You have to wonder how the champion bodybuilders of the past ever managed to build muscle without using an extensive array of food supplements. These days, with the plethora of sports supplements, many of which are backed up by scientific research, if anything, the wide choice of such supplements can prove confusing to many people. Are such supplements really needed, and more importantly, are they effective? Of course, different supplements are touted for varying purposes. Some are purported to help increase lean mass, or build muscle. Others are said to positively influence "fat-burning," or to use the more precise science term, "fat oxidation." The salient question about supplement use is whether the nutrients contained in such supplements can be better obtained from food sources. Most dieticians and others trained in nutritional science who are not aligned with any food supplement companies say that the first choice for obtaining required nutrients should always be from food. Supplements, they say, are just that--supplements, meant to supply only those nutrients that are missing from the diet.
The notion that we should first depend on food for required nutrients does make sense for a variety of reasons. Foremost among them is the fact that most nutrients do not function in isolation, and having a larger array of associated nutrients makes them more efficient. Most foods do not contain isolated nutrients, but rather a variety of naturally occurring forms of the nutrients. A caveat often overlooked by those dispensing advice about the primacy of obtaining food-based nutrients is that to do so requires eating a balanced diet. This raises another question: Just what is a balanced diet? The typical response to this is that a balanced diet contains a large variety of foods from various food groups, such as fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy, unprocessed wheat products, and high protein foods, such as meats, fish, chicken, and eggs. Eating all these foods does indeed supply the suggested intakes of most nutrients. The problem is, most people do not eat balanced diets. One example of this is foods from the fruits and vegetable group. According to research, you need to ingest at least 5 servings a day of fruits and vegetables to ensure the nutrient advantages inherent in a balanced diet. For optimal health, the suggested servings of fruits and vegetables rise to 11 servings a day, with the primary focus on vegetables, rather than fruits, since vegetables contain higher amounts of various protective nutrients. Indeed, some of these nutrients, such as sulforaphane, exist only in certain cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and others. Actually, what exists in these foods is not sulforaphane itself, but rather a precursor converted by an enzyme in the vegetables, activated when the vegetables are either cut or chewed. An important note here is that there is no current supplement available that will supply sulforaphane since it's . . .