This week I was a bit stumped about what topic to discuss. Lately, I’ve engaged in several conversations about dietary supplements and their perceived purpose in our lives. Instead of delving into the infinite number of supplements in the market, I decided to create a short checklist of things to consider before taking a dietary supplement.
1. Want versus Need. It’s important to decipher if you want to take a supplement versus if you need to take a supplement. For example, you may have conducted research about a product that helps you burn body fat and suppress your appetite. Do you NEED a product to help you burn fat and suppress your appetite or do you WANT something that claims to achieve these outcomes? And is a supplement the answer or is it good old fashion exercise, a clean diet, and discipline to achieve your health goals?
Here’s another example. You have a gastric by-pass surgery coming up and your doctor has directed you to purchase a specific type of whey protein with no vitamins and low sugar. A basic whey protein shake will be used in conjunction with other methods of nutrient consumption within the post-operative healing process. Do you WANT whey protein or do you NEED whey protein?
Remember, oftentimes we want a supplement and actually don’t need it and can just as easily consume foods rich in a variety of nutrients to meet our recommended daily intake requirements.
2. Prior and Current Health Conditions. Several supplements may improve or magnify a current or prior health condition. For example, you’re diabetic and want to take a supplement to help burn fat and curb your appetite. Losing weight is your intended purpose for taking the supplement, but an indirect outcome may be not eating enough food, thus significantly lowering blood sugar levels placing you in diabetic shock.
Another example relates to statin drugs (e.g., several blood cholesterol lowering drugs). A common warning on the labels of statin drugs is “do not eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice while taking this medication.” This is because grapefruit (a citrus fruit) negates the effectiveness of statin drugs. How does this relate to supplements? Well, some supplements are infused with citrus fruits (read the fine print) and can potentially be counter-intuitive to the drug’s intended purpose.
3. Lower and Upper Tolerable Limits. Several credible national health entities (e.g., Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine, National Academies) have defined upper tolerable limits for the majority of micro and macronutrients. Recommendations are provided for a variety of demographic groups separated by age group: children, males, females, pregnancy, and lactation.
Vitamin B-12 is a very popular nutritional supplement associated with energy. As a water-soluble vitamin, B-12 is not stored in the body and is readily excreted in urine. Also, it is important to note that vitamins do not provide energy. Instead, they help our bodies maximize nutrients that yield energy. B-12 vitamin toxicity is uncommon, but consumption of high doses may result in negative health outcomes (e.g., numbness, tingling, insomnia).
4. Medical Professional Consultation. In my experience, I’ve noticed several people have not and do not plan to consult a medical professional prior to ingesting any type of dietary supplement. I have to admit that I have fallen into this category. Several of us search the internet for facts about various dietary supplements and are oftentimes content with what we are able to find. Although it is great to conduct research, but I encourage us all (myself included) to consult a medical professional prior to taking any supplements. It’s important to know supplements are not required to be approved by the FDA. Therefore, most medical doctors will not advocate or support the majority of supplements.
Also, remember you have the option to ask specific questions (free of charge) about supplements and potential drug interactions with any pharmacist at a local drug store or grocery store. And of course, you can consult other medical and health professionals (e.g., medical doctor, nurse, nutritionist). Let’s all make thoroughly informed choices and do our diligent research.
5. Listen to Your Body. Last but not least, listen to your body. Most of the time our body tells us exactly what it needs more and less of to function optimally. Together with a healthy support system and the expertise of medical and health professionals we are equipped to live a healthier lifestyle.
What’s missing from this list? What are some other things to consider BEFORE consuming a dietary supplement?
Do unto protein as you would have protein do unto you. Respect it and it shall respect you. Purposefully consume it and it shall purposefully provide several benefits to your body.
We often hear about diets full of lean, protein rich foods, but we don’t hear enough about how and why consuming enough, too much, or not enough protein is important. Today, I want to delve a little deeper (but not too deep) into one of the most critical macronutrients in our bodies: PROTEINS.
What purpose does protein serve our bodies? Protein has big responsibilities in our body! Just to name a few—our hair, skin, eyesight, bones, and muscles depend on it. Some of the main roles of protein in the body are to provide (a) structure and movement, (b) energy and glucose, (c) blood clotting, (d) build antibodies to fight illness, and (d) to maintain electrolyte and fluid balance. Important stuff, right?
Proteins are made up of amino acids and there are 20 total, nine of which our bodies need and cannot create on its own–hence, they are called essential amino acids. That means we must obtain them through our diet. Feel free to read more about essential and non-essential amino acids on the US National Library of Medicine website or simply conduct a basic Google search using
“amino acids” as key words.
How much protein should I eat? The Daily Recommended Intake of protein for an adult (18+ years old) is 10-35% of total calories consumed daily (source: Daily Recommended Intake). A benefit to using the percentage of total calories consumed daily is very useful and arguably more useful to athletes and individuals with a more active lifestyle. For example, I weigh 130 lbs (or 59 kg) and burn at least 500 calories daily via exercise alone. Considering I am not trying to lose weight and instead maintain my weight, I need to consume around 1,800-2,200 calories per day; 180-770 (10-35%) of these calories should come from protein.
Note: A half of a skinless, boneless chicken breast is 30g of protein or 250 calories. So, I would need to eat 1 to 1.5 whole chicken breasts daily to consume enough protein. (This assumes I only ate chicken as a protein source.)
Using this method as a way of informing my daily protein intake, I would end up consuming 75g of protein per day. Note how this number is different than the number I will calculate next using the RDA’s recommendations.
Another way to determine how much protein I should eat daily is looking at the ratio between my protein consumption and body weight. The Recommended Daily Allowance recommends 0.8 grams of protein per kg of body weight per day. For example, I weigh 59 kg (calculate lbs to kg here). I multiply this number by 0.8 g. The result is 47.2 g. So, I should roughly consume 47 g of protein on a daily basis.
Neither the DRI or RDA recommendations are steadfast rules, but like their names indicate, they are recommendations of how much protein to consume. This is a great segue way into discussing over-consumption and under-consumption of protein.
A few words about protein toxicity and deficiency. I will try to keep this brief. Too much protein in our diets can also result in heart disease, adult bone loss, cancer, decreased muscle mass, kidney disease, weight gain (meat usually has high saturated fat, hence increase in fat intake, and potential weight gain), and irritated digestion in the intestines (bloatedness, gas, constipation, diarrhea).
Diets with not enough protein consumed may result in impaired immunity and an increased risk in experiencing lethargy, heart disease, kidney disease, bone loss, and cancer.
After all of this talk about protein, what are some protein rich foods? Some of my favorite proteins include: salmon, almonds, walnuts, Greek yogurt, peanut butter, chicken, turkey, beans, eggs, soy milk, chia seeds, and tuna fish. A comprehensive list of high quality protein foods is located at ChooseMyPlate.gov. In your spare time, feel free to read this 43 page USDA report about proteins. It’s pretty informative and for the most part, written in lay terms.
Well, there you have it. That’s proteins in a nutshell (pun intended).