and sweat so much electrolytes and nutrients out that their water HAD to have an electrolyte mixture in it so they would stay healthy. So, it’s quite important!

My Personal Pre-Workout Options:

  • I will brew a cup of coffee, or grab a big jug of Starbucks Cold Brew Coffee Unsweetened and add in my favorite low-sugar sweetener. 
  • Sometimes a Zero Monster (0 calories, 0 sugar, pretty much 0 everything) if I want to treat myself.
  • My Amino Acid Drink has 120 mg of caffeine it which is a one stop shop of energy as well!

Something to Note: Watch your caffeine intake. Usually about 450 mg is the recommended daily limit for the average healthy adult. Consuming caffeine daily builds up your tolerance, decreasing it’s effectiveness. Use sparingly, and you may need to “cycle off” of it for a few weeks to get back to that increased effectiveness. 

RELATED: How to Save Yourself From Exhaustion: The Best Ways to Increase Your Energy

BCAAs 

BCAA stands for Branch Chain Amino Acids. Amino Acids are the building blocks of proteins. Sometimes, if we don’t have enough of the right amino acids in our “amino acid pool” we may not preserve and build muscle properly. So, it is important that if you are both building muscle or trying to lose fat (and preserve that muscle in the process!) to consume BCAA’s during your workout. The BCAAs I use get the job done. I personally like mine for the delicious taste, they give me energy and increased performance!

From personal experience, most people who drink a good amino acid drink during their workout notice:

  • An improved preservation/development of muscle mass
  • An boost in energy during their workouts
  • More intensity to give in their workouts

PROTEIN SUPPLEMENTS

I really dislike adding in a protein supplement, because most of the time they are just a waste of money. Unless, you are vegan or overall dislike a lot of protein sources, this supplement is at probably the lowest immediate need on the list. Also, MAKE SURE you are getting adequate protein in your diet already. A good rule of thumb is .8 g of protein for every pound of bodyweight. This is a starting point, you will obviously need more depending on your goals and individual body composition, etc. Depending on your preference most protein supplements come in powder or bar form. I prefer eating a bar over drinking my calories, so I usually stock up on some protein bars to consume post-workout.

Another thing to keep in mind with protein is this source is more of a refined source of protein versus getting it from whole foods, so be sure to limit your intake to a supplement once a day, if you can. Your energy and overall quality of life may suffer long term if you supplement with bars and shakes for most of your meals. 

Some Protein Supplementation Ideas: 

  • Add protein powder into a shake with fruits and veggies for a great post-workout drink.
  • You can make the same shake as a breakfast option if you don’t really like eating breakfast
  • Grab a bar as a quick snack to hold you over to the next meal if you are on the go. Keep an eye on sugar content in bars!

VITAMIN D3/MAGNESIUM/IRON SUPPLEMENTS

I left these guys for last, because they are your regular vitaminS and minerals. These typically are the most common deficiencies that Americans have. Vitamin D3 is big if you live in an area with a lack of sunny days (hi, Pittsburgh). Or, maybe you just have a desk job and rarely see sunlight. D3 can help battle that SAD  (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and help the body to absorb calcium. Find more info about supplementing with Vitamin D here.  

Magnesium and Iron are more commonly deficient in women for, well, Mother Nature’s monthly gift purposes. Symptoms of deficiency can be kind of easy to confuse with everyday wear and tear like fatigue, restlessness, muscle cramps, cold hands and feet and even depression. These symptoms are similar to a lot of common medical conditions, so it’s important to get checked out by  your doctor, because these symptoms may be harmless or linked to something else!

Supplements and Fitness: What Supplements Do You ACTUALLY Need?