Category Archives: Supplements

The Case for Supplementation

“Do you believe in supplements?” It’s a question often asked as if taking vitamins were based on some kind of blind faith that they will actually provide some benefit or serve some useful purpose.  Thankfully supplementation, as a progressive and proactive approach to healthcare, is not based on blind faith, but on a growing body of science that is finally taking its place along side other health sciences.  What I do believe is that more and more people are increasingly interested in nutrition as a means of improving their lives and preventing illness.  They want to live longer, healthier lives, look better, feel better, handle stress better, have more energy, and minimize their risk of everything from the common cold to cancer.

As Americans seek to attain longer, healthier lives, and to reduce chronic disease, the evidence to encourage the use of supplements grows stronger. A recent study commissioned by the Council for Responsible Nutrition estimated that 8.7 billion dollars could be saved on four major diseases if Americans consumed optimum levels of the antioxidants vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene.  Diets optimal in these nutrients have been shown to reduce costs associated with breast, lung and stomach cancer, and dramatically reduce the incidence and severity of cataracts.   Additionally, the council evaluated ten years of the best scientific studies related to the benefits of vitamin and mineral supplements and concluded that the long term benefits could reduce neural tube birth defects by 70 percent, sick days could be reduced by 50 percent, and health-care costs by delaying cardiovascular disease, stroke and hip fracture could be reduced by a staggering $89 billion per year.

And while perhaps some of these benefits could be derived from diet, most individuals do not eat the five servings of fruit and vegetables as recommended by the National Cancer Institute.  In fact, it has been estimated that less than 10 percent of Americans actually consume two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables per day and that over half eat no vegetables at all.  As for those of us who do practice better eating habits, and do include those daily five, we are still being left nutritionally void of many of the nutrients we believe we are consuming.

Food is not what it used to be.  Today our food is both less (nutritionally speaking) and more (chemically contaminated) than in the past.  On an average our food travels 1300 miles from farm to market shelf.  Nearly every state buys 90 percent of its food from out of the state.  Through irradiation, our food is bombarded with the equivalent of 233 billion chest x-rays to kill bacteria and extend shelf life.  Thirty percent of American dairy animals are fed genetically engineered bovine growth hormone.

Many modern agricultural practices adversely affect the quality of our food and its nutrient levels.  Many foods are grown using methods designed to increase quantity or to facilitate transportation and storage, and these methods often are detrimental to the nutritional value of the food. Modern farming methods also often degrade the quality of the soil in which our food is grown leaving it very low in minerals, and with added pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals that are added during the growing process. High nitrogen fertilizers accelerate growth so fruits and vegetables are marketable size, long before they have had time to absorb minerals or synthesize nutrients.  Often foods are not allowed to develop to their full level of vitamins and minerals, which increases greatly during later stages of growth. Fruits and vegetables are often picked before they are ripe, or allowed to ripen during transit to the market, which greatly diminishes their vitamin or mineral content. Transportation and storage can also adversely affect nutrient content of fruits and vegetables as they can start to lose significant amounts of vitamins as soon as they are cut or harvested. Transit time alone can provide for produce that has been severely depleted of its nutrient content.  Produce can lose as much as 50 percent of its carotene (pro-vitamin A) and 60 percent of its vitamin C within as little as three days of being harvested.  Additionally, certain fruits and vegetables can lose significant amounts of vitamins when they are stored at cold temperatures or even at room temperatures.  Green vegetables lose all of their vitamin C after just a few days of being stored at room temperature.  Drying, as well as exposure to light and oxygen also diminishes nutrient content.  And while some may argue that many foods have been grown with the addition of certain nutrients, the nutrients optimum for plant growth are not necessarily optimum for our consumption.  Chemical fertilizers that facilitate plant growth do not replace the minerals necessary for human nutrition.  Even organic fruits and vegetables, while they are free of pesticides, are still harvested and transported using these same practices, unfortunately also rendering them nutritionally insufficient.  And unfortunately, produce is not the only food group fallen victim to modern processing and refining practices. Whole grains have suffered probably the greatest injustice inflicted by the food industry.  When wheat is processed in to white flour, up to 40 percent of the vitamin C, 65-85 percent of the various B Vitamins, 59 percent of the magnesium and 72 percent of the zinc are lost along with significant amounts of protein and fiber.  All in all more than 26 essential nutrients are removed.  Even our meat, fish and dairy products do not contain the nutrients we assume they do.

