Today’s post is a fan request (not that I have many fans, but we’re working on it, right?).  We’re going to talk about one of the most hotly debated topics in the fitness industry…dietary supplementation.  And the basic question that we want to answer is what works and what doesn’t and what should you take and when.  The simplest answer to the question is that you should take as little stuff as possible ever.  But I can’t work without my pre-workout, or I have to have my protein shake after my workout or my vitamin or whatever.  Says who?  The problem with most of the supplements is the same as with things like trans-fats and high fructose corn syrup.  These are things that don’t occur in nature.  Therefore, guess what your body’s tolerance and ability to work with these things is….minimal, correct.  The problem in society lies in the paradox.  “I take supplements because I don’t get enough nutrients in my diet.  But since I rely on supplements for nutrition, my body becomes more deprived.”  And so on.  See, supplements are designed to have tons and tons of nutrient density.  Look at a label.  Almost everything in it is well in excess of your daily need.  This gives us a sense of accomplishment because we took in so much.  But as with any food, having nutrient quantity is only half of the equation.  If your body cannot access and use these nutrients, then they don’t do you any good, do they?  If your bank statement read that you had a $1 million balance, you’d feel pretty good about yourself, right (if you didn’t, we need to talk)?  But if you couldn’t access or use it, where are you at?  Poor.  This is what happens with nutritional supplements.  Your body is getting this plethora of nutrition, but it can only access a small fraction of it.  For example, take your average protein shake (brand doesn’t matter, contrary to belief).  Every scoop of whey protein contains about 25g (give or take) of pure protein.  Now, whey is a derivative of milk, which is an excellent source of protein.  But in it’s natural form is a little unstable and a liquid.  Guess how much processing it takes to make it powder?  All of which takes away from it’s “bio-availability”.  Of that 25 grams of protein in your shake, your body can access only about 5.  This is the equivalent of less than 1 ounce of chicken (7g) or less than one glass of actual milk (8g).  So after your workout, don’t scoop the protein, eat the food.  Your body will thank you.  And don’t get me started on the deluge of pre-workout supplements on the market.  All of them are basicall derivative forms of amphetamines (stimulants).  Picture taking the caffeine content of an entire pot of coffee and concentrating it into one serving.  Now do you understand why your heart is racing, hands are jittery and you can’t sleep?  Now this “science” is all besides the fact that most supplements just simply don’t work.  They don’t have to.  There are no laws on the books that regulate that.  They say that they have studies.  Guess who conducted the study?  Right.  If I want to prove that a vitamin supplement benefits people, my test group would be full of vitamin deficient people, too.  And if you don’t fit their “target market profile”, then “results may not be typical” or “your results may vary”.  Nutritional supplementation had a noble start.  Filling gaps in the diet for those who cannot or do not eat a properly balanced diet.  Or for those who have special situations in their lives, like pregnancy or nutritional disorders.  However, companies have taken that WAY over the edge in the recent decade and now you have to supplement everything.  This magazine says this and that magazine says that.  Turn the page and it’s an ad for said supplement.  Connect the dots.  The bottom line is that most people do NOT require supplementation in their diet.  Now this will have a lot to do with your own personal dietary choices.  If you eat garbage, your body will be garbage, no doubt about it.  But for most people who eat a balanced, mixed, varied diet, much of the supplements either go to waste in your body OR create toxicities that can be just as, if not more harmful in and of themselves.  Eat food, enjoy food, be healthy.  Have a safe Memorial Day weekend and I’ll see you next week!