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Walking through the supplement aisle can make you feel pretty confident. Promises like “fat loss,” “muscle gain,” and “reduced aging” plaster nearly every bottle and container. And with more than 29,000 dietary supplements to choose from, there’s no wonder you feel uncertain about which ones are more show than substance. That’s why we asked Dr. Chris Mohr of MohrResults, a nutrition and weight loss expert who advises the Cincinnati Bengals and other major clients, to separate the proven performers from the over-packaged junk. Here are his top 10 supplements—sensational marketing claims sold separately.
1. Fish Oil
Fish oil is known for delivering omega-3’s, essential fats that our bodies can’t make on our own so must get them from our diet. Even if you eat fish one to two times per week, you won’t be taking in enough omega-3’s to meet your body’s needs. By taking a high quality fish oil, you can reduce triglycerides, lower your risk of heart disease, improve recovery from exercise, protect your brain health, and potentially lower your risk of diabetes. Omega-3’s may even help with losing body fat. When choosing a supplement, pay seek brands that deliver a minimum of 2 g EPA and DHA (two of the three acids in omega-3s) daily.
2. Vitamin D
Plenty of data has suggested that the majority of Americans have less than optimal levels of Vitamin D. That’s not surprising – the nutrient is tough to get from food (though canned salmon, milk, and sardines are all good sources), and the only other method is sunlight. If you live north of Atlanta, the sun isn’t strong enough from November to March for you to make sufficient amounts. And even when you are outside, most people are covered with clothing and/or suntan lotion. Most experts agree that supplementing with at least 1000 IU’s daily is a good start.
3. Whey Protein
Whey protein is not an essential supplement, but it is a good one to have on hand. Because whey is high in branched-chain amino acids, it can aid recovery from exercise. More importantly, whey protein is a quick, convenient source of quality calories. Add some to fruit or a scoop of nut butter and you’ve got a perfect on-the-go meal that takes 60 seconds to make.
4. Greens Products
While not a replacement for fruits and vegetables, Greens products (fruit and vegetable concentrates) are a good “insurance” policy if your produce consumption is lower than idea. Less than 6% of men and 9% of women aged 5 to 34 consume the recommended minimum of five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Greens can help fill this void. They’re especially handy when real produce is hard to come by, like during times of heavy travel.
Here’s the deal -- there are millions of different strains of bacteria in our guts. Some are good. Others, not so much. The bacteria in your gut can influence your overall health, digestion and immune system. Probiotics can help replenish and nourish your internal supply of good bacteria, sometimes leading to less gas, bloating, and abdominal pain. Aim for a product from a trusted brand that lists at least 3 billion organisms per serving. Keep it refrigerated after opening to protect those organisms.
6. Turmeric (Curcumin)
Turmeric is a spice commonly used in Indian dishes, and a key component in the spice is curcumin. Hundreds have studies have suggested that curcumin possesses a wide range of beneficial health properties, including a 2010 study that suggested curcumin has anti cancer, anti viral, anti arthritic and anti inflammatory properties. The nutrient’s very strong anti inflammatory actions are seen as one of the primary drivers of these benefits. You could just add turmeric to your foods if you enjoy that flavor, or seek a curcumin supplement that delivers around 500 mg daily.
Another powerful spice, cinnamon has one of the highest antioxidant levels of any of the spices. Several studies have shown that cinnamon may improve insulin sensitivity, which improves utilization of carbohydrates and leads to better blood sugar control. Sprinkle it in shakes, on oats, yogurt, cottage cheese or wherever you’d enjoy the added flavor. Or if you want the assurance of getting a specific dose, you can choose a supplement. Studies have shown that 1g daily (about 1/2 teaspoon) is sufficient. Note: Cinnamon comes in two varieties -- Ceylon and cassia cinnamon – and most benefits have been linked to the cassia variety. Another note: If you have blood sugar issues, exercise caution if combining cinnamon with other diabetes drugs or supplements for blood sugar control.
Psyillium is a soluble fiber that can help lower cholesterol, regulate blood sugar in people who have diabetes, and help “move things along” if you’re a bit backed up. If you choose to supplement, start with small doses and build over time. Adding too much fiber too soon can cause some, ahem, odorous side effects.
This one has stood the test of time. Creatine is one of the most extensively studied nutritional supplements, both in clinical research and by real-life athletes, and to date most findings indicate one thing: Creatine works. The supplement may enhance muscle function during high-intensity exercise, and cause muscle hypertrophy, likely due to increased water retention by muscle cells, although some data suggest there may be gains in muscle fiber diameter as well. Vegetarians may have a greater response to supplementation because of their limited intake of dietary creatine. While some advocate creatine loading, it isn’t necessary. Adding 3-5g per day can help improve strength or speed, or help you add on weight.
10. Beta Alanine
β-Alanine supplements have garnered interest over the last several years as several research investigations have linked its use to performance improvements. β- Alanine is the ‘beta’ form of the amino acid alanine, which muscle cells use to form carnosine. Carnosine is one of the more effective buffering agents in skeletal muscle, meaning that during high-intensity activity it helps stave off some of the things that slow you down.
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