Supplements are a way for us to make up for nutrients lost in our food as a result of growing, shipping storing and processing practices.  Incorporating a good multivitamin into your daily routine is a good start to optimizing your nutrition plan and one of the simplest ways to begin a supplement program.  But even making good supplement choices can be difficult and often confusing.  The following are a few tips to help assure you get the most out of your choice.

  1. Always buy well-known, reputable brands – this is more easily assured when you buy from reputable nutrition stores with a knowledgeable staff, willing to assist you in making the best choice for you.
  2. Always choose food based, rather than chemical based vitamins.  Food based vitamins are more bioavailable, contain nutrients as they occur in food, and are not made from by- products of the petrochemical (or gasoline) refining process.
  3. Choose a vitamin that is taken in divided doses throughout the day rather than “one a day”.  While it may seem a little less convenient to take three pills as opposed to one, it is necessary to replace certain nutrients throughout the day.  Many vitamins are out of your system, or completely used up within hours of ingestion.  It doesn’t really make much sense to have antioxidant protection for the first three hours of your day, and not the next twenty-one.  Time released multivitamins also leave you lacking in nutrients, as vitamins and minerals are absorbed through different points in your digestive system, and often the timed release is “releasing” past its point of absorption.
  4. Avoid multivitamins that only offer 100% of the RDA. The recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) were established more than fifty years ago as the minimum amount of nutrients needed to prevent deficiency diseases in most healthy people.  These amounts do not take into account environmental changes and our constant bombardment with pollutants, or individual needs based on age, stress or dietary considerations.
    A good example of this would be with Vitamin C.  The daily intake of Vitamin C required to prevent Scurvy is between 30-50mg.  That is approximately the amount found in one orange, lime, or lemon.  Years ago, before much was known about the many other biochemical roles of Vitamin C, the RDA for ascorbic acid was set at 60mg, the minimal amount to prevent Scurvy. Despite recommendations by the Food & Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences and the fact that over several decades many scientific studies have shown that optimum health requires many times more than 60mg of Vitamin C, the official RDA remains at 60mg.  Considering just one cigarette destroys approximately 500 mg. of Vitamin C (this includes second hand smoke), 60mg is well below the minimum necessary for those focusing on optimizing their health.

But remember, supplements are just that – supplements.  They should be taken in addition to, not in place of, an intelligent diet. Supplements will not make up for a diet high in refined carbohydrates and sugars and saturated fats, low in fiber, or a sedentary lifestyle.

As for the discouraging news about our produce, a visit to your local farmers’ market is well worth the trip.  This is one of the best ways to get vine ripened, fresh picked produce, that is more colorful, flavorful, and certainly more nutritious.

The Great Protein Shakedown

So you get it.  You’ve learned that protein is necessary to build and maintain lean muscle tissue, which is critical for maintaining or increasing metabolism.  You’ve also learned that eating several times a day can also help preserve and build lean muscle tissue and increase metabolism.  So supplementing protein once or twice throughout the day can certainly facilitate this process.

Sounds simple, right?  Not so fast.

Just when you thought you’ve got it down, you’re finding out that now you are faced with the task of choosing the RIGHT protein supplement.  Not all protein products are created equal, in fact, some products marketed as protein shakes, actually contain very little protein and are loaded with sugar and/or fat completely contrary to the goal you’re trying to achieve.

So how do we begin to make a good choice?

First and foremost when choosing a protein Shake, or any supplement or food, for that matter, READ YOUR LABELS!  This is critical!

