Supplement Guide

Illustration by Dawn Chenette


Health supplements have become BIG BUSINESS lately. Just take a stroll down any pharmacy or grocery store drug aisle and you'll get bombarded with pills and potions promising everything from youth to weight loss. Wading through the plethora of options can be daunting.

Some supplements can be helpful while others are just a waste of money. The most widely used supplement is a daily vitamin.  Vitamins may not be necessary if your diet consists of a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, healthy fats and proteins. However, the mineral content and richness of our soil today is much less than it used to be and some believe that a daily vitamin is a good option for everyone.  Pregnant women or vegetarians need additional supplementation.  Taken in the proper recommended doses, vitamins certainly won't cause harm. They can actually give you energy, especially for those who work long hours or who have stressful jobs. They can also be a great immune boost for travelers.

Below is my personal supplement list:
-Daily Probiotic - Many disorders come from gut malfunctions. Keeping your digestive tract healthy is a major component to overall health.  (My personal favorite is Acidophilous pearls )
-Fish Oil - Omega 3 fatty acids are essential for heart health. These antioxidants have even been studied in a wide variety of conditions from cancer to depression.  Fish oils are more effective than plant based oils.  Look for products that come from Salmon, Anchovies, Sardines or Mackrel.  The label should specify the breakdown of DHA and EPA.  Pharmaceutical grade fish oil is best.  Molecular distillation of fish oils removes impurities but is a costly process.  In short, read the labels and know that a quality product may end up costing you a few extra dollars but is well worth it with fish oil supplements.
-Daily Vitamin - I am extra diligent when it comes to vitamin intake at times when I am getting less sleep, traveling, working extra hours, getting ready for competitions or just under extra stress. That extra boost of supplementation keeps me on the go.  Choose additive free vitamins from natural rather than synthetic sources.
-BCAA's (branched chain amino acids) - Amino Acids are the building blocks of proteins.  They can increase muscle recovery time if taken before or after a workout.  Take them after a meal to curb sweet cravings.  Instead of an energy drink, take them mid afternoon for a pick me up.  BCAA's come in pill or powder form.  Most on the market are comparable to each other, with the only difference being any added dyes or flavorings.
-Protein (whey or brown rice) - Avoid non fermented soy proteins.  Mix a scoop of protein powder with water and drink it after tough workouts to help rebuild muscle.  You can blend a smoothie with protein, fruits and veggies as a meal replacement.  Try to choose proteins with as few ingredients as possible and look for ones sweetened with stevia or natural sources rather than sucralose.  Choose organic healthy sources of whey just as you would dairy or meats...they come from the same source!  Jay Robb Protein or Biochem are two of my favorite whey proteins.  If you are lactose intolerant or just want to try a plant based protein, SunWarrior is made from brown rice and is an excellent choice.

What about FAT BURNERS?
Fat burners promise everything from improved performance to quick fix weight loss solutions. The number and variety of different fat burners on the market is astonishing. Most of them don't work at all. Some of them may aid in fat loss but at what cost?   The popular supplement Fen Phen was eventually removed from the market for causing heart valve and lung damage. Fat burners can be addictive or even cause insomnia. Exercise raises your heart rate, causing your body to become more efficient cardiovascularly. Fat burners increase your heart rate unnaturally, which can make you jittery or anxious. Most of them come from unnatural sources, have long ingredient lists that sound like something from a science project and can be very risky.

To jumpstart weight loss there are a few natural options to try in place of fat burners. Coffee is a great energy boost to get you through a tough workout. Green tea raises your metabolism naturally and is an antioxidant. Adding a little cayenne to your meal may decrease your appetite as well as increase heat production in your body, causing you to temporarily burn more calories. Avoid simple carbs and eat well balanced meals that have plenty of vegetables, lean proteins and healthy fats.

All of the products on the market can make you feel like you need a magic pill to lose weight and be healthy. Keep it simple and stick to the basics. Think quality vs quantity when planning your meals.  The simple formula of calories in vs. calories out will always remain true. Eat healthy foods, eat less of them, and MOVE more!

*The suggestions and opinions written here are strictly opinion.  I have tried numerous brands and varieties of supplements and these are the ones that work best for me.  That being said, each individual is unique with different needs.  Always approach supplementation with a critical eye.  Read labels and ask questions.  Purchase products from reputable stores that have knowledgable staff members.  Whole Foods stores are located nationwide and have high quality standards for their products.   Capitol Drugs is also an excellent resource for all things health.  They have two locations in Los Angeles and also offer shipping.  Always follow recommended doses, beware of allergies to products and get professional help from doctors for more serious health concerns. Also, before trying any new supplements, etc, it is recommended to see your healthcare professional.