Should we be supplementing our diet?
There are so many products on the market, from nutritional shakes to green teas and jelly babies. Everyone is looking for ways that can benefit their performance, its logical to think we should take supplements in order to do this. But it’s time to consider are we doing more harm than good?
First of all, let's define a nutritional supplement, so really as it implies a supplement is any product that aims to supplement the diet with nutrients that could potentially be missing. For example, to correct a health-related deficiency if someone has low iron.
So you’re probably thinking are there any essential nutrients for runners?
Well, unfortunately, I cannot answer this question, this is dependent on each individual quality of diet. I always believe in testing, if you think you have low iron before you rush off to buy supplements go to your GP and have your iron levels tested. Testing will ensure the appropriate use of nutritional supplements and ensure you are not overdosing on supplements.
One thing I do know is before we even consider supplements we should be considering if we can optimise diet through food. I understand that people will often opt for supplements for convenience, as they may feel adapting the diet is harder if they do not like certain foods however with support (from a nutritionist/Dietitian) this is not impossible!
Are there certain vitamins and minerals vegans or vegetarians should be taking?
With good planning, and an understanding of what makes up a healthy balanced vegetarian and vegan diet you can get all the nutrients that your body needs to be healthy without supplementation. However, if the diet isn’t planned properly you could miss out on essential nutrients. (Keep your eye out for further information on this topic – I will be posting a blog at a later date).
Is it possible to take too many supplements?
Vitamins are essential for your health, but you only need them in small amounts and should be getting plenty through food sources. You can absolutely get too much and in some conditions may be harmful to health. Often people just assume that we pee out the surplus this is not the case and the process of breaking down any vitamin or mineral is so complex! I would always recommend it before commencing with a supplement talking to a Dietitian or your GP.
Is there any supplement I do recommend to take?
I would recommend people take vitamin D, during the winter and Autumn months. This is recommended as we get vitamin D from sunlight and during these months there is not much sunlight. It is recommended individuals take 10micrograms of vitamin D per day.
So in summary, a well-planned diet should give you sufficient vitamins and minerals without the need to supplement, if people are considering supplementing I would recommend you discuss this with your GP or a Registered Dietitian.