7 Tips on Supplements
Are there any supplements worth taking?
The short answer to this is yes. However, there aren’t any supplements we recommend you take just as a precautionary measure. That could be a mistake for your health, as well as your wallet. Read on to see why.
Let’s Get Physical
The whole idea for this article came about because I went for my yearly physical the other day.
There’s not a whole lot you can do to “cheat” on those. You know what I’m talking about. Like when you have a dentist appointment coming up so you start flossing a couple weeks before so your gums don’t bleed and they think you floss regularly.
No? That’s just me? (To my credit, I don’t actually have to do that anymore.)
Anyway, they did some blood work and are checking on a couple nutrients for me so I can decide whether I want to take (or continue to take) certain supplements. I’ll tell you what those supplements are in a bit, but that’s just my way of getting started with #1 on this list of tips…
1. Get tested.
Whether or not you need to take a supplement is highly individual. There are many common deficiencies, but just because they’re common doesn’t mean YOU need to take them.
The only way to know for sure if you should be taking a supplement is by getting the blood work done. If you suspect you may be deficient in something, talk to your doctor about it and find out for sure.
2. Some supplements work for some people.
Super specific, right?
This may be the most important tip on the whole list to understand. If you ever hear that there’s a certain supplement almost EVERYONE should take (and you will hear this at some point because this kind of thing is everywhere)…
It’s not because supplements are bad. Certain supplements are good for certain people. Anything that tries to be more specific than that without knowing your full health profile is just being said (or repeated by someone else) because there’s money being made somewhere.
3. Supplements can’t fix a bad diet.
Even if you’re deficient in a nutrient, taking a supplement isn’t always the right answer. Most of the time you’re better off making adjustments to your diet to fix the bigger problem. Otherwise it’s just a band-aid.
Band-aids aren’t inherently bad. I have no problem with using supplements as a quick fix while you slowly work on building better habits. Just make sure you do both.
After working on your habits, you may find you still need certain supplements. There’s nothing wrong with that. That’s when supplements are actually doing their job — supplementing a healthy diet rather than attempting to replace it.
4. Some good supplements are bad.
Supplements aren’t well regulated in the U.S. So even if you need to take a vitamin, that doesn’t mean you can just grab something off the shelf and expect to get what you pay for.
We use labdoor.com if we’re ever looking for a supplement. They rate and review specific brands and products so you can be confident about where to spend your money.
5. Too much of a good thing can kill you.
If you had a medical problem, you wouldn’t just hop on google and expect to be knowledgable enough to prescribe your own medication (at least I hope you wouldn’t).
Use that same logic when it comes to supplements.
Just because a supplement gets good reviews doesn’t mean you need it. And there can be serious side-effects to taking too much. So get expert advice, and not from an expert who just wants to sell you something.
6. Too much of a good thing might not kill you, but it won’t help.
Have you ever downed an energy drink loaded up with B vitamins and then had neon-green pee when you use the bathroom later? That’s because your body is getting rid of the extra vitamins. It doesn’t need it.
In some cases, taking vitamins in excess isn’t so serious that it will kill you, but there’s no benefit to having more than you need either. You might as well store your money in an incinerator.
7. The goal is to go from low to normal.
Magnesium and Vitamin D are two nutrients people are commonly deficient in. I’m using these as an example because they’re the ones I had my doctor check for me.
I already take magnesium because I’ve found it helps me sleep better. However, if I take too much, it messes with my stomach (I’ll spare you the details). I could just experiment on myself until I find what works, but checking my levels will give me something concrete to track.
If I’m already high in magnesium, I won’t take as much and then I’ll see how my levels change down the road.
I don’t take vitamin D, but the lack of sun in the winter where we live makes me think there’s a good chance I’m low. If I am, I’ll start taking supplements and see if it affects how I feel during this season. If I’m not, I won’t waste my money (or potentially risk my health).
If you’re looking for a practical example to follow on how to decide if you need to take a supplement, that’s it.
If you’re looking for a summary of the key things to take away from all of this, here it is:
Most of the time taking a supplement is only beneficial if your levels are actually low in that specific nutrient. The only benefits you’ll see are by getting into a more normal range, not above it.
You can’t know for sure if your levels are low unless you get tested for it, and you won’t have long-term success changing it with supplements alone — you’ll need to work on lifestyle factors, like diet and exercise, too.
If you’d like help with that, you can check out our programs here.