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Supplements Demystified!

Note: As you read this article, keep in mind that the quality of certain supplements can vary drastically from one brand to another.  I mention certain brands below because they are the ones that I trust. In the spirit of full disclosure, Girls Gone Strong is affiliated with a few of these products, so buying via these links will help support our efforts, and allow us to continue putting out great, FREE content! Thank you in advance for your support.

 

supplements-demystified-collage-350x678“Take this pill and lose 10 pounds in 10 days!”
“Sprinkle this on every meal and drop a dress size in 1 week!”
“Drink one of these shakes 3 times a day and watch your belly fat melt away!”

If you watch TV, read magazines, or spend more than five minutes on the Internet, you are probably seeing messages like these all the time. They make losing body fat and getting the body of your dreams sound as easy as, well… as easy as ordering their product and using it for a few weeks. Then, voila! Success!

Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it’s not quite that easy.  If you read the fine print, you will see that most subjects ate a restricted calorie diet and/or followed a specific exercise program while taking the product. Another thing you’ll often see in that fine print is this: “RESULTS NOT TYPICAL.”  Pretty sneaky, huh?

So are there any supplements that can help you get your dream body? There are definitely a few supplements that can help by improving your overall health, but there is no supplement that will get the dream-body job done all by itself.

When your body is healthy, it’s much less likely to cling on to excess body fat.

However, it’s important to remember that supplements are just that. Supplements! They supplement your nutrition and exercise habits. Once you have those area of your life in order, you can consider investing in some of the products I discuss below.

Of course, please consult your Doctor before beginning any new supplement regimen.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D has received a lot of attention in recent years as more and more research confirms its importance.  It’s so important in fact, that some doctors are calling Vitamin D, “the single most cost-effective medical intervention in the United States,” as many of us are deficient in it. According to Examine.com, “supplemental vitamin D is associated with a wide range of benefits, including increased cognition, immune health, bone health and well-being. Supplementation can also reduce the risks of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and multiple sclerosis.”

Many people should be supplementing with around 4000 IU each day, sometimes more, if they don’t get much sun exposure. That being said, it’s very important to get tested before you start supplementing. Though unlikely, it is possible that taking too much Vitamin D can be toxic.

Quick tip: There is a difference between “normal” vitamin D level and “optimal” vitamin D level.  Remember, you are not trying to barely prevent rickets. You are trying to optimize your health.  The Vitamin D council recommends that your Vitamin D level is at least 50 ng/mL.

Fish Oil

You may have heard that you should be taking fish oil for your health, but you may not know why.  Fish oil contains Omega-3 fatty acids EPA, DHA, and ALA, all of which have unique health benefits ranging from improving brain function and blood pressure, to improving symptoms of ADHD, bi-polar disorder, and even rheumatoid arthritis. While you can get Omega-3 fatty acids from eating algae, walnuts, flaxseeds, and a variety of fish, most of us still don’t get enough. Especially compared to the amount of Omega-6 fatty acids we get. A major imbalance of Omega-6’s to Omega-3’s can cause inflammation, and chronic inflammation is very bad for your long-term health.  For most people, three to five grams a day of fish oil is great.

Quick tip: Where you get your fish oil is of utmost importance.  A low quality source won’t impart the same benefits you can get from a higher quality source. Plus, you may encounter some heavy metal toxicity issues with lower quality sources. Look for high-quality, reputable brands. You can

Probiotic

Mmm… bacteria. Yes, bacteria.  It may not sound very exciting, but the good bacteria you have in your gut are very important for keeping you healthy. Unfortunately, stress, poor nutrition, and antibiotics all play a role in destroying those good bacteria.  There’s hope, though! A high quality probiotic can replenish the good bacteria, aid in digestion, improve absorption of certain nutrients, and improve overall immune system function.

Quick tip: Take your probiotic 15 minutes before your first meal of the day for best results. Also, make sure you take it at least three hours before or after you take an antibiotic to avoid decreasing its efficacy, and once you’re off the antibiotics, you might want to double up the dosage for a few days.

Digestive Enzymes

Everything from stress to aging to antibiotics to carbonated beverages can wreak havoc on your digestive system.  If you’re not digesting your food well, you’re sure as heck not getting the nutrition you should be getting! Taking a digestive enzyme with each meal can be a good idea to ensure you’re getting the most benefit from you’re food.

Quick tip: Make sure you’re taking the time to chew your food thoroughly. Digestion begins in the mouth, and you’d be well served to take the time to chew your food until it’s almost a liquid before swallowing it. Sounds kinda gross, but very helpful! That, along with a digestive enzyme with your meals will help you get the most out of your food.

Whole Food Multi-Vitamin

If I were a betting woman, I’d say that your first foray into the world of supplements was a multi-vitamin. Maybe it was a Flintstones vitamin or maybe you just picked up Centrum vitamins because you recognized the name. Regardless, somewhere along the way, you decided that you should probably take a multi-vitamin to improve your health.

Well, I have good news and bad news for you. The good news? You’re right! Multi-vitamins can be very beneficial. The bad news? The ones you’ve been taking probably aren’t worth a darn. Oops.

See, the problem with some multi-vitamins is that the dose of many of the vitamins and minerals included are very low and/or from low quality sources and aren’t absorbed well by the body. Many brands are hard capsules that are difficult to digest and contain lots of binders and fillers. Look for a whole food multi-vitamin that uses high quality food sources.

Quick tip: Most whole food multi-vitamins needs to be refrigerated once you open the container in order to retain their freshness and potency. This is very important!

Bonus Supplement — Protein Powder

As you’ve probably gathered by now, at Girls Gone Strong, we aren’t pushing protein powder in your face every five seconds as the “magic key” to fat loss and health. That being said, we do enjoy the occasional protein shake, and have been known to bake with protein powder as well.

And we do recommend taking a protein powder supplement if you struggle to get enough protein through your daily meals, or if there are certain times during the day it’s hard to prepare and eat a full meal (like right before/after a workout or when you’re having a super busy day). Protein shakes are great immediately post-workout to get protein to your muscles for repair and nourishment, but don’t be fooled into thinking you have to have a shake in order to see results. Whole food meals that include a protein source will also get the job done.

Like I mentioned above, certain supplements can be a great addition to a sound nutrition and exercise program, so make sure that those are your top priority.  But when you are ready, these supplements can be helpful in improving your health and your physique.

Round things out with a smart, efficient, balanced workout program. We can help!

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About The Author: Molly Galbraith

Molly Galbraith, CSCS is co-founder and woman-in-charge at Girls Gone Strong, and creator of The Coaching & Training Women Academy, home for the world's most comprehensive, evidence-based, women-specific coaching certifications. A former figure competitor and powerlifter who has dedicated the last 15 years of her life to helping women achieve their goals and feel more comfortable and at home in their bodies. Learn more about Molly on her website and connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.