I have only taken a few supplements in my lifetime, the Flintstones multivitamin as a kid and, now, the Vitafusion MultiVites for adults. (Both can be purchased at Target.) Clearly, I gravitate toward supplements that claim to cover a range of health benefits. The Vitafusion MultiVites bottle states that taking two vitamins per day will provide my daily dose of vitamin A (one cup of broccoli), vitamin C (one tangerine), and vitamin D (5 ounces of salmon). However, rather than gathering needed vitamins from supplements, it is important to gain them from an organic source: your food. According to Kathleen M. Zelman of WebMD, "vitamins and other dietary supplements are not intended to be a food substitute. They cannot replace all of the nutrients and benefits of whole foods." Therefore, following a nutritious diet will be the most effective way to obtain the vitamins your body needs.
I find it easiest to plan out your meals for the week to keep yourself accountable through a vitamin checklist. Health magazine's website has a helpful gallery, "The Best Foods for Every Vitamin and Mineral," which offers a simple A-Z for vitamins that your body needs, and the types of foods that are most helpful in fulfilling those categories. Including more of these foods in your daily diet will keep your body healthy and happy. However, sometimes eating healthy foods is not enough when dealing with specific deficiencies. For example, my mother has an iron deficiency that makes her to need daily iron supplements. If you believe that you or someone you know might be suffering from a deficiency, visit a medical professional. Explore the Nutrition.gov website for a wide range of fact sheets and resources to help determine what your body may be lacking and what you can do about it.
But what about fitness enthusiasts who heavily rely on taking supplements to enhance their workout regiments?
In addition to multivitamins and a healthy diet, an individual who is constantly subjecting the body to strenuous activities is at risk for burning muscle, but not retaining it -- which is why there is a need for extra supplements. A helpful solution is a branched-chain amino acid supplement to help retain lean muscle mass. This supplement promotes growth to help compensate for the muscles that are burned during a workout. According to Layne Norton from Bodybuilding.com, "BCAAs not only increase the rate of protein synthesis, but they also increase the cell's capacity for protein synthesis." This proves valuable for those trying to "bulk up" while also staying lean. Or, as Norton succinctly states, "more muscle mass retained, and a greater percentage of lost body fat." In addition, consuming a pre-workout amino drink keeps the amino acids in your body and prevents you from burning muscle while you work out. According to Mike Roussell, Ph.D., from Bodybuilding.com, "The nutrients you ingest around your workouts are extremely critical to developing and refining your physique. If you skip pre-workout protein, you skip a chance to support intra-workout anabolism (muscle growth) and reduce post-workout catabolism (muscle breakdown)." Despite this expert advice from Bodybuilding.com, as always, it is important to consult with your doctor and be mindful of your body.
As a result, it is difficult to determine whether or not supplements are beneficial. If you are simply trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle, consuming dietary supplements such as multivitamins can provide a boost. However, it is ultimately food that should be the main source of vitamin intake. Additionally, multivitamins and a healthy diet prove to be valuable for those who partake in hardcore workouts. However, because of the intensity of the exercise, these individuals require the extra supplements to retain muscle mass and produce the desired results. Before you decide on supplements, remember to do your research and pursue the plan that works best for you and your body.