If you are choosing a prepackaged, pre-mixed product for convenience, make sure you choose one that at least uses a high quality protein source such as whey or soy, or a blend of whey, soy and casein, and that isn’t loaded with sugar and fat.  Many products claim to be “high in protein”, but upon examination of the Nutrition Facts we discover there is more than a 4 to 1 ratio of sugar to protein.  Slim Fast, advertised to be a nutritious way to loose weight, high in protein and vitamins, and now with heart healthy soy, forgets to mention the ingredient it’s highest in — sugar! With more than 42 grams of carbohydrates, 36 grams from sugar (that’s equal to 9, yes NINE teaspoons of pure white sugar), I hardly see this as a “healthy” way to loose weight.  It’s more like a fast rollercoaster ride through spikes in blood sugar and insulin, inconsistent energy levels, and “yoyo” dieting. The very things that have led to the epidemic of obesity and diabetes.

They also forget to mention the isoflavone content (the compounds that actually give soy all of its health benefits) of their soy product – could it be because they are not actually in the product?
A typical problem with soy products, now that they are now realizing such popularity because of their health benefits, is that manufacturers, for the sake of cost and flavor, are using cheaper sources of soy that have low or no isoflavones.

LaBrada – Shakes and Muscle Milk in TetraPaks (cardboard cartons) are decent choices in pre mixed high protein low carb, low fat products.

Again here, you need to watch out for cheap knockoffs of these products that use less quantity and lower quality protein in a similar product made to look like the original higher quality product.  It’s easy to get suckered at a large discount store or drugstore when you see a familiar brand name or packaging of a “reputable” product for a great price, only to find later that the price was “great” because the product actually has very little value.  Many sports supplement companies that have been in the business for a long time and have gained reputation and name recognition, have ventured into the “quick buck from the masses who are suckers for weight loss products market” and have actually manufactured cheaper product look-alikes containing extremely low quality proteins and flavored with cheaper ingredients, high in sugars and hidden saturated or trans saturated fats.  Again, READ YOUR LABELS!  The brand name and the package often don’t mean much.

Even label claims can be completely misleading.  You would think a drink called Carb Solutions, for “low carb dieters” would be a fairly safe choice.  Upon closer examination, you will find that in fact the carbs are low, (so is the protein quality for that matter), and if you don’t mind 18 grams of fat from the #1 ingredient – CREAM, you are okay!  I guess “for low carb, high fat dieters” would be a bit of an oxymoron, and “increases the risk of cardiovascular disease” wouldn’t be a good selling point on the label.

Your best choice, to assure the highest quality in a protein, would be to choose a powdered product you mix yourself.  You say “yuk – inconvenient and lumpy!” Wrong.  Gone are the days where they are all clumpy, nasty tasting powders that must be mixed in the blender with all kinds of things added to cover the awful taste. A powder like OptiPRO M is a delicious protein that mixes easily in water, milk or any beverage with just a spoon or shaker.  No mess, no clumps, no awful taste, just 100% high quality protein.  And, with a product like this, you actually get more high quality protein, with other added nutrients and health benefits than the premixed shakes, and for less cost per serving – a little more than $1 per scoop.

Be aware, however, that even within the world of protein powders, the quality levels differ drastically.  Why does this matter?  The lower the quality protein, the less bioavailable it is, or the less your body is able to absorb. Proteins even within the same family, such as whey, may range in quality from isolate being the highest quality and the purest form, with the most biolavailabity, to concentrate, which is much less absorbable.  Look for products that contain the isolate forms of whey and soy proteins.  These are the highest quality and most bioavailable forms of two of the best protein sources for burning fat and building lean muscle tissue. Whey is very easily absorbed and is high in Branched Chained Amino Acids – critical to building muscle. Soy is high in the amino acids Glutamine and Arginine, which are essential to tissue repair, immune function, and assist in fat loss and blood sugar regulation.  Together they provide an optimized amino acid profile for fat loss and lean tissue gains.  Soy also provides the additional benefits of antioxidant, anti carcinogenic protection, regulating cholesterol, promoting cardiovascular health, stabilizing blood sugar, and balancing hormones in both men and women.  Blending a high quality whey, which is very quickly digested, with another high quality, but slower digesting protein, will also provide you with the benefit of feeling fuller, longer.

