Do you need to take some type of supplement to enjoy optimal health? The answer to that question should be determined on an individual basis since we all don’t have the same dietary, exercise habits or health resume to compare our nutrient needs equally.
But remember why they are called dietary supplements. They are there to supplement a healthy, well-balanced diet not replace or effectively compensate for a poor, unhealthy diet.
There are three popular positions regarding the necessity of taking supplements that seem to be the most common recurring themes held by people for and against taking them that I have bore witness to over the years.
The Three Schools Of Thought On Whether Taking Supplements Are Necessary.
1. There are those that absolutely insist we have to take various supplements in order to maintain optimal health and stave off ailments and chronic conditions or risk some dire health consequence.
2. There are those that say that the general public might benefit from taking some type of all -encompassing supplement usually in the form of a multi-vitamin to make sure all nutrient needs are covered.
3. There are those that insist we should get all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients we need through the foods we eat as that is how our bodies go about absorbing, using, and allocating nutrients optimally the way our bodies were designed to do. In other words, as long as you eat a balanced diet, there is no need to take supplements unless specifically directed by a medical professional.
My views on supplements lie somewhere between thoughts two and three above based on my own homework, experiences and consultations with medical professionals.
People in the health, fitness and supplement industry will dig in and argue or debunk any one of these three positions to the death. Why? Because there is a lot of money on the table in the supplement business. We are talking a billion dollar industry after all – backed by super slick marketing campaigns designed to make an emotional impact and profess health solutions and benefits that may or may not exist or be of value to the consumer. They all point to this study or that study for validation of their position and some offer convincing insights to varying degrees.
There is little oversight in the supplement industry, so make sure you understand what you are taking and why or holster your credit card and just walk away.
We can all benefit from the common sense wisdom of the great Chief Dan George as he is shamelessly confronted by a supplement salesman from the Clint Eastwood movie The Outlaw Josie Wales. Except back then they called many people who peddled these supplements snake oil salesmen. Nothing much has changed today except marketers put new bows on old packages and concepts to trot out for the next generation of quick fix miracle cure seekers.
Many modern day sellers of supplements still use the same baseless tactics except instead of an open air podium, they use glitzy storefronts and the internet backed by slick, sexy marketing to hawk their products and the many often unsubstantiated health benefits derived from their use.
Why Do You Think You Need To Take Supplements?
Now before you rush out to gulp down every pill, potion and powder that claims to make you healthy, reverse aging and cure or ward off any ailment or chronic condition under the sun, take the time to think about why you think you may need all this supplementation.
Do your homework and due diligence and consult with your doctor as to what supplements you are currently taking or are planning to take. A good doctor is your partner in health and will be able to determine your legitimate need for a particular supplement and advise you on the healthiest plan of action for your particular situation, age, sex and whatever ailments you may be saddled with. Don’t thoughtlessly play Russian Roulette with choosing/ingesting supplements and only consider taking them with extreme caution and with the counsel of your doctor.
A lot of people convince themselves that they need to supplement because they feel they are deficient in some vitamin or mineral somehow. Unless you get medically tested, evaluated, and counseled you never really know if you have a legitimate deficiency or if it is just perceived. Besides, when you just start gulping supplements down in relative ignorance, it is a crap shoot if you are getting any benefit at all and possibly may be doing yourself harm by ingesting unnecessary varieties and over doses of vitamins, minerals or other concoctions.
How I Determined My Supplement Needs
I like to live life proactively and strive to have a positive impact on those I interact with professionally and in my personal life. In order to effectively pursue this course of action, I need to be at my best mentally and physically which allows me to stay constantly motivated, keeping an open mind while practicing temperance and tolerance and to never stop learning- essentially becoming an eternal student in whatever life discipline I choose to pursue.
For me, healthy eating and a meaningful exercise regimen are two very critical factors that allow me to pursue and maintain a proactive strategy like this.
Am I perfect with these ambitions? Hell, no! I would like to meet the person who claims to be perfect or the ultimate expert at something, but I’m willing to bet they hail from Fantasy Land or Parts Unknown. We all strive to do the best we can. However, when your physical fitness and healthy eating habits improve, a funny thing starts to happen- you start to feel good mentally and want to improve all aspects of your life which is a great foundation from which to position yourself for success in any worthwhile endeavor you decide to pursue.
Ok, now you know why I value the pursuit and attainment of good health and fitness and how they are absolutely vital to charting a proactive course in life, so let me get back to how I decided on what supplements to take in order to further this cause.
A high quality, balanced multi-vitamin and cod liver oil are the only supplements I take based on my research and discussion with my doctor. My reasoning for the multi-vitamin was to fill in any nutritional gaps not covered in my diet which my doctor did not think was necessary based on my good eating habits, but I took them anyway since she did not think there was any downside.
I actually stopped taking the multi-vitamin for a year to see if it would impact my health in any way. What I found was that my annual physical results and bloodwork was still optimal, I felt good throughout the year and had no ailments or sickness during that time so I have stopped taking them totally and seem no worse for wear. I don’t want to give you the impression that I am against taking a quality multi-vitamin as I think there are those who can benefit from taking them, but for my situation I agreed with my doctor that I didn’t need them.
