An Honest Discussion About Supplements
I get this question a lot: What supplements should I take? I pull back the urge to produce a snarky answer nearly every time.
The truth is MOST of you do not need supplements and those of you that do can easily get their extra nutritional need from a minor change in diet. This is the simplest solution but so hard for everyone to swallow. And let me tell you about solutions: usually the simplest answer is the right one.
So let’s talk about the universal truths to supplements and diet...
Supplemental to a diet of whole and natural foods
This is the first and most honest rule. Supplements are just that: SUPPLEMENTAL to a diet of whole and natural food. If most of what you are cooking eating comes in a package a wrapper or a cheap meal-deal, then just changing out your processed food for real food will give you the nutrition you need. Folks who eat lots of processed food are, as a rule, nutritionally deficient. Processes food lack the vitamins and minerals to keep the body growing and functioning. Not only that, it compromises the DNA eggs and sperm, producing nutritionally deficient children.
Protein shakes and bars are rarely better than candy
Your high end and pricey protein products are hardly better than candy bars. They often contain severe chemicals, sugars and artificial sweeteners. The protein itself is obtained through chemical processes. Next time you pick up one of those bars, turn it around and check the ingredient list. Chances are it’s quite long. Most contain ingredients unobtainable in the regular store like glycerin, soy nuggets, gum arabic, soy lecithin and maltitol syrup. In addition, check the sugars. Most carry around 40 grams of carbs and 20-30 grams of sugar. This looks a lot like a Snickers bar. And you don;t even get the indulgent delight of eating a Snickers bar.
Excessive supps cause liver damage
Most professional bodybuilders suffer liver damage. Yeah, a lot of that is due to the steroid hormones destroying the fascia and internal organs. But natural bodybuilder often also get liver damage. What gives? The liver gives...and it gives and gives and gives. The liver is the hardest working organ on the block. It releases hundreds of enzymes to help breakdown, process, absorb and digest nutrients into usable parts for the body. But the liver has only so much of any given enzyme at one time. It needs to rest and rejuvenate itself (another reason why nutritionally dense foods are important).
Taking many vitamins on a daily basis can accelerate liver damage. If you are taking more than four or five vitamins a day, I highly suggest you not only reevaluate you diet but also talk to a Naturopathic doctor or Traditional Chinese Medicine doctor (TCM). Seeing an herbal pharmacologist is very beneficial. They can order blood work and give you supplement that will work for you. The fact is, many vitamins pills and herbal supplements are not a “forever” kind of solution. Most lose their intended effect after 6 months of exposure. You do not want to be wasting money or metabolic resources on vitamin pills. Find a doctor that can work with you and get good information about diet and supplements if you need to - but don’t blindly take a handful of pills everyday.
Vitamin pills do not work the same in the body as natural sources
No matter how many times someone argues with me, folic acid is not folate and does not work the same way in the body. Ok, it’s the same molecule but a vitamin pill hitting stomach acid is NOT the same mechanism as getting folate from who and natural sources. In scientific experiments that when the method of input varies, often the output does too. I go into the science here and include what you should be taking instead.
Because the liver has to breakdown and process all these vitamins, it also has to use a number of enzymes to make them digestible. This can deplete store and get access, unusable and unprocessed by-products dumped into the bloodstream. Much like xenoestrogens, these byproducts can disrupt the signals in the body of what is needed, not needed and in over abundance. In addition, many vitamins do not actually survive the stomach acid.
ALWAYS seek to get your supplement in natural forms. Things like cellulose protect vitamins going through the digestive system until they reach the right point for processing and absorption. Micro nutrients are often grouped together for a reason. Eating food as nature intended it will always be superior to the processed version (here’s looking at you, juicing).
Animal products contain everything you are looking for
Most animal products contain all of the minerals, vitamins and proteins your body is looking for and needs. I do think you can be very healthy and strong for a lifetime on a vegetarian diet, I have my doubts about a full vegan diet for most people. Vegans would greatly benefit from cod liver oil because of the sheer amount of missing nutrition.
