Four questions to ask before taking a supplement

If you’re considering taking a vitamin or mineral supplement, make sure you do your research and ask the right questions first, says The Fit Pharmacist Holly Louise.

The perfect health and fitness regime includes a balance of four things: a healthy diet, an appropriate exercise program, sufficient rest and recovery, and optimal supplementation.

With our busy lifestyles it can be hard to look after ourselves as well as we should. Without proper nutrition, our bodies may become deficient in vitamins and minerals, which can leave us feeling tired and stressed and not able to do everything we want to do. This is where supplementation can help.

Many people underestimate the benefits of supplementation on optimising overall health and wellness. From boosting energy and supporting healthy weight management to preventing illness, supplements allow our bodies to work more effectively and efficiently.

It is important to note that we all have specific nutritional requirements and health concerns at different stages of life. It is wise to choose supplements that target those specific needs. Vitamin supplements should not be used as a substitute for a balanced diet and if you do take them, make sure you do not exceed your daily requirement.

Choosing a good health supplement should be an informed and wise decision.

These are the questions you need to ask before taking any supplement.

1. Do I really need this supplement?

Have you assessed your diet? Are you deficient in a particular nutrient? Have you had your levels checked by your doctor or naturopath? I recommend blood tests before starting any supplementation to ensure you target any deficiencies you may have and to uncover any underlying health conditions. It is also wise to know the correct balance of specific supplements to ensure they work as effectively as possible.

2. Is this supplement safe for me?

Do you take any other medicines? Do you have any health conditions? Many supplements contain active ingredients that have strong biological effects and their safety is not always assured in all individuals. Taking a combination of supplements or using products together with medications (whether they are prescription or over-the-counter medications) may, under certain circumstances, produce adverse effects, some of which could be serious.

In addition, many people are not aware that taking too much of certain vitamins or minerals can actually do more harm than good. It’s important to consult a doctor or pharmacist if you are unsure of the implications of taking a particular product.

3. Are the ingredients evidence-based?

Is there evidence that the supplement is effective? If not, don’t waste your time and money! It’s important to do your own research or ask the advice of a practitioner or pharmacist before taking a supplement. It’s also important to choose a product with an “open label”. This means a label that tells you the names of the ingredients and the exact amounts of each contained in the product, as well as the form of the ingredients used, the batch number and expiry date.

4. Is the brand reputable?

Has the brand been established for a significant amount of time? Do their products have good reviews? These are important factors to consider before purchasing. The label on the product is also a good tool for evaluating a good health supplement brand. This includes Current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP) compliance, pharmaceutical grade production, as well as quality control measures. The supplements should be tested and analysed independently for their effectiveness, purity and potency. This information can be obtained by contacting their customer service department.

It is always recommended that you do your own research as well. There are several evidence-based supplement database websites available, in addition to Government websites, which all contain valuable information. Be aware that there are many companies marketing supplements, and many of which may not work and can be unsafe. Quality does matter, so it is important to read the ingredients and warnings on the label, and learn about the manufacturers.

After all, it’s up to you as the consumer to protect your own health.


Holly Louise, aka The Fit Pharmacist, is a registered pharmacist, certified personal trainer, online coach and ambassador for INC Sports Nutrition. Through evidence-based nutrition and training methods, Holly Louise helps others create healthy and sustainable lifestyle change. Holly Louise is also a champion of flexible dieting and positive body image and has created a large community of women who support and empower each other to become their best selves.
Find out more about Holly Louise on Instagram, Facebook and at The Fit Pharmacist.