Lately it seems everyone is lugging around a blender bottle, shaking up some oddly colored magic potion in the hopes of maximizing their body’s capabilities. But do you really know what you are drinking? I am going to give you the lowdown on all things powder, pill and shot related so you can get an edge on health. When it comes to supplements proceed with caution because the FDA does not require these products to be proven as safe before they are marketed, so it is on the consumer to research them. Also keep in mind that labels can be deceiving, often times supplements have minimal amounts of their promoted “active ingredient” and the majority of what you are buying is filler materials such as sugar or caffeine which you could get at Starbucks for a much cheaper price! It is worth the time to find the best product for your needs rather than unknowingly ingesting something that will do more harm to your body than good. Now the question is, what are your needs?
A blood test is the only way to actually know if you are nutrient deficient and should be taking anything to supplement the nutrients you get from your diet. It is worth braving the needle and even a light fainting spell because if you are popping an unnecessary multivitamin you could be hindering your system, causing a decrease in your immunity and loads of other bad side effects, like acne.
If you can recall your seventh grade science class, that is if you weren’t too busy scribbling your crush’s name in your notes or playing MASH with your seat partner, then you should have been introduced to the concept of solubility. And if you can’t remember, here is the deal: only a select few vitamins are water soluble. This means the excess that is ingested is safely released through your pee. These magic vitamins are Vitamin C and the B’s (B1,B2,B3,B6,B12) which can be swallowed all at once as a super B complex pill. Vitamin C ought to be every college kid’s best friend, especially near finals! These little suckers will save your immune system, prevent colds or lighten the blow once you catch one. The B vitamins are great for energy and even work as a mood booster and are often found in pre-workouts and energy drinks. Non water soluble vitamins can hinder your system because your body has to process and store the excess nutrients which over time takes a toll on your gallbladder, kidneys and liver. So I urge you to save the gut damage for the Beer Olympics and get a blood test done before going vita-crazy!
The gym rat holy trinity includes pre-workout, Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) and protein powder. Pre-workout is the cocaine of the supplement world: an amazing powder that boosts athletic performance by providing a blast of energy, making that one rep max seem a little lighter and that last mile feel a little shorter. Similar to cocaine, it is hard to know exactly what you are ingesting, so read your labels and do your research before cruising the isles of GNC (General Nutrition Center). BCAAs are great during strenuous workouts or right after them because they aid in protein synthesis; this process is slightly more advanced than seventh grade chem so I’ll just give you the synopsis. BCAAs help with muscle gain and maintain the muscle mass you already have. The last of our powdery friends is protein; a controversial aid in the plight to get swole. There are so many different types of proteins out there, from whey to hemp and even pea, making it hard to know which one to buy. Here is my two cents on which to choose: if you are comfortable with animal products consider Naked Whey/ Naked Casein or Select Protein. Naked Whey should be ingested right after a workout because it digests quickly, whereas casein digests slowly and is most effective when taken before bed. The Naked brand is healthy in that it is 100 percent pure whey/casein and is from grass fed cows. If you prefer a sweeter treat to make protein pancakes or shakes with then Select Protein may be a better choice. Select Protein contains both whey and casein and comes in flavors like snickerdoodle and peanut butter cup.
If working out seems extremely unappealing and you are needle averse, I have one last suggestion for you: apple cider vinegar. You do not need to get a blood test and it is not workout oriented. Apple cider vinegar helps the immune system by killing pathogens, lowers blood sugar levels and aids in weight loss by giving you that full feeling. So what’s the catch? This fermented liquid might actually be the grossest tasting thing on God’s green earth. My advice is to portion out about a tablespoon, mix with water and take it like you would a shot of tequila. There is no shame in needing a chaser on this occasion!
photo by reporter Kendall Swanson