Almost everybody buys some sort of supplement whether it be protein powder, vitamins and minerals or a weight loss shake. These supplements can be very costly and in many cases will not be of much benefit to your health. Here are a few things to think about when buying supplements:
Do I really need this?
So you heard that vitamin C beats a cold or that taking a multivitamin is a good idea or that protein powder is needed when going to the gym. The problem is, there is very little research to back up most claims of supplements being useful and usually any research is done by the companies themselves. It is worth getting a blood test by a doctor before taking any sort of supplement. These tests can determine whether you are actually deficient in a certain vitamin or mineral, otherwise you may find no benefit at all from taking more of it. A good diet will usually have most of your needs covered.
Is this supplement going to be absorbed?
Generally speaking, the cheapest way to make vitamins and minerals is also the most ineffective way. Most vitamins and minerals will come in a variety of forms, the body can only absorb different amounts of each type. For example, only about 5-10% of magnesium OXIDE is absorbed by the body whereas up to 90% of magnesium CITRATE will be absorbed. Therefore a cheaper supplement is not necessarily cheaper once you take into account how much is actually absorbed by the body.
Could this actually be harmful?
Not only can supplements be useless, they may even be harming your health. Vitamins and minerals are a good thing in most situations, but too much can cause harm. The amounts present in supplements are often excessive, especially fat soluble vitamins as they build up within your body. Vitamins and minerals can also interact and cause other ones to not be absorbed as well.
Other types of supplements that can cause harm are ‘preworkout’ formulations. Generally these are simply a mixture of various stimulants that are designed to make you work out better. If you really find you need to wake up a bit, a simple coffee will work just as well. Many of the chemicals present in these formulations are simply derivatives of stimulants like amphetamines and are not good for your long term health.
Getting the best value if you do need it
If you have found that you really need a supplement then look around for the best deal. All things equal, a vitamin is a vitamin, as long as it is the identical chemical form. As mentioned above most vitamins and minerals come in a variety of different types. Once you have identified the best one for you, lets say magnesium citrate, look for the total amount that is in the bottle. You can do this by multiplying the amount of pills X the amount in each pill. Once you have this you can compare two identical products for cost as generally the different companies will have different amounts per pill and also different amounts of pills per bottle making comparison confusing.
To sum up
If you really need supplements due to some sort of deficiency then continue taking it. If you have been taking supplements ‘just in case’ it is probably worth looking at whether you really need them. You could save a lot of money and maybe find you actually need a different one.
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