Accosted at Costco. That’s either the best name of a new novel or the worst way to spend a Saturday. I think you can guess which direction this is going. After a sweaty Turbokick class I was feeling blitzed so I suggested to my husband that we take the kids to Costco for what I call “the walking lunch.” (Confession: I actually wanted to go to Costco because my friend told me they had tutus on sale there and you know I have a tutu addiction. So what if they only come in sizes 3T-7? Elastic is stretchy, right??) See, on Saturdays Costco deploys their fleet of taste testers – generally sweet elderly people who give my kids two of everything – and by the time we’ve walked up and down all the aisles the kids have had lunch and I’ve got my shopping done. I know, I’m a parenting genius. (Or lazy.)
As a general rule I don’t eat grocery store samples – first because I don’t like packaged food and second because Intuitive Eating says you should always sit down to eat and sitting in the aisles makes my shopping go slower than it already does with four kids in tow. But this time the last sample table caught my eye. At first because the young man was trying to hand my kids a caffeinated drink and they need caffeine like Nicki Minaj needs more wigs but as I got closer I realized it wasn’t just a drink, it was a fitness supplement. I was curiouser than Lindsay Lohan’s accountant.
The product was Zipfizz. The man rattled off his spiel, something akin to this, off their website:
Zipfizz is healthy energy in a tube! Give your body a rush of vitamins, minerals and key amino acids to protect the immune system. Zipfizz has created an advanced formula that provides a significant amount of vitamins, fewer calories, lower carbohydrates, superior taste, variety and unique packaging! Simply put, it’s different because it’s good for you!
I was annoyed. Why does every fitness professional automatically assume I want to lose weight? (Okay, I do but still… I’m trying to not be obsessive about that anymore and this didn’t help.) I smelled shoddy science which, for the record, smells like burnt popcorn and public toilets. I didn’t buy the Zipfizz. I’d like to say I was overtaken by rational thought but really it was when my husband announced loudly that I’m not allowed to take caffeine as it interferes with my crazy meds and led me away by the arm. I love that man.
So caffeine’s out but what about those B vitamins? Do they really do what he says? When I was a vegan I took a B12 supplement – of which it is also rumored that Madonna gets megadoses shot into her butt once a month (I’m so on top of my celeb butt gossip!) – but I never really paid attention to why I needed it.
What are B Vitamins?
B Vitamin Deficiencies
While nobody wants to be emotionally disturbed, it’s the anemia that is the real killer. And I mean that literally. The anemia resulting from a deficiency can be fatal and even when it isn’t, the brain damage is irreversible. B12 comes from a bacteria that is only found in animal products (although there is some evidence that some seaweed may contain a form of it), hence the reason vegans are told to either take a supplement or eat foods fortified with it like most breads and cereals.
B Vitamin Benefits
I know. I’m kinda wishing I’d bought the Zipfizz now. But there’s a catch – like many vitamins, they don’t operate in a vacuum. Many studies, especially the ones related to cancer risk, only show the benefits when the B vitamins are consumed from food and not in pill form.
To Supplement of Not to Supplement, That is the Question
“Contrary to what ads would have us believe, B vitamins aren’t little packets of energy. It’s brilliant marketing but it doesn’t have any basis.”
“It’s true that the vitamins help unlock the energy in foods, Barkoukis says, but weary office workers can’t expect to get a jolt from extra B vitamins in any form. The reason, she says, is simple: Just about everyone in America [with the exception of some of the elderly] already gets all of the B vitamins they could possibly need in their diets.”
If you are vegan or don’t like lots of produce you should consider a supplement or fortified foods. (Note: despite the popular wisdom in some vegan circles, neither nutritional yeast nor brewer’s yeast contain B12 unless they are fortified with it and it says so on the label.) B12 supplements are not derived from the animal products themselves but rather the bacterial microorganisms that live on animals. (One website adds ”although some vegans may get b12 from inadequate hand washing, this is not advisable.” In all my time as a vegan I never once considered getting b12 from my own fecal matter! You learn something new every day…)
Grocery store samples: love or hate? Have you ever tried an energy drink like Zipfizz or 5-hour Engery fortified with megadoses of B vitamins? How do you feel about getting health advice from the taste-tester guy at Costco?
*Let’s remember that I am not a nutritionist, doctor or scientist and am completely unqualified to give advice, even when it comes to wearing black socks with sandals. I’m just telling you the information I found so you can make your own informed decisions.