If you feel that you need something in your diet, look immediately to liver, heart, kidneys and runny eggs (and unpasteurized milk, but that is hard to find in many states). When we stopped eating the whole animal, we stopped receiving much of our much needed vitamins via food. Liver and wet eggs are some of the most nutrient dense foods out there. If you have craving frequently, this is one of those things you should probably start eating. Most cravings are sign to the body that you are missing something. A chocolate craving, for instance, is a sign that you are low in magnesium.
The most purchased supps can be replaced with three food substances
When I say this, I mean it: Most of the vitamins people are recommended to get more can be found in 3 substances: Raw apple cider vinegar, cod liver oil and unsweetened cocoa powder. Here is the list:
Omega 3 & 6
Vitamin B1,2,3, 5, 6,12
Do you see that!? This is a list of all the time and money you will save while getting healthy! Look at that Vitamin B profile! That's ALL of them! Probiotics alone cost 30-50 dollars a month. One liter of raw (with the ‘mother’) apple cider vinegar will last you just over a month and costs about five or six dollars. Cod liver oil is a bit more expensive, costing you about 20-25 bucks a month and dutch cocoa powder from Sprouts is three dollars for a bag that lasts you 3 months. That’s about 30 bucks a month is supps.
That list has 22 micro nutrients in it. Let’s say we can get that in 16 supps. Maybe 5 if we do a multivitamin. That's still at least $40-50 a month. And if you get the cheapest vitamins, I can almost guarantee you are NOT getting much nutrition. Labels just can’t be trusted on vitamin pills.
The labels are not very accurate in RDA
Most nutritional substitutes - esp those bought in places like GNC - are simply rice powder. The FDA currently has no accountability or legal standard in the realm of vitamins and supplements. Where as food stuffs must adhere to rigorous standards of labeling and quality (which apparently get fudged and bought when it comes to ‘organic,’ but that's a different article), the manufacturers of supplements do not have...well, any standards. They are private companies and do not sell a food product so they are limited only to honest advertising standards.
There are no federal purity standards or regulation of effectiveness in supplements and vitamins. So, in actuality, you don’t know what you are taking. You, as the consumer, need to be looking into all the supplements you buy. Find out who is reputable and find out which private companies you can trust to vet your goods. Look for products vetted by the ConsumerLab.com or carrying USP Seal. Or, you can take the easy route and get you micronutrients from real, regulated food stuffs.
Fat burners don’t work and are at best dangerous
Look in the paragraph above as to why you shouldn’t waste any money on so called fat burners. Anything that says it burns fat will have an amphetamine profile (any drug with the suffix ‘amine’ usually is). The was a big deal in the late 90s when Fen-Phen drugs came out. It was a miracle weight loss drug but also caused deaths, addiction and heart problems. Yeah, because it was literally speed.
There is another natural drug that is proven to help you lose weight but I’m not going to list it. The FDA has deemed it illegal to put in supplements because it acted a lot like amphetamine and it is regularly used in explosives and biological warfare (kak: poisonous gas). Yeah, fat loss drugs are not worth the price.
You can get all kinds of crazy stuff overseas. This is why many pro athletes pop hot for drug they (supposedly) didn't take. But a word of warning: most of it is very dangerous and there is a reason we don't sell it in the US.
Losing fat takes effort. Full stop. Embrace the challenge because charting always catches up with you.
Supps can interact with drugs
Did you know you can take St John Wort for depression? Did you know it also greatly interferes with other medicines for the same thing? Yeah, so if herbal pharmacology was just mumbo jumbo, then why would we have to make warning about drug interactions?
If you are taking regular medication, you need to talk to a professional about what drug interaction can happen with your supplements. Don’t talk to an MD, talk to an herbal pharmacologist like and ND, Chiropractor or TCM practitioner. They are trained in this specialty and will be able to help you out. Many drugs do not have an interaction but some do. Do not self diagnose and guess what is going on. See a professional and take what it best for your personal situation.
Many times, patience, lifestyle choices and a natural supplement can do the job of a heavy dose of pharmaceutical drugs. Yeah, it's harder but it might buy you a better quality of life in the long run.
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