How to Personalize your Supplement Regimen: What to Take and How Much

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Are you looking to start a nutritional supplement regimen, but aren’t sure where to start? You are not alone. Perusing the supplement aisle can be quite intimidating and a daunting task. Where to begin? Of course it starts with you! Assessing your individual needs such as your health goals or concerns will help you know where to begin.

Step 1:
Ask yourself what your primary health goals are. Once you determine what your primary health goals are, you can use those goals to help determine which supplements you may need to consider for your personalized regimen.

Step 2:
Build with a foundation in mind. This means that we need to make sure we cover our basic nutritional requirements; therefore, a daily multivitamin/mineral supplement can do exactly that. A daily multivitamin/mineral supplement, based on your age and gender, can fill in the gaps that exist from our dietary intake. For example, for a female, age 39, a daily multivitamin for HER is the best fit. Why? This formula meets the nutritional needs of women under age 50, and includes iron.

Are there other nutrients or supplements that are recommended as a foundation to a regimen? The answer is: yes! It is recommended to consume 2 servings of fatty fish per week to obtain the health benefits of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids, however, omega-3s are lacking in the American diet. 1 Therefore, a daily omega-3 supplement, such as fish oil, is suggested. For overall health, it is recommended to consume 500 mg of EPA/DHA daily, which can be easily obtained with a daily fish oil supplement.

If consuming dairy products is not part of your daily routine, calcium is another nutrient for your supplement foundation. Calcium is a shortfall nutrient among Americans as well. 2 Adequate calcium intake, as part of a well-balanced diet, may reduce the risk of osteoporosis later in life. A daily calcium supplement can help meet your requirement of at least 1000 mg daily. Calcium’s partner, vitamin D, is also suggested since vitamin D helps improve absorption of calcium. They go hand in hand!

So far, your foundation regimen may look like:
• A daily multivitamin (based on age and gender) once daily
• An omega-3 supplement, such as fish oil – at least 500 mg of EPA/DHA daily
• A calcium supplement – to reach 1000 mg daily, taken in divided doses, along with vitamin D for optimal effectiveness. It is recommended to supplement with 1000 - 2000 IU vitamin D per day.

Step 3:
Assess your primary (and secondary) health goals. Consult with a qualified health care professional to learn more on which supplements are recommended for your health goal.

If you have a secondary health goal, repeat the steps above and assess which supplements may be best for you. Keep in mind there may be overlap with some products for both health goals.

Step 4:
Be sure you are familiar with how and when to take your supplements. In other words, the timing of when we take vitamins can be as vital as the fact that we take them. Some vitamins and supplements should be taken with food or a meal for best absorption, while you may need to take others on an empty stomach. Read the labels and directions and plan accordingly with your meals.

1. Papanikolaou Y, et al. U.S. adults are not meeting recommended levels for fish and omega-3 fatty acid intake: results of an analysis using observational data from NHANES 2003-2008. Nutrition Journal 2014; 13:31. (Based on average daily consumption of 86 mg/day of EPA&DHA vs. 500 mg/day commonly recommended by experts to achieve the equivalent of 2 servings of oily fish/week, which provide approximately 3,500 mg of EPA&DHA per week).

2. Fulgoni et al. Food, Fortificants, and Supplements: Where Do Americans Get Their Nutrients? J Nutr. 2011; 141:1847-54.