health

Vitamins 101: The supplements you need (and the ones you don’t)

By Kara Byers April 19, 2016
Vitamins 101

With hundreds of supplements being touted as ‘the next big thing’ in the health and fitness world how do you know what’s right for you and whether you actually need them? Naturopath Stephen Eddey separates vitamin fact from fiction.

With hundreds of supplements being touted as ‘the next big thing’, it’s easy to get confused. How do you know if you need a pre-workout protein? Or should you be taking iron supplements as soon as you start feeling tired and lethargic? To help you separate fact from fiction, Naturopath Stephen Eddey gives us the lowdown on the most common supplements, and whether or not you actually need them.

FISH OIL

People will tell you that a fish oil supplement is a must have, as omega-3s have a multitude of brain, heart and overall health benefits. However, if you eat three to four serves of a fish a week, it isn’t necessarily a must for you. According to Stephen,

“Healthy omega-3s can also be found in foods such as avocados, nuts and chia seeds. Interestingly, many believe a fish oil supplement can assist in balancing insulin in the body and assist in reducing belly fat.

“Fish oil has also been shown to have benefits for swollen and achy joints. While it’s not a ‘cure-all’, considering an EPA/DHA Fish Oil supplement can have a multitude of benefits.”

In a nutshell: if you’re not consuming three to four serves of oily fish per week (and many of us aren’t), Fish Oil has great benefits. But if your diet is rich in seafood, you may not need to worry about this one.

UBIQUINOL

You’ve probably noticed the rising popularity of Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) supplements, but you may not have heard of Ubiquinol, the active (more readily absorbed) form of CoQ10.

“If you’ve considered a CoQ10 supplement, it could be worth considering a switch to Ubiquinol, as you’ll be able to absorb its benefits more readily than with a traditional CoQ10 supplement. Ubiquinol is a naturally occurring antioxidant in the body responsible for powering our cells and naturally depletes as we age, with this process being sped up if we’re physically active or stressed.

“If you’re often feeling tired and finding it hard to bounce back from exercise, you may actually be experiencing a Ubiquinol deficiency. It not only helps maintain energy levels, but also helps to lower the risk of disease, and reduces inflammation in the muscles after exercise, to help you recover faster”.

An all-rounder, basically! Keep in mind, although you wouldn’t normally consider this until the age of 30, if you’re physically very active (around four to five days per week) or experience frequent stress, you may need to consider this earlier, as your natural Ubiquinol levels could be in decline.

A pill a day

MULTI-VITAMINS

Experts are divided on this one, for a multitude of reasons. Arguably, if you have a healthy diet and eat your daily recommended intake of fruits, vegetables, healthy fats and more, your body’s vitamin and mineral levels would be exactly where they need to be.

“The reality is that most of us don’t have a picture perfect diet, we regularly drink caffeine and alcohol (which can prevent our ability to absorb nutrients) and our soil simply isn’t as nutrient dense as it once was, thanks to over-farming and pesticide use in order to feed our population.”

So, do you need a multivitamin? Not necessarily - you could be better off finding out what vitamins and minerals you specifically need to address your specific health concerns, and go from there.

MAGNESIUM

Did you know that two thirds of Australians are actually magnesium deficient? This is a huge statistic, considering how vital magnesium is not only for our energy levels, but for our stress levels and even muscle recovery and sleep.

“If you struggle with sleepless nights, eye twitches, ‘restless leg’ syndrome, or find yourself struggling to bounce back after exercise, a magnesium supplement might be fantastic for you.

“Many Australians complain of feeling tired and drained on a daily basis, but aren’t aware that this nifty mineral could be the key to our exhaustion. If an oral supplement doesn’t agree with you, look for a magnesium cream, which can be applied topically for the same results.”

Get em in ya

PRE-WORKOUT SUPPLEMENTS

Are you a marathon runner, or someone who tries to partake in exercise four to five days per week? It’s likely that you fall into the latter category, in which case, do you really need a supplement to improve performance?

“Many pre-workout supplements simply contain large quantities of caffeine and not much else - in which case, why not drink an espresso? Instead of reaching for whatever is on special at the shops, try consulting a health professional before going down this path.

“Not all workout supplements are made equal, and some could be causing you more harm than good due to their synthetic ingredients and fillers”.

IRON

Many people begin taking an iron supplement when they start feeling weary and sluggish. But without actually testing your iron levels, there is no way to ultimately know if you need to take an iron supplement, or if simply increasing your intake of iron rich foods will do the trick.

“Before jumping to conclusions have a blood test and consult your doctor as to whether dietary changes will do the trick. Try incorporating more dark leafy greens and two serves of red meat per week into your diet, and monitor whether you feel a change”.

Stephen Eddey is a naturopath and Principal of Health Schools Australia.