What are supplements?
Today, consuming supplements is the way to take a giant leap towards gaining optimal health and hence longevity. What’s more, supplements are easily affordable. More than 50 percent of American adults take nutritional supplements.
Supplements include herbals, vitamins, herbals, amino acids, and enzymes. They are meant to enhance the nutrient density of your food intake. This means that supplements raise the ratio of micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, etc.) to macronutrients (carbohydrates, fat, and protein). Some of the popular supplements are vitamins D and E, minerals like calcium and iron, herbs such as garlic and specialty products like probiotics and fish oils.
Why is supplementation necessary?
Supplementation, through the provision of extra nutrients, protects against deficiency by attacking free radicals (which harm healthy cells), quickens the repair and regeneration of damaged cells, and facilitates renewal. Research proves that some supplements are useful in managing some health concerns. For instance, calcium and Vitamin D keep bones strong, and omega-3 fatty acids help with heart ailments.
Furthermore, supplements also aid your cosmetic efforts! Anti-aging supplements aid cellular rejuvenation and thus help you stay young naturally. Needless to mention, these supplements improve your overall appearance and make you happier.
Dietary supplements are available in a variety of forms, i.e., tablets, capsules, powders, drinks, energy bars and specialty supplements (probiotics, omega-3 fatty acids).
However, just remember that dietary supplements are not medicines.
You need to remember to take supplements with the right foods at the right time so that they will work most effectively. Unfortunately, many times, even remembering to take them at all can be challenging.
Here are 7 easy ways of consuming supplements that will help you make the most of your daily health helpers:
- Obtain them from Food first – Supplements, by definition, are meant to supplement your diet, and in no way are an alternative to eating healthy foods. Our bodies are designed to acquire all the essential nutrients from the healthy varied food that we eat. So, calorie-laden double cheeseburgers with a perfectly systematic regimen of pills and powders won’t be effective in keeping your health.
Research shows that our bodies better absorb the all-important vitamin D when it’s paired with unsaturated fat sources like avocado, nuts, ground flaxseeds, and olive oil. On the other hand, drinking coffee hinders the absorption of calcium which is critical for the absorption of the sunshine vitamin.
Iron and Vitamin C are an absolute dream team. If you pair iron with freshly squeezed orange juice, then Vitamin C helps your body absorb the optimum amount of iron. Besides fresh-squeezed orange juice, you can also use other solid sources of vitamin C such as bell peppers and strawberries.
Probiotic supplements are best washed down with milk rather than water so that they are more likely to survive in your intestinal tract and aid digestion. In fact, make sure to take these supplements with (or 30 minutes prior to) a meal that is made up of healthy fats.
- Ensure That You’re Getting The Right Quantities – The best way to get a large variety of vitamins and minerals, in the appropriate amounts daily is to eat a broad, healthy diet. This means you need to include fruits and vegetables, whole grains, pulses, low-fat protein, and dairy products in your daily meals. Such common foods are sources of several minerals and vitamins, so it is easy to meet your daily nutrient needs from healthy meals.
With age, your ability to absorb vital nutrients from food goes down. Also, some other factors like pesticides found in the modern food supply, over-utilization of fertilizers, and modern shipping processes degrade the nutrient content of food. From a health perspective, these are powerful reasons for taking dietary supplements.
Though all products labeled as dietary supplements carry a Supplement Facts panel and the manufacturer recommends the serving size, it’s best that you and your health care provider decide on the serving amount. Generally, the Government’s Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA) for supplements are below what we truly need. So you may need to consume a higher dose than what’s on a supplement label to get the desired benefits.
Having said that, don’t gobble up one mega dose of calcium per day since your body cannot absorb so much of calcium in one go. Instead, take it in smaller doses, say 500 mg or less.
Keep in mind that some dietary supplements are added to breakfast cereals and beverages. As a result, you may be getting more than required of these supplements, which raises the risk of side-effects.
For example, consuming an excess of Vitamin A can cause headaches, weaken the bones, and can even cause birth defects. Also, Vitamin D and iron prove to be toxic in high doses. Excess level of iron causes vomiting and damage to the liver.
- Go For High-Quality Supplements – Make sure to take high-quality supplements such as a food-based multivitamin daily. Such a top-shelf supplement is made from organic substances rather than synthetic. Your body absorbs organic ingredients more readily, thus preventing overdosing and excreting the excess.
High-quality supplements provide nutrients in forms that work together with the body’s biochemical pathways and provide optimal results. Such supplements are produced under carefully controlled conditions like temperature, humidity, exposure to light, and processing time.
Some red flags in purchasing minerals are forms of carbonates, sulfates, oxides, and phosphates as these forms are poor in absorption. While at a store, you can easily put these back on the shelf.
Some of the forms of minerals contained in high-quality formulas of supplements are aspartates, citrates, tartrates, and glycinates.
Various independent organizations in the US offer quality testing of supplements and permit only those products that pass these tests to display their seals of approval. These seals of approval assure you that the supplement was properly produced, contains the ingredients listed on the label, and is not contaminated.
- Use Supplements for Muscle Growth – While training intensity can be achieved through a targeted training program, muscle recovery is a significant concern. Hence it’s particularly important to fill any nutritional gaps.
