Should I Use Supplements?
Misconceptions & Fundamentals of Supplementation
Supplements have been used for ages in the form of a specific part of an herb or animal concentrated into a powder.
Indigenous people have long used specific herbal concentrations or animal parts to support general health, performance, and fertility. In fact, even animals will use specific parts of herbs to resolve ailments, and there is an entire field of study devoted to this phenomenon.
Vikings would use Rhodiola to augment their performance on the battlefield. Samurai would use Ginseng for centered focus and energy.
Many ancient traditions have rituals for women preparing for pregnancy that make sense with our knowledge today about prenatal needs. For example, the Inuits of Alaska would use salmon roe, the people of the Gaelic Islands would use cod heads (including the brain and eyes).
With that said, do you need supplements? No.
You also don’t need your car, but it’s certainly useful, especially if you have anywhere to go.
Let’s talk about two general reasons you would supplement: to ensure optimal nutrient intake and to enhance health or performance in many domains.
Can’t you get everything you need from food?
Certainly, but I’m willing to bet you don’t.
How do I figure that?
Well, we have National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys that take representative samples of many thousands of people, and assess the nutrient intake of their diets.
100% of the population had inadequate potassium intake. That’s not a typo. 94% had inadequate vitamin D intake, 88% had inadequate vitamin E intake, 52% had inadequate magnesium intake, 91% had inadequate choline intake - and this is adequacy, not optimal intake, and certainly not optimal intake for athletes.
Supplementing for Optimal Nutrient Intake
Our food has much lower nutrient status today than ever before due to mass production methods, monocrop agriculture depleting the soil, and genetic modification maximizing yield efficiency without respect to nutrient density
Our water has much lower nutrient status today, while it is typically free of parasites in the United States, it is also much lower in essential minerals than mineral water, and much higher in toxicity due to plastics, chlorine, and heavy metal residue, to name a few.
Our nutrient demands are higher due to unprecedented toxicity in our environment, for which our detoxification organs such as the liver require nutrients in order to detoxify.
Our stress demands our higher due to much faster paced lifestyles, social media dopamine cycles, highly processed foods - and so this further increases nutrient demand since the metabolism of stress hormones requires nutrients
Lower nutrients in our food, higher demands of nutrients, and a general lack of dietary practices that fulfill adequate intake in the first place, and you might realize this is a problem.
With all of that said, I would consider a quality multivitamin & mineral foundational.
It is very strange how many will object to using a multivitamin, either by claiming you get it from food or you just excrete all of the nutrients. And yet it’s standard practice when pregnant or attempting to become pregnant to take a multivitamin because we know how critical it is for health to ensure adequate nutrient intake.
If you or someone you loved was pregnant, would you object to them taking a multivitamin to ensure adequate nutrient intake?
If the answer is no, why wouldn’t you take a multivitamin anyway to ensure adequate nutrient intake?
Supplementing for Performance Enhancement
Now aside from general health purposes, there are more supplements with more uses than I can reasonably list in this article.
Ensuring optimal nutrient intake for myself as an individual with unique needs and objectives is the first reason I personally use supplements, but virtually any health, performance, or body composition related goal can be enhanced with proper supplementation.
Here are some examples:
Increase IQ, cognition, & memory (L-Tyrosine, Creatine)
Improve sleep (Magnesium Threonate, B6)
Increase exercise recovery (Magnesium Glycinate, Creatine)
Enhance exercise performance (Creatine, Acetyl-L-Carnitine)
Increase energy (Caffeine, Magnesium Malate)
Decrease oxidative stress (Fruits & Greens, N-Acetyl-Cysteine)
Improve gut health (Pre & Probiotics, Fiber)
Improve mood (L-Tyrosine, L-Theanine)
Decrease inflammation (Omega 3, L-Theanine)
Improve blood glucose regulation (Berberine)
And on, and on… books could be written on each ingredient.
Concerns with Supplementation
Why would I not utilize the tools at my disposal, technologies that increase the quality of my life?
Safety concerns or lack of knowledge are the only two reasons I can imagine one would not utilize these valuable tools.
Are They Safe?
We must give the devil his due because there are certainly safety and purity concerns within the supplement industry, especially in the United States because supplements are not regulated here.
However, you can solve this problem by finding a company who is GMP, and even better NSF certified, which means they are tested for purity for Olympic athletes since they have to pass some of the most stringent drug testing in the world.
You also want a company who sources high quality ingredients and has third party testing for purity and potency.
There are a select few companies I order supplements from that I have found meet or exceed these standards: ATPLabs, Designs for Health, Thorne, and Nutri-dyn.
Some of these companies are located in Canada which has very strict regulations on supplements. While that is more inconvenient for supplement companies, it does ensure a much higher degree of safety and authenticity.
And of course it is important to mention that when using supplements for any medical purpose it is best to consult with a qualified medical professional.
Which Ones Are Best For Me?
The second reason one might not take supplements is because they simply don’t know which ones to take.
That’s perfectly reasonable, but I would be remiss to make any specific recommendations in this article.
Personally, as discussed, I have found a quality multivitamin and mineral to be foundational. Ensuring optimal intake of vitamin D3, magnesium, zinc, and omega 3 is also essential, and many people do not have adequate dietary intake of these nutrients. I also have found a protein supplement to be very helpful in ensuring optimal protein intake, especially for athletes looking to build muscle and strength.
I have used many supplements to increase performance and cognition. Being a university student, a business owner, and an athlete, my demands in this regard are very high. L-Tyrosine and creatine have been elemental for me in this regard.
And of course, on the flip side of that coin, I have found great success with magnesium threonate and L-Theanine to improve sleep and recovery.
Again, these might not be for you. Everyone’s needs and objectives are different, and furthermore, everyone’s biochemistry is incredibly unique and will have different - sometimes even paradoxical - responses to specific supplements.
Ultimately, you should consult with a qualified professional regarding supplementation for your own individual purposes.
With so many benefits, I am not sure why one would choose not to supplement other than safety concerns.
Working with a qualified professional and/or purchasing from a reputable company such as ATPLabs, Designs for Health, Thorne, or Nutri-dyn should resolve safety concerns.
Many of the ingredients mentioned have only up sides if used responsibly, they are not drugs - they are nutrients, many of them essential for health. Some of them are herbs which must be used more carefully, and especially if used for medical purposes.
Hopefully this article clarifies some misconceptions and provides a rationale for supplementing, as well as a path to determining the best supplements for you as an individual.
If you’d like specific supplement recommendations based on your unique goals, needs, metabolic profile, and neurotransmitter profile, or have any further questions about supplementation, contact me to set up a consultation at my website below.
Daniel J Furtado, CPT, LMT, Owner of Honor Strength
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