What Supplements Should I Take?
Are supplements good or bad for you? If they are good for you, what supplements should I take? Wait…what is a supplement to begin with?
Let’s clarify what supplements are for those of you that may be confused. It is understandable if you get baffled because I didn’t always understand what supplements were compared to drugs either. That’s probably why you are reading this huh?
What are Supplements?
Supplements are simply components of food broken down into powdered form. They are intended to fill in the cracks of your daily nutrients that you may miss.
Why do We Need Supplements
Why do you miss these nutrients? Sometimes we just do. We don’t eat enough, we eat the wrong stuff, or simply put all foods aren’t created equal.
First, we may be too calorie restricted because of a dumb diet we are on and are limiting the amount of certain nutrients we are getting. Other times those seemingly healthy foods don’t have the nutrients we think that they do because they are processed, frozen, canned, or covered in preservatives.
These foods we think are good may also have a high acid balance that restricts proper absorption of all of the nutrients in the food. For instance, dairy and grains have this issue. They provide a lot of nutrients, but your body tends to absorb little compared to protein, fats, and vegetables.
In fact, no matter how well you eat and even if you use a protractor to measure your food, it is still challenging to make sure that you get in your proper nutrients. For example, you could buy two fresh green peppers and they could look exactly the same, but each could have very different amounts of vitamin C, Thiamine, or Vitamin B6 in them.
These are all reasons why it is valuable to take a daily multivitamin and other potential supplements to take the guessing out of it.
A nice side benefit is that supplements are also often easier to consume. You probably see people take a shake or a supplement packet into work with them. If time management is an issue, then supplements are vital to making sure you stay healthy and have enough energy to workout.
Supplements could especially come in handy as you are making adjustments to your diet to try to figure out what food works best for your body. While tinkering with calories and food types, supplements can help safeguard your body by giving you the most energy possible for your body.
Lack of nutrients can cause numerous physical problems like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and short term problems like fatigue, skin and eye problems. All of which I am guessing you don’t want to deal with.
Majority of US citizens are deficient in nutrients. In fact, according to the World Health Organization nearly 1 billion people suffer from some form of malnutrition (an unbalanced diet in which certain nutrients are lacking). WHO says malnutrition is the gravest single threat to the world’s public health. It impacted more than 36 million deaths in 2006. That is more than half of all of the people that died in the six year battle of World War II.
With all of that said, a lot of supplements are junk out there. A lot are practically placebos with little nutritional value. And some are downright bad. Since there are so many, let’s just focus on the right ones to take.
Again I want you to remember as we go through this that it is just the icing on the top. The foundation of a healthy lifestyle should be nutrition, exercise, sleep and avoiding stress.
What Supplements Should I Take?
You may have a few variations of this same questions based on what your goals are:
- What supplements should i take to build muscle?
- What supplements should i take to gain weight?
- What supplements should i take to get cut?
- What supplements should i take to lose weight?
Whatever your goals are, here are a few foundational items for supplements that can help you reach your goals. Here are a few examples of supplements I have used in the past that have worked well for me depending on what my goals were:
- Meal replacement,
- Whey protein,
- Vitamin D,
- Magnesium, and
- Essential fatty acids (fish oil).
One word of caution that I will continue to harp on is that supplements shouldn’t replace natural, fresh food as your primary source of food and energy. In fact, if you have the option between the two always take the natural food. Supplements are always secondary in value to varieties of natural foods and work best when eating healthy. Again they give you that bit of grace you may need to carry you across the finish line.
I would definitely recommend using a multivitamin or mineral supplement. This is a perfect daily step to help fill in those missing nutrients that are lost in processed and frozen foods.
Beachbody provides a multivitamin called Beachbody core nutrition pack multivitamins that includes a daily multivitamin, an omega-3 vitamin, and a calcium-magnesium vitamin. I take and recommend it.
I have noticed that it has helped me to have more energy daily and avoid illness more consistently. The site has a list of supplement facts to show it’s excess in daily value for multiple nutrients such as Vitamins A through E.
