Your alarm goes off. You get up out of bed and start your morning routine: shower, brush the teeth, floss, and swallow a multivitamin. Ever wonder why you take that pill? Does your doctor recommend it? Does it sound healthy? Does it sound cool? Truth is, most people have absolutely no idea what they are doing when they swallow “the pill” (no, not that pill. Get your mind out of the gutter).
Of course, supplements don’t end with multivitamins. There’s whey, creatine, fish oil, individual vitamins, probiotics, minerals, herbal supplements, extracts, etc. The list goes on and on. You can walk into a vitamin store looking to get healthy and be completely overwhelmed by the amount of variety of products being presented to you. So, instead of telling you all of the supplements that you should be avoiding, we will give you some basics to figure out what YOU should be taking.
- In a best case scenario, we would be able to get all of the nutrients we need from the food that we eat. Unfortunately, with human intervention (agriculture) to thank, our food has lost A LOT of its nutrients. Most of this lost nutrients comes from the bacteria in the gut. Our body needs that bacteria, because this is how we regulate our immune system and properly digest our food. A great way to increase the bacteria in your gut is to take a probiotic supplement. Most pharmacies or vitamin shoppes will have these in stock. Taking a probiotic will keep you and your gut very happy.
- Along with losing gut bacteria, we also lose some key vitamins and minerals. Part of this is due to picking fruits and vegetable too early in the ripening process. Because of this, taking a multivitamin is not a bad idea. However, if you have to choose between a multivitamin and a probiotic, I would go with the probiotic. It seems to work better for me, but self experimentation is not a bad idea to apply here.
- As we mentioned in our vegetable oils post, our omega 6:omega 3 ratio is insanely out of whack. Because of this, we need to take some fish oil to balance out our O6:O3 ratio. To get really good fish oil, try and buy the stuff straight from the bottle (you can find it at vitamin shoppes, or even whole foods) instead of the pills. However, make sure to keep it in the refrigerator, as the unstable polyunsaturated fats can oxidize easily (a possible carcinogen).
- One of the leading nutrient deficiencies in the U.S is vitamin D deficiency. This is probably because most of us are not getting out in the sun quite enough. However, our food is also lower in vitamin D. Vitamin D helps regulate inflammation within the body. Remember, systematic inflammation is what causes you to get sick. So take some vitamin D!
- A lot of college “bros” like to pump up before they head off to do there curls. Products like assault, super pump, and jack3d all pretty much have the same goal: To pump you up for your workout and give you better results. When it comes down to it, most, if not all of these supplements are going to have a lot of crap in them. Crap that does not qualify as “real food“. The fact is, if you want to be a healthy, happy person, you should try to stick to eating real food as much as possible. This is not denying that the stuff will get you pumped up and increase your lifting numbers, but so will steroids, sugar, and caffeine. The Mayo Clinic also reports side effects of using pre-workout supplements including: “nervousness, irritability, insomnia, addiction and dependency, heart palpitations and rhythm abnormalities, weight loss, tremors, mild hypertension, hallucinations, convulsions and heart attack.” They are probably not the best thing to put in your body.
- Another popular supplement among college kids (mostly guys) is Force Factor. Force Factor is pretty much a capsule of arginine, which is the byproduct of nitric oxide. It claims to increase blood flow in order to pump you up and energize you for your workout. It does work, but with some side effects including: gastrointestinal distress, low blood pressure, increase in blood sugar levels, and dizziness. When it comes down to it, you just don’t need to take these types of supplements to get a good workout. Remember: workout when you feel like it! There is no point in pushing yourself to exhaustion, you are not going to benefit.
- In college, it’s hard to really control your meal timing. The dining hall is open at certain hours, and at other hours, you’re on your own with a mini-fridge, microwave and maybe a toaster. While it is way more ideal to have a real meal post workout, such as some sweet potatoes and chicken, in college, we have to make some compromises. This is where whey protein comes in. Whey protein, while not ideal, is going to give you the protein bump that you n
eed post workout and you can’t really get from dorm-room food. The real problem that most people have with whey protein is which kind to get. Concentrate is going to be the least processed, Isolate is going to be pretty much pure protein and Hydrolysate is pretty much Isolate that is marketed better and more expensive. Concentrate, or a Concentrate-Isolate blend is going to be your best bet. You want to look for the cleanest (grass fed, no artificial additives, etc.) brand you can get, for the cheapest price (or, if you’re feeling perky, go all out and get the really good stuff). But remember: It is always better to eat a good meal post workout than to supplement.
- A lot of people might be eating protein, or post-workout bars after there workout. Again, this stuff is just way too processed to be considered food. It’s got a ton of bad crap in it, and because it is considered a supplement, it does not go through the same checks or regulations as the other stuff we eat. Avoid these.
- 5 hour energy: Again, better to get your sleep than to take a supplement to stay up. Last resort only.
- Diet Pills: I really shouldn’t even have to go over this one, but apparently it is pretty common in college for students to take these. Diet pills are just a bad, bad decision. It’s much better just to eat better, exercise smarter and be a healthy, happy person. Don’t mess with B.S.
- Melatonin: Should only be used in small amounts if you absolutely need to get to sleep. Otherwise, naturally produced bodily melatonin will do just fine.