This is a controversial topic; so let’s start by stating a simple truth. Supplements are just that – a supplement to a healthy diet. They are called supplements and not “replacements” for good reason. Nothing can act as a substitute for a robust and varied diet of fruits, vegetables, lean meats and essential fatty acids. See Paleo or Hunter Gatherer diets for one of the best examples of a superior path to good nutrition.

However, the above being said, there are three very good reasons for people to seek out the right, high-quality supplements to augment their already healthy diet – especially athletes.

First, there are plants, roots and mushrooms from around the world (many used for centuries) that offer very specific, well documented and understood health and nutrition benefits that are simply not found in the produce section of your neighborhood store. The key ingredients found in any one of these doesn’t exist in western fruits and vegetables. Therefore the only way to consume it would be to go to its place of origin – likely on the other side of the globe – to find it, and eat it. It’s both a practicality and convenience issue.

One example: Ultra Immune’s ten ingredients would pose quite the challenge in sourcing and preparing easily. Each one plays a critical role in the mix and in supporting the immune system. There is not a practical way to “swap” any one of these ingredients with some sort of local alternative. We’ve tried. If you want the blended nutritional value of the herbs, mushrooms and roots found in our product – the only way to get it is in a supplement form.

Second, many plants, mushrooms and herbs begin to lose a portion of their nutritional value immediately after harvest. Certain foods “decay” faster than others – place a pealed apple on the table and come back in an hour. In the case of the Acemannan ingredient in Aloe, we have just minutes from harvest, to fillet, to manufacturing, before oxidation destroys the nutritional value we are working to lock in. Eating the plant or gel isn’t enough – it’s the time from harvest to processing (the correct processing) that matters in order to capture the nutritional benefit you expect.

Finally, by nature of the extreme training and physical exertion by athletes, their bodies burn through a lot of nutrients. Yes, by eating healthy you can likely consume enough of the vitamin/mineral basics – but if you’re a hyper-competitive athlete or train on a daily basis, is “likely” good enough? Do you really want to run the risk of being short of one of the many vitamins, minerals or micronutrients needed to reach absolute peak performance and feel your best every day?

Taking a natural, whole food supplement is a convenient insurance policy on your nutrition – one extra thing you can do to create an edge and maximize performance (more to say on this subject in future posts).

The verdict? Both are essential. Eating a healthy and varied diet will provide your body with all the vitamin and mineral basics needed to function normally. But when you are looking to go beyond the basics, look to a quality supplement partner to provide the necessary support.