Meal Replacement and Whey Protein Products
When you ask, “What supplements should I take to gain muscle?” this could be your answer. Eating often is important to your success. It can be a challenge to eat 3-6 meals every several hours. It requires a lot of dedication and often time. If you don’t have time to prepare 3-6 meals the night before, one option is intermittent fasting. You don’t want to do IF more than twice a week.
So if that is out the window, then it will be best to look at a meal replacement product like shakes and bars. I will say of all of the options here, meal replacement and whey protein are my least favorite. And possibly depending on your goals, you should avoid them altogether.
Meal replacements and whey protein tend to be loaded with sugar. If you have that ectomorph/mesomorph body type that deflects sugar like Superman does bullets or have hit your body fat goals, then I think this is a fine option if you are looking to build muscle.
For most of you, I know you want to lose fat more than gain mass. These just simply won’t be worth it. Sugary shakes or liquids move quickly through your digestive track and have a tendency to spike your insulin levels, which helps to promote fat gain among a bunch of other terrible things. There are bars and other options that are low in sugar, but it is never as good as natural food with insoluble fiber to help slow the digestion and normalize insulin levels.
Get your food through naturally occurring food. I can’t say it enough. You will have too much of a hormonal effect on your body, even as it helps you to build mass.
Again, if you don’t have an option then do several hours of intermittent fasting or be smart and plan out your food for that day the night before. Yes I am talking about tupperware, plastic bags, etc.
Also if you need a snack, take some vegetables, a little fruit, grass-fed jerky, macadamia nuts, or lean, grass-fed meats with you. I even bought a mini-fridge for myself at work to avoid seeing the break room as much as possible.
Now all that aside, for those that want options, there are a few meal replacements and protein products I recommend.
I have used Beachbody’s Shakeology meal replacement drink as well. There are so many nutrients in it to help boost energy. It has a nice combination of antioxidants, phytonutrients, enzymes, prebiotics, and protein to help with major organ function and cell oxidation.
They also throw in those crazy rare ingredients that I know all of you love – including adaptogens, camu-camu, and sacha inchi – giving you new sources of the essential nutrients that are time consuming to try find in an ordinary diet.
It sounds very multi-level marketing ish…and believe it or not yes Beachbody has a coach program with downlines and all that jazz. What is nice is that you can get this product without having to pull in all your family members and have meetings in your grandma’s basement to talk about how rich you are becoming.
Myoplex is another high quality protein meal supplement. It is high in protein (42 grams) and is a great option for those trying to build mass for a sport, bodybuilding, or maybe you want to just get strong enough to beat up an annoying sibling or neighbor. I am not condoning it, but there is probably some motivation. This is the drink often promoted by Bill Phillips who created Body For Life.
I talk about some other snacks you can eat to fill in the gap and it comes with a well thought out picture of Godzilla and King Kong for your viewing pleasure. These are good examples that might not have as much sugar as some of these other options we have talked about here.
Meal replacements are intended to be consumed 1-2 times a day max. Folks you want to avoid meal replacement diets that include only bars or liquid. I know it would be a fat boy’s dream come true to eat six chocolate bars a day, but you might as well jump to a Snickers diet.
Remember there are always going to be more nutrients you get directly from food when you eat it as you would find it out in nature. Meal replacements should merely be there to fill in the gaps to build mass, not to make up the majority of your nutrition plan.
What workout supplements should I take? What might surprise you is that Vitamin D is one of the best options. Vitamin D is helpful for many reasons and something you should include daily in my opinion. It helps burn fat. It helps stabilize your hormone insulin, which means less fatty acids and glycerol making triglycerides in your body.
By doing all of this vitamin D fights against diabetes, autoimmune diseases and prevents untamed cancer cell growth in your body. Vitamin D does a great job of keeping your immune system in tip-top shape to prevent the flu and cold. Also if you are looking for babies, vitamin D helps to make this very possible.
