Supplements? I need energy, want to feel good!
April 3, 2008 9:33 AM   Subscribe

After years of junk food, weight gain and not caring about my health, I'm trying to start living healthier. Can anyone suggest some good supplements. I really just want to have energy, be healthy and feel good. Below are my stats and a few of my ailments.

A few details:
* 32 years old
* 6' tall, 225lbs, so I'm getting chubby (I used to be a toothpick)
* I take a good multi-vitamin daily
* Quit smoking about 18 months ago
* I drink at least 1 Diet Coke a day (cut back from 3-4)
* We only eat out about 2 times a week
* I eat 1 yogurt (Activia) and 1 nutrigrain bar for breakfast
* For lunch I eat a low-fat meat sandwich on whole grain bread with some chips and a small desert
* Dinner usually consists of a meat, pasta/starch and something green
* I drink a good amount of (filtered) water
* I am pretty sedentary but know I need to workout

Mild ailments
* I have some mild anxiety and take Paxil
* I suffer from chronic nasal congestion
* Because of the congestion, I have sleep apnea and require a CPAP
* Recently I have been not-so-regular
* I feel tired, all day most days

Basically, I am clueless about supplements. Do I need protien? Do I need Juice Plus? Grass/Veggie supplements?

Any suggestions?
posted by sidartha to Health & Fitness (32 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Vitamin/Mineral supplements:
Antioxidant blend
Multivitamin with minerals
Omega-3 fatty acid capsules

You need more protein. I just went to a health workshop last night and was told that men should be eating 100g-120g of protein daily. That's a lot; not sure if it's correct. I drink a whey protein shake everyday to increase my protein intake. I have heard that soy has estrogen and men should not ingest too much soy--unless you want to grow breasts.
posted by HotPatatta at 9:42 AM on April 3, 2008

My best guess is that you need fruit/vegetables. They are great because they are low in calories generally and fill you up which means you're not craving something in your belly. It really sounds like you're on a good track and good on your for quitting smoking, that's HUGE. Here are my other questions, suggestions

- yogurt - if you're eating pre-processed fruity yogurt, switch to plain lowfat yogurt and fruit it up yourself. Much less sugar/calories and just as tasty.
- I'd skip the nutrigrain bar and toss granola in my yogurt. Again those things have extra sugar/calories you don't need
- side of veggies or fruit with lunch, be careful about condiments because mayo is a big caloric additive.
- chips are empty calories, can you replace them with nuts or something that has protein and/or vitamins?
- make sure your dessert is small in calories and not just small in size.
- measure out your dinner to make sure you're really having one serving of meat, see if you can swap the starch out for another veggie or a fruit or a small salad
- not regular to me points to fiber issues. more fruit/veg

So general rules of thumb for me is protein keeps me from getting tired, too much sugar and starches make me tired, exercise makes me feel better and I can get everything I need from food not supplements but on a rare day I'll dump protein powder into lowfat yogurt if I can't make myself a more proper snack.

Many people dealing with weight loss and diet find that eating a few smaller meals a day is more useful for maintaining energy. When I started exercising regularly I found that unless I ate something with decent protein in the morning, I was dead for the rest of the day so my exercise habits really informed my food patterns. Also i was able to eat more of what I liked if I was exercising and still kept the weight off so this may be a good incentive for you to keep to a regular fitness schedyule. it doesn't have to be much for starters, just walking 20-30 minutes every day is better than not doing anything. Start with small steps so it becomes more of a lifestyle adjustment for you and less of a chore.
posted by jessamyn at 9:42 AM on April 3, 2008

Really, the best answer for this is see a doctor, and a nutritionist. The starting point before this is to keep a food diary, so you can show them what you are eating over the course of a week/month, etc. and they can help make suggestions. Supplements are not replacements for a well balanced diet.

Also, increasing your physical activity to working out (amount and length to be determined by your doctor) 3-4 times a week will probably help you more than taking a super fiber omega 3 pill.
posted by mrzarquon at 9:44 AM on April 3, 2008

Food >>>>>>>>>> supplments, but that said, I think most people probably could benefit from omega-3 supplementation. I take a fish oil capsule daily. Omega-3s are strongly connected with improved mental function.

I might cut out the yogurt and nutrigrain, since they have a lot of unnecessary sugar and also replace any starches with whole grain versions.