If you are aiming to increase muscle or are involved in bodybuilding, then go for supplements such as high protein drinks, whey protein, and creatine. These supplements will give you greater performance, amazing fat loss and explosive growth. Also, you can maintain this healthy practice throughout the year for the greatest possible results in muscle size and strength.
In fact, you can combine bodybuilding supplements like whey protein and creatine in order to obtain their combined benefits and thus achieve your goals more efficiently. Creatine supplement supports workout performance and delays the depletion of naturally produced creatine in our bodies. Whey protein, when consumed pre and post workout, aids the muscles which we use at the gym.
- Supplement Form is Critical – It is crucial to take supplements in the right form. Make sure to swallow them whole. Tablets and capsules are the most common forms of dietary supplements.
Select supplements in capsule form with an enteric coating over them. The reason being that the enteric coating of the capsule facilitates the easy absorption of the oral medication and prevents its disintegration in the gastric environment. Many studies reveal that capsules deliver the nutrients quickly and feel more gentle on the stomach.
On the other hand, the tablet versions of supplements are harder to digest. There are hidden extras in tablets that make them solid. These binders and fillers include lubricants that our bodies don’t need.
Supplements in the form of gummies help children who struggle with the tastes of other forms as they see them like candy.
It is not advisable to take liquid supplements as they are deficient in enzymes that are critical for the absorption of vitamins.
Supplements in powder form can be made into a shake or a smoothie. Drinking such beverages is useful for proteins and collagen. In case you don’t like to feel full from a shake, you can use some dietary supplements in powder form to sprinkle on food.
- Keep a record of your supplements – Maintain a proper record of the supplements you take. Note down the product name, the exact dose you take, the frequency of consumption, and the cause behind consuming the product. This practice gives you an elaborate understanding of your own supplement needs and also enriches your knowledge.
If you are living in the US, you can use a form called ”My Medicine Record” provided by the FDA, to record the medicines and dietary supplements that you take. Share these details with your healthcare provider (doctor) to discuss what’s optimum for your overall well being.
- Tricks for taking supplements without fail – Remembering to take supplements is a struggle for many of us. It can be downright frustrating as well, what with having taken the right steps towards health care and having made the purchases. No use having good intentions if you aren’t taking your supplements. This way you won’t get the desired health benefits.
After all, the body likes consistency!
Make sure to consume your prescribed dose of supplements at the same time daily. You can do so by combining taking the supplements with a daily task such as right before brushing your teeth or making your morning cup of tea.
If you maintain a practice of keeping your vitamins next to your toothbrush, then, after some days, taking supplements will become more automatic. Alternatively, you can also set a daily alarm on your phone or use “pill reminder” apps for taking your supplements regularly.
In the case of supplements that provide the best results when consumed during mealtime, make sure to take them while having dinner.
If you need to take several essential vitamins daily, then a multivitamin capsule fits the bill. This way you won’t need to take multiple capsules at different times of the day. Besides multivitamin capsules, you can also have fortified orange juice or cereal for breakfast. These are vital sources of multiple supplemental vitamins.
Another trick is to store your supplements in a place which is easily visible to you. For instance, on a bedside table or shelf. Storing them in a drawer or closet will not serve the purpose in any way. If the supplements require refrigeration, keep them in an easily visible spot inside the refrigerator door.
If you are hesitating to keep your supplements in conspicuous places because of hindrances such as inquisitive children or pets, then store them inside a small-sized pill box and keep it in your daily use bag. Another solution is to keep your supplements on your work desk.
In order to make things even easier, double up on supplement bottles. Yes, buy two bottles of your supplement, one to keep at the workplace and the other at home. This way you won’t need to shuffle one bottle between work and home.
Precautions in taking dietary supplements:
- When taking a dietary supplement for the first time, be alert to the likelihood of unexpected side effects. For instance, the risk of bleeding or a person’s response to anesthesia if the supplement is taken right before or after surgery. Also, side-effects of antioxidant supplements like Vitamins C and E in that they might decrease the effectiveness of cancer chemotherapy.
- The possibility of side-effects is higher when you take supplements instead of prescribed medicines or when you consume plenty of them in combination.
- Be extra-cautious about taking dietary supplements if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. For instance, during pregnancy, avoid taking preformed Vitamin A such as retinol in higher doses. Also, apply natural progesterone cream only under your physician’s direct supervision.
- Consult your child’s health care provider about the effectiveness and possible risks of any dietary supplements you are considering for your child.
- If you are over 60, be extra careful with mega doses of supplements. Make sure to avoid combining supplements all at once, taking an excess of one supplement daily, and mixing the supplements with other over-the-counter medicines.
- If you suspect of having a serious reaction from a dietary supplement, inform your health care provider immediately. Also, report your reaction to the manufacturing company of this dietary supplement through the contact information provided on the product label.
On reading about several ways of consuming supplements, and also the necessary precautions in taking them, get started now with a systematic regime of your intake of supplements.
Keeping in mind that supplements are not a substitute for your daily meals, combine them wisely with food and use dietary supplements in the most recommended (for easy absorption) forms. You also have access to several options of supplements to aid your muscle recovery and bodybuilding efforts.
Focus on obtaining the appropriate quantities of supplements for your daily nutrient needs. Also, as with anything else, don’t compromise on the quality of dietary supplements.
“Jessica Smith has been writing for a few years now. She is a writer by day and reader by night. Holding on to her passion for fitness, she believes that a healthy diet is a key to healthy living.”