Finding the Right Supplements for You
I have spent a lot of time researching and experimenting with different supplements, and all of that time has led me to find supplements that actually work for me!
I'm going to talk about all of the dietary supplements that I take, because I am very passionate about some of them and feel it's important to discuss them. There are probably thousands of supplements out there that will try to sell you by telling you that you'll gain muscle mass or lose fat. Most of them are bogus but not harmful.
First of all, I am NOT a doctor, so you should definitely talk to yours about any supplements you're taking.
Second of all, they're called supplements for a reason. They're merely a compliment to your nutrition and exercise. They are not a replacement, and will not give you results all alone. To be completely honest, most supplements are not even necessary if you're eating right and working out regularly.
1. Multivitamins - I've been taking vitamins for about 5 years. When I started taking them 5 years ago, my diet was shit and these were probably providing my only "real" nutrition". Today, it's a much different story. I'm pretty good about eating healthy foods packed with vitamins and nutrients, but --especially in the winter time (here in New England)-- I don't feel like I'm getting all my vitamins. We're more inclined to order pizza once a week, and my Vitamin D levels are catastrophic. I'm also lactose intolerant and have a hard time getting in my calcium levels sometimes. I have been taking the Hair, Skin, and Nails types of vitamins, which are really just marketing bogus. They're almost exactly the same vitamins found in regular vitamins. My doctor likes that I take vitamins, so I'm going to stick with them until she tells me otherwise!
2. Probiotics - I cannot recommend probiotics enough. They have had a huge influence on so many different areas of my life. I started taking them a few years ago when I got prescribed antibiotics for strep throat. I found myself with a yeast infection --UGH the worst-- and my friends were amazed that I didn't know you have to take probiotics whenever you take antibiotics. Since I started working out more frequently, I started getting yeast infections more often from wearing yoga pants. After I couldn't get rid of one with over-the-counter medicine, I had to get prescription strength medicine and started taking probiotics. From that day on, I've taken them religiously and have not gotten a yeast infection since. Some of the other benefits I've seen include a decrease in my scalp eczema, my skin has cleared up, and my gut doesn't have as many issues. I HIGHLY recommend taking probiotics. It took me a while to find the best type for me, but now that I have it's been a lifechanger!
3. Pre-Workout/Caffeine - I'm going to be real and tell you that without caffeine after working for 8 hours, my workouts either suck or are nonexistent. Either having a cup of black coffee or a quarter scoop of pre-workout in some water before my workout makes a huge difference for me -- especially my cardio workouts! If you don't feel like you need this, then don't take it! It doesn't provide any nutritional benefits. And be careful about pre-workouts! It took me over a year to find one that worked for me. A lot of them contain sugar or artificial sweeteners that made me break out BAD and feel like crap. My pre-workout contains BCAAs, which stands for branched-chain amino acids. Basically BCAAs are amino acids that your muscles need to get from your diet or supplements, because your body can't produce them naturally. They help you recover faster and help make sure your body doesn't break down protein while you're working out. BUT again -- do not take any supplements unless you think you need it and always consult a doctor :)
4. Protein Powder - Protein powder is another thing I've struggled with due to artificial sweeteners. Because I'm lactose intolerant, I stay far away from whey protein, which is the most common type of protein powder. The protein I've been using for a while now is actually the Tone It Up Perfect Fit Protein, and I've been really enjoying it! I'm not the kind of person to just add protein powder to almond milk or water, because I think it's nasty and totally unnecessary. I eat a LOT of protein, so I really only use protein powder in smoothies, which I typically have once a day right after my workout! Without the protein powder, it is not filling at all! Just like pre-workout, protein powder is another thing that I don't think is necessary for everyone. Protein powders can help you quickly hit your protein intake goal for the day, but remember that you should be getting enough protein from your diet. Try not to rely too much on protein powder, but you can add a little bit here and there to make sure your muscles are satisfied.