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9 Things To Know About Nutritional Supplements

9 Things To Know About Nutritional Supplements

Friday, April 24, 2015 - 6:15pm
9 Things To Know About Nutritional Supplements

Photo by Flickr user Shannon Kringen. License

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4 Keys to Strength Training Success
5 Strategies For Long-Term Healthy Eating
5 Solutions for Your New Year's Resolutions
Mastering the Squat
6 Ways To Make Sure You Hit Your Next Race PR
9 Things To Know About Nutritional Supplements
5 Strategies for Keeping Your Hands and Calluses Healthy
3 Road Warrior Workouts for Staying Fit on The Road
Plateaus: The Truth About Getting Over The Hump
A 7 Item Checklist for Taking Your Fitness To The Next Level


1.  Fat-burners don’t really exist:  There are only a few supplements, like ephedra and yohimbe, that have been proven to boost your metabolism and/or fat-loss.  However, at best they deliver a 5% boost (or one pound extra if you lose 20), and these are also the supplements with the greatest risk.  More on fat-burners.    

2.  Laxatives and diuretics deliver the fastest weight loss possible:  However, losing weight this way is both meaningless and dangerous.  And, as you can see here, the FDA regularly finds hidden prescription drugs (such as diuretics and laxatives) and banned substances in fat-burners.

3.  The truth about claims on labels:  “dietary supplement firms do not need FDA approval prior to marketing their products. It is the company’s responsibility to make sure its products are safe and that any claims made about such products are true [emphasis added],” from the FDA website.  This means that claims like, “lose 10 pounds in 8 days” and “scientific breakthrough for fat-loss” are legal, even if they’re not remotely true.  Like with everything in life, if it sounds too good to be true, it is.

4.  Check the numbers on a “proprietary blend”:  If there is an expensive and effective ingredient that you want people to think makes up a large portion of your product (and it does not), then you can use proprietary blends as a strategy to trick people.  Here’s how this works:  Ingredients are listed in descending order of composition of the product – the first ingredient is the biggest component, the second ingredient is the second biggest component, and so on.  If you put the cheap fillers and the expensive ingredient into a “proprietary blend” and this blend is most of the weight of the product, then you can put this blend as the first ingredient.  This creates the illusion that the expensive ingredient makes up a large portion of the product when it doesn’t.

This does not mean that all proprietary blends are an attempt to trick you.  It does mean that you want to do the math on the ingredients and check how much of the specific ingredient you are paying for is in the bottle. 

5. Before and after pictures can be shot on the same day.

6. Keep your supplements in the fridge:  exposing fish oil to heat, light or oxygen can oxidize it and destroy any positive nutritional value it once had.  Keeping your supplements in the fridge is a simple way to maximize potency and extend shelf life.

7.  The basics:  my basic advice for nutritional supplementation is vitamin-D (5,000iu), fish oil (2,000mg), a multi-vitamin, and a probiotic.  This will help most people look and feel their best, and make most fitness goals (like weight loss or gain) easier to attain. If you live and work mostly indoors, chances are good that you don’t get enough Vitamin D.  Vitamin D seems to be important for immune function, insulin sensitivity (which might influence body composition), strength, mood and bone density. Fish oil is recommended to help balance your intake of essential fatty acids (EFA).  For our purposes we’ll say there are two kinds – omega 3 and omega 6.  Americans eat a lot of the 6’s and not much of the 3’s.  When there’s a lot of the 6 relative to the 3, then you get higher levels of inflammation and this seems to be bad for everything – body-fat levels, health, etc.  By reducing your intake of processed vegetable oil (where we get our 6’s from) and adding some fish oil you can help balance out your EFA intake and hopefully reduce your inflammation levels.

A large portion of your digestion is actually done by the microbes living in your GI-tract.  Researchers have found fascinating differences in the microbes of various groups of people.  For example, obese and lean people have very different microbes living inside of them.  One of the differences is that the microbes associated with obesity tend to be more efficient at extracting calories from food, so if two people eat the exact same meal there might be a 20% difference in extracted calories.Do I think taking a pill will fix your flora?  No.  But, replacing your refined carbs with veggies and some fruit with the addition of a probiotic can probably shift your flora for the better.

8.  For fat-loss:  the only thing to add to boost your fat-loss results would be a post-workout protein shake to improve your recovery.  We recommend a shake made with water and 20-30g of protein for women, and 30-40g for men.  This should usually be whey protein, and definitely without aspartame or sucralose.

9.  For muscle-gain:  If you are someone who has never had a weight problem try a pre and post-workout shake: 20g BCAA’s and 5g creatine with a banana, and the same 30-40g of protein and at least as many grams of carbs after your workout. (If you hate measuring carbs, just eat 1-2 more bananas.)

Disclaimer:  This article does not replace medical advice.  For example, if your physician has given you specific instructions that conflict with the advice in this article, then please listen to your doctor.  


About the Author

Josef Brandenburg is a Washington D.C.-area fitness expert with 16 years of experience and co-author of the international best-selling book "Results Fitness." In 2004, he started True 180 Fitness (formerly The Body You Want) personal training program, which specializes in helping you get the body you want in the time you have available. Josef holds certifications from Precision Nutrition, American Council on Exercise, National Academy of Sports Medicine, Functional Movement Systems, Corrective High Performance Kinesiology, and the National College of Exercise Professionals. Learn more about Josef on his blog, follow him on Twitter and Facebook, or check out his fitness videos on YouTube.