Is Supplementation The Answer?
There is no doubt you’ve heard about vitamins, minerals, magic powders and other ways to help you overtake the leader of your competition. Our bodies are wonderful machines, often unexplainable. Why does one diet work for one person and not another? Why do you crush a hill one week, and next week the same hill, after the same meal, makes your legs buckle? Sometimes the answer is not so clear; however, the least you can do is make sure your body is fueled properly throughout the week. Supplementation may be an important factor, but some obstacles do exist.
To make sure you have fueled yourself properly, eat well. Get most of your vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients from solid, whole foods (and lots of water). A well balanced diet is one that is colorful (veggies, fruits, whole wheats, plant proteins, and some meats) and offers you a variety day in and day out. This is your first step to proper vitamin and mineral balance. However, unless you eat this way all the time, there is almost no way to get all the essentials you need. This is where supplements come in to play. But which ones do you choose? There is the vitamin alphabet to think about...but which brand do you buy?
First, a multivitamin is a good start. But, imagine your body trying to absorb all those nutrients from one pill that it is trying to break down. Sometimes, the pill is just passed through the system without each nutrient being absorbed fully. Talk about wasting your money, huh? How do you know which vitamin will be absorbed? Well, you don’t. You just hope your body is absorbing what it needs. What if your body doesn’t absorb iron well? IF this is the case, then it wouldn’t matter if you were eating a cow or taking 1000’s of mg’s of iron; your body still will not absorb it. You may need to take folic acid, which helps your body absorb iron. Hopefully, you and your doctor can determine what the best route is for you.
Hopefully, you and your doctor can determine what the best route is for you.
Speaking of your doctor, the best way to determine what vitamin(s) you may need is a blood test. You then should know what you are deficient in, be it iron, B Vitamins, Calcium, etc. From here, the ball goes back to you in choosing which brand. If the supplement in question has cellulose as an “other ingredient”, skip it and look for another brand. Cellulose is an impermeable agent coating the pill, which makes it difficult for your body to metabolize the pill as it passes through. Again, wasted money. Companies do this because cellulose is cheap to use. Unfortunately, for one company, their vitamin B may have cellulose, but their CoQ10 (which may become vitamin Q in the future) may not! You have to do some investigative shopping to find which one is best for you. Places to look are Vitamin World, whole foods stores, or your healthcare provider may have a source for pharmaceutical grade supplements.
There are some vitamins I will suggest looking into from the get go. They include calcium, omega 3 fatty acids, chromium, an antioxidant combination (C, E, CoQ10), folic acid and possibly iron (especially for women). These are not the be-all of supplements, but they provide a good start for folks who feel they need to improve their consumption of the essentials. Of course these do not include selenium, any of the vitamin Bs, or any of the amino acids, which are not only essential for muscle building but also for efficiency in delivering blood to muscle tissue (something we need for endurance)!
Supplementation is a complicated subject. Vitamin supplements can help your health and your performance. It is up to you and your healthcare provider to determine what your body needs and where to turn for better performance. Good luck, and may the wind be always at your back!
Chad Lefler 919-419-6927 firstname.lastname@example.org Sports Conditioning Specialist/Nutrition Consultant