Knowing your maca from your matcha has become serious business with the supplement industry rife with potions and pills claiming life changing results. The plethora of offerings has created a minefield of confusion which is made even more complicated by our craving for the latest secret elixir. We spoke to James Heagney, Sports Nutritionist and PICP Strength Trainer to give us the information we need to make sense of the supplement situation. James endorses a back to basics approach – looking at what supplements will provide the greatest return on health for the investment. He gave us his top five supplements for overall female health.
“Supplementation is a highly personalised topic, what works for you may not get the same results with another person. One thing we can do is build a strong foundational platform of effective supplementation designed to support your body from the ground up”
These should be at the top of the list for females. Gut health is essential for the production of neurotransmitters, which directly influence your brain and therefore your mood. Inability to concentrate, feelings of anxiety all have origins in the gut. Your bodies’ ability to provide the brain with specific ‘brain influencers’ is governed by your current gut health. However, my favorite reason for optimizing gut ecology (healthy balance of good bacteria) is the ability to favorably detoxify and remove estrogen. Why is this important? Most females find it hard to lean their legs out and one of the reasons for this is estrogen metabolism. A good pro-biotic supports this process.
Magnesium is one of the body’s most abundant minerals, which is responsible for well over 300 enzymatic processes in the body. This means magnesium is involved in pretty much everything. For example, magnesium is just as important as calcium in preventing osteoporosis, which should be something females should be aware of. Increasing the quality of your sleep should always be high on your list of priorities. Magnesium is always my first go to for this. You will be amazed at the profound effect this can have in a very short space of time. A quick tip is to make sure you avoid forms of magnesium such as magnesium oxide (this is cheap and bad quality). Look for a magnesium such as furate, taurate and glycinate. A third tip is the ability of magnesium to alleviate stomach cramps and the pain associated with PMS. Magnesium is heavily involved in the uturus wall, therefore making sure your body has ample levels to assist the constant repair goes along way in supporting this process.
When looking at blood tests the one nutrient that comes up each time almost without fail is chronically low levels of Vitamin D. This can be corrected very quickly but it is also very important to get tested to know where your current levels are. Ask your doctor to run a 25-OH Vitamin D test. This measures the amount of D3 in your blood. Optimising your blood levels of vitamin D will increase your mood significantly and another favorite of mine is the synergistic effect it has with magnesium in increasing bone density, which is especially important for female health.
Omega 3 is a bit of an older one but it’s still around and will be for the long haul. If you don’t know the benefits of omega 3 (fish oil), take note because it is somewhat of a miracle supplement: decreases inflammation, improves mood, switches on your lipolytic genes which are responsible for fat burning and down regulates your lipogenic genes which are responsible for fat storage. For the final icing on the cake Omega improves your insulin sensitivity which basically means your bodies ability to manage carbohydrates effectively (which coincidently could be the secret elixir)!
Protein is a collection of amino acids (20 to be precise) and they are extremely important in the many stages of detoxification, specifically providing amino acids for phases 1 & 2 of liver detoxification. If your liver cannot detoxify then you cannot effectively burn body fat. To add to this, Females notoriously under eat when protein is involved. I recommend to work on a daily protein goal. No matter what you eat for the day, always make sure you at least hit your protein goal. This usually revolves around making sure you have an adequate portion of protein on your plate at every meal. Typically picking up a chicken ceasar or tuna nicoise salad will provide you with a very small amount of protein so you will need to boost it at other parts of the day. One of the easiest ways to do this is in the form of a protein powder. I generally like to opt for the non-dairy approaches for this and you have plenty of options such as Rice and Pea protein. If you are exercising hard especially with weights (which you should be – but we will save that for another day) then I recommend a protein based drink post exercise. I’m also a big proponent of protein at breakfast so adding a scoop or two of protein powder to your morning smoothies can be a real gem that so many people miss out on.