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What Are Nutritional Boosts, & Do You Really Need Them?


You’ve just finished up at the gym (way to go for being motivated!) and you decide to treat yourself to post-workout smoothie. While you’re content with your classic strawberry-banana drink, you can’t help but notice that the smoothie store offers all sorts of “boosts,” from green tea caffeine to whey protein powder. What are they anyways? Are they worth the extra money? Do you really need them?

Whether you’ve seen them a the gym or smoothie shops, you’ve probably heard of nutritional boosts at least once, although you might be not be sure what they are or what they do. Plus there are a lot of misconceptions about if they’re healthy for you or not! Her Campus checked in with the experts for the truth about nutritional boosts, including what they are and what you should consider before adding them to your diet.

What are nutritional boosts?

Nutritional boosts are basically any artificial nutrients you add to your food or drink. “They include any nutrient supplement [such as] vitamins, minerals or protein,” says Joanne Larsen, a licensed dietitian.“They can also be a combination of nutrients or herbal concoctions.”

Smoothie shops often advertise boosting your smoothies with things like green tea caffeine, whey or soy protein or extra antioxidants. You’re also probably familiar with Muscle Milk or protein supplements, which can be added to any drink to increase protein intake.

“People prefer [nutritional boosts] in smoothies [and drinks] because they are a convenient way to get extra nutrients or replace a meal,” says Jennifer Calo, clinical dietitian and nutritionist at Compass Nutrition. “They can boost your immune system, help bowel regularity, decrease risk of chronic diseases and provide added energy.”

Smoothie shops advertise different boosts for different situations. For example, they may suggest green caffeine if you’re feeling sluggish and zinc supplement if you’re feeling under the weather. Even though they sound great, should you really spend the extra money on them? It’s important to know exactly what these boosts are, what they do and if you really need them before adding artificial nutrients to your diet.

Myth 1: You need them for a balanced diet

One of the reasons people may turn to turn to nutritional boosts is because they believe their current diet is lacking something. However, it’s possible to reach your Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of vitamins and minerals without adding anything extra to your diet.

“The practice of supplementing one’s intake is based on what a person ‘thinks’ they need to be adding to their diet,” Larsen says. “If a person eats at least 2,000 calories a day, you’re probably hitting your RDA for vitamins and minerals. Even if you don’t eat a variety of foods, just eating enough food ensures that you get the nutrients you need.”

You can also get “natural” boosts from consuming foods high in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids and fiber. “True nutritional boosts [can be found in] berries, leafy greens, avocado, chia seeds and flaxseed,” Calo says. “They are just as effective [as supplemental boosts].”

As long as you’re eating three meals a day that hit all the food groups, you’re probably already getting your all the vitamins and minerals that you need. Nutritional boosts aren’t necessary.

Myth 2: They maximize your workout

It’s common to see serious weight lifters or athletes add protein powder to their water bottles at the gym, creating the perception that nutritional boosts somehow improve your workout. But if you’re not a competitive athlete looking to build muscle, supplemental nutrients aren’t really making much of a difference for you.

“Competitive athletes need to eat more foods that have more nutrients,” Larsen says. “But periodically adding nutrients won’t have the long term effect that healthy foods will do. Nutritional boosts before a workout will not improve performance of an active person.”

Post-workout, you do need to replenish nutrients, however eating carbohydrates and protein is sufficient. You don’t need anything extra in the form of a supplemental boost. “Eat some wheat toast with peanut butter or one yogurt with a banana,” Calo suggests. “You don’t need to consume nutritional boosts in a smoothie or shake post-workout if you normally eat a varied diet.”

While you might feel like you’re improving your workout by having a little extra something in your pre and post-workout smoothie, trust that your normal diet and nutrient intake will give you the strength and energy you need. Adding extra supplements after your workout won’t hurt you, but they’re not helping you much, either. The only time they can be beneficial is when you don’t have a healthy post-workout snack. In that case, a protein shake will replenish some of the nutrients you need.

Myth 3: They’re worth the extra money

Usually if you’re adding something extra to your smoothie, it costs more. And since they’re not necessary to a healthy diet, they’re not really worth the extra money.

“Whether you want to spend the extra money on a nutritional boost is a primary consideration unless you are a competitive athlete,” Larsen says. “[If you’re in training] you may need to have increased nutrient needs.” If you play on a club sports team or work out every day, you don’t really need artificial supplements.

Additionally, if you’re someone who already has a balanced diet, there’s no need to spend additional money on extra nutrients.

“If someone eats three meals and two snacks a day rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber, nutritional boosts may be a waste of money,” Calo says. “I believe nutritional boosts are effective for people who are short on time, eat on the go and don’t necessarily have the time to prepare balanced meals.”

The only time nutritional boosts might be necessary for your diet is if you don’t have time to eat three balanced meals throughout the day. If you find yourself rushing from class to the library to a meeting with no time to eat, a protein shake will ensure you’re getting the nutrients you need to get through the day. However, just remember that a meal replacement should have has at least 200 calories and 10 grams of protein. Otherwise your body isn’t getting the nutrients it needs, which can be detrimental to your health. And never replace more than one meal a day!

Many people think that nutritional boosts are needed to balance out a diet or improve a workout, so they spend the extra money on them. While these supplemental nutrients are harmless, you don’t necessarily need them. The only times artificial nutrients could be beneficial are when you’re not able to eat three balanced meals in a day or you’re a competitive athlete looking to build muscle. Otherwise, focus on a balanced diet to get the vitamins and minerals you need! 

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