Again, with blended products, not all proteins are created equally. Beware of label loopholes! A product may claim – (this is where the labels get misleading and confusing) to be 100% whey, and contain whey protein isolate. However, when you read the ingredients on the label, the first ingredient is some trademarked, proprietary name for the protein.  Then, in parenthesis, you see a list of several different types of protein, including isolate.

The parenthesis is the labeling loophole that allows the manufacturer to not list ingredients in the order of amount in the product.

For example, whey protein isolate may be listed first within that parenthesis and whey protein concentrate last, however, the product could very well consist of 99% cheap protein concentrate or worse, hydrolyzed protein (gelatin – very unabsorbable) with no more than a sprinkling of isolate – just enough to list it on the label.  You will find this on most of the large “value” size protein products – this explains their great “value.”  It’s cheap to make a protein powder with hardly any protein in it.  Also beware of exaggerated claims.  Most claims on a certain product are not about that specific product at all, but refer to an ingredient, which might be common to all the other products, also.  For example, “builds muscle 200 times faster”.  200 times faster than what?  Any protein builds muscle 200 times faster than not eating at all.

So, Caveat Emptor! Or Let the Buyer Beware!  Cheap and convenient don’t always end up being best and usually not even cheap.  Hopefully, armed with a little more information, you will be able to find a convenient cost effective protein product with what it takes to produce the results you are looking for.  My best advice – Read your labels, be careful, do your homework, know if it sounds too good to be true it just might be, and always buy from a reputable source where you can be assured they stand behind the quality of their products and where there is someone who can help you sort through claims, hype and misleading, confusing labels to assure you the highest quality, most cost effective product, that fits into your lifestyle and your goals.

Diet supplements for endurance athletes

By far more important than any known nutritional supplements to your sports career are the micro- and macro-nutrients —- real food. Still more important yet is that you learn how to integrate all of the technologies available to you in your quest of peak performance. That most certainly should include some of the following supplements:


Protein – OptiPRO M Adequate amounts of protein are necessary for both tissue repair and for the prevention of catabolization of muscle tissue. OptiPRO M provides an optimized amino profile with added glutamine and digestive enzymes in a great tasting easily mixable powder.

L-Glutamine – TAG
L-Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in our muscle tissue necessary for tissue repair and immune function. Glutamine, however, is hard for the body to absorb because of its molecular structure. TAG’s advanced multi-action peptide-bonded powder guarantees absorption and improves endurance, recovery and immune defense. TAG supports accelerated protein synthesis and helps counteract muscle deterioration known as catabolism.

Essential Fatty Acids
Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are “good fats”, which are essential for cardio-vascular health, their ability to inhibit prostaglandins which cause inflammation, neuro-transmitter function — memory, cognition, focus, and the prevention of neuro-degenerative diseases, the transport of hormones and the utilization of fat for energy. Ultra-high lignan flax oil and fish oils are good sources of these fats.

Daily Multi-Vitamins
While a good diet may in fact contain all the good things we need, many factors such as environment, stress, medication, age, gender, and race may destroy, impact or interfere with many vitamins and minerals. Even light, air, heat and water can destroy many vitamins. Studies have now shown supplementing with a good multi-vitamin substantially benefits your health. The best multi-vitamins are food based and should be taken in divided doses throughout the day.

Co-enzyme Q10 or Ubiquinone
CoQ10 is a natural fat-soluble nutrient present in virtually all of our cells and most abundant in the heart, which attests to its biologic significance. CoQ10 is vital to ATP production, which is used for all energy requiring processes in the body. A cell’s ATP production is dependent on adequate amounts of CoQ10. CoQ10 is also a powerful anti-oxidant and helps re-circulate other vital anti-oxidants.



Creatine – OptiATP
A new form of creatine containing the hydrating agent glycerol and lactic acid buffering phosphate. Phosphate is a well-known lactic acid buffering agent that has been used to enhance performance. Creatine aids in the production of creatine phosphate, the high-energy molecule used in maximal intensity exercise. Creatine phosphate also works to regenerate ATP. OptiATP has been specifically designed to support all aspects of cellular/muscular energy production for greater power, performance, and recovery for the anaerobic or aerobic athlete.

