This year has been all about giving my wellness routine a much-needed overhaul. Whether it's meant switching up my fitness routine and trying a challenging new workout or taking a page from Jennifer Aniston’s book and sipping on some apple cider vinegar every morning, I’ve literally tried anything and everything to get my body in a healthier place. And while I'm pleased to say I'm making some progress, I'm not quite where I want to be yet — hence, my latest health move, which involved trying a supplement cocktail to improve my energy levels, digestion, and skin.
Now, taking anything other than coffee regularly has always been an issue for me. I’m a forgetful person by nature and even sticking to a daily multivitamin is hard for me to keep up. That said, at 33, I’ve been feeling the effects of a neglected wellness routine. As my workout routine became inconsistent at best, I felt my energy levels drop and my anxiety rise. I also am known to bloat very quickly and easily, and have always had digestive issues that only worsened in my 30s. To say I had my work cut out for me on my search for the perfect supplement formula is an understatement.
Now, to be clear, supplement cocktail-ing is a much-debated topic in the wellness world. While some health professionals praise the practice, there are many who advise extreme caution before proceeding. “I have experienced, more often than not, people assuming that if one supplement works, then taking more can only benefit them when, in reality, mixing supplements can be working against you,” says wellness coach and founder of Wellness Styled Dana Kofsky to The Zoe Report. “The most important thing before starting any supplement regimen is that you consult your doctor to make sure you're choosing supplements that will improve your health and way of life, and avoid self-diagnosis as much as possible.”
Some companies have actually taken that precaution into their own hands and will actually pair you with a registered dietician to help you decipher the right supplement plan for your body. Such is the case with HUM Nutrition, the wellness brand I chose to help me on my supplement quest. Since its inception in 2012, the company has skyrocketed in popularity, thanks to its 360-degree approach to inner and outer beauty. Products like Gut Instinct, Flatter Me, Big Chill, and gummies Hair Sweet Hair have caught fire among health-minded millennials with an eye for pretty packaging and clever marketing.
Before suggesting any beauty and lifestyle supplements, HUM Nutrition provides a three-minute quiz for consumers to take. The results are reviewed by one of the professionals in the brand’s roster of RN nutritionists, who then suggests a cocktail of products based on the your specific needs and health profile. (For good measure, you should obviously consult with your personal physician before hopping on the bandwagon.)
Now, in addition to the online quiz, I also paid a visit to the HUM headquarters and spoke to registered functional medicine dietitian Sarah Greenfield. I informed her of my aforementioned needs and health concerns, and she suggested a few solutions to help me get back on track: HUM’s Daily Cleanse, Über Energy, and Flatter Me. In receiving these health treasures, I made the decision to fully commit to this routine — along with a healthier diet and regular workout routine — for at least a month to see if I could get my body back on track. (I even bought a rainbow-colored pill organizer and placed it strategically next to my coffee machine, so I would remember to take my supplements every day.)
To my surprise, my efforts resulted in some changes within a week of taking this personalized health cocktail. Curious to see what happened (and what didn't) after just seven days? Read on.
During this trial period, I resolved to eat better than I had for the past few months. I munched on healthy snacks like nuts and fruit during the day and made sure my main meals included nutrient-rich veggies like cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts as well as lean proteins like grilled chicken and turkey sausage. Now, that's not to say I didn't indulge in some junk food. In the name of laziness, I definitely snuck in some instant mac-and-cheese and Chipotle burritos on a couple nights I couldn't be bothered to cook. Hey, I'm human.
That said, the typical bloat show that once occurred on the regular (no matter how healthy my meals) was not as prominent as it had been in the past. At most, I experienced some feelings of fullness, but no puffed-up tummy or even lethargy after eating. Greenfield explains that the anti-bloat supplement Flatter Me, which features a proprietary blend of 18 enzymes to promote healthier digestion, is one of the brand's few products that actually produces almost immediate results. "It will start to break down your macronutrients and break down pieces of your food in that meal while you're eating," says the nutritionist to The Zoe Report.
Another one of my magic pills that proved impactful was the Über-Energy supplement. While not potent enough to substitute my daily mug (or two) of coffee every morning, I definitely saw a change in my stamina during my workouts. Right before this experiment, I committed to regular fitness classes at least three times a week, and getting my groove back was proving to be a challenge in that I would get out of breath and lose energy fairly quickly.
A few days after starting my three-supplement cocktail, I took my first hot yoga class in months. At this point, I expected my body to no longer be acquainted with the high room temperature and rapid flow of movement (I was a hot yoga enthusiast for years, and the pace was once second nature to me). I truly expected to tucker out about half-way through — but I was pleasantly surprised. My body held up remarkably well during the class, and while some of the positions didn't feel as natural as they once had and I definitely sweated out my weight on my mat, I walked away from the class feeling refreshed and energized.
The same was true of my other workouts that week, which included a boxing class and a couple outdoor running sessions. I found myself with increased stamina that allowed me to give my workouts 100 percent. Although this supplement is one that Greenfield says typically takes about a month or so to fully kick in, the health pro says she's not surprised at my results. "[Über-energy] is more of an adaptogen blend, and it has L-theanine as well, which is involved in the energy pathway," she explains. "But the reason it's probably working in this way for you is that, when you're operating at a higher stress level, it helps your body more effectively respond to stress."
As you can see, my little experiment with supplement cocktail-ing (which is still underway) had some surprising results right off the bat. To help those considering their own pill-popping journey, I've compiled a few major takeaways that I feel will make your new routine easier to navigate.
Be Patient & Consistent
Seven days is not a sufficient amount of time to get the full benefits of a supplement, or any health change for that matter. However, the two rapid results I experienced intrigued me to keep this supplement routine going and possibly reap the rewards that were to come (I'm still waiting for Daily Cleanse to kick in and deliver a more radiant complexion). Patience, especially when it comes to your wellness routine, is definitely a virtue, says Greenfield. "Supplements are not medications in that you don't feel the effect of them immediately," she says. "It is something that you have to get excited about and you have to establish a routine around."
Don't Use Supplements As Substitutes
Supplements should be used to fill holes your body isn't already filling on its own. "In any case, a balanced diet should be a number one priority, and taking supplements should quite literally supplement what's lacking in your day-to-day diet," says Kofsky. "Supplements should never be used as a replacement."
HUM's assessment program typically suggests no more than three supplements, which Greenfield says should be the max amount to start with. Kofsky agrees, saying less is always more when dealing with products your body is not familiar with. "Take what's needed only," says Kofsky. "Many people who overdo supplement intake can experience fatigue, changes in digestion and appetite, kidney stones, and diarrhea."
Pay Attention To Ingredients
Consulting with a nutritionist and/or physician is key when starting on multiple new supplements at once, as they are better equipped to educate you on ingredients that may not play well together. "Calcium and iron are tough to take together, as calcium can prevent the absorption of iron," explains Kofsky. "When taking iron, take it first thing in the morning. Wash it down with orange juice or water, and avoid caffeine and dairy as calcium can interfere with the body’s ability to take in iron properly."
Greenfield also warns against taking multiple supplements that share active ingredients that shouldn't be consumed in excess. "Within our line of products, I look specifically at biotin," she says. "We have a couple of supplements with higher levels of biotin, like Hair, Sweet Hair and Killer Nails. I typically tell people if you're taking one of these don't take the other simultaneously because it's too much biotin, and you're already getting an extremely high percentage of your daily needs. Sometimes people have a reaction and their skin can break out, because biotin can clog your pores and make your skin a bit more oily."