Introduction to Dietary Supplements

Introduction to Dietary Supplements

Jason Nista
4 minute read

Did you know that more than half of the US population takes a dietary supplement? In this post we are going to review some of the common dietary supplement and their uses and provide the scientific evidence of these supplements. Always consult a physician before starting a supplement program. 

Supplements should be just that - supplemental to a balanced diet. If you're able to eat a 100% balanced diet, you wouldn't need supplements. In the real world, it's not always possible to eat a balanced diet, in which case, supplements may help you compensate. 

Its important to note that supplement industry is loosely regulated by the FDA. Over the years, some supplement companies have given the industry a bad rap by selling inferior products with promises of performance. Manufacturers of supplements are responsible for adopting "Current Good Manufacturing Practices" but the FDA only audits supplement companies in retrospect - there is no approval process for supplements the same way as there is for prescription medications. Many of the best supplements companies volunteer for their product claims to be evaluated by organizations such as the USP to provide consumers with confidence in support of purchasing their products. 

Supplements for Athletic Performance

With a plethora of marketing materials out there recommending hundreds of products, which products have the most scientific evidence backing their claims of performance:

  1. Protein Powders - protein provides amino acids to skeletal muscle, which during periods of athletic performance, helps the muscle recover and grow. Protein powders are everywhere with the most common, and most effective, deriving from dairy (whey and casein) but protein powders can also meet different dietary restrictions in the way of soy isolate, pea protein powder, and brown rice isolate
  2. Creatine Monohydrate - Creatine helps your body regenerate intracellular ATP during high-intensity workouts. Essentially creatine helps increase muscular storage and over time can aid in increasing muscle mass. Creatine is commonly found in beef, pork, and fish but supplementation with creatine powders is cheap and effective. 
  3. Essential Amino Acids - Essential amino acids are the nine amino acids that the body can't product on its own and therefore are required to be obtained from diet. Again, whereas a 100% balanced diet will provide all the necessary amino acids, if your diet isn't perfect supplementing with EAA products can be helpful

Supplements for Fat Loss:

Like athletic performance, many individuals are seeking to accelerate their fat loss through supplementation. Here are a few supplements with strong scientific evidence to support fat loss supplementation

  1. Caffeine - the most abundant and easily accessible weight loss supplement, caffeine stimulates the nervous system to increase energy expenditure, decrease consumption, and reduce perceived effort levels during exercise. Until recently, caffeine was perceived as a diuretic, concurrently dehydrating you but recent studies have shown the effects to be only very mild
  2. Capsaicin - Hot chiles! It seems obvious but eating spicy foods can stimulate themogensis, increase your body temperature and decrease the total amount of food you consume. Of course, if hot foods don't sit well with you, capsaicin supplementation will probably upset your digestion and outweigh any gains. 
  3. Meal Replacement Formulas - Substituting protein-rich shake formulas for meals have proven to be successful in supplementing weight loss. Physically and psychologically these formulas are able to control your meal intake, ensuring you get a balanced meal without overeating. 

There are literally hundreds of other supplements out there on the market including BCAAs, Glycerol, Nitrate, Glutamine, MCTs, etc., which may have moderate effects in helping you achieve your goals but each should be evaluated specifically with your physician for safe consumption. 

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