Monday, February 1, 2010

Do running supplements actually do anything?

I mentioned in Saturdays post about visiting a health fair and sampling some food made with Chia seeds. Yesterday I was at Fairway and bought three types of coconut water to use for post-run hydration because it's been highly touted for that purpose. I have tried various foods and drinks that supposedly aid recovery from workouts or provide foundational nutrients that we may lack in our daily diets. I don't experiment with herbal remedies or energy drinks that contain dangerous ingredients like taurine or kava. I want to believe that fish oil and CoQ-10 really do provide a benefit but I really don't know how to tell. The cost for a bottle of these supplements can reach $50 or more and it may be worth it. Or maybe not.

Unlike medicines - like Ibuprofen or Sudafed - that quickly and consistently demonstrate their effectiveness, I really can't tell whether the green tea I drink is actively hunting down oxidants. I take a daily multivitamin and I don't get sick too often (save for when I get so sick that I'm hospitalized). Do my daily Centrum tabs give me the tools to fend off insidious colds and viruses? After 20 years of daily use I'd say they do help. Then again, I eat much better than I did in 1990 so I might now be getting everything I need from my food and the vitamins are superfluous. I experimented with FRS, a well-reviewed energy drink that is supposedly effective against free radicals. I used it as a recovery drink and it tasted fine but I wondered if the benefits of FRS at $2.00 a can was giving me anything more than an equivalent $0.30 mixture of water and pomegranate juice.

The price of the Chia-based food products I tried at the health fair was surprisingly high. A box of energy bars was close to $40. The Chia in these products is whole-seed which apparently does not provide any Omega-3 benefits. For $40 I expect to get everything. A small bottle of Chia capsules at Fairway was $36.99. Why? Are Chia seeds so rare that the market price is that high? If I bought that bottle and took the capsules daily would I feel better or more energized? Would my LDL and Triglycerides go down and my HDL go up? Would I be able to run longer and recover faster? I wish it was as clear as the cause-and-effect of taking an Advil at the first sign of a headache. It may not be especially good for you but it's sure worth the money.

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