The Supplement Dilemma

Should you be taking supplements? In a perfect world the answer would be no. Contrary to popular opinion it is possible to obtain all the essential vitamins, minerals, and protein your body needs from the food you eat. It’s just not easy because so many of us are addicted to junk and processed food. Many doctors, coaches, and trainers recommend that their clients take a multi-vitamin every day. They also advise increasing your intake of protein through supplements most commonly in the form of shakes. Unfortunately these sugar laden time bombs are just as bad for you as the milkshakes at your favorite fast food joint. None of this would be necessary if our modern foods weren’t so nutritionally bankrupt.

Even go to standbys for muscle-building, like chicken and brown rice are not what they seem. The average chicken breast today has less protein, three times more fat, and less than a quarter of the omega-3’s and other vital building blocks it did just ten years ago. In a reversal of fortune beef is quickly becoming the better meat choice containing less fat, more protein, and higher levels of essential mineral, vitamins, and amino acids. Brown Rice has few real redeeming qualities outside of its high fiber. Nutritionally speaking it is a neutral food, neither good nor bad, it’s a filler and little else. Our packaged vegetables have had the vitamins leached from them only to be replaced by sodium. The fact is if you shop in a modern grocery store you are literally playing a game of Russian roulette. Labeling rules are so loose and barely enforced that there just is no guarantee that what your food says you’re getting is true.

I recommend to my clients that they stick to food that has to be wrapped in a bag and weighed at the register. Buy organic whenever possible and pick meat that is grass-fed and free range. Besides the hip aura surrounding free range meat these days it’s also just plain better for you. Recent studies have concluded that were we to get our meat from free range and grass-fed sources we would have no need to supplement our diet with fish oil pills. Chicken, beef, and wild caught fish contain high enough concentrations of essential fatty acids to provide the entire recommended daily intake of them. Also foods like Quinoa, an ancient grain cultivated by the Maya, Aztec, and Inca are nutritional powerhouses loaded with protein, fiber, and Omega-3 fatty acids. Quinoa is also one of the few foods that contains complete protein or all 13 essential amino acids needed for protein synthesis.

Supplements are convenient, there’s no denying it but they are also expensive and just act as a crutch to a bigger problem. If your daily routine consists of pills and meals that come from blender its time you took a long hard look at your diet. Americans are already the largest consumers of protein in the world. Outside of serious bodybuilders and hard gainers there really is no need to add protein to your diet through shakes. Most compounds even the good ones use sugar and inorganic filler in the mix. Taken as they usually are ; in liquid form these sugars are quickly digested and absorbed into the blood stream spiking your insulin and firing up your body’s fat storage process. Yes, that’s right many protein shakes actually encourage the storage of body fat.

If you are taking protein supplements I would suggest you check the label for sugar content. Also look for the fewest ingredients possible, you want protein, in the form of whey, casein, isolate and concentrate. Men should avoid soy proteins whenever possible. Recent studies have revealed that soy protein in any form other then fermented; increases the production of estrogen in men. We give soy too much credit, while it is true that many Asian cultures enjoy health far above our own it’s not because of soy, in fact they eat very small amounts of it. The Asian diet is healthy because of its variety, high vegetable content, low-fat, and the point that many Asian people are just far more active throughout the day then their western counterparts. The soy craze in the US is the product of farming subsidies and advertising marketing designed to sell those crops.

I take one multi-vitamin a day and the sad truth of that is my body will not absorb most of it neither will yours, that’s why your urine will often be an interesting shade of green to orange after ingesting a multi-vitamin. Doctors recommend that you get the lion’s share of the vitamins and minerals you need from your diet. Your body is just more able to absorb them when it’s coming from food and processed through your digestive track. Likewise switching to a liquid diet is also unwise. There’s a reason you drink milk as an infant, it’s because your colon is still developing. You’re an adult now and you are designed to eat solid food it’s why you have teeth. The health of your colon relies upon solid food and roughage entering it. Shakes are just another crutch and an attempt at cheating our way to good nutrition. This is an example where the sheer laziness and ignorance of Americans astounds me! That we would rather suck at a bottle like a newborn then take thirty minutes every night to prepare a healthy flavorful meal is sad. Is it any wonder we have one of the lowest health percentages of any developed nation?

There is good food out there waiting for you. It is possible to get all the vitamins and nutrients your body needs from your diet if you take the time to educate yourself and the different foods and ingredients your body needs. Likewise it may be a little more expensive to shop healthy but compared to the money each of us spends every year on junk we don’t need, and luxuries we literally threw away; the cost is miniscule. One multi-vitamin is all you need. Pumping your body full of pills is just a waste of money. We as a culture are being over medicated and buried under a mountain of pills because our food has become a barren wasteland of nutrition.

If you’re going to take protein supplements choose wisely and only consume them immediately after a workout. Any other time and it’s just too much sugar and your body just won’t use the unneeded protein. On Average you should aim for one half to one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight every day, and that’s only if you are a weightlifter or avid exerciser trying to add size to your muscles. Additionally most of that should come from your diet not a shake. Simple Fuel, a meal replacement shake manufactured by Obstacle Racer and health expert Sherry Post is an example of an all natural shake that combines protein with essential vitamins and minerals. I also like the GNC brand of protein powder and supplements but as always some have more sugar and additives then others so be careful. Wal-Mart sells the Body Fortress brand, that is surprisingly not only inexpensive but packs a one two punch of protein and many essential amino acids as well as a decent taste.

Above al else I advise that you take some time to do some research online or at the bookstore about healthy foods and where to get them. It’s not the ordeal many make it out to be and once you get the hang of it, eating smart and shopping healthy actually becomes second nature. Whole Foods can get a little expensive so bear in mind that the average grocery store’s healthiest foods lay on the perimeter of the store and there’s usually a healthy/organic section somewhere near the bread and fruit. Also check out your local farmer’s market find out where their food comes from. There is no better place to find wholesome natural food that’s come straight from the farm so to speak!

Legion Fitness promotes only products it has tried, tested itself, and approved. We do not endorse foods, or supplements based on their web presence or popularity. When choosing a diet plan, workout routine, or supplement take the time to research its impact and real effect. Don’t fall for advertising gimmicks most of which are designed by paid psychologists to hi-jack your emotions towards a product. Be smart and if it promises quick results and miraculous changes IT’S A LIE!!!

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