Also, boost up the fruit and vegetable content of your diet. A lot of supplements are just powdered fruits and veggies that are better and cheaper fresh. Instead of drinking those green drink supplements, I stick a banana, some berries, and kale in a blender.
posted by melissam at 9:47 AM on April 3, 2008

I would start using a Neti Pot every morning and an hour before bed to see if it helps with the nasal congestion.

As for food, I'd make the majority of my carb intake (small dessert, pasta/starch at dinner) complex ones that are less refined. I'd still eat out at restaurants, but shoot for the ones that are local and support any local farming/goods. I would lose the Coke habit and abstain from any/all fast food joints (if that's part of eating out). I'd also change the breakfast to something with more staying power (maybe an Ultimate Meal shake or a couple of hard boiled eggs and whole wheat toast). At the very least, I'd make sure that yogurt & bar breakfast is free from high fructose corn syrup.
posted by 10ch at 9:47 AM on April 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

Your diet sounds completely reasonable.

I think you'd get much more benefit from starting to excercise than you would from changing your diet or adding "supplements."
posted by Perplexity at 9:48 AM on April 3, 2008 [4 favorites]

Eat sensibly (fruits and vegetables, lean meat) and exercise.
All the rest (supplements, "diets", vitamins, getting all nit-picky) is just gravy (pun intended) if you're just starting out. Don't stress about the details, just eat good stuff and exercise a lot. It's not magic.
posted by Echidna882003 at 9:48 AM on April 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oh, and good luck!
posted by Echidna882003 at 9:49 AM on April 3, 2008

As an accomplished supplement consumer, I was sorry to hear that all the long term studies ultimately are concluding that there is very little measurable benefit to taking them. Vitamin D and folic acid are two notable exceptions.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:52 AM on April 3, 2008 [2 favorites]

Def. more protein, and perhaps a bit more in the fruit/veggie department.

For protein, skim milk (get the organic stuff, it's delicious), and maybe a (drained) can of tuna sometime in the afternoon.

You *need* to get out and start exercising. Start with non-impact (biking, swimming) for a couple months instead of running, which can take the piss out of you.

How much sleep do you get? If I get eight hours, I go to bed feeling like I didn't accomplish enough through the day, so I make do on seven. Therefore, I need a bit more caffeine. I've found that those crystal light "energy" packets, diluted into a quart Nalgene, give me enough kick to feel GREAT through the day.
posted by notsnot at 9:53 AM on April 3, 2008

Two of your "ailments" I have experience with.
Regularity - I take psyllium that I buy at TJ's every morning. I recommend it every chance I get.
Nasal congestion - My breathing in general and congestion in particular improve one thousand fold when I started doing yoga several times a week. I recommend finding a class close to home.
Bonus opinion - I try to have a plant based diet. I am not a vegetarian but I find that if I think of plants first when planning meals I feel that I am eating better.
posted by snowjoe at 10:01 AM on April 3, 2008

Seconding the fish oil.
posted by NucleophilicAttack at 10:02 AM on April 3, 2008

There's a lot of excellent advice above, but I wanted to add that eggs in the morning are a very good way of getting a lot of nutrition and energy when you need it. Protein shakes make for decent "snacks" (they're about 160-200 calories, and if you get used to the taste, are pretty satisfying).

In general, I find what works is if I eat based on when I need energy -- that is, I eat more in the morning and afternoon, and in the evening it's just tea, fruits, and small snacks. I try to make it a point not to eat anything after around 7pm (save for maybe an orange or apple if I'm still hungry).

Also, plenty of sleep helps your body's metabolism (I think this was mentioned somewhere in the blue).

I have heard that soy has estrogen and men should not ingest too much soy--unless you want to grow breasts.
There's a lot of debate about this, but all of the claims I've seen that mention negative effects of soy usually indicate that they only matter if you consume a lot of the stuff. So if you want to play it safe, keep the tofu or soy milk to a few times a week and you should be fine.
posted by spiderskull at 10:11 AM on April 3, 2008

Supplements won't get you anywhere without serious diet and exercise. Start eating a lot of protein, complex carbs (fruits and vegetables), and omega-3 fat sources like fish oil and flax oil. Cut out the junk, cut out the booze.

