Topping It Up

Numerous stores and supermarkets with a healthy conscious are riding this wave more and more. I have noticed more sections of commercial floor space as exclusively reserved for pharmaceutical products.

We see shelves with cleansing brand names, labels with subdued tints and hues, and flowery palettes adorning boxes and bottles. 

The science silently screams off these products, just enough to make you aware of their existence.

For the layman, the health aspect jumps off it, without a doubt. So why not choose to buy it and top up your daily intake of vitamins and minerals?

I am talking about supplementation.

Creative names promoting the additional vitamins and minerals every (healthy) body needs have exponentially grown over the past decades. The industry itself is worth billions of dollars. It is most likely to grow even further.

As we move deeper into the 21st century, the rate of health-related illnesses is rising even faster. Humanity is drawn like a moth to a flame to pill-shaped add-ons. These health boosters or ‘magical’ solutions to boost immunity, battle underlying ailments and reduce issues related to metabolism. In short, the western population spends money to stay healthy.

Sounds like a good choice? Well, it depends.

Just like the plethora of diet fads and nutritional experts saying that completely dropping certain macronutrients, the supplement market has its fair shares of pitfalls. They are playing into the lack of knowledge of the earlier-mentioned layman.

The choices of multi-vitamins, zinc tablets or a month-worth of fish oil to increase one’s Omega-3 levels are aplenty. Even I am surprised to see how manufacturers come up with combinations of organic and non-organic essentials. I too have been tempted. Just to give it a try and find out whether it makes my skin glow more or stimulates my hair follicles. The latter I can definitely use.

I am not against supplementation. As a matter of fact, I am supplementing these training days more. It is based on my lifestyle, through peer-reviewed papers, and by coaches and colleagues in the industry who know their stuff. When training hard (exceeding the 150-minute per week recommended), I have upped my protein and EAA intake and am adding Creatine to my daily diet.

Heck, even my caffeine intake is balanced out in delivering peak performance.

Why? Because it connects to what my goal is. I know my body can benefit from, and what I may not get enough of when living this lifestyle.

A few clients have asked me about supplementation during our sessions. I find these questions extremely important and invaluable. The awareness of dietary supplements is one step in the right direction to choose wisely without going all overboard.

Just like with everything in the world, adding the word “too” is never a good sign. Overdosing on vitamin supplements, or exceeding daily recommendations of iron, magnesium or potassium may have detrimental effects on one’s well-being. From hair loss, digestive issues, intestinal damage, to diarrhoea and skin rashes, what is labelled as healthy and needed suddenly turns to the dark side of the force.

When supplements come into play during my coaching sessions, I consider the following three questions to be the most crucial.

Do you really need it?

When going for a balanced diet that suits one’s goal, supplementation may not always be needed. Clients sometimes have the tendency to grab a bottle of multi-vitamins while grocery shopping under the pretext that “it doesn’t hurt, does it?”. Well, it again depends on what a client sends over to me. Knowing what he/she is eating and drinking to roughly determine what may be missing.

Aside from checking in with the client and ask what he/she feels is not right.

People living high in the northern hemisphere may benefit from adding Vitamin D during the winter months because of the lack of natural sunlight. Those opting for a vegetarian diet benefit from adding Vitamin B12 to their diet (B12 is primarily found in animal food and is an essential vitamin for keeping blood and nerve cells healthy).

Those who sweat a lot (like me) or live in warmer climates may benefit from adding a bit more sodium or electrolytes to their diet, yet it isn’t a prerequisite. Balanced diets tend to do the trick, yet again, it differs from person to person.

What I am saying is just don’t buy it without knowing. It may feel you’re doing the right thing to top up your daily dose of vitamins and minerals.

What does it cost?

Supplements are not the cheapest products around when looking for spicing up your health markers. We all know that there are budget and premium products in the market for anything we consume. I read a few articles that the pricing of supplements is connected to research and the processes to keep the consistency of its products are paramount for the manufacturer’s price setting.

Whether this is the truth or not, I cannot judge.

Are you willing to spend something that cost less than an arm and a leg for a month’s worth of supplements without knowing whether your body actually needs it?

Life is expensive enough!

Balancing the necessity versus increasing your expenditure on products of this nature should be taken into account. 

Perhaps more economical to reduce product X on your plate and substitute it for vegetable Y?

What other sources can we use to complement?

Connected to the last sentence, there are ample foods out there that you may not be aware of yet deliver the same recommendable daily dose of vitamins and minerals. 

Supplements do not have to be the last resort when increasing your Vitamin C dose with swallowing a pill after dinner when you’re not a fruit fan. We have some killer alternatives in the vegetable section that outrun your average citrus fruits in terms of Vitamin C content.

Or are there dietary options you may not prefer as a single unit but blended into a smoothie or salad suddenly gives you that zest for wanting more? We can consider this as an alternative worth exploring.

I wrote this article as a word of caution on not overdoing it on your vitamin and mineral intake when you ‘feel the need it benefits you’. I wholeheartedly support supplementing when the above-mentioned three questions may not give the solution. 

There are heaps of benefits of taking dietary supplements when aiming for your north star. Be it weight loss, muscle growth, smoother skin, or boosting metabolism.

Again, there is nothing wrong with complimenting your diet with a vitamin or mineral. However, be mindful and aware of whether it is absolutely needed. Waste of money and can turn out not beneficial at all. 

Supplemental knowledge is wisdom when you appropriately take action on it.

You can seek advice, learn about the options, and make choices that are right for you. Knowledge is Power | Angelina Jolie

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