Which Supplements Are Actually Worth Buying?
Ideally, we should be able to obtain all our vital nutrients from food. However, real life makes this challenging. If you’re a nutritionist, you have in-depth knowledge of the body’s needs and how to meet them. However, most of us don’t have this advantage
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) acknowledges that supplements are useful in filling nutritional gaps.  Still, you don’t want to overload your body or your budget with unnecessary nutrients. Which supplements offer the greatest benefit? Which ones are worth your money? There are three:
- Whey protein
Read on for why these supplements merit a spot on your shopping list.
The NIH recommends discussing supplements with your doctor first, so your health care is managed professionally. Your physician can also test for certain nutrients to see how much supplementation is needed. This is helpful for evaluating blood levels of calcium and Vitamin D
The NIH also suggests choosing a multivitamin tailored to your age, gender, and any special condition, such as pregnancy.  Following that guideline, here are the nutrients that should be present in supplements for women and men.
Childbearing Age to Age 50
According to Prevention magazine, a woman’s multivitamin should contain 100% of the following daily values:
- Vitamin B6 – 2 mg
- Vitamin B12 – 2.4 mcg
- Vitamin D – 600 IU
- Vitamin K – 90 mcg
- Folic Acid – 400 mcg
- Calcium – 1,000 mg
- Iron – 18 mg
- Magnesium – 400 mg
- Selenium – 55 mcg
- Zinc – 8 mg
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids – 2 gm 
Women’s Multivitamin Superheroes
The Livestrong Foundation gives high marks to the following women’s multivitamins:
- Centrum Ultra Women’s
- Nature Made Multi For Her
- One-A-Day Women’s
- Puritan’s Pride Woman’s One Daily
- Rainbow Light Just Once Natural Women’s One 
Research shows that prenatal vitamins reduce the risk of pre-term birth, low birth weight, and birth defects.
According to WebMD, a woman’s prenatal multivitamin should contain:
- Folic Acid – to prevent neural defects
- Iron – to avoid anemia
- Calcium – for proper bone development
- Vitamin D – to assimilate calcium
- DHA – an omega-3 fatty acid needed for the brain, eyes, and nervous system. Studies also suggest it promotes normal gestation length and supports a mother’s mental health. 
Promising Prenatal Multivitamins
- Below are highly-rated organic prenatal supplements that are a great value:
- Country Life Maxi Prenatal Multivitamins – good for sensitive mommy stomachs
- New Chapter Perfect Prenatal Multivitamin – Kosher, easily swallowed and digested
- New Chapter Wholemega Prenatal – with 17 omega fatty acids, including DHA
- Twinlab Prenatal Care Multivitamins – energizing, ideal levels of calcium and magnesium
Helpful Resource: Top 10 Multivitamins for Women
The Institute of Medicine reports that men and women have the same basic needs for Vitamins B12, D, and E. Men require the same amount of iron as postmenopausal women, 8 mg.  They don’t need as much calcium. The Harvard Medical School reports that high consumption of calcium can contribute to prostate cancer. It recommends 800 mg of calcium per day for men. 
A multivitamin targeted to men may have lycopene. This is the red pigment found in tomatoes. It works as an antioxidant, protecting against cellular damage. Lycopene has been linked to a decreased risk of prostate cancer. A men’s multivitamin may also have higher selenium than a woman’s formula. This trace mineral is also associated with a lower risk of prostate cancer.
Men’s Multivitamin All-Stars
Men’s Health magazine highly rates the supplements below for men. Their findings are based on recommendations by two renowned dieticians, Dawn Blatner, dietary consultant for the Chicago Cubs, and Dave Grotto, nutrition author. 
- Rainbow Light Men’s One
- Nature Made Multi for Him
- One A Day Men’s Health Formula
Helpful Resource: Top 10 Multivitamins for Men
2. WHEY PROTEIN
What is Whey?
Whey protein is the watery component of milk that separates when cheese is made. It is a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids. It has the dietary advantage of being low in lactose, a milk sugar. It is also readily assimilated by the body.
Why Buy Whey?
