It’s never a bad idea to ask consumers for their take on supplements, especially the ones whose livelihood depends on them. Following that logic, I decided to ask athletic trainer and nutritionist Kim Truman about this month’s topic. Here are her answers via email, which I’ve modified for clarity and conciseness.
What ingredients do you look for in a supplement?
“This question alone is what we all ask ourselves when we are facing the shelves of supplement overload, with so many choices, brands and clever marketing to leave us as the consumer frustrated, overwhelmed, and confused on what and which supplement is the most reputable/effective!”
Truman offered a few of her guidelines, which deal with label awareness:
1.) She likes brands that have the seal of certification from United States Pharmacopeia. “The UPS seal guarantees they have tested and approved ingredients in purest form!” Truman says. “Why is this so important? There are many manufacturers that put out low quality and even harmful products on the market without proving what the true ingredients are!”
2.) Go with plant-based ingredients, whole food substances, or phytonutrients. Truman says these ingredients encourage your body’s own antioxidants. Avoid synthetics.
3.) She hates to see gluten and lactose on the ingredients list. Truman also says no to lactose, hydrogenated oils, preservatives, any type of sugars, “mysterious” chemicals (could be lead or a harmful substance), fillers, colors or dyes, stimulants, or allergens (including potential ones, such as shellfish-derived ingredients.)
“Supplements cannot make up for an unhealthy diet, or offer magical energy,” Truman says. “I believe it is best to get your daily supplements, vitamins, and minerals with real food—a diet with protein and rich in many colorful fruits and vegetables—and staying hydrated! With real food, [your body] takes in and enhances absorption of nutrients [in the] digestive system.”
What elements are turn-offs?
“Over the top marketing claims to change your body and life in two weeks, showing before and after photos,” Truman says. “Anything claiming to boost testosterone levels because this is dangerous territory. All supplements, drinks, or powders with caffeine and other stimulants—that could be very dangerous to your heart health.”
Do different athletes have different needs?
“Of course they do! We are not all the same in every part of make up of physical, genetic, physiological, neurological, emotional, and cellular levels.
“First, it depends on what sport or how one is working out and what goals they want to obtain. Are you dealing with endurance runners or someone wanting to add muscle? Every part of one’s lifestyle choices need to be accessed: type of workout, nutrition, stress level, sleep quality. Do they have pre-existing health problems and do they drink or smoke? Yes, it's a lot to consider but in the long run, [they] will understand what their body needs and how to maintain their health.
“For example, if you're training an endurance athlete this client needs to load up on protein and amino acids, B vitamins… Supplements are really an extra boost for our bodies, immune system, and how we function.”
Truman also says athletes need to consult a doctor before starting a supplement. “If you are feeling low on energy, the doctor can do blood work to see what your body might need more of and go from there.”