Why you should pay more attention when it comes to supplementation

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Nutrient supplementation wasn’t a topic that I planned on writing about anytime soon. However, everywhere you look, someone is promoting something and social media sites have turned into a marketing space. More recently, I saw a picture that was uploaded of five vitamin pills on a social media page, with the caption ‘getting in my five a day’. Immediately, I felt the need to touch on the subject. Obviously supplementation is a big industry and can be extremely beneficial for most individuals. The problem with this image was that someone was sending the message that these capsules were a sufficient replacement for the daily consumption of the recommended intake of fruit and vegetables. Nutrients like vitamins and minerals, should be sourced from natural food wherever possible.

Supplementation definitely has it’s place where lifestyle or dietary choices cannot provide sufficient quantities of the recommended daily dosage eg. vegetarians would benefit from taking a B vitamin, as their diet does not contain any sources of vitamin B. Or the use of protein for people that struggle to reach adequate daily levels for their lifestyle. They are also very useful for a range of conditions and disorders. An important thing to note is that not all supplements are produced in the same way or are of the same quality. Take magnesium supplementation for example. I often take magnesium for a range of benefits, but it can come in many different form such as a citrate, an oxide and a carbonate. All contain the sufficient stated dosage of Magnesium, but some can cause different side effects in the body. For example, magnesium oxide can cause unwanted digestive issues, whereas magnesium citrate does not. What may not seem important at the time of purchase (especially if you are leaning towards the cheaper version) can actually have a significant impact on your health.

Bioavailability of the supplement is also very important, as there’s no point paying a lot of money for something that your body cannot absorb. If your body cannot fully absorb the dosage of the nutrient, the remainder can stay in circulation around the body. This can happen if you are already getting sufficient quantities through your diet. This can lead to an accumulation if you continue to take it unnecessarily, which can then lead to toxicity. Take Vitamin D for example. Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, so in order to cross the cellular membrane, it requires a lipid (fat) to assist with transportation. This is why it may be useful to take it with an Omega/fish oil supplement. Not many people know these risks, as they don’t pay much attention to what they’re taking. This can lead to a slight overdose and the unpleasant symptoms that accompany it. A common thing to see is that people may take a specific nutrient supplement (eg. Vitamin B) then go and take a multi-vitamin or a Berocca on top of it. They don’t pay any attention to the overall dosage of that vitamin consumed in that day, and so, the accumulation begins. Too much of anything isn’t good for you, even when it comes to vitamins.

Although it sounds like I’m knocking the use of supplementation, I’m not. I’m actually a big fan. What I’m trying to get across is that getting the majority of your nutrients from natural food sources is probably a better idea. Not only does it reduce potential risks and save your money, fruit and vegetables provide many more benefits that supplements can’t eg. phytonutrients and fibre. You should take greater care when looking at what and exactly how much you’re putting into your body. It’s important that we don’t get carried away and think we need to keep up with what the latest fitspo is promoting. They could have a very different lifestyle to you in terms of diet, exercise capacity and stress levels. So what supplements they take will most likely differ to what supplements you actually need to take. The next time you are about to buy a new supplement, do your research, as you may be able to get sufficient quantities of that nutrient through your diet anyway. Realistically, there’s not much point spending mad money if you haven’t mastered the basics of a healthy balanced diet, managing your stress levels and getting adequate levels of sleep and exercise. While supplements can be very helpful, going back to the basics will be more beneficial to both your health and your wallet.

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