Your Ultimate Guide To Supplements: Part 2

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protein powder, protein shake, protein, shake

Today I’ve got the second part  of my ultimate guide to supplements.  If you missed last weeks post – Part 1 – click here now to get a quick review!  If you’re caught up, lets move on to the next set of 5 common supplements:  protein powders, creatine, iron, zinc and Vitamin C.

  • Protein Powders:  Powders or pre-made shakes have shot up in popularity.  They’re typically consumed to increase protein intake in order to help build muscle and strength.  Protein powders and shakes come in 3 forms:  whey (milk protein), casein (milk protein) and soy.  In very specific situations, protein supplementation can be useful.  But its important to note that even athletes can get all of their recommended daily protein through natural foods.  However, a vegan or someone beginning intense athletic training (lets say, training for an Iron Man or marathon) may benefit from the additional source of protein (vegans focusing on soy based products).  Much of the time, the extra protein from shakes and powders is either stored as fat (because you’re not burning enough calories to cover the extra protein – it does come with calories) or excreted because you’re body doesn’t need it.  So stick with good food sources of protein unless you want to be the next Michael Phelps.
  • Creatine:  An amino acid that is usually sold in powder form.  It’s been touted to increase strength, improve muscle recovery time, endurance and overall athletic performance.  In the body creatine is a natural substance that helps create creatine-phosphate and ultimately ATP – your body’s currency for energy.  Your body can produce some of the creatine it needs alone but it’s also found in meat and fish.  As great as it sounds, there are only mixed reviews of this supplement.  Some studies show a positive result, while others show that some people do not respond at all.  Although it has received some positive results, creatine supplements can cause dehydration and weight gain if consumed regularly.
  • Iron:  To get a little science-y on you, there are two types of iron – heme and non-heme.  Heme iron is found in animal foods while non-heme iron is found in vegetable-based foods.  Beside the source, the major difference between these types of iron is how well your body can absorb them – naturally our bodies prefer the heme iron.  However, studies have shown that combining plant-based sources of iron (spinach, lentils or beans) with Vitamin C rich foods can help boost absorption.  Pregnant women and those aged 14-50 need the highest amount of iron (a minimum of 18 mg for non-pregnant women and 27 mg for pregnant women).  Also female athletes, distance runners and vegetarian athletes generally have inadequate iron stores and may benefit from iron supplementation.  Men and postmenopausal women usually do not need the extra iron.  Those who do need additional iron should attempt to get it from their diets first.  However, if this is not possible iron supplements may be useful.  Ferrous iron salts (ferrous fumarate, ferrous sulfate, and ferrous gluconate) are the best absorbed forms of iron supplements – so look for this at the pharmacy.
  • Zinc:  Zinc is a mineral needed by the body to help the immune system and to make proteins and DNA.  Oddly enough, oysters are the absolute best source of zinc.  But for those of you who’d rather skip the bivalve, zinc is also found in red meat, seafood, fortified cereals and a tiny bit in beans.  For the most part, the only populations that should worry about consuming enough zinc are vegans or vegetarians.  It has been believed that zinc lozenges help prevent or shorten the common cold – but there’s no conclusive evidence on that yet.
  • Vitamin C:  Also known as ascorbic acid, Vitamin C is naturally found in citrus fruits and some vegetables.  Most people get more than enough Vitamin C from their diets.  However, some populations need slightly elevated levels – anyone who smokes or is exposed to second-hand smoke (due to the damaging effects cigarette smoke causes on cells) and anyone who has a limited and unvaried diet.  As far as taking a Vitamin C supplement for your cold?  Not really worth it – there is no scientific evidence to suggest that supplementation of Vitamin C prevents the common cold.  So stock up to tissues and hot tea!

Next friday will be the third and final part of my Ultimate Guide to Supplements.  Instead of reviewing vitamin and mineral supplements, I’ll focus on commonly used herbal supplements – St. John’s Wort, echinacea, ginkgo biloba, red clover and aloe vera.  See you next Friday!


Note:  Remember, supplements are not appropriate for everyone.  They are not reviewed by the government before they are marketed.   It is up to the supplement manufacturer to ensure their products are safe before they hit shelves.  Many supplements have interactions with prescription and over the counter medications so make sure to read the label carefully and speak to your doctor or registered dietitian before making any changes to or beginning a daily supplement routine.   For more information on vitamins, minerals and other supplements please visit the Office of Dietary Supplements.

1.  Zelman, Kathleen, RD. “Men’s Health.” Creatine Supplements: Usage and Side Effects. Men’s Health, 23 July 2012. Web. 10 Jan. 2013.
2.  “Using Dietary Supplements Wisely.” Home Page. Office of Dietary Supplements, n.d. Web. 03 Jan. 2013.
3.  Whitney, Eleanor Noss., and Sharon Rady. Rolfes. Understanding Nutrition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2002. Print
4.  “Protein Powder: What You Should Know.” WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 10 Jan. 2013.


  1. Pingback: Your Ultimate Guide to Supplements: Part 1 | Bean A Foodie

  2. Kiersten @ Oh My Veggies

    January 13, 2013 at 8:43 pm

    I love this post! I try my best to get my nutrition from whole foods, but when I know I’m not eating right, it’s nice to know what supplements are out there.

    • mewinebrenner

      January 16, 2013 at 3:42 pm

      Yea its definitely good just to cover your basis. But I agree, I rather EAT all my vitamins and minerals!

  3. Pingback: Ultimate Guide To Supplements: Part 3 | Bean A Foodie

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