Saturday, October 29, 2011

A little bit on supplements (for general health)

I am often asked what supplements I take to go along with weightlifting and my BJJ training.  I would like to preface my post by stating that there is no substitute for a healthy and balanced diet and that no matter how many supplements you take, if you have a poor diet, you will have poor general health.   I am by no means an expert on the subject but I do have quite a bit of experience with different supplements.  I worked at GNC for a while and with their employee discount I was able to get a lot of different products for cheap and experiment with most of their hottest products.  I've been interested in and learning about supplements and nutrition since I was in high school.  I'll start by telling you what I take personally, and explaining some of the science behind each product.

1) Multivitamin.   Okay, hear me out on this.  I realize that the research behind the effectiveness of multivitamins is mixed at best, so I won't try to convince you that you need to take a multivitamin, but I will tell you why I choose to take a daily multivitamin.  Some studies say not to waste your money on a MV and to get all of your vitamins and minerals from the food you eat, but with soil depletion and some of the more modern farming techniques most fruits and vegetables (excepting organic produce) are nearly devoid of all nutrients the body actually needs.  Now lets assume that you are a certified nutritionist and you know exactly how much of each nutrient is in each food, and you also know exactly how much to eat to make sure that you get your optimal amount of vitamins and minerals, and you also regularly have nutrition analysis performed and you chart the results to find out what is actually in your food;  maybe then, you could get all your nutrients from diet alone.  I look at it this way, your body is a machine (think of an organic car made of flesh and blood).  Your body is a machine, and every time you eat you are putting fuel in your body.  Vitamins and minerals are required for every function in your body, imagine trying to steer your car without power steering fluid, that's what we are doing when we don't get all the nutrients we need.  We are expecting the optimal performance out of a body that we are neglecting to optimize.  The last thing I have to say on this subject is that almost all of the studies agree that if you are going to take a multivitamin that : one a day formulas are most ineffective (try to pick a MV with 2-3 capsules per day), capsules, powders, and liquids are more effective that most tablets, and to look for a MV with at least 100% daily value of all of the B Vitamins.  I made a decision that potential benefits of a MV outweigh the risks.  The risks are that you don't absorb anything and you waste your money, but the benefits (making sure you have what your body needs) are more appealing to me, but hey, I'm an optimist!  Look for an article coming soon about tests to see if your multivitamin is easily assimilated by your body.

2) Fish oil.  Fish oil has had a lot of promotion lately.  As time goes on more and more studies are showing the positive effects of fish oil.  Just a small list of some of the potential benefits include: anti-inflammatory, cancer prevention, healthy skin, positive mood, healthy brain function, joint health, and lower cholesterol.  One of the arguments against fish oil would be the risk of increased exposure to mercury and heavy metals that accumulate in large ocean fish.  This can be resolved by making sure to buy fish oil that is either sourced from small ocean fish (anchovy and sardine), or by picking up fish oil that is distilled and tested for purity by a third party for contaminants.  The amount of fish oil I take varies greatly depending upon the intensity of my training cycle, but typically 1000mg daily of EPA and DHA combined should be sufficient for most people.  I take anywhere from 2000mg-6000mg when I am in peak training.

3)Vitamin D.  Vitamin D is getting a lot media attention as of late.  A recent study found that people who supplemented with Vit. D had significantly lower levels of cancer compared to a control group.  Though Vit. D  was never traditionally thought of as vitamin that played a role in the immune system, lately more and more studies have been showing a link between Vit. D and immune strength.  I would like to point out that very few foods have a measurable amount of vitamin D a few are: fish, eggs, liver, and milk.  Actually, the best way to get your Vit. D is to make it!  What?  That's right, your body creates vitamin D every time you go out into the sun! If going out into the sun and getting a tan sounds good to you then it's recommended that you wear as little clothing as possible (I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP!!!), lay out for 15 minutes on your back and 15 minutes on your stomach, and not to use any tanning accelerators.  When making your own vitamin D remember that you NEVER want to burn, if you burn your skin you have damaged it and increased your odds of getting cancer, you want to slowly increase the amount of time you spend outside so that you never burn.  Also, know that tanning beds are made in a way that they will not help you produce any measurable Vit. D they will however, cause you to tan, greatly increase your chances of getting cancer, and prematurely age your skin!  I myself am a pasty BJJ athlete and getting out into the sun isn't a viable option for me, since most of my workouts are in doors wearing a Gi, so I choose to get my Vit. D  in soft gel form.  Though the "recommended" dose is around 600IU per day I usually take around 8,000IU per day with no ill effects and It has also been over a year since the last time I was sick.  Studies on toxicity levels all indicate that toxicity occurs when intake surpasses 40,000IU per day.  This is a highly controversial subject.  Many people believe that 10,000IU per day should be the target dose, while many pharmacists would call this dangerous.  I am not a doctor and my advice cannot replace a MD, but I am a nurse and I work with the geriatric population.  On a regular basis I administer oral doses of Vit. D in excess of 40,000IU to people with deficiencies of Vit. D.  If you are really concerned about Vit. D levels you can have your blood work done to find exact levels, this is a pretty inexpensive test, and this way you can know for sure that you are getting the right amount of Vit. D.

4)Magnesium.  Magnesium is present in every cell within the human body, it is required for over 300 enzymes within the body in order to perform their function, and it is even required for the use and production of ATP (the substance that gives us energy at a cellular level).  Not getting enough magnesium can cause: cramps, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and migraines.  Magnesium is widely known as the "relaxation" mineral.  It has the ability to help muscles relax and can aid in sleep especially in those who often are restless and toss and turn during the night.  Magnesium helps me tremendously to get a good night's sleep and aids in my recovery after workouts.  I usually take about 850mg (215%) of your RDA before bed with 8oz of water.  I take magnesium aspartate, and magnesium chelate due to being more highly absorbed by the body.  Natural sources include chocolate, nuts, green leafy vegetables, and whole grains.  Magnesium is water soluble and is easily destroyed during cooking, and it is often speculated that 1 of every 3 Americans is magnesium deficient.  Although this is something I take to avoid deficiency I also take it to aid sleep and relaxation, as well as to improve performance.  Also worth note is the fact that magnesium is readily lost during intense sweating and is a common deficiency in athletes.

So to recap the four supplements I recommend for everyone (athletes and people seeking general health) are 1) Multivitamin 2-3 day formula, 2) Fish oil 1000-2000mg daily, 3) Vitamin D preferably through sun exposure or 1000IU-8000IU per day, 4) Magnesium take at least 800mg in two divided doses each day for 2 weeks, followed by a maintenance dose of 400mg each day.

My next supplement blog will be on sport nutrition and supplements so if you are a BJJ athlete don't miss it.  I hope my advice was able to help, and please comment or feel free to send me an email or message on facebook with any questions!  Don't  forget to subscribe to my blog or sign up for email alerts when I post new blogs!


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