Supplements and Vitamins

Moving is very time-consuming! I work all day at work, then all evening unpacking. I clearly needed a nudge, and my friend Tim sent me one. He said:

Every time I leave the gym I am confronted by the strategically placed cases of “protein powders” and “diet drinks/snacks/etc.” Thoughts on these things and how useful they are or are not?

So, my standard disclaimer in effect (I am not a doctor or nutritionist), here are my thoughts:

I think they’re a huge money-maker for the gym or whoever is selling them, but most people don’t need them. They taste like crap, and they’re chock-full of unnecessary calories and other things (arsenic, cadmium and lead, anyone?). Questionable content aside, that stuff is designed for competitive bodybuilders, the key part of that phrase being “builders” – it’s designed to bulk up people who are spending hours lifting weights so for the most part it’s high-volume protein calories. That’s the opposite of what I want.

Several years ago I asked my doctor about protein supplements like you see at the gym and he said, “Are you a competitive bodybuilder?” I said no, I just lift weights a few times a week. He said, “You don’t need that stuff, just keep eating a healthy balanced diet like you already do.” So instead of choking down yucky-tasting supplements, I eat broiled salmon and asparagus, or stir-fried chicken and snow peas – delicious!

I consider body-builder supplements to be the same as another of my pet topics – vitamins. I don’t take them. Not at all, because they are meant to correct a deficiency of diet, and my diet is very healthy already. I asked my nutritionist about vitamins when I was losing weight and she said, “If you eat a balanced diet made up of a variety of fruits and vegetables, lean meats and whole grains, you don’t need vitamins, you’re already getting the nutrients you need.” She further explained that humans are made to get what they need from the food they eat, so if you’re eating in an evolutionarily valid way (foods your body recognizes as food – things that grew in the ground) then your body is getting it’s needs met. And finally, because even objective sources have to admit that there are no standards guaranteeing that anything you find in the bottle is what is listed on the label, I find it generally easier and less hassle to just eat my nutrients in tasty food.

This is not to say that my mind won’t change as I age – I’m 37 now and there may be a time when science finds a real, solid basis for things like glucosamine and chondroitin for improving joint function, but for now I’m in the best shape of my life, and vitamins and supplements aren’t warranted.


8 Responses to “Supplements and Vitamins”

  1. Claire Says:

    I would also like to note that there is a big difference in the amount of vitamins available in organically farmed produce as opposed to conventionally farmed produce, as conventional farming has depleted their soil of vitamins and minerals over the years.

  2. Trystan Says:

    A couple large medical studies recently came out that essentially said taking vitamins/supplements have little or no long-term health benefits. Here’s a good summary of the reports:

    Unless a person has been diagnosed with a deficiency (for example, vitamin D deficiencies are on the rise bec. so many ppl are sitting indoors & sunlight is the best-absorbed form of D) or have a specific condition (pregnant/getting pregnant, pre-natal supplements are a good idea), there’s no real reason to take vitamins.

  3. Jeannie Says:

    The diet is a huge one, though. When I worked at the hospital, 3 out of 4 people’s blood tests showed that their diet had taken them to the edges of malnutrition.

    I’m a huge advocate of doctor informed (don’t need to say supervised necessarily) weight loss. We discovered my vitamin D tanks badly, over and over. And being in Seattle right now, getting all the sun I want just isn’t an option. So my two cents worth for the casual reader is to get a full chem panel periodically just to make sure that your food IS getting you all that you need.

    • Laina Says:

      It’s a good idea. And yeah – most American’s DON’T eat a healthy, balanced diet. Most Americans eat at Burger King and Taco Bell, which pretty much guarantees they’re going to be malnourished.
      Thanks for the comment!

  4. Andie Says:

    I second what Jeannie says about getting your blood work done as part of your regular health regime. I started feeling really crummy about a month or so ago, and it turns out, vitamin D deficiency. Very easy to get back up to appropriate levels with supplements for the short-term, and then better planning about what I eat + regular monitoring for the long-term. It was encouraging to see that everything else was at a healthy level. Glad to ditch the vitamins!

    • Donna Says:

      One of the things about using the FitDay website for food journaling is that it calculates how much of the USDA nutrition requirements you are getting from what you’re eating. This may help.

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