In the health-conscious modern world, consumers have easier access than ever before to information about their bodies and dietary supplements. This has led to a widespread movement towards self-improvement in health matters, especially when it comes to dietary supplements. The rise of the Internet has made it simple to research any given illness, drug or supplement in minutes, and it is now considered completely normal to take a selection of non prescribed pills with your breakfast.
However, with all this information freely available, it can be easy to get confused. Which supplements could you, the martial arts trainee, actually benefit from taking? How much of what you read is really advertising rather than unbiased advice?
Vitamin D3 is probably one of the most important dietary supplements that anyone in the Western world could use. Whilst we can change our diets in order to boost the intake of many substances, making up for the shortfalls that we have been causing in the past, there is no easy fix for vitamin D deficiencies. This is because our main source of the chemical outside of supplements is sunshine, which reacts with our bodies in order to manufacture it.
This presented no problem during our evolution, but today we spend far too much time indoors. During the winter, the average worker regularly arrives at their desk in the dark, remains inside whilst eating their lunch, and then leaves during the evening when the sun is setting. Things aren’t much better during the summer. An annual holiday is our only chance to create the vitamin – but even then, concerns about skin cancer cause us to use sunscreen thus adding to our deficiency. Deficiency is estimated to be widespread in Western populations, and can cause a weakened immune system, reduced libido, and mood disorders.
Martial artists will be particularly interested in the fact that vitamin D is needed to produce testosterone, which enhances strength and endurance. Studies have shown that those deficient in the substance will benefit from increased testosterone if they top up levels of the sunshine vitamin or by using supplements. Supplements are therefore strongly recommended for anybody who works indoors or lives in a cold and cloudy location.
In reality, there are a host of B vitamins which many people could be dietary supplements that give you a boost, but B12 is the most important, so it features alone. Deficiency of this vitamin is unlikely in most sections of society, yet very prevalent in others. In particular, the Institute of Medicine recommends that over-50s supplement with B12 because up to a third of older people are unable to absorb the vitamin from food. Those who eat a plant-based diet, too, should seriously consider a B12 supplement, as the chief sources of the vitamin are meats and other animal products.
Any trainee who is of an advanced age or who avoids meat could benefit from taking a B12 supplement. The symptoms that you can expect to suffer if your body is only provided with low levels of the substance include fatigue, weakness, and gastrointestinal issues.
People who do not fall into one of the above groups could also benefit from regular B12 supplementation, as it has an energy-boosting effect. All B vitamins are safe in doses well exceeding the RDA. Those interested in this benefit should also read about vitamin B6 supplementation.
Most people tend to focus on vitamins when talking about supplements, but minerals are important too. Most crucial is zinc, which frequently tops lists about the biggest problems facing the world today. About ⅓ of the global population, concentrated in underdeveloped nations, is at risk of serious zinc deficiency, which causes many diseases. In our society, slight deficiency contributes to many ills, including gastrointestinal issues and reduced appetite.
A lack of zinc can reduce testosterone levels and thus libido, strength, and energy. This is one of the most important dietary supplements for men, but in fact, both sexes require healthy testosterone levels in order to perform at their best, both mentally and physically. Also notable is evidence suggesting that zinc is one of very few substances proven to reduce the length of a common cold.
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