More on Supplements

High doses of vitamins and improper balance of minerals may be toxic to your body. For example too much vitamin A can cause neurological problems while an excess of one mineral can interfere with the function of another. Of the many known nutrients, protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins A, C, thiamin, niacin, and calcium, are deemed necessary for high level functioning.

Caffeine in small dosages has been shown to enhance endurance performance in elite and recreational athletes. One theory is that caffeine spares glycogen in muscle and utilizes free fatty acids for energy. In addition, caffeine increases alertness and decreases fatigue. Finally, caffeine may improve sodium, potassium, and calcium balance within the working muscles.

Carnitine is alleged to metabolize fat so you lose weight. In reality, carnitine facilitates the transfer of fatty acids into the mitochondria where they are burned for fuel. There is no evidence however that carnitine decreases body fat.
Choline and chromium were purported to increase strength and decrease body fat. Neither of these products have been shown to facilitate any of these claims. Coenzyme Q 10 has been used as a supplement for years in Japan as an aid to endurance. Studies have shown no benefit.

Ginseng is a wonder drug from Asia that is supposed to be a cure all. There has not been enough research to demonstrate any benefits however.

Lecithin is an emulsifying agent and helps in digestion and absorption of fat. The body produces ample amounts of lecithin, therefore supplementation will not decrease body fat as suggested.

Metabolic bars such as PR Bars are comprised of 40 percent carbohydrate, 30 percent protein, and 30 percent fat. They have not been shown to increase fat metabolism as suggested in the advertisements.

Too often I see people washing down a candy bar with a diet soft drink. Maybe they are thinking a diet soft drink has ten teaspoons less sugar than a regular one, and that they are saving calories. Or possibly they wouldn't have eaten the candy bar if they had chosen a sugared drink in the first place. Or perhaps the candy bar was a reward for stomaching a sugarless drink. Regardless of the motivation, there seems to be at least two good reasons to use artificial sweeteners. The first is to prevent tooth decay. The second is to add some flavor to an otherwise sugar-less diabetic diet. However there is no evidence that sugar free products help people reduce calories or prevent obesity. The same with fat free products. Some people think fat free means calorie free, so they gulp a whole box of fat free cookies in a single sitting.

Taking in less saturated fat is beneficial from the standpoint of dropping total blood cholesterol. But it is also true that to lose weight you must create a calorie deficit by burning up more calories than you consume.Using sugar and fat free products may help you cut down, but you cannot trick your body into "thinking" it is taking in less calories. And because dosages of aspartame have not been proven safe, ingest these products in moderation.

Chromium picolinate is a trace mineral found in mushrooms, prunes, cereals, whole grain breads, and nuts. It is not readily absorbed in the body, so supplement manufacturers bound chromium with picolinate to ease absorption into the system.Chromium picolinate was introduced to the American public in the 1980's. Early research suggested one 200 microgram tablet taken daily could help you gain muscle and lose fat. Imprecise measurement techniques in those studies were discovered, and the research was deemed faulty. When experimenters tried to replicate their results, there was no significant gain in muscle or decrease in body fat. Furthermore, recent anecdotal reports suggest that excess chromium picolinate may cause anemia, chromosome damage, and cognitive impairment. (One 200 microgram tablet of chromium each day costs about 43 cents.)

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Bodybuilders and strength athletes have been popping these for years. The RDA suggests we only need .8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight each day. However recent research by Lemon and Gontzen demonstrated that endurance athletes and weight trainers need between 1.2 and 1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of lean mass each day. They hypothesized that increased amino acids promoted protein synthesis and decreased muscle loss during heavy strength and endurance training. (Generic amino acids cost about $2.00 a day.)

DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone) is touted as the fountain of youth. It is advertised to increase muscle, decrease body fat, and increase energy. DHEA is produced in the adrenal gland and is an androgen. It is found in yams and sold in health food stores. Only a few carefully performed studies have been performed on DHEA. Two investigations reported significant increases in androgenic steroid blood levels along with feelings of physical and psychological well being. It is still unknown whether DHEA actually increases muscle and reduces fat. Side effects include hair loss, voice deepening, and irreversible virilization in women. Without longitudinal studies it is difficult to predict long term effects. One group of researchers suggest that if DHEA truly increases circulating testosterone, then it may predispose men to prostate cancer. (DHEA costs about $1.30 per day.)

HMB (beta hydroxy beta methylbutyrate) is a metabolite of the branched chain amino acid leucine. You can find HMB naturally occurring in breast milk, catfish, and citrus fruit. HMB is purported to decrease protein catabolism (breakdown) so you can actually increase your muscle mass. Research in animals and humans have been favorable. Studies demonstrated that human subjects taking between 1.5 to 3.0 grams of HMB daily, showed significant gains in muscle. No side effects from taking HMB have been seen, but further research is needed. (HMB costs about $2.50 per day.)