Monday, February 15, 2010

Ripping my Hair out Over Dietary Supplements

In my quest to get healthier and eliminate as much stress as possible, I seem to have done the opposite. Researching nutrition and dietary supplements has actually added stress to my life. I spent the last two weeks trying to determine if what I'm currently doing is working or if I should change it. It all came about with an announcement by Hammer Nutrition that they are changing the make-up one of their supplements. Yep, like so many discontinued running shoes, it's the one I use and love.

This daily vitamin supplement is Hammer's "Premium Insurance Caps" (PICs). It took me two separate tries to get the dosage right -- I had given them up many years ago because the recommended seven-capsules-a-day made me feel bloated and tired. But when I started training for Ironman again two years ago, I went back to Hammer and found that I could drop the dosage to four a day. I gave it a second chance and voila! it worked much better. I feel great during the day now and my workouts are strong. Last year, I stretched my budget to add Hammer's "Race Caps Supreme" to the regimen based on raving testimonials (from Hammer athletes, of course). I noticed nothing -- I didn't feel better than usual after four hours of cycling -- my energy levels didn't change. But I still swore by PICs and many other products in the Hammer line such as "Recoverite," whey and soy protein, and Hammer Gel.

This year, Hammer announced a change in PICs -- they are removing the ingredients that can be found IN THEIR OTHER PRODUCTS. Oh, GREAT! Just what I need -- they're changing the ONE thing that seems to work and is ridiculously affordable. Now I have to buy more to get the same result. Disappointed, I went looking for a new daily supplement.

If you Google "athlete" and "supplements," you will be bombarded with testimonials about breakthrough products that will make you feel "20 years younger." Many of them claim they will turn back time both in how you feel AND how you look. Now that I'm in my mid-40s, I want this. Desperately. I click through. With hundreds of products out there, how can I tell which ones, if any, actually do what they claim? If you're geeky like me, you search for bad reviews of the products on bulletin boards. And what I've determined is this: either there is nothing really scathing to report about any of these products, or people don't waste their time writing a bad review. I've also confirmed something else in my quest: triathletes, in general, have way more disposable income than I do.

There's only one thing left to do: trial and error. It's not something I'm looking forward to when I have so many other things to figure out this year. But I do believe that supplemental vitamins are necessary for endurance athletes training 12-18 hours a week, and I don't get all the nutrients I need through diet alone.

So here's the first item up for trial: Enerprime by IMPax. It's described as "a synergistic blend of superfoods, adaptogens, antioxidants, phytonutrients, herbs, enzymes, and micronutrients," and claims it does everything from increasing endurance to counteracting stress (so we've come full circle). I still can't find info on whether it's a supplement to be taken in addition to regular multivitamins or actually itself a "multivitamin." It's expensive enough that I can't afford to take much else. I'll start at ground zero, one supplement, and go from there. Enerprime is recommended by top triathlon coach and fitness expert Ben Greenfield (who also recommends several other products in the IMPax line, so I'm already wary of those motives). I figure if it doesn't work, I can look elsewhere or go back to Hammer Nutrition and formulate a plan by talking to one of their experts. Hopefully, I'll know the effects within a few weeks and report back. Any recommendations are welcome.

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