When people have questions about supplements, they often turn to fitness professionals to provide answers. The problem is that many trainers are as confused as the consumer by the conflicting, over-hyped or downright wrong information about supplementing.

If you've been in the fitness industry for a while, you too have probably encountered everything from the latest and greatest berry found in the Amazon to the super-duper protein drink that cured everything from a hangnail to obesity. It's tough to determine, based on the slick sales literature from companies that want you as an affiliate, what will really work for your clients. After all, your credibility is on the line and you only want what's truly best for them.

Weeding through information and misinformation is a challenge, especially for fitness pros who would rather focus on helping clients achieve their fitness goals than on the ins and outs of proper supplementation.

As a 12-year nutritional supplementation industry veteran, I'll share with you some discussion points you can use with your clients and help you make sense out the confusion that clouds the most important areas of supplementation for today's average adult.

First and foremost, people need to get as much nutrition as possible from food. Real, honest food from the farm or grocery store. I know that sounds strange coming from a supplement guy, but really and truly, when at all possible, we need to look to good ole mother nature to fulfill our nutritional needs. Then and only then do we need to supplement in order to fill the gaps in our diets.

So just what does "filling the gaps in our diet" mean?

Well, as an example, the USDA has a food guide which recommends a person have a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and proteins and limit the amount fats and sugars they consume daily.

Good advice, but how many of your clients actually consume five to seven servings of fruits and veggies per day? How many eat three to five servings of Omega III rich fatty fish per week? And how many severely limit fats and sugar on a daily basis? I didn't even mention whole grains because due to the industrialization of today's food supply, it's virtually impossible for us to even get the bounty of our grains, which are the essential oils known as lipids and sterols found in grains such as soy, wheat and rice.

So when you get a new client, until you can teach and get them to follow your guidelines or the USDA's dietary recommendations, more often than not, there is a need to supplement.

But it also has to be the right type of supplement. So what are the "right types"? Let's look at the most common, or what I call the big four: Omega III, protein, calcium and the much talked about multi-vitamin.

Omega III
Not all Omega IIIs are created equal. The human body requires eight different Omega III fatty acids, so the simple answer is to find the few Omega IIIs that have all eight. Almost all contain DHA and EPA, but few have the other six: ALA, SDA, ETA(3), ETA, HPA and DPA. Also, it's important to find an Omega III supplement that has been screened for toxins. Purity is an issue as well. And in case you haven't kept up with the latest science, Omega IIIs are not just good for the heart and circulatory system. Now science is showing us how powerful Omega III is as an anti-inflammatory. It's also crucial for pregnant women and for brain development in children.

Let's touch on the hot topic of protein. I say hot because this is one discussion I find to be just about unwinnable, as few people agree on what is enough and what is too much. But my take is this: The vast majority of your clients are not Lebron James or Serena Williams. They are not running marathons, body-building or training others all day like you are. They are working men and women trying to stay in shape 45 minutes at a time, three days a week, tops. Therefore, their need for protein intake is vastly different from yours and most all pro athletes.

So where do we start? Let's begin with the number-one missed meal in the America: breakfast! Can you imagine the results your clients would realize if you could just get them add a protein-rich breakfast such as an egg or egg whites or even a simple rice cake with peanut butter? But the truth is that people are busy, they run short on time and many don't like to physically eat in the morning. So why not try to get them to supplement with a quality protein shake in the morning, something they can whip up quickly and drink on the way to work? I recommend a shake with 18 to 20 grams of soy or whey protein, all 22 amino acids and a generous percentage of vitamins and minerals. Again, I'm not a huge fan of a meal replacement drinks, but when necessary, a good protein shake is a great way to fill those gaps in the diet!

When it comes to calcium, the AMA's calcium recommendations change from time to time, but the most current suggest men and women ages 19 to 49 get 1,000 mg a day. For people over 50, the recommendations jump to 1,200 mg. Now, we all know the best way to receive calcium is naturally through our diets from dairy and leafy green veggies such as spinach, broccoli, kale and so forth. But if your client is not eating the one to two servings of the right type of dairy per day and/or one to three cups of veggies at each meal, then they probably need to fill the gap in their diet with a supplement. Be sure to guide them to a calcium supplement with vitamin D. This greatly enhances the body's ability to fully absorb and utilize the supplement.

And finally, what's all the hubbub about multivitamins? Well, it could be because One A Day, which is the number-one selling multivitamin in the world, has been on TV since TV was black and white. But the truth is that due to the industrialization of our food supply and the amount of processed foods we consume, virtually every person breathing needs more MINERALS in their diet. Minerals are critically essential and really are part of the chain of life. When the chain is broken, so becomes the human body, and it will eventually fail in any number of ways. So, when it comes to multivitamins, which should be called multiminerals, be sure to recommend one with a broad range of minerals. A person can get vitamins through their diet much easier than minerals, so taking a multimineral will serve a person well over the long haul of life!

Fad supplements will come and go, and there truly is no substitute for real food, but we all need a little help sometimes. It doesn't hurt to keep up on what the latest supplement trends are, but when giving advice to clients, all you need to know are the big four.

Terry Sheffield is president of Independent Wellbeing LLC and former Vice President of Sales & Marketing for GNLD International. He has traveled and spoken about nutrition and nutritional supplements all over the world, To reach Terry, please contact him via email at terry@goiwb.com, call 817.408.9957 or visit www.goiwb.com.