So now I am just taking a small spoonful of quality cod liver oil in its pure natural form as my sole supplementation. I take the cod liver oil mainly for the vitamin D since very few natural, convenient and readily available foods contain this vitamin in substantial amounts. The best natural sources of vitamin D are from wild, fatty fish such as mackerel, tuna and salmon and small amounts are found in beef liver and egg yolks to name a few lesser sources.
While I eat plenty of wild fish that contribute to my health which I enjoy catching myself to ensure quality freshness and sourcing, I don’t get enough of the species that contain good quantities of vitamin D. I like wild salmon and tuna, but unless I am confident of its freshness and source, I won’t buy it.
Controlled, safe exposure to sunlight also triggers the synthesis of vitamin D within our bodies, but our consistent access to it is limited by our schedules, time of year and location we reside. I also like the joint and heart health benefits associated with cod liver oil consumption along with the beneficial fatty acids. I take my fish oil in the form of a quality Norwegian cod liver oil that also tastes pretty good and has no aftertaste so I don’t have breath like a Sea Lion.
This is my reasoning for taking this supplement that makes sense for my particular situation as I know I don’t get out in the sunshine consistently throughout the year and I don’t eat enough of the wild caught fatty fish species. I equate taking my daily spoonful of cod liver oil to literally drinking liquid sunshine as the benefits are that good! My doctor agreed with my reasoning, so for now I am confident I am following a sound plan.
I try to use common sense and look at the results of my annual physical including bloodwork data. I pay attention to how I feel and perform physically and mentally throughout the year along with meaningful feedback from those who have my best interests in mind. I conclude that I must be doing something right as I have had no serious issues or ailments besides the rare bout of pollen allergies I may get. I discuss with my doctor what I eat, my activities, lifestyle, etc. and she is in agreement with what I am doing is optimal for me. I rarely ever need to see her throughout the year besides my annual physical. My biggest risk is that she forgets who I am since I don’t see her much since my health is good!
Nothing Trumps A Healthy Diet And Common Sense
I am convinced that I get most of my nutrients needed to keep my body functioning optimally through consistently eating a well balanced diet. I by no means eat perfectly throughout the year, but I am consistent roughly 80% of the time. My family can attest to how I can put the feedbag on sometimes especially at holiday gatherings where I fill up on rare family traditional delicacies like home made pierogies and desserts, but I quickly resume my consistent clean eating habits immediately afterward. This from a former fat kid who now seems to have developed a charged metabolism somewhere between that of a termite and a hyena!
Try keeping a Food Activity Journal to keep your eating and exercise activities on track for achieving optimal health and fitness.
Never discount your common sense and reasoning when deciding on a course of action pertaining to supplement use. There were a lot of healthy, active people going about their daily lives on this planet long before the advent of all these supplements, potions, powders and pills that constantly bombard us in our modern culture. People back then seemed to get along fine if they just ate relatively healthy and stayed consistently active without gobbling down supplements. To me this still seems like a pretty good approach to staying healthy.
However, I agree to a large extent that current commercial farming and food transportation practices, the proliferation and consumption of modern nutrient deficient/calorie dense processed foods and the unnatural way our food animals and farmed fish are raised have decreased the nutrient value of our foods which may lend credence to the merits of some supplementation.
Also make note of the fact that all of the vaccines, antibiotics, artificial hormones, drugs and crap additives routinely fed and administered to commercially raised livestock are passed on to our bodies as detrimental toxins through consumption of these foods. That’s why I like to go organic, wild, grass fed and cage free when choosing animals and most produce I consume.
My goal of this article is not to tell you what to do or what you should be taking regarding supplementation. I invited you into my thought processes and shared why I take certain actions and hold certain opinions regarding supplements based on what works for me and not as a rigid plan for everybody to adopt. What I hope you do is evaluate your own situation and do your homework and due diligence on the merits of supplements for yourself with vital input and consultation from your doctor. Do this without getting caught up in marketing hype and baseless claims by dishonorable merchants hawking quick fixes, miracle benefits and false hope.
Supplements won’t take the place of essential and critical behaviors and habits that are vital to optimal health such as eating quality, whole foods and practicing meaningful, sustainable exercise.
I try not to over complicate the ideal path to my health and fitness – I eat right and practice enough meaningful exercise to live my life optimally and don’t waste my time with hype, nonsense and energy- sapping toxic people who possess no joy or redeeming qualities.
Pay attention to and follow these habits and the odds are overwhelmingly stacked in your favor of leading a rich life and charting a successful destiny for yourself. Those are better odds than winning the power ball lottery and your results are in direct proportion to your meaningful efforts- not through luck, chance and wishful thinking!
Stay Well! Take Action! Be Consistent! Train and Eat Smart! Get Rid of the Drains and Pains in Your Life! Value your loved ones and friends and get out and have some active, safe fun!
Your pal along for the journey,
I Eat T-Bone Steaks, Lift Kettlebell And Sandbag Weights and Carefully Evaluate My Supplements!
“There’s a Sparkle in my Eyes and Iron in my Thighs!”
Seven Stars Fitness