Browsing through any supermarket these days, you are
likely to find an abundance of pre-packaged, portable
energy bars and drinks that claim to do everything
from helping you lose weight to lowering your
cholesterol and blood pressure. There are protein
powders to boost your energy, shake mixes that
provide nutrition without the fat content, and of
course there are vitamin supplements. And what about
the dietary supplements?
If you feel confused, you are not alone. How do you
select the best product for your needs? Which ones
are safe and healthy and which ones might be
to your health?
First, check with your doctor to find out if you actually
need any nutritional supplements and if so, which
might be the best for you. Carefully research the
supplements you are considering. We hope some of
the important factors and tips that we've listed here
will help to inform your choice and make your decision
a little easier.
Energy Bars and Drinks
For starters, it is helpful to understand that the terms
"Energy Bar" or "Energy Drink" simply mean a bar or
drink that contains calories. Anything that has calories
will give you energy. While many of these products do
contain a number of nutrients, they should never be a
replacement for food.
Your choices depend on whether you are looking for an
occasional meal replacement, a quick pick-me-up, or a
vitamin supplement to augment your vitamin and
• Look for a product that has at least 15 grams of
protein, 3-5 grams of fiber and approximately 35
percent of the Required Daily Allowance (RDA) for
• Look for a product that is low in fat (less than 5-8
grams). Also look at the type of fat included. Try to
avoid saturated fats such as hydrogenated oils
(coconut oil or palm kernel oil) that clog your arteries
and can increase your risk for heart disease. Instead,
find products that are made with less saturated fat,
as canola and vegetable oil.
• If you're watching your weight, check the calorie
content. Some products, such as Clif Bars® contain
about 240-250 calories, whereas Luna Bars® contain
about 170-180 calories.
• Watch the sugar content. In order to improve taste
and sales some of these items contain as much sugar
as a typical candy bar. Avoid products that list sugar
as one of the main ingredients. High-fructose corn
syrup, maltodextrin and cane syrup are basically
• Avoid using these products as a food replacement
too often. Although these items have many vitamins
and nutrients that are required everyday, they are
often missing some basic and essential ingredients
found in most foods. Instead of an energy bar for your
next snack, grab a container of yogurt or a bowl of
• As a general rule, you should always choose whole
foods over shakes and bars.
• Several powdered drink mixes, such as MET-Rx® and
Myoplex, are better for you than the shakes and bars.
This is because they are often very low in fat and they
are sweetened with Aspartame (which contains no
calories) instead of refined sugar.
• If you want to increase your stamina during exercise,
look for a product that contains a lot of protein, such
as the Ironman PR bar, which is about 30 percent
40 percent carbohydrates, and 30 percent fat.
• Look for a product that contains between 30 and 50
grams of carbohydrates, the amount your body
requires for an hour of exercise.
• Avoid consuming energy bars or drinks too soon
before you work out or exercise. If you do, you may
experience problems digesting the food and suffer a
stomachache. Ideally, you should consume a high
carbohydrate energy supplement at least one hour
• Look for a product that contains approximately 35
percent of the RDA for vitamins and minerals. If you
consume multiple bars or beverages on a given day,
make sure you don't consume too many additional
vitamins from other sources.
Before taking any supplement, it's a good idea to
speak with a health care provider or nutrition
specialist to discuss which supplements are right for
you. It's especially important to seek the advice of a
professional if you're taking other medications. Some
supplements, when taken in combination with other
medications, can create adverse reactions.
What is a Dietary Supplement?
A dietary supplement contains at least one FDA (U.S.
Food and Drug Administration) defined "dietary
ingredient" such as vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino
acids, enzymes, organ and glandular tissues,
metabolites, extracts or concentrates. These
supplements are sold in many different forms,
including pills, capsules and powders.
Dietary Supplements are not regulated by the FDA
This means that the different product brands may vary
in the amount of the active ingredient that they
contain. This also means that various claims can be
made about the products that are not backed by
studies or research proving that they are safe and
effective. If you're considering taking a dietary
supplement, it's very important that you check with
your doctor first.
for Purchasing Supplements
Natural does not always mean safe.
• Look for herbal supplements manufactured by
and well-known companies.
• Be aware of the possible side effects of the
supplement. If you experience negative side effects,
stop taking the supplement immediately and contact
• Make sure you know how the supplement interacts
with other medicines, both prescription and over-the-
• Take the supplement as recommended. Do not take
more than the recommended dosage.
Some Controversial Dietary Supplements or
Ephedrine is a common ingredient found in many
dietary supplements used for weight loss. It has been
found to slightly decrease appetite, but no studies
have found it to be an effective weight loss
supplement. It can also be very dangerous, causing
high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, insomnia,
nervousness, tremors, seizures and heart attacks. It
may also be listed as Ma Huang, a natural form of
HCA (Hydroxycitric Acid)
HCA is a compound found in Garcinia cambogia, a type
of fruit. It inhibits a key enzyme responsible for
converting carbohydrates into fats and cholesterol. In
some animal studies, HCA has effectively reduced
appetites and decreased cholesterol. Currently, the
effectiveness of HCA for weight loss in humans
Xenadrine in an herbal weight loss formula that
contains ephedra, a source of ephedrine. Some studies
have shown that it can reduce appetite and increase
fat burning. However, side effects include increased
nervousness, irritability, insomnia, muscle tremors,
increased blood pressure and heart rate. The FDA
reports that in severe cases, people can suffer heart
attacks and stroke.
Provided by ISL Consulting Co.