An easily digestible broad spectrum multi or, even better, "power pack," is essential. IMHO.

By Eric/@trimon29/Bubba-Mon

As the ex-owner of GNC stores  for six years and someone forced to eat liver and bone meal as a child from a mother who read Adelle Davis :-) (thanks, Mom), I have had a great deal of personal experience with vitamins/minerals supplements. There is so much floating around in my head that I could write a novel and put you all to sleep by the second page.  At Pamela’s request (even though the only other things I have ever written are a post on bicycle tips and technical engineering reports), I am going to break it down into digestible pieces, and she will make it a series.  Just please remember, I am not a doctor; be careful with your choices, use common sense and when in doubt consult with a doctor.

General thoughts about supplements and the industry — Topic #1:

I believe in the use of supplements (I use this term to include vitamins, minerals, and other health supplements) as an important part of an overall healthy lifestyle. To me the keys to good health are

1.  exercising,

2.  eating right,

3.  taking supplements, and

4.  not smoking

I have never been very good about eating right, but I think that following 3 out of 4 has helped me keep up with Pamela at my very advanced age.

Cynics and non-believers will say that with a good diet, supplements are a waste of money, something that just passes through your body without purpose. They will tell you this while drinking a $6 grande cappuccino with zero nutritional value.

The body is an amazing system that is “smart enough” to determine what vitamins/minerals/nutrients it needs. I am quite sure that there are things lacking in my diet that that would allow my body to perform better if I consumed them as part of my food choices.  To make up for this, I provide it with a full palette of nutrients to choose from through my diet plus supplements.  I allow it to determine what it needs and waste the rest. With intelligent choices on my part, the cost of this strategy can be less per day than that cappuccino.

Things you need to know about supplements:

1. Product quality varies broadly by manufacturer. Be careful with bargain shopping. There is so little regulation of this industry that reading a label does not tell the whole story. Bargain products may be less absorbable.  They may have impurities that are harmful and fillers that are simply a waste. Find a brand based as much as possible on personal experience, references that your trust, and truly scientific analytical support (when available) and then shop around to get the best price for that brand.

2. Be wary of extreme sales and prices that seem too good to be true. Supplements have expiration dates just like any other food or consumable item.  And some products’ effectiveness degrades with time. Extreme sales are often due to suppliers dumping about-to-expire products they would otherwise have to throw away. If you buy a 6-month supply that is going to expire next week, then, depending on the product, it may not have been a good deal after all.

3. Find nutritional advice that you trust, from sources whose income is not dependent on the sale of a particular product. The nice sales person at your local chain store is not always your friend. They are often incentivized to sell certain high margin (or expiring) products by their management, and they may or may not give you good advice.

4. Watch out for bait and switch. When new products are introduced they often have ingredients in them that are NOT on the label, but that are added to the products to make them more effective. Once word gets out about the product, the formula is changed and the company milks the market for as long as it can with a worthless product. The most common example of this is with “men’s health” products. Believe it or not, it is very common practice for an unscrupulous company to blend Viagra (yes a prescription drug) into their sexual performance “herbal” supplements. Word gets out that “man,,,,, the stuff really works”, they take out the expensive Viagra, and they sell a worthless product during the ensuing product craze until the word gets out that the stuff does not actually work anymore. ** On a side note, this same practice is often what gets professional athletes in trouble because they take an exciting new muscle building product with innocent ingredients on the label that actually turns out to  contain a banned substance to make it truly effective, and, UH OH, something shows up on their random testing.

That’s all for now, stay tuned for the next installation:  Injury and pain prevention and relief. By me.  Husband of Pamelot.  Chemical engineer.  Former GNC owner, Eric.

Would you take supplement advice from this man???!?

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32 Responses to Everything you wanted to know about supplements but were afraid to ask.

  1. Donna says:

    Hello – great article, Question. How do I know where to buy good quality & fair priced suppliments? Most expensive, Most ingredients. 100% vit C, 5000% Vit C ( 5000%, seems like a better deal, but do I really need that much?) Is Costo better that CVS, or GNC over Joe-Blow Vitamins on the Internet? Sprouts always has a line-drive of some sort with 25% off this or that brand. Just hate to be buying the crummy suppliments over a few bucks.