Protein sources should be chicken breasts, egg whites, skim milk, nuts, lean beef, turkey. DO NOT eat a lot of soy protein, particularly soy protein isolate, which is high in phytoestrogens and will retard your progress. With fruit, you're better with (for instance) bananas and apples than strawberries or other fruits with more simple sugars. Eat sweet potatoes instead of potatoes, swap white bread in favor of whole wheat, and try to replace your "something green" intake with worthwhile veggies like broccoli and spinach. Above all, cut out the crap, including diet soda.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 10:12 AM on April 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

I echo the Omega-3's, also try taking a B vitamin supplement. I find it helps with my moods & energy.
posted by cwarmy at 10:45 AM on April 3, 2008

I found The Kitchen Shrink to be very informative. She goes a bit far with the 21 day cleanse in my opinion, but it was very interesting to see how different foods affect your body (spiking blood sugar, etc). Armed with that knowledge, it makes it easier to adjust your diet. There are recipes too, but I found the text to be the best part of the book.

Bodyfoods for Busy People is along the same lines. Both are worth checking out.
posted by Atom12 at 10:51 AM on April 3, 2008

Lots of good stuff above - I just want to echo a broad point I've found very true for me: Lots of protein in the morning (I try to have between 30 and 50 grams for breakfast) tends to keep my hunger at bay, give me more energy, and generally keeps me regular - I find eating healthy foods for the rest of the day and practicing good portion control is a lot easier when your stomach isn't screaming for attention every time you smell a co-workers' french fries, etc.
posted by jalexei at 11:08 AM on April 3, 2008

You need more protein. I just went to a health workshop last night and was told that men should be eating 100g-120g of protein daily. That's a lot; not sure if it's correct.

According to the USRDA, that's way too much. Here's a page with a protein calculator.

OP, I also suggest you see a nutritionist. Too much protein puts additional stress on your kidneys, so don't just leap into eating more without figuring out how much you are already eating and how much is ideal for you.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:13 AM on April 3, 2008

Although seeing a doctor/nutritionist for this seems extreme (there's probably nothing particularly wrong with your diet, and it's much much better than what many others are eating), since you're taking Paxil, it might not be a bad idea to ask your pharmacist for quick advice next time you pick up a refill. You never know what supplements might interact with medication you're taking. Normal vitamins, fish oil, etc. probably aren't any problem.

Check the food labeling on that nutrigrain bar, too. You never know what they might be sneaking into those things.

Sleep and exercise are probably the best first-line things to try before running in to the doctor as one of the "worried well". Chances are you're beginning to suffer from an ailment called Middle Age. Welcome to the club.

(One of my better morning proteins: pickled herring. Just 3-4 squares are enough to put some zing in my step. If you're one of us who actually like the stuff, it's great.)
posted by gimonca at 11:21 AM on April 3, 2008

Nthing the more fruits and vegetables, more protein, and more exercise.

Anything with "white"/refined carbs (pasta, chips, dessert) is pretty much nutritionally void. You don't have to avoid white carbs like the plague, because it will drive you crazy, but it's not contributing anything to your health. When you can, swap the pasta for brown rice or bulgur or some other grain, which will give you more fiber, and aim for a smallish serving size (1/2 cup or so). You will eventually lose your taste for refined carbs after a while. I love pasta and bread, but it does make me feel sluggish and heavy if it's all I eat.

I wish I could give you supplement advice, but in all honesty no supplement I've tried has helped me as much as eating well and exercising.
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:23 AM on April 3, 2008

* Recently I have been not-so-regular

Upping my intake of bananas, pears, beets, and brown rice helped me with this issue (although your internals might respond better to different types of fruits and veggies - ymmv). It sounds to me like you have a serious lack of fiber in your current diet -- if you can get this from natural sources rather than supplements, all the better. Jalexei makes an important point above: portion control (although it sounds like you've got this covered for breakfast and lunch). I also try not to eat anything after 7 p.m.

For breakfast I sometimes eat a handful of almonds in combination with a handful of dried fruit or a yogurt. I really notice a difference in how I feel in the morning, energy-wise, after having this type of breakfast for about a week. It feels like a good way to start the day.

A final note: Now that I'm nearing 35 and my metabolism has downshifted, I really notice the effect that a big pasta dinner has on me. I am assured a total bloat-out the next morning and noticeable a lack of energy. I try to do a pasta gorge only once in awhile, now, as a treat, or when I really need some comfort food, rather than as a cornerstone of my weekly menu plan.
posted by missmobtown at 11:28 AM on April 3, 2008

You need protein.

Lower your processed/sugary food intake (Activia and Nutrigrain are highly processed and sugary), drop the chips and pasta, and increase your protein and good-fat intake. I'd also consider avoiding grains, dairy, or both to see if that helps with the nasal congestion.

