Stop Wasting Your Money on Vitamins and Supplements

Especially if they are dangerous to your health

Americans spend more than $30 Billion each year on supplements–vitamins, minerals, and herbal products. What’s worse is that many of them don’t work. Is taking a vitamin or supplement beneficial? Readers, like you, want to know, so we’re delving in to see what they are, why people take them, and if they are doing any good.

Kinds of supplements

There are more vitamins than you can shake a stick at as you walk down the aisle of the grocery store. There are supplements to improve your health, supplements to build up your muscles, supplements to maintain your weight, and still more. There’s a supplement for just about any need. We can really get into the Science of it, which may be overwhelming. For simplicity sake, we will break them down into four basic categories.

1. General nutrition/vitamins & minerals

Of those who take vitamins, most fall into needing multivitamins, vitamin D, calcium, vitamin C, vitamin B/B complex. Late last year I had a physical and a blood panel. Based on the test results the physician suggests I take a multivitamin with iron. Apparently, my iron is on the low side of normal. I haven’t added a vitamin yet because I want to find one that my body will absorb well. A multivitamin may be helpful based on many research studies.

“Maybe. That’s as close as we get to a conclusion. I take a multivitamin based on that hope, and based on my haphazard eating style,” says Dave Kwiecinski, personal trainer. 

2. Specialty Supplements/herbs and botanicals

The largest category of these is omega-3 fatty acids, which includes the popular fish oil supplements. This group is known for the reduction of many ailments, including lowering blood pressure and reducing the effects of arthritis. Fiber, probiotics, glucosamine, and CoQ10 are also included in this group.

Those who use herbs and botanicals favor drinking green tea, or kombucha, on a regular basis. Other common natural ingredients are garlic, cranberry, Echinacea, and ginseng.  

3. Sports performance

Within this category, the most common type of supplement was a protein supplement, trailed by energy drinks and gels. And, if you’re into sports performance you are probably working out on a regular basis. After a workout is the best time to consume sugar when the muscles are depleted of energy. As a recovery drink, Kwiecinski likes Gatorade powder and vanilla whey protein powder, mixed with water. Sugar replenishes the energy. Protein aids in muscle repair.

4. Weight loss

Fat burners can be especially dangerous because they are causing a person’s appetite to go away, which basically takes away our bodies natural fuel source and replaces it with chemical energy. Do they have a place in supplementation? Sure, maybe if you’re going to the prom, on vacation, or have a special event to attend and desire to lose weight quickly. The key is to use them for a limited time and not too much at any one time. Many people report a higher weight increase after stopping the use of these items than before they ever started using them in the first place.

The truth is there’s no magic pill. It is important to know your supplements, how they should be used, and to use the proper dosage.

Get educated

Education is critical.

“When I first started bodybuilding I tried literally everything and had a ridiculous shelf of supplements. I still do, and now each has been picked after reading, studying, and listening to my body’s needs. My daily list has actually slimmed down and my results have gotten even better”- Troy Cudworth, bodybuilder.

The best nutrition comes from real food first. Nothing can replace a well-balanced diet. If you aren’t getting enough proper nutrition, or if your body is deficient in basic needs, it may be time to consider supplements. Certain stages of life, like pregnancy or old age, may benefit from taking vitamins. Some dietary choices may also create a need for a supplement.

It is also important to know how your supplement is processed. If it is synthetic oftentimes the body doesn’t know what to do with it.

Not regulated

Supplements are not regulated by the FDA. The FDA spot checks about 1% of the dietary supplements found on the market. Many times they are also mislabeled or contain ingredients not found on the label. I say that somewhat tongue in cheek because the FDA is killing us with its seal of approval and it still can’t figure out what is “healthy”.

Do supplements have a place in nutrition?  

“100%, without a doubt,” says Troy Cudworth. And, “100%, people should educate themselves before use”.

Do you use supplements, and why or why not? Tell us in the comments.

Credit to Dave Kwiecinski and Troy Cudworth for personal training and bodybuilding knowledge.