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supplements - performance enhancing or bank account depleting?

Josh, my partner, forwarded me an email that inspired my writing of this blog post on this dreary Wednesday afternoon. If you’re curious to read that email, check it out here. The author does a nice job summarizing some of the information I learned throughout grad school, specifically my botanicals class where we focused on botanical supplements.

To ground us, let’s dig into some definitions as they relate to dietary supplements.

What is a supplement?

Just like cross training (Pilates, strength training, stretching, cardio, etc.) exercises/movement can boost performance of your sport or artform, dietary supplements do the same thing for your diet. Dietary supplements are a product, a capsule, a pill, a powder, etc., that can increase or enhance the nutrient content/density of your diet.

What matters about a supplement?

This is called an active ingredient. For a supplement like a daily multivitamin or a Vitamin C capsule, the active ingredient is/are the components of that capsule - all the vitamins and minerals in the multi and Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid in that specific supplement. When it comes to botanical or herbal supplements, active ingredients are components of the plant that have been found to benefit/alleviate/support a specific concern.

For example, I have personally used ashwagandha for both sleep and stress support. The research has found that active ingredients of ashwagandha include alkaloids, steroidal lactone, and saponins. Of these ingredient categories, there are even more specific active ingredients that have been found beneficial as an adaptogenic, or anti-stress/anxiety support, botanical supplement: sitoindosides and acylsterylglucosides (source). That’s a mouthful of difficult-to-pronounce active ingredients! As the author of my inspiration article notes, this is where discrepancies can be found between different herbal supplements - the percentage of active ingredients can vary between products. The variance in active ingredients for herbal supplements can make it challenging to figure out what and how much you need on your own. I highly recommend working with your nutrition professional (Hello 👋) to curate a supplement plan that will work best for you. We also have access to and can recommend high quality supplements not available to the general public.

If they can differ, why take supplements?

The eMpower performance method prioritizes the intake of nutrients via foods as well as the environmental/external factors that can influence nutritional intake and nutrient levels for each unique client. This is my focus as a practitioner because, though we can ingest nutrients via supplements, what those supplements don’t offer are the fully inclusive benefits of food. Beyond what the science and research can tell us, nutrient-rich foods offer benefits that cannot be inserted into a manmade supplement that offers a singular or small group of nutrients in a capsule.

That being said, supplements can be helpful for some people! Let’s look at two different examples:

Ex 1) Let’s look at Person A who eats an omnivore diet and Person B who eats a vegetarian diet. These two diets provide these two people with different nutrients. Naturally, not eating meat will decrease the amount of certain nutrients that Person B will obtain via their diet. Some of these nutrients include iron, B12, B6, and more. Some of these nutrients are available via plant sources and it can be helpful for Person B to supplement their diet with these specific nutrients to boost or enhance the nutrient content/density of their diet.

Ex 2) Let’s look at Person C and Person D, they both eat an omnivore diet. On the surface, it’s likely that these two people are obtaining the same nutrients via their dietary intake. If we look more closely at Person C, they are showing physical symptoms which can indicate low stomach acid. Low stomach acid often means that many nutrients that would be absorbed from meat aren’t actually able to be absorbed. This would put Person C in a similar place to Person B in Ex 1, above. As a nutrition professional, I would have two options in my work with Person C. We could either address the status of their stomach acid and/or supplement with the nutrients they would likely be low in. I, of course would recommend a specific route for Person C, but ultimately the decision would be made together for their best outcome.

Some other things to consider before recommending supplementation could include: blood sugar regulation function, detoxification status, gender, use of other medications that can influence nutrient levels (often depletion), and more!


The eMpower performance method encourages performance athletes to obtain the majority of nutrients their body needs by eating the rainbow and balancing the macronutrients to ensure adequate micronutrient intake. Supplementation can be helpful when timed and dosed uniquely for you.

Curious? Schedule your FREE strategy session today. Your unique goals and challenges take priority at eMpower performance while remaining flexible to new twists and turns on your journey. Together, we'll determine your balanced energy requirements and utilize the eMpowered three-prong approach to health + wellness: movement, nutrition, and mindfulness.

disclaimer: eMpower health + wellness website and accompanying social media platforms are written and produced for informational purposes only. this information is general, not specific to you. the information on this website does not replace or substitute medical advice provided by a doctor. the reader assumes full responsibility for consulting a qualified health professional regarding health conditions or concerns, and before starting a new diet or health program.

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I'm a Nutrition Educator & Wellness Coach based in and serving Washington, DC and the DMV region. My lifestyle-focused method has successfully helped clients achieve personal results and enhance athletic ability, eMpowering performance in class, rehearsals, and on-stage. As professional dancer myself, I have gained nutritional balance and improved my own relationship with food through many years of practice and a Masters of Science in Nutrition from University of Bridgeport. I bring this depth of personal and academic experience to a variety of clients, particularly performance athletes and fitness enthusiasts. In my spare time, I teach yoga and manage Ballet Embody, a professional contemporary ballet company.
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