    • Pamela says:

      Donna, I have emailed Eric that you submitted a question, and I know he’ll chime in soon, but see my other replies in this thread about how Eric guided me toward selecting Synergy. Also, we buy it online at which is the cheapest place I’ve found it. (Again, if someone else has better info than me, let me know).

  2. Good information Eric. Thanks! My son and his fiance are really working on getting healthier. I’ll send the link over to them, as well.

  3. James says:

    To answer Donna’s question I don’t think its so much about where you buy them at but what brand. For that kind of info you usually need to spend a lot of time online doing research. Sorting out the good from the bad. It’s a challenge.

    • Pamela says:

      I agree with James, and I know Eric will check in and answer this as well later. Let me say we don’t buy vitamins he ever sold, although some of them are quite good. I spent days researching this once upon a time, after having bought them from the compounding pharmacy of my physician (the one that prescribes my bio-identical hormones). They were excellent, but pricey. So, with Eric’s guidance and my legwork, I looked for all the same ingredients in the same amounts in an easily digestible/absorbable capsule form without dyes or sugars etc, well-reviewed, best possible price, and from a reputable company. Personally, we selected Synergy, and have been taking their “power packs” (pictured above) daily, for four years. If someone else has a recommendation of a brand they believe in, trust, and don’t spend their life savings on, please share. Also, when we are training for a marathon or an endurance triathlon, we sometimes take two power packs a day.

  4. great article, wonderful collaboration! (again).
    i have often thought about supplements as a way to, well, supplement my intake. i mean, for me to get the macronutrients that i want/need, eating only regular food would be expensive and time consuming. but i am always wary of buying them…thank you for this article!
    be well,

    • Pamela says:

      We are wary too. Do we REALLY know what is in the things we pop in our mouth? If anyone has a brand they particularly recommend, please share. We have had good luck with Synergy (pictured, above).

  5. Eric Hutchins says:

    Perfect question, and both Pamela and James have already given a great start on the answer. It really is not about where as much as it is about what brand. (and that then might determine the “where” because of “where” the brand is sold).

    Find a brand through a combination of these things. 1. Reference from a person you trust 2. Professional advice that you trust 3. Third party research (things like consumer reports), be careful with this one because it is common industry practice here to dress up advertisement to look like independent research when it actually is not. 4. Personal experience. Then once you have established the brand you want to buy THEN go bargain shopping as to where to buy it.

    With respect to internet verses local store. I am a little more old school than Pamela, and I prefer to but in local shops if I can. This wariness comes from being burned by buying merchandise that actually passed its expiration date during shipping (and then being unable to return it since it was expired). There is a BIG HOWEVER here though. This is a practice of the shadier deep discount places. If you by from a reputable place, like the synergy that Pamela buys for us which is an excellent product, then you do not need to worry about this.

    It seemed like you might also be asking about dosage in your question. With specific respect to Vitamin C, I am a HUGE advocate of it, but recommendations from professionals are all over the map on how much to take. I think a minimum daily intake should be around 2000mg or greater, and more when you are feeling sick or in a situation where you are likely to get sick. (everyone around you is sick, or you are very tired and susceptible to getting sick).
    To try to go over each product and its dosage in this blog is not possible. If you have specific questions, there is a lot of good research information available on line, and if it is something I know about I am happy to try to answer.

  6. Good to see you posting again, Eric. Thanks for the great tips on Vitamins. They are a multi billion dollar industry and people really need to know what to be looking for when shopping for them. Keep on living the life, my friend. You and Pamela are a great influence on so many levels.


  7. Eric Hutchins says:

    Stay tuned for the next editions of this post which will show up from time to time. This one was really just an “intro” to a few general things about the industry. In the next posts we are going to go into detail about specific categories of products and what I think works and what doesn’t.

  8. April Phillips says:

    Eric, Thank you so much for posting this! I am only 31 but was diagnosed with pre-osteporosis. I have been taking calcium supplements for some time now but am not sure that what I’m taking is good. I can’t afford the prescription bone mass meds right now, I have no insurance. So I am looking for the next best thing. Could you please post if there are any calcium supplements that may work better than others?

  9. Eric Hutchins says:

    so cool that you ask that question and I SWEAR it is one of the topics of the very next installation of these post. You are right to be concerned because there is huge differences in your bodies ability handle the various calcium products that are out there.

