Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Balanced, varied diet eliminates need for supplements

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Q.I have some questions regarding vitamin/mineral/ antioxidant supplementation. If one follows a reasonable fitness plan and balanced diet, would supplementation still be of value? I realize this is a fairly individualized subject, but your thoughts on the matter would be appreciated.

A. I'm not a registered dietitian, but here is an account of my simple supplementation savvy.

Volleyball is a sport that is designed for outliers; tall, lithe athletes who are better suited to stand in one place and jump rather than run, and therefore I was not born a volleyball player. Actually, I'm the antithesis of a volleyball player, but yet had the pleasure of being the assistant athletic therapist with the national men's volleyball program for two years. During this stint as a member of the performance-enhancement team, I was lucky enough to sit in on a presentation for the team detailing nutrition and supplementation, and this incredibly simple presentation is now the basis for most of my own dietary decisions (and perhaps the majority of my life choices).

The presenter began by asking the team for a list of supplements about which they had questions, were taking, or had thought about taking. As the list got longer, he began making a table with several headings, namely cost, potential benefits, potential side-effects, regulation and, surprisingly, hype. We then spent the next 90 minutes filling out the table for each item the team had listed and by the end, I think everyone had a pretty good sense that few, if any, supplements may be of benefit to them.

Janelle Vincent shares this sentiment. I met her while she was completing her bachelor of exercise and sport sciences degree, and a member of the Bison cross-country running team.

She has since completed a degree in human nutrition sciences.

As an athlete, and as a dietitian who has worked with many organizations, including Bison Sports and the Sport Medicine and Science Council of Manitoba, she possesses an open approach to the subject of fitness and nutrition I value so deeply.

When I asked for her input, Janelle was worried there wasn't enough to say.

"It's pretty straight-forward," she lays out. "If you are confident that you're eating healthy with enough variety, there is really no performance benefit in supplementation."

So don't just start taking something because a commercial or ad says you need it. Don't buy into the hype of a nutritional fad, and don't believe there is a miracle product out there that will be the catalyst to good health and fitness. Balance and diligence are always the key.

Unless you're diagnosed with a vitamin deficiency by a doctor, you're likely creating very expensive pee (I may or may not have stolen that line from one Sheldon Cooper), and it has not been proven regular exercise creates a higher antioxidant requirement. "The only other things to consider are self-doubt and our geography."

Janelle stipulates if you question your diet, or consistently eat the same meals, a simple multivitamin won't empty your wallet or create unnecessary side-effects. Also, considering our climate and seasonal lack of sunshine, vitamin-D supplementation may be a healthy addition.

These guidelines pertain again to those of us in the middle of that bell curve. If you are one of those outliers, volleyball player or not, who doesn't quite fit the mould of normal, then sit down with a pen and paper or your smartphone and make yourself a table for the supplement in which you are considering investing.

As always, if you're still ambivalent or need more guidance, consulting a registered dietitian for a personalized dietary assessment may be your next course of action.

We want your questions! Whether you are looking for guidance on a new pair of shoes or have a nagging shoulder injury that just won't go away, email us at and you could be featured in the next Q&A article.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 24, 2013 D16

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