It seems like just about everybody has tried a supplement at one time or another, but how do you know if you really need them or not? On top of that, the overwhelming selection of supplements from various brands can make it difficult to figure out which one is best for you. Here are five questions you should ask yourself to make sure that you are choosing a supplement that meets your needs.

1. Are there nutritional gaps in your diet? The biggest upside to taking supplements is that they can fill in any nutritional gaps that may exist in your diet. With our increasingly busy lifestyles, even those of us with the best intentions may find it difficult to always eat nutrient-rich meals. Additionally, the vitamin and mineral content of the foods we eat can vary based on where the food was grown and how it is prepared. The solution? Make sure that you are taking a multivitamin and mineral supplement to guard against a low intake of any nutrients in your diet. You can also find multi's that are geared to your individual needs, including multi's for women, teens and even highly active individuals.

2. Do you have special health needs? Another pro to taking supplements is that they can provide targeted nutrition to meet your individual health and fitness requirements. If your joints are feeling the effects of your exercise routine, try a bottle of glucosamine and chondroitin. Those of us living in northern climates may need more vitamin D than found in a typical multi, especially in the winter. Vegetarians may need more iron and B-12 than a standard multi can provide. These are just a few examples of situations where diet alone may not be sufficient.

3. Has the supplement been clinically tested? One of the most important factors to consider when purchasing a supplement is whether or not the ingredients have been used in clinical trials. This is especially important when purchasing supplements other than multivitamins, such as weight-loss products. Clinical trials help determine whether the ingredients can produce beneficial effects when taken under controlled conditions. Supplements that have been studied in clinical trials will often state this right on the packaging. You can also contact the product manufacturer to find out more information.

4. Is diet and exercise alone not working for you? If you've struggled with weight loss, you may want to consider a supplement that will give you that extra edge in achieving your weight-loss goals. While your number one focus should still be to eat healthy and exercise regularly, there are some supplements that may help speed up your weight loss and provide faster results than diet and exercise alone. Research has shown that those who lose weight faster are more likely to maintain their weight loss than those who take longer to slim down. Therefore, the right supplement may be able to help boost your efforts to achieve longterm weight loss without making drastic changes to your diet. A small 12-week study recently found that participants who took Pro Clinical Hydroxycut lost an average of 21 pounds over three months, while those who took a placebo and ate a similar style diet lost only about 2 pounds. The study suggested that the product's herb ingredient combination (Alchemilla vulgaris, Olea europaea, Cuminum cyminum, Mentha longifolia) was responsible for activating brown fat, which is a type of fat stored in the abdomen that spurns the body to burn calories and could play a role in regulating metabolism. If your diet and exercise program isn't giving you the results you'd like, check with your doctor to see if a supplement like Hydroxycut may be right for you.

5. What does your doctor recommend? Whenever you make a change to your diet or exercise program or look into a new weight-loss program you should get your doctor or other health care professional involved. The same goes for trying a new supplement. Your doctor can review any medical problems you may have and help you make an educated decision on what supplements will give you best results.

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