Athletes and body builders looking to enhance their performance may turn to supplements for help. Many people automatically assume this refers to steroids or high levels of protein powder. But as many in the gym know, there are many valid, safe supplements in the fitness world that can take your skills to the next level.
However, it is wise to be wary of the supplements you take. If you’re new to the world of supplements, here’s what to look for.
In the United States, supplements are not regulated the way prescription drugs and food are. The manufacturers and distributors of supplements are responsible for their products’ safety and validity of their claims. This means that supplements don’t have to be proven effective before hitting the shelves at your local supplement source. If the product makes a claim for improved health, lowered risk of disease, or improved performance, it must also clearly state that the claim has not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
This doesn’t mean they’re dangerous, though. After all, manufacturers must guarantee a supplement’s contents. The ingredients must be pure, uncontaminated, and in the right strength. For an extra measure of safety, look for the Consumer Lab, US Pharmacopeia, or NSF International seal on your product. And don’t be fooled by labels that claim a supplement is “standardized”, “verified”, or “certified.” This doesn’t guarantee anything.
While the FDA doesn’t evaluate supplements, they retain the authority to remove a product from the market if it is later proven to be dangerous. Keep in mind it could take years before a supplement is proven unsafe. However, supplements that have been around for a while and have widespread use are typically safe choices.
Play it Safe
When purchasing your supplements from a reputable manufacturer, you should have confidence in the product. But beware that certain supplements may cause dangerous side effects if taken in addition to other medications or supplements, you have certain health conditions, you’re pregnant or breast-feeding, or you take it prior to surgery. High amounts of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K) can have a poisonous effect on your body.
Always tell your doctor what supplements you’re taking. Do your own research online about what’s safe and what’s not. When a supplement makes unrealistic claims, steer clear. Just because it says it’s 100 percent natural doesn’t mean it’s safe.
Supplements have expiration dates for a reason. Old supplements and vitamins will lose their effectiveness, so throw them out if they’re expired. In the meantime, store your supplements in a cabinet where it’s cool and dry. Yes, that means you shouldn’t store them in a humid bathroom. And like prescription and over-the-counter medications, always keep supplements out of the reach of children.
Each supplement should have dosage amounts on the label. Always follow the instructions, as it’s not safe to overload. Here are a few popular supplements in the fitness world and their recommended daily amounts.
Creatine is a safe and proven way to build bulk and improve performance. Take no more than 3 grams a day.
Protein powders are available in casein, whey, egg, or soy. These products are used to increase muscle mass and decrease body fat. Unless you have kidney disease, less than 1 gram of protein for each pound of body weight is within healthy limits. This includes the protein eaten during meals.
Endurance athletes may benefit from extra doses of caffeine before an event. Limit your intake to 1.5 to 3 milligrams per pound of your body weight. If you weigh 150 pounds, that’s 225 mg of caffeine. One cup of coffee contains about 100 mg of caffeine, so two to three cups of coffee should be plenty.
Before taking a supplement, do your research. Ask, what are its benefits? Is it safe long term? Can you trust the manufacturer? You should be able to find what you’re looking for and get the results you long for.
Check with Your Trainer
Interested in changing your supplement regiment? Run it by your trainer. Trainers spend time staying updated on the latest supplements and will know which to go with, which to avoid, and which ones will give you the body you’re seeking.
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