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Should you be supplementing your current diet?

Supplements are a hot topic with the science and health worlds painfully divided. Some say that we can get everything we need from a whole food diet and supplements are a waste of money, and the others say that in our world now we must fill in the gaps that our lifestyles creates, and supplements are required to do this.

I’m right-smack-bang in the middle of their argument!

Yes, if your diet AND your lifestyle is 100% perfect, organic, 10 servings of fruit and vegetables per day, nothing but the absolute best going through your lips, and not a single chemical out of character would ever touch your skin, I would imagine you are floating on a cloud that we could not argue with.

But if you’re like me (or worse) and live in Auckland, or near any other pollution creating city, enjoy one glass of wine too many, have a stressful job or partner or children, or simply can’t eat 100% organic, then the blood tests, the clinical symptoms and the research tells me that many people benefit from some added supplements in their diet. It’s crucial to understand though, that it should be seen as such – a supplement to your great diet and lifestyle, not a replacement for quality food, exercise and stress management.

Common supplements and what they’re used for

I have listed some of the more useful supplements, where to get them from, and how to add them into your diet. Then a short list at the end of what I discourage. I haven’t touched on complex herbal medicine or supplements that combine a number of minerals and vitamins. This is outside the scope of this blog and can only be assessed on an individual client basis with the appropriate practitioner.

Magnesium

I find magnesium to be one of the most useful supplements available, especially for those with fibre-rich diets and anyone who indulges in coffee. Unless you’re the most chilled out human with zero health issues, you’ll most likely benefit from nightly magnesium as part of your evening routine. It helps with stress management, sleep quality, muscle repair, performance and depression. Take an amino acid chelate, a glycinate form, or take a practitioner prescribed option. I take mine in the evenings, and especially after big training days.

Creatine

Usually associated with body builders who take large or regular doses for muscle gain but is great for anyone to help with energy production, training, brain health and methylation (blog coming soon) issues. I simply add half a teaspoon to smoothies post training a few times per week and only use Reactiv Creatine.

Omega 3

If you don’t eat fish, are vegan, take medications for heart or blood pressure or suffer from any kind of inflammation, then practitioner prescribed fish oil or flaxseed oil supplements are beneficial. Always store in the fridge, never buy from supermarkets or from stands outside your pharmacy. I use practitioner prescribed Metagenics fish oil that is sustainably sourced and rigorously tested for heavy metals. Keep them in the fridge and never buy the cheap supermarket or pharmacy brands they leave in the sun.

Protein powder

For anyone who trains frequently, who often feels hungry between meals or who is trying to lose weight, quality protein added to whole food meals like oats, chia pudding or smoothies is a great addition to help your goals. There are so many quality options on the market now, there is no need to go for the dangerous brands that more ingredients than you can count. I prefer plant based blends with added superfoods to gain more micronutrients while supplementing protein.

Maca

Technically not a supplement, as it is simply a root that cannot leave Peru in any form but powdered, but a crucial one to note for many of my clients. It works on your hormonal system to encourage better production of important hormones and their function – for men it often boosts libido and energy and for women it often calms emotions and helps stress and PMS. I take this every day in smoothies, oats or chia pud.

Vitamin D3

I’m the whitest Raro you’ll ever meet and I avoid the sun tanning sessions because a) I have family history of skin cancer, b) I hate using copious amounts of chemical-storm sunblocks on my skin and c) I do not tan no matter how much sun I do get so what’s the point in prematurely ageing for nothing. I take practitioner prescribed vitamin D3 in coconut oil so I can put it in my smoothies a few times per week alongside short yet frequent sunshine exposure periods.

Probiotics

If you have had any medical intervention, including antibiotics and other medications then you need to be supplementing with quality probiotics. A broad-spectrum probiotic is great for most people, however if you have been medically diagnosed with IBD, or suffer severe gut issues then talk to your practitioner about which ones are right for you. Fermented foods work brilliantly to do the same job unless you have histamine intolerances which need to be managed by a health practitioner. I take a powdered option in my smoothies sporadically and eat plenty of fermented foods.

Zinc

This is key for immune function and also contributes to healthy hormones, skin health, clearing acne, and supports thyroid function. Zinc drops and lozenges are both easily taken, but always take after a meal to prevent the gastro upsets and nausea that many feel with zinc. Don’t over do zinc as it can interfere with iron and copper metabolism.

Glutamine

For those who train intensely, suffer from DOMS or who have IBS of some description then glutamine helps by rebuilding the gut lining and the muscle cells. Easy to add to water, smoothies, oats or even your herbal tea when required. I only use Reactiv.

Greens powders

Super green powders such as spirulina and Good Green Stuff are great additions to smoothies but should never replace vegetables. They’re designed as simple nutrient boosts, not whole foods. Great for vegans and vegetarians who need iodine, iron and calcium.

Supplements I have issues with

Isagenix – Don’t even get me started. This could be a post all on its own. Eat real food, stop replacing your meals with powders we don’t even know are being absorbed full of synthetic vitamins, and don’t even start with me if you’re making money off this scheme as your arguments become completely invalid when you must sell more (without qualifications) to get higher up your “oh but it’s not a pyramid” scheme.

Vitamin C – unless there is a specific health reason to take a vitamin C supplement, I’d prefer people simply ate more fresh berries, capsicum, broccoli and kiwi fruit. If you’re taking it to avoid getting colds, you’re probably better off boosting your zinc and working on stress management.

Fat burners – Women especially, these for the most part are full of dangerous ingredients and will harm your gut, your adrenals health, and your mental health. If you’re after supplements to help burn fat, drink coffee before training, eat a whole balanced diet, lower or eliminate your alcohol intake, consider L-carnitine and have your maca.