By Joli Guenther, MSSW, NASM
Working out regularly on your Horizon Home Fitness Equipment can go a long way towards getting and keeping yourself fit, but do you find yourself wondering if you should throw a little supplementation into the mix? Will vitamins keep you healthy? Will protein fuel your workouts or slow you down? Here's a little research to consider when deciding whether a few popular supplements have a place in your routine.
Multi-vitamin: Starting with the basics…Since 2002, the Journal of the American Medical Association has recommended that all adults take one multi-vitamin daily as a bit of insurance against what's probably missing in our daily diets. How do you choose the right multi-vitamin? Although you can seek out fancy options such as "plant derived," "organic" or "food based" vitamins, among others, the most important assurance to look for on your vitamin is the USP (US Pharmacopeia) seal of approval. This ensures that your vitamin meets quality standards of nutritional absorption and is found on many vitamins, including many inexpensive options. Your other major concern is whether your vitamin contains iron. Unless you're a woman of childbearing age or a vegetarian, you're unlikely to need iron supplementation and may increase some health risks by including it in your diet.
Calcium: There's some evidence to support that a diet high in dairy and naturally occurring calcium supports weight loss (not to mention bone health). However, that doesn't mean adding a calcium supplement to your diet is a good idea if you find yourself unable to consume 2-4 servings of dairy in your diet each day. A recent study showed that those who took calcium supplements of any kind were 90 percent more likely to have a heart attack. Your best bet is to stick with the weight bearing exercise and build dairy into your diet. For more discussion of these findings and the benefits versus risks of calcium supplementation, check out this article.
Fish oil: Fish oil has received a lot of press in recent years for good reason. Probably because of the omega-3 fatty acids it contains, the benefits associated with fish oil include reductions in pain and swelling, allergies and improvements in brain development and health. The National Institutes of Health states that it is likely safe for most people, including those who are pregnant and breastfeeding, when taken in doses of less than three grams per day (higher doses may reduce clotting and increase bleeding). With so many benefits and relatively few risks, this is one supplement you may want to consider. For more on the risks and benefits of fish oil, check out this link through the NIH.
Vitamin D: Another trendy supplement, this vitamin has roles in reducing inflammation, supporting neuromuscular and immune function, and supporting cell growth. Current recommendations from the National Institutes of Health have established an upper limit of 1700 IU per day and link supplementation with this vitamin to reductions in osteoporosis, cancer, and diabetes. If you're pregnant or breastfeeding, you might want to consider including this vitamin in your regimen as well, since your level will ultimately impact the level of your baby and support their bone development. Although the research is still out, there seems to be little risk to supplementing with this vitamin at reasonable levels (less than 1000 IU per day).
Protein: As a regular exerciser, deciding how much protein you need may feel a lot like writing a senior thesis. The truth is, individual diets vary considerably in this area and many regular exercisers do not get enough protein in their diet. Strength training and endurance athletes both need at least 1 gram per kg of bodyweight per day (to calculate, divide your weight in pounds by 2.2). If you're not consuming that much, you need to look at ways of increasing your protein intake through diet (preferably) or consider a supplemental form of protein for the convenience and absorbability. For the best results, spread your protein intake throughout the day and include some of it with carbohydrates during the hour following your workout. Learn more about protein needs and sources.
Probiotics: Here's one final trendy supplement to consider. In addition to supporting gastrointestinal health, recent research has linked probiotic supplementation with improved immune function, including reductions in common cold and flu. If you're constantly catching every bug that comes around, or if you have small children in the house who are bringing you their favorite daycare germs, you might want to consider a probiotic supplement, especially during periods of heavy training, weight loss, or high exposure to germs. You can learn more about these supplements and their benefits through the newsletters at the Mayo Clinic or Harvard Health.
Weigh In: Do you use vitamin supplements to support your home fitness program?