Oxydrene or Oxy Caps
A proprietary blend of the herbs clinically proven to increase oxygen saturation in blood and tissue increasing energy, stamina and endurance. Reduces catecholamines from ephedra products. Oxydrene maximizes your body’s ability to build muscle, reduce fat and increase performance. That’s why Oxydrene is often called “the secret weapon of winners.”

NO2 is a powerful performance enhancing hemodilator (blood oxygenator) which accelerates fast and slow twitch fibers providing complete full body recovery, increased power output and endurance.

Endurox Excel
This product is a strain of Siberian ginseng named Ciwujiia. It has been reported to increase fat utilization during exercise. As it is a ginseng it has been a beneficial effect on increasing stamina.

Liquid Liver Extract with Siberian Ginseng
Aids performance by increasing red blood cell count which in turn enables more oxygen to be transported and utilized. Liquid Liver is like nature’s Procrit (EPO).

This amino acid is vital for fatty acid utilization to produce energy. Some studies indicate it may improve VO2 Max at 4000mg/day. It is an excellent nutrient for the heart and is synergistic with coenzyme Q10. The recommended dosage is 4g.


Electrolyte replacement during exercise can vary as much as ten fold between two athletes. No other area of fueling can drop you out of the competition as quickly as electrolyte depletion or overdose. The risk of incorrect electrolyte dosing in a pre-mixed drink is high as too much fluid and too few electrolytes would mean bad news for your stomach, your muscles, and your performance. Sodium alone cannot effectively replenish electrolyte needs and may cause more problems than it resolves.

Endurolytes is an electrolyte replacement product that assures your of getting all the right minerals (sodium chloride, calcium chelate, magnesium chelate, and potassium chelate) in exactly the right balance. Endurolytes come in conveniently dosed capsules which can be swallowed or opened and mixed into your own water bottle.

Krebs Chelate Potassium/Magnesium
Can help prevent cramping when full electrolyte replacement is not necessary. Magnesium is necessary for cellular energy production. It aids in sparing potassium in the body and optimizes calcium utilization. It works synergistically with carnitine and coenzyme Q10. (Magnesium is a prevalent ingredient in the Maganosol creatine.)


Hydration/Recovery Drinks

The gold standard in hydrating drinks during exercise. Cytomax has proven to lower lactic acid level during and after exercise, stabilize power output during intense exercise, reduce perceived exertion, reduce oxygen consumption, and increase recuperation rate.

An excellent recovery drink for post-workout. Two recent studies demonstrate EnduroxR4 increases endurance up to 55% and decreases post-exercise muscle stress by 36%. The studies also show that it increases insulin levels by 70%, thereby aiding in glycogen replenishment and protein synthesis. EnduroxR4 also re-hydrates as effectively as other sports drinks.

Carbohydrate Gels/Powders

These products aid in delaying the onset of fatigue by providing an available source of carbohydrate to suppress glycogen usage. Studies from exercise physiology have shown that intake of carbohydrates during aerobic exercise can improve performance and prolong exercise endurance.

Hammer Gel
Hammer Gel stands alone in today’s glutted market of energy products. It’s made with long-chain complex carbohydrates for smooth, consistent energy release with only a trace of sugar as to not set off insulin spikes causing “sugar high” and “sugar crash.” Hammer Gel is an easily digested concentrated source of complex carbohydrates with amino acids added to enhance performance and prolong energy levels during intense training and competition. Drink it straight, dilute it or use it to flavor other components before, during or after exercise.

GU, Power Gel, CarbBoom may also be used, but contain more sugars and less long-chain carbohydrates that Hammer Gel.

Sustained Energy
Sustained Energy is a carbohydrate powder that contains a superior blend of complex carbohydrates, a precise amount of protein and a few carefully selected micro-nutrients that work synergistically to provide consistent long-lasting energy. Without any added flavors or sweeteners, it has a pleasant neutral flavor. May be mixed with Hammer Gel, Cytomax or OptiPRO M depending on carb/protein ratio desire.