With the abundant choices of supplements, it can get confusing and overwhelming to choose the right one for you. Unless you are a biologist, chemist, nutritionist, and clinical researcher all rolled into one, knowing if a supplement will help you achieve your health and fitness goals can be an arduous task.
So, you wander into a store that carries a wide array of supplements and you have a salesperson trying to convince you to buy something that may or may not give them a nice commission, or you probably hear from your friends that they tried something, or even see ads online, in a magazine, on television and your curiosity is piqued. But how does one really decide on what the right supplement is to achieve his goal?
These are the things I always consider when buying supplements:
1. Quality Assurance
Organizations and quality seals can indicate that the supplement has been through thorough examination by a third-party to make sure that it is of the best quality before it is made available to the market.
2. Therapeutic Dosages
For any supplement to work, you have to know the minimum amount of nutrient required for it to provide any real benefit, that is what we call therapeutic dosage.
If it is a single-ingredient supplement, the content amount in a serving should be clearly stated on the label. A multi-ingredient supplement, on the other hand, like a multivitamin containing many nutrients, should be labeled separately.
You also have to know what a proprietary blend. These are the supplements that contain several ingredients combined. Supplements that use proprietary formulas only need to show the ingredients in the formula and the total amount of all combined ingredients. Companies are not required to list the amount of each ingredient separately.
3. Other Ingredients
Apart from the active ingredients, supplements are required by law to list all inactive ingredients. What are inactive ingredients? Inactive ingredients are components of a drug product that do not increase or affect the therapeutic action of the active ingredients. They are added during the manufacturing process of pharmaceutical products. These ingredients can include binders, coatings, colorings, and flavorings. Some of these are needed to hold the supplement together to be easily swallowed. We should be wary, though, because some additives are unnecessary and unhealthy.
4. Ingredients Proven to Work
Two simple things: You have to know why a particular ingredient was used in a supplement and whether it has been clinically proven to support health. Some companies do this work for you, while others provide links to outside studies. As for me, I tend to do my own research and use the following third-party sources:
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health
- University of Maryland Medical Center Complementary and Alternative Medicine Guide
- University of Michigan Integrative Medicine
We all want to save money, but price is correlated to quality - that is the reality. You do not want to purchase dirt-cheap supplements without thoroughly examining the labels or researching about the company.
6. Expiration and Manufacturing Dates
Always, always look for an expiration date. Some nutrients, like calcium and other minerals, maintain their potency for several years. However, others like vitamins B and C have a much shorter shelf life. The FDA does not require these dates on supplement bottles, so some do not bother putting them. But if I were you, you should want to know when the product was made and how long it will last you.
In a time when there’s almost something for every need, we should be wary of what we put into our bodies because we only have one and we ought to take care of it.