The supplement industry does about 37 Billion in revenue each year according to the Nutrition Business Journal. Compare that to a much improved fitness industry of 21 billion, and it’s obvious where people are spending more of their money. But do you really need supplements? The short answer is: Maybe. The long answer? Read below to find out.
As I so often like to do, let’s take a look at the definition of a supplement
In this case we’re talking about things to enhance our diets to provide us with better results in our body composition or performance. The most classic example is the protein shake. Though there are many myths about protein shakes in regards to their benefits and side effects, the truth is, they are simply what they say they are: grams of protein. In essence, the protein found in a powder is no different than that found in chicken, steak, fish, eggs or any other natural source. The idea that drinking a protein shake will make you bulky is laughable at best. Proteins (and more specifically the amino acids that make up proteins) are the building blocks of your muscles. A single protein shake typically has 12-30g (the equivalent of 2-4oz of chicken) of protein in it. Even for the CDC’s incredibly low recommendation of 56g of protein per day, a single shake wouldn’t get you there, so if that is your only source of protein for the day, the odds of a shake making you bulky are basically zero.
But the CDC and other government agencies make blanket nutritional statements based on averages, and unfortuantely the average American is sedentary. If you’re interested in supplements, you probably exercise, and study after study has shown that those who exercise or are athletes require a greater amount of protein intake, with a minimum of .8 grams per lb of body weight daily, all the way up to 1.5 grams per lb of body weight daily depending on various factors. That would put a 200lb man at 160-300 grams per day. Eating that much protein from whole food sources like chicken or steak can be difficult because it’s such a large quantity of food. It can also be expensive, time consuming, and come with a lot of extra calories from the carbs or fats that will also be found in whole food sources. Protein shakes and powders typically have nothing other than protein in them. It only takes a few minutes or less to make and drink a shake, where a meal of chicken or beef can take much longer to cook and then consume.
In this instance, a supplement can be a matter of convenience. But most supplements are for micronutrients and other chemical compounds thought to be important to human function and performance. Think of just about any vegetable, herb, root, vitamin or extract and there is a supplement for it. The main concern is that our soils in which we grow our crops have become depleted from over farming, the use of toxic pesticides, and other environmental factors. This has degraded the nutrition content of our produce. That means the “healthy” foods we consume have less vitamins and minerals per calorie than they did previously. Theoretically we could be eating a very healthy diet of whole foods and still not getting all the things our bodies need to function properly. But just like the protein and calorie intakes for individuals is based on a number of factors, so is the vitamins and minerals that you need, and what you may be lacking shouldn’t be a guessing game. If you are curious about what you’re lacking there are several methods to get tested like a simple blood test from your doctor or hair mineral analysis. Supplement companies love to sell their products as the
Pangaea panacea. “The one thing you’ve been missing is product XYZ!” But that is rarely the case, and it’s why we don’t sell many supplements at Arkitect. Here is a brief list of the supplements we typically do recommend:
- Protein Powder
- As mentioned before protein powder adds more conveniance than anything else. We recommend a grass fed whey protein. The beef you buy in the grocery store is grain fed, since grain is not part of a cow’s natural diet, the cows tend to get sick, in which case cattle farmers give them antibiotics and hormones to keep them alive long enough to mature to an age when they can get butchered. Between the unnatural diet of the cow and the added drugs, this degrades the nutrients in the beef, particularly the CLA and omega 3 fatty acid content. People argue that grass fed whey isn’t worth it since the fat is separated from the protein to make the powder thus eliminating any real health benefits, however buying grass fed whey supports more human farming, and also reduces the risk of there being trace amounts of hormone or antibiotics in the products you consume. This is especially important if you’re a competitive athlete as you don’t want to get a surprise test result when USADA comes knocking for a urine or blood sample.
- Mag is one of the most important minerals in the body. It is used for protein synthesis and nerve function among hundreds of other processes. It also greatly helps improve sleep, which is why we recommend it universally. Sleep is one of the biggest factors in hormone regulation, and if your hormone production is irregular, it can make it nearly impossible to lose weight or build muscle. Most of us can use longer and more restful sleep and magnesium can play a big role in that. One study showed that 68% of adult Americans were mag deficient, which is why we recommend it to nearly everyone that walks through our doors.
- In layman’s terms, creatine is the synthetic version of ATP, your muscle’s first source of energy. ATP depletes quickly through exercise and can take a relatively long time to regenerate. Creatine has been shown to have very little side effects, but be quite potent. No, it’s no a steroid, but if you’re an athlete you might want to consider taking this very legal and very safe supplement.
- Probiotics/Fermented Food
- The science of gut health and its link to bacteria is a hot new topic in the world of medicine and fitness. In fact, scientists are now studying bacteria from healthy people’s feces to aid in weight loss for the obese. Although we don’t fully understand the role of gut bacteria and its effect on other parts of the body, it seems like our love for antibiotics could play a big role in upsetting hormone regulation, digestion, and a host of other important bodily functions because the antibiotics we take to kill illness are indiscriminate and also kill the healthy and important bacteria in our bodies. Fermented foods like sauerkraut and Kombucha tea, and certain types of yogurt are great for promoting a healthy gut. Since the stomach is the primary way all nutrients enter the body, it makes sense to ensure that it’s operating optimally.
There may be many more supplements that are beneficial to you as an individual, but it’s important to remember that supplement companies do not have their products approved or evaluated by the FDA. Although the FDA has been called corrupt and inept, it does serve as some line of protection for the consumer. Many supplements tested after the fact have found to be not at at all what they claim. Always be sure to check with your doctor before taking any supplement, and remember, that no supplement can make up for a generally healthy lifestyle: Consumption of a wide variety of whole, unprocessed foods, regular exercise, good sleep habits, hydration, and moderate sun exposure.