A walk around my local health store is quite an experience. A huge abundance of vitamins, minerals and every other supplement known to man. Not only are they easily accessible but they make claims which the average individual has no idea how to interpret. Under a variety of circumstances a person especially an athlete will make an emotional buying decision on a product advocating a cure from illness such as the common cold to promises of sports performance gains on a wide range of levels.
Little does the health store tourist understand that his little purchase spree might not be of any benefit but in actual fact harmful to his or her health depending on a number of factors which were never taken into account.
As a sports nutritionist I would never advocate a mineral or vitamin without the facts at hand and that is without a doubt a snap shot of an individuals health as a starting point. I would want to know what kind of lifestyle the individual has, what kind of an athlete he or she is and the daily demands which may impact their health status on a number of levels from lack of sleep to many hours of travelling or desk bound for most of the day. Then comes the crucial question which is, what does the individual eat and drink throughout the day and the meal timing that goes with it.
How can anyone expect to walk into a health store buy a product off the shelf and expect an amazing turn around time in health or performance. As the actress Sher once stated “If fitness came in a bottle, everyone would have a great body” . So, I am sorry to burst your bubble but there are NO quick fixes in life. It takes hard work and effort, and if you gained 20kg’s over a 2 year period it doesn’t mean it will come off in 2 months it took time to put it there it will take time to take it off.
Lets go back to the point of my discussion which is really the topic of supplementation. I often get asked about multivitamins and mineral consumption especially what has the best benefit for an athlete. Its like the oil industry additives can make the difference between jet fuel and a lubricant.
In truth I am not a fan of anything without being able to answer the questions I posed earlier on. I will always deep dive into a persons health and lifestyle to make an educated decision, but when I am not convinced I will dive even deeper.
I am going to take a step back here.
As a human being you might not have been living the most stellar lifestyle. Nutrition might be average, sleep not the best and yet each day you will attempt to add some physical activity to your daily routine.
I often use the analogy of comparing a human being to a motor vehicle. A vehicle has an outer shell, could be a Lamborghini, VW Beetle or a Mini-Van. The vehicle has an engine and the type of vehicle it is will determine the engines ability to perform. It could be a high performance vehicle or just a slow comfortable drive. If you are going on a long journey in your vehicle for a few days you will make sure that vehicle is in excellent condition. Tire treads perfect, windscreen wipers working, fuel topped up, oil checked car sent for its annual or bi-annual service to make sure you get to your destination safely. The minute you put your foot on that accelerator and place the vehicle under stress you need to be sure its going to withstand it and get you to where you are going.
Now the human body can also be compared to a vehicle. It has an outer shell, whether lean or plump and it has an incredible engine made up of major organs, a musculoskeletal system for motion and of course a fuel tank to propel it. As a human being you have chosen a journey as well. It could be the finish line of a marathon, half marathon or an ultra distance event. Believe me when I say that the day you start training for this event is the day your own engine begins to be placed under stress. If your own engine is not in good working order you are just asking for trouble. When I ask athletes how do they know their engines are in good working order they just say they know. Its the most ridiculous answer I have ever heard. Its impossible to know what is going on inside your body without actually having a very clear picture.
Most of you will have sent your cars for services in the last year but I can bet on it that you have not even bothered to service your own vehicles. Now you are just about to place it or are already placing it under major stress and you have no idea if you are going to burst a pipe and trigger a major illness, injury or at worst case heart failure.
When last were you at a medical check up and what were your results? I find it such an irony that people in general value their own motor vehicles more than they do their own body’s. Car washes are loaded to keep the vehicles nice, shiny and new. Petrol and oil preferences are always debated especially to give your motor vehicle the best fuel burn rates and your car is treated like your baby. Your body is just abused. It is time to wake up. If your body fails you wont even need a motor vehicle.
Get your own vehicle serviced and make sure its done properly. Bloods don’t lie. If there are any vitamin or mineral deficiencies they can be picked up in blood tests. If there are health issues they will be detected, and only then do you decide with professional advice how to treat if needed. If supplementation is needed that will purely be based on the results of your testing to make sure its the correct decision. I cannot stress this enough, but taking a supplement, vitamin or mineral for the sake of taking it without understanding why and if its required is in simple terms stupid. The highly advertised vitamin drips, and health store aisles loaded with supplements should be approached with absolute caution and one needs to understand exactly what they are treating and how. Consult an expert if you are not sure, but do not succumb to the masses who spend money on damaging their health as opposed to fortifying it.
Know your health status, understand your body’s requirements intimately and give it the proper fuel it deserves.
Mark Wolff is an endurance, sports nutrition and physiology expert with over 20 years experience. An endurance multisport athlete with a triathlon, mountain biking and weight lifting background, he works extensively with professional and amateur athletes in a variety of sports disciplines as well as those just wanting to change their lifestyles. He firmly believes that a person can only reach their full potential when their health and nutrition is down packed. Mark’s focus on nutrition and physiology is not just on training and racing, but he places major emphasis on recovery, immune system health, emotional stability, stress management and performance. Mark is co-founder of 32Gi, a sports nutrition company, focused mainly on health and endurance nutrition. He is a certified sports nutrition expert as well as a marathon, track, triathlon and cycling coach. He spends most of his time guiding athletes with a very holistic approach to blending training and nutrition for performance and health