Chances are some of you reading this may spend thousands of dollars on medication annually whether it is for diseases, fat burning, or muscle augmentation. In America alone there are $35 billion spent on diets and weight loss products annually according to CBS News and that number is rising each year. $13 billion is spent specifically on supplements.
So with all of that money spent on nutritional supplements then they must be worth it right?
I personally feel that our society has become so pill oriented that we forget the basics. We live in fast paced societies that make it hard to take the time to make the necessary adjustments to our nutrition and fitness. Society markets bad foods (refined sugars and simple carbs) like crazy as easy and instant. We hear that we should have 3 square meals a day, when in reality we should have 6. So in all of this confusion pills will always be the easy way out. Very few people are willing to take the minimal time necessary to learn and implement proper nutrition and fitness.
Companies have made a killing off of our laziness and confusion selling to over 100 million people each year. People are bombarded with so many offers on the latest fat loss drug or the next steroid-like drug that will give you that perfect physique. There are well over 25,000 different products offered by over 1,500 manufacturers. With all of those pills thrown in your face it becomes hard to know who to trust.
Then when you go to “trusted sources” like different magazines, journals, or other publications you think you are getting an honest, educated opinion. Sadly, often that isn’t the case.
Without dropping a big conspiracy theory on you, you have to consider these are corporations that want to make money as much as their competitors. They will slap in a few comments from Doctors and other industry thought leaders on their magazines to create a pill pushing environment. If they don’t create these drugs directly, then they have advertisers that often do and foot the bill to their financial success. The publishers have to please the advertisers or else the advertisers will pull their ads.
So the bottom line is the bottom line. These are capitalistic companies trying to make a buck. I don’t think it makes them evil and I will be the first in line to say how wonderful capitalism is, but they are not necessarily objective or looking out for your best interest.
Let’s clarify what supplements are for those of you that may be confused. It is understandable to be confused because I didn’t always understand what supplements are. Supplements are simply components of food broken down into powdered form. They are intended to fill in the cracks of your daily nutrients that you may miss because of a lack of eating correctly or the nutrients that are cut out of foods because they are processed, frozen, canned, or covered in preservatives.
Examples of supplements include whey protein, creatine, meal replacements, and flax seed oil.
Supplements are easier to put together to save time and you don’t have to worry about counting calories and getting in the right macronutrients of essential fatty acids, complex carbs, and protein. This is why you see people take a shake into work.
As I mentioned it also helps to provide the insurance that you are getting the nutrients you need. This is especially significant if you are using a calorie restricted diet to cut fat. Lack of nutrients can cause numerous physical problems like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and short term problems like fatigue, skin and eye problems.
Majority of US citizens are deficient in nutrients. In fact, according to the World Health Organization(WHO) nearly 1 billion people suffer from some form of malnutrition (an unbalanced diet in which certain nutrients are lacking or are in excess). WHO says malnutrition is the gravest single threat to the world’s public health.
So with all of that said supplements are significant. We are going to talk about a few that you can take and some other options you have out there and if they are really healthy for you.
What about multivitamins?
I would definitely recommend using a multivitamin or a mineral supplement. This is a perfect daily step to help fill in those missing nutrients that are lost in processed and frozen foods. Again it fills in those cracks in what I lack in nutrients. Even if I eat correctly it doesn’t mean that each natural food really has all the nutrients that you might think. You can put up two oranges next to each other and have very different amount of Vitamin C.
What about Creatine?
This is a health supplement I consistently use that I personally think makes a huge impact in my workouts. Creatine is a metabolite found naturally in red meats which regenerates ATP. ATP is the chemical that provides energy for the initial seconds of muscle contraction. It also increases strength, power, weight gain, and recovery time. If you are looking for muscle gain, then this is a great resource and helpful even in muscle maintenance if you feel like you are losing too much lean mass along with fat. This is something probably more for men ages 18+.
With that said, women still need to build muscle and should have a lean protein every meal. Muscle is a 1/5th the size of fat. In order to have that tone physique with curves, women need to replace the fat with muscle just as much as men. Muscle also increases your ability to burn fat when resting.
What about Essential Fatty Acids?
Fats are significant to fat burning and muscle gaining as much as carbs and protein. You have probably heard or seen advertisements on how highly touted omega 3, 6, and 9 are for your body. If you have problems with joints or injuries, this is also impactful to help protect your muscles and joints. There are multiple other benefits such as solidifying your immune system and nerve function. Essential fats also are substantial in supporting high levels of cardio. It makes oxygen transfer easier and helps your recovery from fatigue.
I recommend getting the Udo’s Choice Oil Blend or flaxseed oil. Take a tablespoon of either one daily and that can often be sufficient to get in your essential fatty acids. Both are great sources for Omega 3 Supplements.
With all of this said, none of it will take the place of the pillars of health success: actual healthy food, weight training, and aerobics training. The results are permanent and there are never any side effects.
A perfect example of drugs is steroids. Most are highly regulated by the FDA, require a prescription, and usually a decent financial investment. I personally try to avoid drugs because they will always have side effects. Any doctor will tell you that about drugs.
While many drugs are illegal or require a prescription, there are thermogenics you can buy over the counter similar to dietary supplements. A thermogenic is a caffeine-ephedrine combo that can increase your body temperature and metabolism. These are used to get your body going faster before a work out so you burn more calories during your routine. GNC has a Muscle Igniter product and one that is commonly used is No Xplode. While it will help you burn fat faster and can be a great way to attempt to drop body fat while gaining muscle, it will also impact you negatively by raising you blood pressure, raising the risk of cardiovascular disease, and it can highly impact your sleep patterns and daily activity.
I personally feel the side effects cause them to not be worth it. I have used these in the past and they have given me more energy, but I suffered from such a high burn out that I would find myself falling asleep at work and other places. My general productivity level was out of whack, which flies right in the face of the whole purpose of being healthy. You are a lot better eating the right foods and implementing a fitness program that never causes you to plateau.
Action Item: Choose a multivitamin and an oil blend to take daily. Optionally choose a creatine to take daily as well. Creatine would be ideal for anyone looking to gain lean mass, focusing on bodybuilding, or has trouble maintaining lean mass, especially when cutting fat.