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The Scoop on Supplementing: Tips From Trainer Nick Maldonado

Feeling a little out of sorts this time of year? Maybe it’s the shorter days with limited exposure to natural light. Or perhaps you’re burning the candle at both ends to prep for exams, attend endless social obligations, or cram to get all the things – personal and professional – done before the sun sets on 2023.

But what if that sluggishness and general malaise is actually the result of a dietary deficiency?

Symptoms of a nutrient deficiency

Good nutrition requires a balance of macronutrients (major energy sources like essential fatty acids, carbohydrates and essential amino acids) and micronutrients (vitamins and essential minerals that play a pivotal role in almost all developmental and metabolic processes). Yet few American adults get the recommended amounts of vitamins D and E, vitamin A, vitamin C, magnesium and calcium from their diets.

Signs of some common deficiencies include but are by no means limited to:

•   Vitamin D: fatigue, bone pain, mood changes, muscle aches and weakness.

•   Iron: cold, tired, shortness of breath and frequent headaches.

•   B12: anemia, numbness in hands, legs and feet, trouble with balance and walking, and memory issues.

It’s always smart to consult with a doctor to identify shortfalls in your diet, but we’ve also got a knowledgeable resource on hand at Etage Athletic Club in Personal Fitness Trainer Nick Maldonado. With nearly a decade of experience coaching clients and six years in competitive bodybuilding, Nick possesses an impressive understanding of nutritional needs and how to identify and address gaps in a diet through supplementation.

Nick kindly made time in his busy schedule to answer some questions about supplements. Whether you’re a gym veteran, just entering the fitness arena or suspect you may be dealing with a nutritional deficiency yourself, his insights are must-read material.

Q&A With Nick Maldonado

Q. Who should be using supplements?

Individuals who have gaps in their nutrition are good candidates for supplements. In other words, if your diet isn’t meeting all your nutritional needs because, say, you’re a vegetarian, vegan or an athlete with higher nutritional demands, then it’s important to make up for those deficiencies in other ways.

Q. And how do you know if you’ve got a deficiency in your diet?

A. A lot of people are short on fiber, potassium and magnesium. Hard data from a blood panel is ideal for determining what your body lacks. But food tracking also can give you great insight as to what might be missing in your diet. And if you’ve got a nagging symptom like fatigue or poor digestion, that might be a deficiency revealing itself to you. Find yourself cramping while working out? That could be a magnesium shortage.

Q. Are there any risks to taking supplements?

A. I always recommend talking with a medical professional to make sure a supplement won’t interfere with a pre-existing condition or medication you might be taking. And toxicity due to over-consumption is possible – especially with fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. That’s why it is crucial to follow recommended dosage guidelines that accompany any supplement.

Q. If I eat a well-balanced diet, is there any need for me to consider supplementing?

A. Maybe. If you’re training intensely, supplements can provide the energy boost needed to get through a workout or aid in recovery. And if you’re aiming for a specific health goal, a supplement could support you in that effort. As I like to say, you don’t need a running shoe to run a marathon, but it sure does make it easier. Think of supplements the same way.

Q. What time of day is best to take a supplement?

A. That depends on the type of supplement you’re taking. An empty stomach is hardly ever advised – especially if you’re taking fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K or magnesium. Caffeine and beta-alanine (a non-essential amino acid that produces carnosine, which reduces lactic acid buildup in muscles, thereby enhancing athletic performance), vasodilators (supplements that widen the blood vessels and increase the delivery of nutrients and oxygen to muscles during exercise) and creatine (also an amino acid that aids in activities requiring short bursts of speed and muscle strength) should be taken prior to a workout as those give you more energy for times when you’re doing some heavy lifting or pushing your endurance level. Protein assists with recovery, so save those shakes for post-workout.

Q. Is there anything you recommend adding to a diet that doesn’t fall within the supplement category but makes for a smart nutritional move?

A. Fiber! Can we all resolve to eat more of it in 2024? Most of us consume about 6 grams a day when we should be getting 20 grams in daily.

Q. With so many choices out there, what should one look for in a supplement?

A. I always recommend sticking to brands that are third-party tested and certified. (Look for seals of approval from Informed Choice, NSF and USP.) Here at Etage Athletic Club, we carry Cutler Nutrition, and it’s a great product line.

Time to Start Supplementing?

If you’re ready to learn more about supplements and how they might assist in your own wellness journey, we’re here to help. Stop by our front desk to get more information on products available or to schedule a time to connect with Nick for a more in-depth conversation.

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