The Importance of Supplements
Vitamins and minerals are crucial for the normal functioning of our cells. Each of these compounds has several physiological and biochemical roles.
Unfortunately, many people suffer from vitamin deficiencies, which may lead to dire consequences, especially in severe cases.
In the recent past, the prevalence of deficiencies was extremely high due to poor dietary choices and socioeconomic conditions.
To counter this phenomenon, many governments around the world chose to fortify common foods with vitamins and minerals.
For instance, salt is commonly fortified with iodine since its deficiency causes goiter and other thyroid gland problems.
Despite these efforts, there is still a substantial number of patients that present to the doctor’s office with signs and symptoms of a deficiency.
In this article, we will cover the most common dietary supplements in the market and their respective benefits.
Most important supplements for optimal body function
Whey protein is extracted from milk during the cheesemaking process. It is extremely rich in branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), which carry a variety of anabolic effects.
Leucine is a BCAA that has been intensively studied by scientists and found to be crucial for post-exertional muscle growth and recovery.
In a 2009 study, scientists compared the effects of whey, soy, and casein protein to see which one is more effective at inducing muscle growth.
Surprisingly, whey protein resulted in 31% more muscle growth than soy and casein protein!
In fact, there is no shortage of studies that rate whey protein higher than other powders; however, and since whey protein is extracted from milk, it might cause adverse effects in patients with lactose intolerance.
Note that this effect is negligible if the form is isolated, which is a process that involves the filtration of the powder from any carbohydrates or fats.
Casein is also a protein that gets extracted from milk; however, its digestibility and absorption are much slower than whey.
When we digest casein, it forms a gel-like substance with the stomach acid, which delays gastric emptying and slowly releases amino acids into the bloodstream.
As a result, the muscles will have a steady source of amino acids that stops any unnecessary catabolism.
Casein protein is one of the best protein powders that induce muscle growth after resistance training.
D-Aspartic Acid (DAA)
D-Aspartic Acid is an amino acid that plays several roles in the body’s neuroendocrine regulation. Unlike L-Aspartic Acid, this amino acid is not part of the protein synthesis machinery, thus we don’t see it as a building block.
One of the hormones that D-Aspartic Acid is thought to stimulate is testosterone.
In a 2009 study, scientists supplemented 23 participants with D-Aspartic Acid supplements for 12 days to observe their effects on testosterone levels.
At the end of the study, testosterone serum levels increased by an average of 42% in these young men.
Tribulus Terrestris is a traditional plant that was historically used to increase libido, improve urinary tract health, and reduce swelling.
While some studies show that Tribulus Terrestris boosts testosterone levels in animal models, there is little evidence to support their effectiveness on humans.
However, on-going studies are being conducted to put an end to these uncertainties.
Studies found that taking magnesium improves sleep quality, especially in patients who suffer from insomnia.
Melatonin is a hormone released by the pineal gland to regulate sleep and wakefulness. The main regulator of this hormone is light, as it suppresses its production when it’s on.
When the serum levels of this hormone go up, it induces drowsiness and sleep.
Several medications have been developed from melatonin that are widely prescribed to help patients with insomnia.
L-Glycine is an amino acid that contributes to improving sleep in many different ways, including the production of serotonin (precursor of melatonin) and the regulation of body temperature.
This amino acid also works as a central nervous system neurotransmitter that exerts both activating and inhibitory functions, which helps the regulation of the circadian rhythm and sleep.
Gaba is a CNS neurotransmitter that generally counters the action of acetylcholine. In other words, it works by inhibiting the electrical activity inside the brain, which is exactly what you would need if you’re sleep-deprived.
The number of published studies that support GABA’s anxiolytic and sedative properties is huge, and more people are starting to take this supplement as a treatment for insomnia.
Ashwagandha offers many health benefits, including stress relief, better sleep quality, and a reduction in the risk of inflammatory conditions.
In a 2019 randomized study, scientists noted that supplementing your body with 300 mg per day improves sleep quality and sleep onset latency.
The underlying mechanism that led to these findings are still vague, but researchers believe that it might be due to Ashwagandha’s anxiolytic properties.
L-Theanine is an amino acid that’s most commonly found in tea leaves and has been gaining popularity due to its stress-relieving effects.
This amino acid is also effective at inducing sleep without drowsiness, hence its spread use as a sedative.
Researchers believe that 250-400 mg of L-Theanine is optimal to improve sleep quality and duration.
Another study included 98 boys, where the first half received L-Theanine supplements, and the other half was given a placebo.
At the end of the study, the group that received L-Theanine had longer and more restful sleep.
Supplements are essential to help our bodies maintain their normal function. However, we should be careful when surfing the web since it’s full of misinformation and false claims about products that don’t even work.
If you have any questions about the supplements cited above, feel free to ask in the comment section below.