In the quest to lead a healthy, active lifestyle, there are always areas we can stand to improve. While it is true that we are human and whatever works for each of us good enough, there are times that, from a health perspective, don’t always go as we plan—specifically when it comes to getting our share of vitamins and minerals. Maybe we’re cutting things out of our diets, or perhaps we simply didn’t have time to get enough of the types of foods that help fuel our bodies on a given day.
The things we put into our bodies, in addition to our fitness routines, are absolutely crucial and beneficial to living a full life. Things like diet restrictions and lack of sunlight have a negative impact on our bodies, leaving us depleted in certain areas. For many people, supplements offer benefits.
Kelly Hogan, MS, RD, CDN, clinical nutrition and wellness manager at Dubin Breast Center at the Mount Sinai Hospital, says she believes food comes first. “When it comes to women who are exercising and working out a lot, the food they are putting into their bodies is what is going to help fuel and recover during and after their workouts the most.”
What does she consider to be most important? Quality protein (eggs or lean meat, for example), complex carbohydrates (whole grains or green beans), healthy fats (salmon and avocado, for example) and a lot of colorful fruits and vegetables, which she says provide “a huge variety of vitamins and minerals in their natural state and are more efficient than taking a supplement.”
Hogan especially stresses the need for protein (“it’s key for muscle recovery”) and carbohydrates for endurance activities like running. Still, there are some instances where food alone is not enough to satisfy the many vitamins and minerals our bodies need to thrive and feel their best. In those cases, Hogan says there are a few key supplements available that are especially helpful for people who want to keep in tip top, fit shape.
While Hogan says this supplement is geared toward people who don’t like to eat fatty fish, omega-3 fatty acids are crucial to have in our diets, especially because we don’t produce them ourselves. “We need to get them from an external source, which is fish. If we are not eating a lot of fish, this supplement can be helpful,” she says. “When it comes to being good for active people, though, it’s a really powerful anti-inflammatory. It can help with recovery after a workout and help with muscle soreness, helping us feel better faster for our next workout. It has many benefits for brain and heart health, too. But for younger females the recovery point between workouts is a bit more important.”
Vitamin D and Calcium
Hogan says that many of us are vitamin D deficient, due to the fact that it is found “in very little food to begin with.” While we can get it from the sun, “this time of year we might not be getting that much sunlight.” A vitamin D deficiency means that we can’t absorb calcium as efficiently. “If we’re working out a lot and we’re not absorbing calcium, we increase our risk for things like stress fractures and bone health in the long run, too,” she says. “It’s definitely a priority for most people to take.” For people who don’t eat many foods with calcium, Hogan says taking a vitamin D supplement with calcium helps, too.”Often they go hand in hand, which is totally fine if you have someone who is wanting to limit of supplements they’re taking. Vitamin D is more important than calcium because we can get calcium from more foods: dairy, leafy greens, broccoli. But you can take both supplements together.”
Thanks to their benefits, probiotics are near perfect, especially if you “don’t eat things like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut or kombucha,” Hogan says. “Taking a probiotic if a great way to promote a healthy bacteria in the gut, which is such a hot topic right now,” she adds. “Gut health plays an essential role in immunity and inflammation, which goes back to helping your body recover from inflammation during exercise. Also, exercise promotes immunity as do probiotics, so it can increase it even more. It obviously also helps keep you regular and feeling good that way, too.”