  10. This is awesome! I never know how to figure out what is actually IN my vitamins. I’m still taking prenatal vitamins perscribed to me and I had to actually ask the pharmasist to show me what was in it. I’m going to take your suggestion and look into Synergy.
    Could you include some info about protien powders as well? I’m lactose, gluten, and sugar intolerant:) Fun, right? So, right now I take NitroFusion protein powder. It seems to work well but I wouldn’t know any different.
    Thank you for posting this! And I can’t help but to laugh because, once again, Pam and I are posting similar topics! Healthy obsessions:) It’s awesome that you both are into fitness!

    • Pamela says:

      EAS makes a whey protein with sucralose that I believe is gluten and lactose free. there’s a photo of a tub of it on “my diet is not a racist” post (look under most popular in rt sidebar for the link). Let me know if it isn’t, Eric knows ALL of them, I swear. I like the taste of the vanilla and Eric uses the chocolate

    • Pamela says:

      I’m traveling or I’d just run look at the label :).

  11. Eric Hutchins says:

    Proteins are the NEXT :) topic right AFTER minerals (calcium, see above and others). They are a HUGE part of the market and incredibly confusing.

  12. Ally says:

    So excited you are doing these posts! I’m a firm believer, that although we should be getting nutrition from our good eating habits, with the quality of food available these days, it would take more food than we could eat to get everything we need, and therefore supplements are an important part of my health. I currently take Premium Insurance Caps by Hammer Nutrition for a multi, but am interested in looking more at the Synergy. (And I, too, love Though they don’t always have everything I want, I can get most of the brands I use through them) Looking forward to more on this!! Thanks Eric!

  13. Eric Hutchins says:

    Hammer is a GOOD company IMO that makes great products. I think their endurance/energy drinks are top notch. You just may find them to be a little pricey when it comes to the multi. It will be interesting to hear how that shakes out.

  14. Irene says:

    There are two frogs/toads right now “singing” in my pool cover. I’m starting to twitch. Is your husband available for removal?

    • Pamela says:

      LOL. Hang in there, Irene. I traveled this weekend and got back after your retirement blog and in time for your “I’m moving to a new spot” blog. I’m getting whiplash. I’m traveling again, working tonight. I’ll be over to check it out soon.

  15. Great pointers. We use a Supplement Store (not a chain) where the guy is like a guru on which products are best and why. He’s a walking dictionary.

  16. Eric Hutchins says:

    Blue Cotton Memory
    Its great if you can find someone like that. Treat them well by encouraging your friends to go there too. And by shopping there even if the prices are a few nickles more than online, the advice is worth the difference in cost.

  17. Sandy says:

    Good information Eric! I can’t take any type of supplement/vitamin. They hit my stomach and right back up they come. Even when I take them with food. It is weird. I talked to my doctor about it and he too said it was weird…thanks doc. In an effort to get some vitamins in me I even bought some gumballs that they sold a while back for kids….same results. It must be somewhat genetic as my sister has the same problem. Weird huh?

  18. Eric Hutchins says:

    That IS very strange. Have you tried the liquid forms that you can mix in with juice or some other drink? They are very good, a little more expensive but maybe you could keep them down. One of my favorites is the vitamin gummy bears, Oh man they are great, but the cost will kill yah.

  19. LBDDiaries says:

    You darn tootin’ I’d take supplement advice for that man in the picture – I mean, he looks better than guys half his age! A picture truly SPEAKS loudly!

  20. […] the first two and some background on why I feel qualified to write on the subject please check out Everything You Wanted to Know About Supplements and Were Afraid to Ask and Dietary Supplements are Not Evil and Can Make Your Life Less […]

  21. […] Everything you wanted to know about supplements but were afraid to ask.Eric Hutchins via Pamela Hutchins, Road to JoyThe body is an amazing system that is “smart enough” to determine what vitamins/minerals/nutrients it needs. I am quite sure that there are things lacking in mydiet that that would allow my body to perform better if I consumed them as part of my food choices. To make up for this, I provide it with a full palette of nutrients to choose from through my diet plus supplements. I allow it to determine what it needs and waste the rest. With intelligent choices on my part, the cost of this strategy can be less per day than that cappuccino. What have you discovered this week that you’d like to share? […]

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