Many people take supplements of some type. This may be a multi-vitamin, an omega-3 or maybe a protein powder.
But how is it they come to the decision to supplement?
And how do they choose what to take?
And what brands do they decide to go with?
At Okanagan Peak Performance Inc our philosophy on supplements is to keep the definition of the word in mind. In other words we should be seeking things that ‘add to’ something else rather than something that becomes ‘in place of’.
So for someone considering a supplement we may ask why they are considering it? It could be that an individual does not like the taste of fish or seafood and therefore barely eats the minimum dose of omega-3s. Or a young growing athlete struggling to put on mass may benefit from adding a smoothie to his or her post workout shake.
In any case here are 3 steps to help you choose the right supplement.
Step 1 – Know Your Gaps
As we mentioned above a supplement should be something taken ‘in addition to’ something not ‘in place of’ something else. Once we are clear on this then the goal should be consume adequate amounts of the various nutrients to satisfy all of our bodies needs whether they be for weight loss, rehabilitative or performance goals.
What we need to know is which nutrients are we not getting enough of that our bodies cannot make on their own? Protein supplements might be very popular but maybe I eat enough meat, fish, pork and seafood already and wouldn’t really benefit from a protein supplement.
Or maybe someone recommends I try creatine as is relatively safe and has been proven in the research to be highly effective. But if I’m not a power athlete and my goals aren’t competitive should I still try it?
When you consider a supplement ask yourself where are the gaps in your nutritional profile? If your results and performance were a dam, the gaps would cracks in the dam where you are leaking potential. Look to fill these first with real food and then with a supplement if still deficient.
Step 2 – Know the Products
Once we know where the gaps are in our nutritional profile (assuming they can’t be filled with whole foods) the next question is which product satisfies this need the best? In the case of protein there are a number of options available including whey (concentrate, isolate), casein, rice, soy, pea, hemp and more.
Or what about if your primary deficiency was omega-3. Should you pick up a 3-6-9 variety? Or regular fish oil? What about krill oil? Or could you take your grandparents’ cod liver oil?
How do you know what to buy?
Here’s the cool thing…you don’t need to know. Somebody has already done the work for you.
The folks over at examine.com have compiled a database of virtually every known metabolite and supplement. You can read up on a supplement, see the dosage recommendations, link to studies on the supplement and pretty much anything and everything you’d ever want to know about a supplement.
You won’t specific brands here however. For that you’ll need to check out step #3.
Step 3 – Know the Brands
Once you know where your gaps are and what products fills these gaps you’ll want to decide on a brand.
This is where marketing and salesmanship are the downfall of almost every consumer. Unfortunately supplement stores have better margins on certain products. Or there are incentives for sales staff to push certain products over others. And even if it isn’t the in-store hype that causes a consumer to choose one brand over another it often times comes down to what brand is most featured in advertising.
And if you think that the most popular, best selling, most endorsed products are the safest and most effective ones to use, well you’d be wrong.
A few years ago Consumer Reports did a study on the level of heavy metals found in protein supplements. While the story was a big deal for the few weeks while people were talking about it I would guess not one customer remembers to avoid these brands.
So how do you choose the safest supplements out there? Start with the ones on the Banned Substances Control Group list of products having the highest levels of quality assurance and control.
From there you can check out the individual brands and find a fit for the product you are seeking. One brand in particular that I really like is Vitargo.
Really it’s as simple as that. First, find out what you are lacking and where supplementation may help. Next find the products that fill this gap most effectively. Lastly, look for the top brands that make the product you need.
Hope this helps you make a more informed decisions when selecting supplements.