Didn’t your mother ever tell you to eat your fruits and vegetables?

Now late nights, attempts at working out and cheap food make up the all-too familiar lifestyle of college students. Supplements claiming to enhance workouts, increase metabolism, and give you higher levels of energy or make your hair grow longer have become ubiquitous in the health world.

Whether those supplements being consumed are working is a whole different story.

Pasadena City College’s registered dietician Lorrie Gray recommends taking simple vitamins to help compensate for nutrient deficiencies. For example, people are more likely to be deficient in iron and calcium, which is where taking vitamins becomes beneficial.

“If people want to take a supplement, they don’t need to get anything complicated,” said Gray. “They don’t have to go to special health food stores or anything like that. They want to look at just getting an all-purpose multiple-vitamin and then kind of think about what they want to achieve.”

However if taking vitamins has become an alternative to eating your fruits and vegetables, then you might want to reconsider.

“In the case where someone is taking them because they choose not to eat those things [dairy and vegetables] then that’s where it becomes interesting,” said Gray. “One of the reasons why people are encouraged to eat certain fruits and vegetables [is that] there may be other protective benefits to those foods that we get as well. Things that are part of the food, that you can’t package as part of the vitamin or mineral.”

For all the gym rats, aspiring body builders, and athletes, supplements play a part in that lifestyle. It’s one of the first things that pop up on the Bodybuilding.com website: “Everything you need to succeed. Information, motivation, plus supplementation equals transformation.”

They left out the nutrition and exercise in that equation.

“I take Herbalife [products] and Gold Standard whey/casein protein from Optimum Nutrition,” said football player Nash Morales. “Supplements help get extra calories and protein you need to perform and see results, but they aren’t a necessity.”

Football player Lawrence Charles Wilkerson IV also believes that supplements are helpful, but emphasized that it’s still important to eat right to enhance the effects of those supplements.

“I took Creatine, and I know it helped while I took it,” he said. “I also had whey protein and it gets you big if you lift hard and eat right.”

So if the supplements you take turn your pee the color of Mountain Dew (yes, you aspiring Arnold Schwarzeneggers out there who are taking premade packets of horse pills) or simply help balance out your folic acid intake, Gray recommends that you know what’s in the vitamins and supplements you consume.

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