Supplements. Probably one of the most discussed topics in the fitness, health, and wellness industry. If you were to go person-by-person in a gym or health convention and ask people about supplements, you would probably get a litany of different responses.
If there is one thing that is true though, you should do your homework on anything before your consume it. In doing your “homework” you can maximize the use that you get out of supplement while also preventing any potential harm to your health and possibly wasting money on something you don’t need.
Supplements can serve a variety of functions in our overall health and diet. From helping us gain weight, build muscle, and even aid in digestion, they can serve many different functions. They oftentimes provide:
- Macronutrients (carbs, proteins, fats)
- Micronutrients (vitamins and minerals)
- “Bioactive” chemicals, either harnessed from natural sources or fabricated by humans.
- A mixture of some or all of the above.
- Protein shakes (provides extra protein)
- Mass gainer shakes (helps increase calorie intake)
Different Types of Supplements
You’ll find that the supplement market is full of various different types of supplements. Generally speaking though, there are four main types that you will see:
- Enzymes: These are legit enzymes that you ingest. Do you know anyone who is lactose intolerant? They might take lactase or have taken lactase in their life to help them digest dairy.
- Building blocks: these are a type of supplement that act as building blocks to proteins and other macro/micro-nutrients. Think of amino acids, fatty acids, protein, etc…
- Herbs and Botanicals: herbs and botanicals are whole plants or parts of plants that provide different types of nutritional, medicinal, or therapeutic value. Think of tea as an example.
- Vitamins and minerals (micronutrients): think of iron, calcium, potassium, or even multi-vitamins. These are single vitamins/minerals or combinations of the two.
Now that you’re familiar with the basics, let’s look at some things that you might need to research before actually taking a supplement that’s new to you.
Key Aspects for Consideration
Certain supplements can have negative interactions with medications that you might be taking. While the interactions might not be life threatening, they can have some serious side effects.
For example, creatine has been seen to have negative interactions with diabetes medication and diuretics. Here are some example side effects:
- Difficulty breathing
- Upset stomach
- and more.
Some of these are potential side effects of creatine in general, however, taking medication that interacts negatively with creatine can increase the likelihood of the side effects becoming a reality.
Creatine is just an example and has some rather mild side effects in terms of negative medical interactions. Other supplements that are little more “extreme”, such as, anabolic supplements may have more severe interactions.
Keep in mind, not all interactions will be purely physical. Some may even yield potential for psychological side effects.
While it is rare to see these types of things, making sure you are aware of it can help prevent any unnecessary harm. At the same time, if you really aren’t sure about it, the safest route when considering a supplement is to consult a physician. Always.
Take Note of the Quality and Source of the Supplement
I feel like this is true when purchasing anything, but especially when considering products that you will be consuming.
Anytime you find a supplement or supplement brand online, make sure you vet where the supplement is coming from. This has become an essential practice to get into, especially with rise of white labeling supplements and misleading marketing statements.
About White Labelling
If you aren’t familiar with white labeling, it’s essentially the process of purchasing unbranded goods from a wholesaler and then branding it as your own. This has become quite popular because the wholesaler doesn’t really have do much in the way of distribution, the seller takes care of that.
On the flip side, the seller doesn’t have to worry about manufacturing, they only have to worry about purchasing and selling.
It’s a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” type of deal. But since the rise of this, often times the supplement consumer gets left out in the whole back scratching escapade.
What I mean by that is the market has grown and demand for white label supplements has risen. Driving prices down to combat the increasing competition and unfortunately the quality has gone down as well.
You’d be surprised at how many companies actually white label the supplements they sell you at theirs.
White labelling isn’t bad per se. The key in doing your research is to look at the lab or pharmaceutical company that supplies the supplement. There are some very reputable companies out there that supply big brands
What Quality Supplements Looks Like
Really this boils down to couple factors. One is the form the supplement comes in. For example, vitamin D comes in two common forms: D2 and D3. You want vitamin D3 because this is the form of Vitamin D that your body makes. Vitamin D3 comes from animal sources while vitamin D2 comes from plants.
Vitamin D2 is cheaper to make and produce, however, it is not as effective in your body.
Another example is iron. When you are getting iron from supplements, you want it to be heme iron. Heme iron is the form of iron used 95% of time in the body and is more easily absorbed then non heme iron.
While you are researching your supplements:
- Make sure they come from reputable companies.
- Make sure they are coming in a form beneficial to you. There’s no sense in taking something that your body is not going to absorb.
Research and Evidence on the Supplement
I’m not sure about you, but ever since CBD and essential oils became a mainstream commodity, it seems like new supplements are coming out everywhere and all the time. A lot of them are new and do not have much research done on them.
One thing you want to look for is the research body that is done an any given supplement. A lot of research usually means there is merit to the benefit claims of the supplement and that it is safe to use.
Creatine, for example, is one of the safest supplements you can take. It is one of the most researched, tested, and proven supplements on the market. It has many positive benefits to taking it beyond muscle growth.
On the flip side, there’s SARMs. SARMs have grown in popularity due to the results they get athletes and bodybuilders. However, they are a prime example of there not really being enough research done to know if it is really a safe supplement. Nor can we tell who should and shouldn’t be taking it. It’s probably best you don’t take any SARMs.
Who are supplements for?
Due to the breadth of supplements on the market, supplements can be for pretty much anyone. While we touched on some things to stay cautious of, generally speaking, for a majority of the healthy public, supplements are not just safe, but can be immensely beneficial.
Here are some examples of people who can really benefit from supplements:
- Vegetarians and Vegans. They are first one the list because cutting out meat definitely cuts out a couple key nutrients humans are used to getting and need. Think of heme iron and vitamin D3. They only come from animal sources and are extremely important to have. Another one is creatine. While it’s not as essential, humans get creatine from red meat.
- Those who prefer alternative medicine. Alternative medicine is used as a “supplement” (pun intended) to standard medicine. Examples of alternative medicine include:
- Treating heart disease with chelation therapy.
- Use of ginger.
- People who are deficient. There can be a variety of reasons as to why someone may be vitamin/mineral deficient. There are many conditions that cause a deficiency directly or indirectly through requiring someone takes meds that have a side effect of vitamin deficiency.
When are supplements not needed?
There are a variety of circumstances in which supplements are not needed. Really, there are too many to count in just this article. However, if you are ever considering taking a supplement, make sure you do research on when the supplement is needed, when it is effective, and when it is not effective.
A simple example is creatine. If you are someone that gets creatine naturally, then you will more then likely not need creatine at all. In fact, you shouldn’t even purchase it. Creatine is not stored in the body like some compounds are. Thus, taking too much of it will just be wasted through being excreted in urine.
Questions to ask yourself before getting supplement:
- When is the supplement of interest effective?
- When does the supplement become ineffective?
- Does it have any interactions with medication?
- What are the side effects, if any?
Supplements can be a fantastic resource for progressing your health and wellness forward. In fact, there are probably supplements you can benefit from right now. However, as you are looking at taking them, make sure you do your research so that you can ensure you are getting the best possible outcome.