Supplements are a dietary trend relatively new to our nutritional habits. Over the past century, use of supplements has grown into a full-blown nutrition lifestyle industry. gimmicks
Supplements fundamentally appear in two groups. Wellness supplements, which are aimed at maintaining or improving general health and well-being and performance supplements, which are aimed at optimizing athletic build and performance.
Wellness supplements include organic nutrient compounds, natural extracts and dietary additives. Performance supplements include strength and endurance enhancers, muscle quality enhancers and recovery nutrients. Many the products from both groups often overlap in function or formulation.
One important caveat however, is to take heed of the word “supplement” which means “in addition”. That says it all. While many of these may be good for you, they should only be used in addition, and not as a replacement to regular food or medical treatment.
Having said that, some supplements floating around on shelves today are not that great for you. At worse, they are dangerous to your health, at best, they are totally useless. Let’s have a look at the good, the bad and the gimmicks of the supplement world.
The goal of a good supplement is to promote health or improve physical performance. This should not come at the cost of other aspects of your well-being. Here’s our two favorite good supplements.
Whey protein is the staple performance supplement. It is the most common and recognized form of sports nutrition but is also considered a common wellness nutrition item. Whey protein is a dairy extract produced during the production of cheese where it is separated from casein, another milk protein.
Whey is a complete protein, meaning it is a good source of all 9 essential amino acids. With this, whey contains all the ingredients necessary for the human body’s day to day amino acid needs. These range from protein synthesis, the immune system, hormone production and neurological function.
From a performance perspective, whey protein’s synthesis value is essential for maintenance or growth of lean muscle mass in athletes and physique enthusiasts. It is also believed whey protein can help boost testosterone production, making it well worth considering as part of your sports nutrition plan.
Whey protein is often available as a dry flavored powder that can be easily mixed with water or milk. It is also available in solid bars and pre-mixed beverages.
L-glutamine is a supplement whose popularity is almost equal both in the wellness space and the performance nutrition space. It is an amino acid and is one of the most abundant in the human body. Although it is not one of the essential 9, it is important to your body. It plays a pivotal role in your immune system, digestive system, brain health and structural integrity of soft tissue. It is also an excellent energy and recovery booster if you are seriously active.
L-glutamine comprises 61% of your skeletal muscle. That means in order to maintain tone and size, you need this special nutrient. It also keeps your skin firm and healthy. As you age, your body’s production of L-glutamine declines. This is the main cause of muscular atrophy and wrinkles in more mature adults. For this reason, L-glutamine is often touted as an age defiant super supplement, a fountain of youth if you will.
The benefits of L-glutamine are just as coveted by the athlete and physique competitor. That’s because the protein synthesis and muscle recovery properties of the amino acid are essential in avoiding catabolic muscle atrophy. This happens following the intense training serious athletes undertake. Their bodies become starved for metabolic fuel and often turns to the glutamine stores that constitute its muscle fibers. This is called the catabolic state. To thwart this, regular supplementation of L-glutamine is the way to go.
L-glutamine is generally inexpensive and is available in powder or capsule form. Sometimes it is blended with other nutrients or food products.
Some supplements hit the market promising a plethora of health and performance benefits, only for science to reveal some dark truths or later discover the unwanted effects. Here are two bad supplements to avoid
Fat burners, as the name suggests, are chemical compound whose aim is to help eliminate body fat. A noble cause indeed, especially if you are a bit on the rough side of the scale. As good as this sounds, a pill that basically burns fats, it is very important to learn the truth about the risk and danger of many of these miracle pills.
Firstly, it is fair to mention that some substances, or ingredients classed as fat burners are actually helpful and even natural to that end. Substances like caffeine and L-carnitine are known to naturally boost your metabolism, essentially what ends up burning your fat stores. These, however, should be used in mindful moderation.
Many fat burners do however contain some hazardous substances. One example is the ingredient known as bitter orange. Its constituent synephrine alkaloids are stimulants common as ingredients in most over the counter and off the shelf fat burners. These alkaloids have been linked to extreme hypertension which can lead to stroke or heart attack in severe cases.
Try and stick to natural ways of boosting your metabolism like natural thermogenics (coffee and green tea) or increasing your level of physical activity. Those are nature’s fat burners, and nature is always best.
This natural plant extract is known traditionally for its anti-inflammatory properties. It was once widely used as a remedy for a variety of conditions. These include colds, fevers, inflammation and joint pain. It was often touted as a way to improve the recovery and healing time of wounds and infections.
It is now commonly considered a highly toxic substance and it is in your general best interest to avoid it.
So now you know there are some good supplements and some that are bad for you. There is however a special place on the bottom shelf for those which are neither here nor there. Those supplements whose efficacy is unsubstantiated by any valid science or proven results. Some of it is snake oil, deceptively marketed for profit, sometimes it’s just a case of insufficient science or a subculture of pseudoscientific dogma. Here are two utterly useless and ineffective supplements.
This is a performance boosting compound drink mix of mainly good stimulants and recovery aids. These commonly include caffeine, citrulline malate, BCAAs (branched chain amino acids), beta-alanine (that tingly feeling), arginine, glutamine and a proprietary blend of micronutrients.
You may be asking yourself why, after being shown to contain so many things are generally good and effective, are pre-workouts so useless. The problem isn’t with the constituents of pre-workout formulas being ineffective, it’s in their specific application and their insufficient necessity therein.
When it comes to BCAAs, you probably have your daily needs covered by a good protein intake, including supplements like whey protein. Glutamine is also best covered separately as its availability in a pre-workout formula is negligible. Other stuff like beta alanine, citrulline malate and many of the vitamins and minerals are also available in such insignificant quantities. Arginine is powerful, but its bioavailability makes it just as useless as the rest. After whittling things down, the last man standing is good old caffeine. Suffice to say, a cup of coffee would be a more effective and cost efficient pre-workout drink.
Homeopathic supplements and medicines are amusing pseudoscience at best, at worst, they are exploitative and deceptive money grab schemes. Homeopathic supplements work on the concept of “like cures like”. That is to say the cause of something can be reformulated into its cure. This is actually true when considering the effectiveness of anti-venom or viral vaccines. This is achieved through rigorous testing and complex processing. In the case of homeopathic formulas, this is implemented by taking a known toxic substance and turning it into a nano dose by excessive dilution.
This dilution process involves dissolving the original pure substance in water or alcohol until it’s concentration is represented as low as 1 part per trillion. In some cases, not a single molecule of the original dose is left. The efficacy in this case is attributed to “water memory”. On the bright side, at least there’s no risk of poisoning yourself.
Homeopathy is an old-world pseudoscience and should be avoided for the sake of your dignity and that of your wallet.
Supplements are here to stay, and in many cases, they are pretty useful. In other cases, not so much. No matter what you decided your needs and desires are with supplementation, always remember they should not be used to replace good, wholesome, healthy food.