Proper nutrition and healthy eating habits are the cornerstones of a healthy lifestyle. But while there is nothing wrong with eating well, there is no need to shun nutritional supplements on the account of them not being “natural”. You may not find high quality supplements growing on a tree somewhere, but they can be useful when it comes to plugging holes in your nutrition.
The problem usually arises when people stop paying attention to nutrition once they take supplements. “It’s important to remind people that they should not neglect nutrition just because they’re using supplements,” says nutritionist, Charlotte Mei. “Supplements don’t serve as a ‘fix-it’ pill, and one should still include a variety of fresh foods into their daily meals.” To err on the side of caution, always consult one’s GP before incorporating supplements into one’s diet.
Why you should consider using supplements
Lab-produced nutritional supplements tend to offer two things that fresh food don’t do very well: consistency and purity. With regard to the former, the tolerances are tighter and you’re more likely to get what’s listed on the label, in the amount that’s indicated. Purity is often overlooked with supplements due to their synthetic nature. However, supplements come with very little in the way of additives and preservatives, more so than most store-bought food. They’re also free of anti-nutrients like oxalic acid and phytates that come with certain natural foods.
A good supplement “stack” will allow you to stabilise things on the nutrition front. Here are some examples of what you can consider adding to your personal stash:
The benefits of fish oil have been touted in countless sports nutrition periodicals. A 2017 study showed that omega-3 fatty acids resulted in greater gut microbiome diversity, while a 2019 meta-analysis yielded favourable results on fish oil’s effect on the heart, cardiovascular and brain function. Higher quality fish oil supplements are checked for purity and concentration, so keep an eye out for the relevant certifying labels. The standard fish oil formulation is 180mg of EPA balanced with 120mg DHA, but variations of this ratio can be found for a more tailored approach.
Despite being regarded quintessential health supplements, not all multi-vitamins are created equal. Certain “blends” are balanced in a way to make them more beneficial to certain demographics (e.g. seniors, expectant women, children, etc). For general purpose multi-vitamins, you’d want to go with products that divide up a day’s dosage into multiple servings. This allows for greater bioavailability as certain nutrients have a tendency of competing with one another for absorption by the body.
Protein supplementation is more than just for bodybuilders and strength athletes. Being one of the three main macronutrients (protein, fat and carbohydrates), it is an essential pillar of good health. Protein contains branch-chained amino acids, which together form the building blocks of muscle. A person’s resting metabolic rate depends very much on the amount of lean muscle mass they carry. More muscle means more calories being burnt at rest.
“Usually, protein powders are not recommended for the average person, as the first line of recommendation would always be to consume protein through food,” says Charlotte.
If you are unable to meet your daily recommended intake of protein with whole foods, then protein powder can be a handy thing to have.
If there was ever such a thing as a “miracle” nutrient, magnesium just might be the most deserving of that title. This element is an essential part of our biological systems and is required in over 300 enzymatic reactions. Between things like bone growth, metabolic health and sleep quality, magnesium has a stake in practically all of them. Magnesium glycinate and aspartate are generally considered the most efficacious forms of magnesium health supplements. There are also blends that feature zinc (for sleep and relaxation) or calcium with vitamin D3 (for bone health and non-specific pain relief).