Sports supplements

What about sports supplements? Can’t we get all the nutrients we need from our food? Walter Willet, Harvard School of Public Health lead researcher on 3 of the biggest epidemiological studies that followed over 150,000 people over the last 20 to 30 years, suggests that we should take a daily multivitamin.

I believe it’s not just a multivitamin and mineral we need but possibly also essential fats like fish oil, digestive enzymes, probiotics and extra fibre. But are all supplements the same? Or are the more expensive brands just a waste of money…? What about sports supplements like protein shakes?

Why do we need sports supplements?

Unfortunately the idea of a well balanced diet providing all the nutrients, vitamins, minerals or fibre that you will need each day to be healthy is a myth. How many people really eat a well balanced diet anyway? What is a well balanced diet? If you asked 20 people you would get 20 different answers. If the well balanced diet is what the Food Standards Agency (FSA) recommend in their “The balance of good health” food plate or what the USDA recommend in “the food pyramid” then I would bet that you are certainly not getting enough nutrition from your food as supplements are a must.

First of all, read the label on the supplement as this will tell you if what you are about to buy is a quality product or not. Not all vitamins and minerals are the same. Minerals need to be in an organic form (as opposed to inorganic – not from a source of organic farming) to aid their absorption. For example only 18% of magnesium oxide will be absorbed whereas 85% of magnesium EAP2 will be absorbed. Minerals should be bound to an amino acid to aid absorption; look out for supplements that state they use Albion Chelated minerals.

Vitamins are either natural or synthetic; in most cases a natural vitamin is preferred for good absorption. On a supplements label a natural vitamin is listed with a d before its name, for example d-alpha tocopherol (vitamin E), whereas a synthetic one is listed with dl before its name, such as dl- alpha tocopherol. Vitamin B6 should be in its active form pyridoxal-5-phophate as this is most absorbable form. Look at the dose of the supplement; if it only has 100% RDA levels, this is nothing to get too excited about. RDA levels are only the amount that will prevent disease, not promote health. For example the RDA for vitamin C to prevent scurvy is 60mg, however it is estimated that we need a minimum of 500mg per day for health – almost 10 times the RDA. The same goes for other vitamins and minerals such as folic acid, B12, zinc and magnesium.

The delivery of the nutrients is important to consider. The best form of delivery is liquid, then powder, then capsules and finally tablets. Some tablets can be compressed so hard during manufacture that they are not properly broken down during digestion, therefore can’t be absorbed. Be wary of time released or enteric-coated supplements, research shows that they do not always do what is claimed and the results depend on you having good HCL levels and strong digestion.


Sports supplements

The following companies I recommend for sports supplements:

  • Nutri – very good vitamin, mineral and protein shake formulations.
  • Nutri-Link – great for speciality products.
  • BioCare – do the best probiotics in the world, also good for fish oil.
  • Aliment – good for fish oil and a fairly inexpensive brand.

If you are in doubt about your supplements most companies have a technical help line that you can call and get your questions answered.

Then there are sports supplements, what should we take? Creatine, BCAA’s, beta alanine, protein shakes. i could answer yes to all of these but it really depends on what sport you are doing. As a rule of thumb build nutritional health first with good food, a multi vitamin, fish oil and vitamin D, then start thinking about sports supplement. A healthy athlete will always out perform an unhealthy one regardless of sports supplements.

My top 5 sports supplements tips:

  1. Protein shakes – needed post training and events.
  2. Fish oil – shown to have positive effects in all known diseases, lowers LDL and raises HDL cholesterol, lowers C-reactive protein, homocysteine and triglycerides. I recommend a minimum dose of 6 grams a day.
  3. A good multivitamin / mineral – provides baseline nutrients for good health. Most bands do a product that is one capsule a day.
  4. Magnesium – many people are deficient, it’s involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions, it helps lowers blood pressure, it aids sleep and is involved in energy production. I recommend 300mg per day as the minimum requirement.
  5. Vitamin D, as it interacts with over 2000 human genes and is vital for good health. I recommend 500IU a day.
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