It is true we get enough vitamin D if we get out in the sun. But it is also true that we tend to be more indoor dwellers these days and run the risk of overexposing your skin to the sun. So if your life is attached to a computer like me, then vitamin D is a must.
Seafood like herring, salmon, halibut, oysters, and even fish oil are decent sources of vitamin D. Still we tend to not get a great deal of vitamin D naturally, so this is a good way to top off your body’s needs.
So how much vitamin D should I take?
Well a lot factors dictate what you should do here:
- Skin Tone: the darker the skin, the less Vitamin D you absorb through sunlight.
- Where You Live: the farther away from the equator, the more you need because of less sunlight. (Random, but true)
- Air Pollution: The more pollution, the less sunlight.
- Job: If you work outside, then you are going to get more visibility to the sun.
I have read and seen that taking 2000-5000 IUs per morning in gel-cap form from a wholesale store like Costco, Sam’s Club, Trader’s Joe, Winco, etc works very well. Take some vitamin D with your breakfast. I would suggest a meal containing some fat like animal protein, nuts, seeds, avacados, coconut milk, or coconut/olive oil.
This is one of these things you have to test to see how much dosage you need for yourself. You probably won’t overdo it, so feel free to go a bit higher on this scale to start out and move on from there based on more or less energy and better health.
This is a supplement I use daily with a multivitamin. It makes a huge impact in my workouts. It probably has had the biggest single impact in my muscle gain and power while working out. If you are looking to put on some mass, this bad boy may be the ticket for you, even as much as protein and more than meal replacements.
Creatine is a metabolite found naturally in red meats which regenerates ATP. ATP is the chemical that provides energy for the initial seconds of muscle contraction. I can’t scientifically prove this, but Chuck Norris replaced all of his bodily chemicals with purely ATP, that is what makes him so “Chuck”. ATP basically increases strength, power, lean mass gain, and recovery time. I have also heard that vertically challenged people like to use ATP to carry planes across a runway.
If you are looking for muscle gain, then creatine is a great resource. It is also just as helpful for muscle maintenance if you are focusing on burning fat first. A couple of good sources for creatine include Bioplex’s creatine monohydrate or Beachbody’s strength and muscle creatine. Also you can get it at any GNC store or other similar health and nutrition retail stores like I do.
Magnesium is also one of these options I think is a must. “Mag-dawg” is key in helping promote calcium absorption in our body and maintaining strong bones. There are several other benefits that makes this a ride worth taking:
- fights hypertension and lowers risk for heart disease and cardiovascular diseases
- helps have more energy for working out
- assists in nerve transmission, which is the body’s version of the telephone game to help your brain know what is happening, i.e. “Ouch my hand is on fire so I should pull it away from the stove!”
- prevents blood clotting
- helps to maintain normal insulin levels
There are some natural sources that are high in magnesium that are worth including in your diet. Great sources include broccoli, spinach, artichokes, and other dark green vegetables. Halibut, almonds, cashews, and bananas seem to fit the bill as well.
For someone that is looking to make huge strides in their health and activity level you should gulp down 1,000 to 2,000 mg per day. I would look for a magnesium citrate form, which tends to absorb well.
You can get your magnesium in pill or drink form. Feel free to take this any time during the day that seems to fit with you. Again you can get this at any retail health store or online through a site like Beachbody.
One that has been recommended to me by Robb Wolf, that I now use is a powder called Natural Calm. I have seen personally and have heard a lot of positive results with this stuff. It is worth the order and I personally think it is not that expensive.
Fish Oil for Essential Fatty Acids
This stuff is the bee’s knees. Fat in general is important. It is so important we created a series about it. But if you do it right it could be the last step you need for success.
Fat is as significant to fat burning and muscle production as protein. You have probably heard or seen advertisements on how vital omega-3 and omega-6 is for your body. Well it is true.
