The Science of Supplements


Dr. Erin Boynton

First, a caveat: Supplements are important to overall health, but they’re not a substitute for healthy eating. Sprinkling a few multivitamin gummies on a stuffed-crust, meat lover’s pizza doesn’t make for a well-balanced meal. Good nutrition starts with eating well. But it doesn’t end there.

You see, our fruits and vegetables aren’t what they used to be. Often, they’re grown in soil degraded by years of intensive farming, picked before they’re ripe, then trucked hundreds of miles to a warehouse. By the time they finally get to the grocery store, not only is the taste diminished, but the nutrition is diminished, too. Fortunately, supplements can help fill this nutritional gap, especially for athletes who require extra nutrients to repair their bodies and fuel their workouts.

However, not all supplements are created equal, and it’s hard to separate marketing hype from biological facts. So, before you bring that bottle of probiotics to the register, ask yourself these two questions.

1)    Is it bioavailable?

Just because a product is packed with nutrients, doesn’t mean your body can absorb them. Vitamins A,E,D and K, for example, are fat-soluble, and thus aren’t bioavailable unless eaten with fat. So, if you chug a bottle of vitaminwater on an empty stomach, all those vitamins will pass through your body unabsorbed.

Be mindful of marketing and be sure what you’re buying is bioavailable.

2)   Is it certified banned substances-free?

These days, athletes need to be careful. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is constantly updating its list of banned substances. What’s allowed today could be banned tomorrow.  Even if the supplement you’re buying is approved, it may be made in the same factory as a banned substance, containing enough traces for you to test positive and torpedo your career. Sure, it rarely happens, but it’s not worth the risk. If you want to be certain what you’re buying is banned substance-free, go with a company like USANA, which uses third-party testing to guarantee its products’ safety, or look for the Informed Choice logo on the product’s packaging.

USANA is a partner of Dr. Erin Boynton.