Men’s Fitness cites six reasons:
- Increased muscle strength
- Hunger control
- Weight loss
- Improved immunity
- Cancer protection
- Reduced stress 
Types of Whey Protein
There are three types of whey – concentrate, isolate, and hydrolysate. They differ in the way they’re processed.
Concentrate – contains some lactose and fat. It is about 70-80% protein and has the best taste. It tends to be the least expensive.
Isolate – has less lactose and fat. It is approximately 90% protein. It lacks many of the beneficial nutrients present in whey protein concentrate.
Hydrolysate – also called hydrolyzed whey, it is pre-digested for faster absorption. It causes a greater surge of insulin than isolate. It is the most expensive form of whey and less tasty than the other two.
Fitness experts vary regarding the best type of whey.
According to Authority Nutrition, whey protein concentrate is the best option.  It is the least expensive form of whey and retains most of the nutrients present in whey. Additionally, many people prefer the taste of whey concentrate. If you try concentrate and have difficulty digesting it, you may fare better with isolate or hydrolysate.
Muscle and Fitness suggests that isolate or hydrolysate are the preferred forms.  Isolate is the purest form of whey, with the highest protein percentage. Hydrolysate is the most easily digested.
Keeping both viewpoints in mind, digestibility is a prime consideration. Go with what goes down easiest. If you’re a lady you’ll find this list of woman’s protein powders very useful.
A general recommended dosage is 1-2 scoops, about 25-50 grams of protein per day from protein powder.
Whey Protein Champions
Men’s Health salutes the following brand of whey protein powder:
- Jay Robb Whey Protein Isolate – low in carbohydrates, lactose-free, no artificial sweeteners, colors, or flavors. 
Bodybuilding.com cites the following as a wow-worthy whey product:
- Now Foods Whey Protein Isolate – all natural, smooth flavor. 
- BuiltLean.com gives three cheers for the following:
- Blue Bonnet 100% Whey Protein Isolate – short ingredient list, great flavor.
- Enhanced Life Extension Whey Protein – very low calorie, yummy.
- Tera’s Whey Organic – high-quality concentrate, excellent taste, easily digested. 
Helpful Resource: Complete Protein Powder Buying Guide
Creatine is a nitrogen compound made by the liver. It fuels cells with energy. Muscle cells are especially fond of creatine.
The International Olympic Committee permits the usage of creatine. 
Why Take Creatine?
Here’s the upshot on the benefits of creatine. As documented by bodybuilding.com, research shows.
- Creatine builds muscle.
- It enables high-intensity strength training.
- It enhances recovery.
- Creatine makes you a smart cookie. It enhances brain function and protects against nerve degeneration. Australian researchers report that creatine increases intelligence and improves memory.
- It facilitates bone healing.
- It improves glucose tolerance, of particular benefit to those with diabetes.
Note – Consult with your doctor before starting creatine. It must be used with caution with certain medical conditions. Also take care to not exceed the recommended dosage, which can result in side effects.
The optimal dose of creatine depends on body weight and exercise intensity. For details on dosing, including ideal timing, go to: http://www.nutritionexpress.com/showarticle.aspx?articleid=61, or click here:
Bodybuilding.com gives high scores to the following creatine products. Kudos apply to the unflavored versions of each.
- Optimum Nutrition Micronized Creatine Powder
- CreAde by RSP Nutrition
- Platinum 100% Creatine by Muscle Tech
4. OMEGA-3 FISH OIL
What is Fish Oil?
Fish oil is extracted from fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, and sardines. It contains beneficial fatty acids, most notably, EPA and DHA, which are necessary for cardiovascular health and inflammation reduction. Oil can come in either liquid or capsule form and may contain other beneficial oils such as flax, and safflower. Since most Americans do not consume nearly enough Omega – 3 fats via the foods they eat, it is recommended to supplement with a concentrated source of Omega-3 fatty acids.
Why Take Omega-3 Fatty Acids?
