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Taking the Right Supplements

Supplements are designed to provide nutrients that we don’t get in our normal diets. It is now recommended that everybody take at least a multivitamin and mineral supplement daily. You may find that other supplements increase your health, your energy or your exercise ability. Here are some of the nutrients that are commonly supplemented:

• Carbohydrates. You only need carb supplements during periods of intense physical activity. In those instances, it helps to eat an energy bar or drink every hour or two.

• Protein. Few people in developed countries need extra protein. The exception is when you are performing strength training and trying to build muscle. A protein supplement before and after exercise can make your workouts more effective. Creatine, a specific amino acid, is another supplement that can benefit strength training.

• Fats. Surprisingly, most of us do benefit from taking an omega 3 fat supplement.

• Vitamins and minerals. As mentioned above, we all need extra vitamins and minerals. In addition to a good multivitamin, there are times when you need even more of specific vitamins and minerals:

o During pregnancy and lactation, you need extra folic acid, iron and calcium.

o After age 50 you need extra calcium (men, too), vitamin B12, folate and vitamin D.

• Antioxidants. There is some evidence that we may need extra antioxidants, such as vitamins A, C and E, Coenzyme Q10 and others, especially on days where we engage in strength training or strenuous exercise.

• Phytonutrients. These have definite health benefits, and are included in many supplements. You should get most phytonutrients from eating plenty of fruits and vegetables.

• Probiotics. People with chronic bowel problems or immune deficiencies may benefit from probiotic supplements. They are very helpful in replenishing normal intestinal bacteria and flora after taking antibiotics.

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