Chew on This: Supplements
It is not an inconceivable idea to imagine that diets and supplements will always be a part of most Americans’ lifestyle and a hot topic to discuss. Where does one even begin when evaluating diets and supplements? I have already written to you about Deciphering Diets. Today, we do not have time to dissect every latest craze of supplements. I want to discuss reasons people buy diet products in the first place and also considerations for why they may not be all they are cracked up to be. Knowing the product honestly isn’t a concern for me. I can tell you this about virtually every diet supplement and weight loss product: there will be some truth, a lot of “probably” and the underlying reason for the testimonial (I say testimonial because most products are not researched based other than the one trial that was conducted in and funded by their own company) will not be because of the product in which they are taking but because of lifestyle changes that accompanied the outrageous amount of money that was just invested in a hope.
Here is my disclaimer: I am not here to bash weight loss products or the people who purchase them. However, I will not apologize for the passion I have to speak truth and help consumers make informed decisions about their health. My conclusions come from years of school and experience is this: if you want to be a healthy weight and experience wellness you should consume a balanced diet from whole foods (fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean protein, and low fat dairy or soy) and exercise consistently. That’s it. We could end right here and you would have a solid foundation for proper nutrition. But I must go on.
Here are the top 6 reasons I consistently hear for trying a new product:
- Weight Loss. I will say with 100% confidence that weight loss comes from either eating less food or burning more calories through exercise. Period. Taking a supplement does not help your body burn more calories and drop pounds. Consuming fewer calories or building more muscle does. When investing money in a product the majority of people will make other lifestyle changes, healthier eating being one of them. Did you hear me? Weight loss comes through eating less or exercising more.
- Detoxification. Last time I checked the liver and kidneys do a pretty incredible job ridding the body of waste. Many “detox” products are a pill or a type of clear drink. If you only drink clear products for several days you will feel differently. That does not mean that an extra detox has occurred. It means there is nothing left in your gastrointestinal tract! If you would like to increase your output, increase your fruits, veggies, whole grains and water intake. More fiber needs more water to help keep everything moving. Eating more whole foods and less junk is a great way to “detox” the body.
- More energy. Vitamins or minerals in and of themselves do not give us energy. Carbohydrates, fats, and proteins provide energy. However, if you are deficient in a vitamin or mineral, yes, you may experience fatigue. The best way to increase energy is getting more sleep, drinking plenty of water, eating well, and exercising. If you would like an extra boost, enjoy a cup of coffee in the mornings. While it takes time, practicing good habits will provide more energy in the long run.
- Improved health. One cannot be healthier simply by taking a pill or shake. Good health is multifaceted. Feeling better cannot be attributed to one thing, one change only. That’s all I have to say about that.
- Quick fix. Let’s be honest: we are busy. If you can take a pill to fix a problem, why wouldn’t you be tempted to try it? A major claim of supplements is to suppress something (such as appetite), block something (such as digesting fat) or to increase something (such as energy). Setting aside the strong probability that these claims are false, where is your focus? Do you want a quick, temporary, false fix or a long term change? It is a harder and slower road but why not shift your focus to all that you are gaining and the benefits of just simple, balanced eating and consistent exercise?
- Increased muscle. We have all seen those people at the gym who have more muscle than humanly possible. You will also hear those same people attribute muscle growth to all the protein shakes they are taking. Do you know why they are ripped? Because they live in the gym! The majority of Americans get PLENTY of protein from diet alone. Building muscle comes from weight bearing exercise and consuming protein in the diet. Eating extra protein does not equal more muscle. Eating extra protein that your body does not need means a conversion to fat and store like all the other excess nutrients. Remember, protein is needed in the smallest percentage compared to carbohydrates and fat. If you would like to build muscle, get moving and start eating better! For more information on protein, click here.
Let’s also take a look at a few concerns of supplements:
- Federal Regulation. Many supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) until enough reports of harm or death are reported. There is no pre-market approval. Therefore, you do not know for certain what you are actually consuming. Supplements do not have the same regulations as drugs and other medical products. In other words, you may consume a dietary supplement for years before evidence of harm surfaces and the FDA concludes their investigation.
- Overstated Claims. Remember, if something sounds too good to be true it probably is. Many dietary supplements claim to cure various conditions. Be cautious when believing claims listed on the company’s website.
- Lack of Research. Most products claim to have “research” to back up the overstated claims. However, when you dig a little deeper you find that the one or two “research studies” were conducted in their own laboratory, funded by their own supporters or are testimonial in nature. Testimonies carry little credibility. While it may be nice to hear that someone else experienced success, there is much that is not being evaluated, such as change in eating habits, exercise, life changes, etc.
- Disclaimer. Many of the selling statements of these products carry an *. Follow that to the bottom of the page to find this: “These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.” Whole food does not need a disclaimer. Supplements do.
Here is the bottom line: take the road less traveled. Stop wasting time looking for a quick fix or hoping the latest product will finally be the answer to all of your health questions. If you are waiting for a magic pill it will never come. There will NEVER simply be a pill that will fix all health issues.
You are worth the time and energy it will take to get to the heart of the matter. It may be that you need more education about nutrition. Great! Find a Registered Dietitian. You may find you do not like to exercise by yourself. Ask a friend to go walking with you a few times a week or join a group fitness class. Maybe you are discouraged because you have failed in the past. Today is a new day. It’s all about new beginnings and moving forward. Reach out to a trusted friend or professional who will keep you accountable and provide encouragement. Or you may for the first time be honest with yourself and realize you need help from a Psychologist to work through something in your past. But for the majority of us, we probably need to just stop making excuses and get moving! If this is you, quit being lazy and make one change today. Good habits are hard to form but your health is entirely worth it.
Chew on that.