- Reduced chance of heart attack and stroke
- Lower triglycerides
- Lower blood pressure
- Weight loss
- Decreased inflammation
- Decreased joint pain
- Lessened risk of Alzheimer’s disease
Omega-3 fatty acids have a host of benefits, especially for those with high blood pressure or triglycerides. EPA and DHA, the two primary fats found in fish oil, are touted as some of the most important dietary fats humans can consume. Research has shown that the benefits of Omega-3s are numerous and may include:
This list is not exhaustive, and both the medical community and anecdotal accounts speak to several other benefits of fish oil supplementation. Because it has gained such notoriety in recent years, there are endless options available to the consumer. Always make sure to research any fish oil supplement extensively before purchasing as some manufacturers do not include adequate levels of EPA and DHA.
In order to supplement safely with omega-3 fats, keep in mind that maintaining an appropriate ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 is crucial. Omega-6 fatty acids are found in many common food items and comprise a majority of our daily intake. To maintain this ratio, experts recommend that healthy individuals consume 500 milligrams per day, composed of both EPA and DHA. Below are some high-quality fish oil supplements to consider.
Omega-3 Fish Oil Standouts:
- WHC UnoCardio 1000 + Vitamin D 1000
- OmegaVia Fish Oil
- The Vitamin Shoppe Omega-3 Fish Oil
- Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega D3
What is Magnesium?
Magnesium is a water-soluble mineral, responsible for assisting in over 300 different reactions inside the human body. It is needed by the body in much larger amounts than several other minerals, and since it is water-soluble, it is routinely eliminated, making supplementation almost necessary. Magnesium is available in several forms, but the most popular are magnesium citrate, chelate, oxide, and glycinate. A topical form of the mineral is also available.
Why Supplement with Magnesium?
Most people are deficient in this crucial nutrient, as most food sources do not provide the recommended daily allowance. Magnesium plays a role in several important bodily processes including DNA creation, enzyme production, and fat breakdown, among others. It has been shown to have a myriad of benefits including the following:
- Insomnia relief
- Constipation relief
- Relief from muscle aches and spasms
- Increased heart health
- Anxiety reduction
- Bone health
- Increased energy
Because it is involved in over 300 reactions in the body, there are endless reasons to make sure to include this supplement in your list.
- Infants: 30 mg
- 7-12 months: 75 mg
- 1-3 years: 80 milligrams
- 4-8 years: 130 mg
- 9-13 years: 240 mg
- 14-18 years: 410 mg for men and 360 mg for women
- 19-30 years: 400 mg for men and 310 mg for women
- 31 and older: 40 mg for men and 320 mg for women
The amount of magnesium required depends on age. Reviewers recommend the following promising magnesium supplements:
- Pure Encapsulations Magnesium
- Metagenics Mag Glycinate
- Bluebonnet Chelated Magnesium
- Solaray Magnesium Glycinate
What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are good bacteria that are similar to the ones found in human intestinal tracts. They consist of several strains of beneficial bacteria to help balance the ratio of good bacteria to bad bacteria in the intestinal tract. Probiotics can contain many strains of bacteria including Bifidobacterium strains, Streptococcus and Lactobacillus strains, among others.
Why Take Probiotics?
Due to the standard diet of the majority of the population, the balance of good bacteria to bad bacteria in the digestive tract is very unequal. An unhealthy diet can wreak havoc on the digestive system, and probiotics can help re-establish an appropriate balance. The benefits of supplementing with probiotics are numerous and may include the following:
- Improved digestion
- Improved immune system
- Stronger teeth
- Weight loss
- Balanced acid levels
- Improved colon health
- Repopulate gut bacteria following antibiotics
How much good bacteria is necessary to keep the bad bacteria at bay? There really is no upper limit to the number of probiotics necessary, and because supplements vary so widely, there really is no set dosage. Most experts and studies have found that supplementing with higher concentrations of probiotics yields better results.
Below are some potent probiotic options:
- Schiff Digestive Advantage Daily Probiotic
- Culturelle Digestive Health Probiotic
- Garden of Life Primal Defense Ultra Probiotic Formula
- Trunature Digestive Probiotics
Helpful Resource: Top 10 Creatine Supplements
THE BIG LEAGUES
Enter the big leagues of life with the three powerhouses – multivitamins, whey, and creatine. They’re worth your hard-earned money. Be at the top of your game emotionally, mentally, and physically.
To help decide on which supplements to buy in each category, check out this rankings website for some good info.
Here’s to your health!