Saturday, May 21, 2011

B2 or not B2? Or Do I Need Niacin?

186.6 lbs. Okay, this is a plateau I can handle, but not for long. 184.6 lbs,. the 40 pound benchmark is in sight and I aim to hit and surpass it by this time next week.

Normally, I don’t mention actual names in this space (unless the companies involved want to pay for the publicity. I am an American and a capitalist). Today, though, the Mr. & Mrs. Organic store at 22140 Ventura Blvd in Woodland Hills gets a mention.

As part of my plan to improve my fitness, both physically and mentally, I take a variety of supplements to improve my neurotransmitters (See Grace Slick and Jefferson Airplane, “White Rabbit”, the line “Feed your head”), lower cholesterol, rebuild collagen and enable my body to burn fat more efficiently (Jim Morrison, the Doors, “Light My Fire” but be careful because it’s grease). I’ve learned a few things about vitamins and other supplements (such as you don’t need a prescription for them and this bugs big Pharma. I enjoy bugging Big Pharma) that have made a huge difference in what I buy.

Rule #1: You get what you pay for. Not all supplements are created equal. While a nationally advertised brand of multi-vitamins may be a lot cheaper than the brands you find at a health food store or vitamin store and contain the same amounts of vitamins, your body will probably not get the same benefit from the cheap stuff as it does from the more costly. Today’s vocabulary word is “bioavailability.” The definition from : “The degree to which or rate at which a drug or other substance is absorbed or becomes available at the site of physiological activity after administration.”

One thing that makes one vitamin cheaper than another is fillers. Some of these substances can actually prevent your body from absorbing the vitamin. I remember showing an iron supplement to a gentleman who ran a small health food store and he threw the bottle across the room (it was not one of his products). A little dramatic, but he pointed out an ingredient on the label, then looked it up online and showed me where the effect of this ingredient was to coat the stomach and block uptake. Since then, if the salesman in a store is trying to sell me on a particular item, my first question is always about bioavailability. If I get a confused look, I thank him/her and walk away. If your body is unable to use the product, why spend money on it? A solid tablet or pill may be bioavailable, but a softgel or capsule will be more bioavailable and a liquid is most bioavailable. It may be something that tastes like the bottom of your gym shoes, but you’ll need less of it to get more benefit. I’m a big believer in more bang for the buck.

Shane, the proprietor of Mr. & Mrs. Organic, showed me a B Complex supplement that had parsley in it. The parsley helped the body to better absorb the vitamins. (And I think I left the bottle I purchased either at his store or it’s rolling around in the car. There was a lot of douchebaggery on the roads today and I had to stop short a couple of times).

How a supplement is processed can also make a difference in its effectiveness. Take flaxseed oil (which I do and found out today that I was taking about 10 times more per day than I thought I was. Lousy metric system confused me. I’m an American. We’re proud of our metric ignorance. Even our rocket scientists. Remember the Mars Lander that crashed because the calculations hadn't been done in metric? I rest my case). Heat breaks down oil and the Omega 3 fatty acids, so it’s important to choose cold-pressed oil and raw seeds.

I also consider the source of the ingredients, putting more faith in organic material than I do in synthetic compounds. I’m not a fan of polyester and this distrust of synthetics expands to include drug compounds, artificial colors and flavors, Auto-Tune and Jennifer Lopez’s career (living proof that aggressive self-promotion will trump a lack of talent). I’m nearing the half-century mark and although I’ve undoubtedly been eating pesticides, chemical fertilizer, bovine growth hormone and antibiotics for years, I don’t know how that has affected me or my health and at this point, I’d prefer not to add to whatever may be lurking in my tissues. If you are on a prescription, a little online research will help to avoid interactions between the scrip and whatever supplements you’re considering.

Various supplements, like iron or B12 have different varieties and it’s important to know before you buy. For instance, per the instructions of Torquemada, I take B12 a half-hour (or as close as I can reasonably get to it) before hitting the gym. There are two varieties of B12: methylcobalamin and cyanocobalamin. The second variety is a synthetic compound. Take a look at the beginning of the name. Does it remind you of another compound, like, oh, CYANIDE? Yep; this baby breaks down into cyanide in your body. Very small amount and it’s excreted quickly, but I’d prefer not to have that running around my brain. I’ll stick with the methylcobalamin. Just in case.

I had found Mr. & Mrs. Organic as a place to refill water jugs (they are few and far between in Woodland Hills). They sell water with varying degrees of alkalinity and by reusing the gallon jugs, I feel somewhat better about my lessened contribution to L.A.’s landfills. Torquemada has me downing a protein drink after working out. Shane asked me to bring in the bottle to compare to what he had in his store. After shopping for supplements today, I showed him those bottles, too.

He ran the numbers for me, comparing the prices I was paying at a big health food store chain to the prices of other brands in his store, pill by pill. He showed me that the alternatives he was showing me were superior in nutrition and bioavailability than what I had just purchased. For instance, I take DHA to supplement the flaxseed oil. What he had in stock had more tablets per bottle and a higher dose per tablet than what I was taking. His product would last longer than what I had just purchased. Who doesn’t want to save a buck? In a side by side comparison, shopping at his store saved me $18.00 for the same supplements (different brands, but brands I trust) sold at the large chain health food store. And he’s a pleasant guy and Pam (Mrs. Organic) is a very nice lady.

If you’re in the area, please patronize this store, but please leave a parking space for me. I don’t want to end up like Yogi Berra: “Nobody goes to that restaurant anymore. It’s too crowded.”

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