As someone with chronic rhinitis and a history of anxiety issues, I can tell you that increasing protein and "real food" did more for my allergies and anxiety than any pill ever did.

Suggested reading: anything by Nina Planck.

Good luck!
posted by chez shoes at 11:34 AM on April 3, 2008

Eating a bowl of All-Bran every morning will fill you up and make you regular. I recommend it for anyone who has regularity problems.
posted by qsysopr at 11:41 AM on April 3, 2008

Have you had your thyroid checked? IANAD, but sometimes chronic fatigue can indicate a thyroid problem. I'd ask your doc.

Also nthing the recommendations to increase your consumption of protein and fruits and vegetables.
posted by stonefruit at 12:08 PM on April 3, 2008

a lot.
preferably out in nature.
breathing is an exercise that you might need to be focusing on.
breathe from your diaphragm.
breathing from your chest - will not fill your lungs and oxygenate your
body and mind the way belly breathing will.

google belly breathing.
posted by watercarrier at 12:48 PM on April 3, 2008

I'm not a big supplement proponent, and I eat a ton of high fiber food, but I still definitely second the psyllium husk recommendation.
posted by Pax at 12:58 PM on April 3, 2008

Your diet doesn't sound bad at all. But try to eat more for breakfast and lunch, and incorporate a bit more protein and more fruits and veggies. Since you already take a multi-vitamin, maybe try EmergenC powder for a little extra boost, and add some calcium.

I also agree with cutting back on the pre-sweetned yogurt and cereal bar. Make your own yogurt with non-fat or low-fat greek style yogurt, add some fruit (frozen berries are great), a spoonful of ground flax seed and some agave nectar for sweetner. A hardboiled egg would add some protein. The yogurt and cereal bar you are eating now likely has a lot of high fructose corn syrup in it.

Do you like beans and legumes? I combine lentils, brown rice, spinach, and feta cheese in a container to heat up for lunch at work. I sometimes throw in a handful of grape tomatoes. Or I bring a salad with mixed lettuces, tomatoes, half a can of tuna (or salmon), a handful of chopped walnuts and feta, all dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I sometimes add avocado.

For dinner, lean chicken, or fish, brown rice and a veggie or salad. If you don't feel like meat, combine diced butternut squash with sauteed onion and garlic, and low-salt stock, simmer til squash is tender, add a can or two of rinsed and drained black beans, some cilantro, and other seasonings to your taste, add a spoonful or so of salsa, and you have a healthy, quick, cheap dinner (with leftovers for lunch).

Walking is really great exercise to start with, along with some light weight training. Regular exercise will help you sleep better and help with regularity. Have you had your CPAP checked recently? If it doesn't fit properly, that may be affecting your sleep. You might need an adjustment. And nthing the thyroid check. Fatigue and weight gain are symptoms of an underactive thyroid.

And check out the book You: On A Diet. It is a really good, common sense approach to health and weight management.
posted by socrateaser at 1:11 PM on April 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

A lot more veg and fruit - you only seem to get one serving per day!

Lose the nutrigrain, the chips and the small desert (unless it is a piece of fruit) and replace with fruit and veg - makes all the difference.

Also consider upping protein especially in the morning and reducing starchy foods like bread and pasta.

That's a lot of things to change so try making one change at a time or else you'll end up feeling overwhelmed and overly restricted in your diet choices.

See which of your health problems persist after you have increased the nutrient content of your diet and then consider supplements.
posted by koahiatamadl at 2:03 PM on April 3, 2008

If you're eating a healthy diet then--by definition--you don't need any supplements. The best simple nutrition rule is: eat a variety of foods. A nice restatement is: have several different colors of food at each meal.
posted by neuron at 2:08 PM on April 3, 2008

Don't exclude snacks! Just make them healthy. My favorite is a mix of cranberries (antioxidants) and almonds (protein).

And see what the NYTimes has to say about the link between exercise (or lack thereof) and fatigue.
posted by cachondeo45 at 2:36 PM on April 3, 2008

Nutrigrain bars have corn syrup as their first ingredient. Get a better granola bar, like Larabar. Or just eat a pear.
posted by zpousman at 3:45 PM on April 3, 2008

Don't minimize the compounding effects of your sleep issues. You can gain weight and eat worse not to mention the endless fatigue that accompanies sleep debt. Might be worth a trip to a really good ENT.
posted by trinity8-director at 3:58 PM on April 3, 2008

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