The one thing that is often missing is the importance of the 1:1 ratio that should exist between omega-3 and omega-6 fats. Right now in our society thanks to grains, grain-fed animal products, and the heavy amount of vegetable oils we use, our ratios are more like 20:1 in favor of omega-6. Yikes! Even the honey badger would care about that.
The problem with so much omega-6 is that it builds up in our tissues, becomes inflammatory to our body, and can spike insulin levels. This means higher risk to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, autoimmune disease, and even cancer.
Short term that means you won’t be able to fit in those jeans, keep up with your kids, and a lack of energy and confidence at your job. Omega-3 can also be a big boost toward sexual reproduction and post workout recovery. You are kind of important, aren’t you omega-3?
The easy way to solve this is to eat wild fish, grass-fed meat, lowering intake of nuts and seeds, dumping grains and grain oils like corn, soy, and safflower all together. This isn’t always possible since our diets, even when eating generally healthy, have a high risk of going out of whack thanks to how foods are processed.
So the bottom line is that we need to get enough EPA and DHA. No those aren’t government agencies; those are essential polyunsaturated fatty acids that provide us with the omega-3 we need.
If you have problems with joints or injuries, essential fatty acids are also impactful to help protect your muscles and joints. This might be especially important if you are karate chopping someone in the head. Not saying you will…but we never know.
Be prepared. Boy Scout motto.
For you sexy marathon runners, essential fats also are substantial in supporting high levels of cardio. It makes oxygen transfer easier and helps your recovery from fatigue. Some of this may sound a lot like magnesium and vitamin D. That is because they can work successfully together to make life better for you.
There are multiple other benefits such as solidifying your immune system and nerve function. I seem to always get sick thanks to co-workers, so this can be a great way to rage against the disease.
For some of you that may seem excessive, but being how out of whack the balance of omega-3 to omega-6 is in our bodies, this is an important first step and can get you there faster. As you get closer to your ideal body fat percentage or blood levels, then you can lower down to .25 g per every 10 pounds you weigh.
The other factor will be asking yourself a simple question, “How do I feel?” If you are gaining more energy and having lower levels of stress, then you are probably going to need less omega-3.
Some solid sources of fish oils include Nordic Naturals, Udo’s Choice Oil Blend, and Carlson. If you are living in grandma’s basement and separating your two ply toilet paper to save money, then I would run down to Costco and get the Kirkland Signature Omega-3 Fish Oil. It doesn’t matter if it is in capsules or liquids, but you will get more concentrated doses with liquids. If burping up fish oil is an issue, then maybe go for the liquid oil and get the ultra-purified fish oil or “pharmaceutical grade fish oil” as some call it. Do whatever works for you as long as you get enough to continue to see better results.
For moms and kids under 3 the focus for fish oil should only be on a DHA-heavy product. Robb Wolf mentions that too much EPA can be a pathway inhibitor for arachidonic acid, which is another fatty acid needed to help brain development for children. You should shoot for .5 g a day for infants, .7 g for kids ages 1-3, and 1-2 g per day for 4-13 year olds.
Summing it Up
So those are quite a few supplements. The ones you should walk away with introducing today no matter who you are:
- Vitamin D
- Fish Oil
Optional choices include:
- Multivitamin: If you are struggling to get some other major nutrients like calcium, then this is a solid choice. But remember you can get all of the calcium you need by eating a variety of animal protein, vegetables, and fat. You can not only get what you need, but then some.
- Creatine & Protein: I would say go for creatine over protein because you can get protein so much more easily in food. Also you can get creatine in a tablet form without all of the sugar that tends to come in your shakes and bars.
Remember all of these supplements are just that. They aren’t “primary-ments”. It is an addendum added to a book, not the main content in the chapters. They are going to give you a huge boost, but none of it will take the place of eating healthy with fresh food, getting a lot of sleep, and exercising. The less steps the food takes from the ground to your plate, the better.
Include some of these options and come back to let us know what you have learned.
Time to discuss those evil drugs you should be careful about.