Now that you have everything else in your diet sorted out and in place, it is time to talk supplements. This is often the most commonly asked question because we live in a “Quick Fix” world. We all want the quick fix to our problems. Have a headache or soreness? Ibuprofen. Teenager with acne? Birth control or antibiotic. Common cold? Z-pack. Want to lose weight? Weight-loss pill. We tend to want to use “supplements” to help us quickly achieve our fitness goals, as well. We all have heard of the crazy-named supplements at the vitamin/supplement store. Just walk into a GNC store and you’re overwhelmed and seeing all crazy kinds of supplements with fancy words “ripped”, “jacked”, “muscle”, “gains”, and you trust that it’s safe to take because it’s being sold.
In reality, the supplement market out there is very deregulated. There is very little research into these supplements and their mechanism of action. It is very common for supplements to be pulled off the market it is discovered how detrimental they are. So many supplements have been pulled off the market after discovering that derivatives of methamphetamine and cocaine were used as ingredients. One supplement was pulled from the market after the discovery that it contained a compound that in your body turns into GHB, a commonly used date-rape drug. Even more common than these extreme occurrences are the supplements containing ingredients that cause fatal drops in blood pressure, skin rashes, hair loss, neurological impairment, cancer, irregular heartbeat, nerve damage, seizures, and the list goes on and on.
All this is to say that supplements should be considered with extreme caution. We should minimize the supplements we are putting in our bodies. Furthermore, they should be limited to safe and reliable sources. We should aim to get our supplements that contain basic names with the vitamin/mineral with which you are supplementing, like “Vitamin C” instead of “Crazed Performance Fuel.”
Now let’s go over my favorite and recommended supplements! We will first go over the more essential supplements everyone should probably consider, then we will then go over some recommended and optional supplements to give you the extra push if that is what you desire.
1. Fish oil
Reduces inflammation, provides lubrication for your joints, all benefits for recovery and reduced joint pain and muscle soreness. Increases your ratio of omega 3 fatty acids to omega 6s. Don’t remember these? Check out my post on healthy fats!
Magnesium is often underconsumed in a typical Western diet. Underconsumption leads to increased inflammation. Supplementing with magnesium helps with sleep and muscle soreness and recovery. Get Magnesium Glycinate. 300mg for females and 400mg for males.
3. Vitamin D
Almost all of us are deficient in Vitamin D, especially as we head into the winter months. I tend to add Vitamin D to the list November through February, when I’m not out in the sun as much. 2000-5000IU.
I recommend protein powder ONLY as a last resort option and a helpful buddy for you. Protein powder should only be used once in a day. I use protein powder in a post-workout shake or when I am traveling and know I will be low on my protein for the day. A high-quality protein is going to be essential. The higher quality, the less inflammatory it will be. Whey can be very inflammatory to your gut and the cheaper the protein, the worse you will feel. I recommend True Nutrition “cold-filtration” whey isolate protein. It removes almost all of the whey milk globules and instead leaves the amino acids we are wanting.
2. Recovery carb (cyclic dextrin)
This is ONLY for you high-intensity exercisers who want to optimize your recovery (CrossFit, OrangeTheory, HIIT, etc.). I find this is perfect for weightlifters and CrossFitters. It’s also perfect for those who don’t have time or the appetite post workout to eat. You NEED to be consuming carbohydrates 45 minutes to an hour post-workout. For some, this is impossible. In that scenario, a liquid carbohydrate supplement will be your friend. In high-intensity sports, we use glycogen as our fuel source. We have to replenish this expended glycogen if we want to keep crushing our goals. The less we refill our glycogen stores, the more inflammation we experience and the less likely you will be at losing weight OR gaining muscle. A highly branched carbohydrate (like cyclic dextrin) does just that. TrueNutrition sells my favorite Cyclic Dextrin!
Most of us don’t treat our guts super well. Probiotics help keep our gut happy and healthy. They also reduce inflammation and improve our immune system and overall energy levels and cognition. If you struggle with always being sick and experiencing heartburn, acid reflux, frequent diarrhea or any other symptoms of GI distress, you could benefit from a probiotic. You’ll want a high quality multi-strain probiotic (Thorne Research) that contains 5 billion CFU or more. Take according to the label’s instructions.
4. Vitamin C
No not Emergen-C. Vitamin C supplementation has been shown to improve SO much ranging from your immune system to your cardiovascular health. I love Vitamin C because of it’s ability to reduce cortisol levels and reduce HPA Axis Dysfunction (hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal). Your HPA Axis is responsible for healthy and necessary hormone production and secretion. Dysfunction occurs when life stress and inflammation overworks this pathway. Vitamin C actually helps this! Take 500-2000mg of a buffered Vitamin C. Make sure it is not Ascorbic Acid (Emergen-C)
5. B-complex (women)
If you are on hormonal birth control, you are completely deficient in your B-vitamins and this is somewhat of a non-negotiable. Take a good B-complex. I recommend Thorne B-complex.
This is somewhat along the same lines as above. If you are worried your diet isn’t diverse enough or you want to simply cover your bases, get a good multi and you’re all set. Again, Thorne Research off Amazon is my go-to.
1. CBD oil
This one is highly debated BUT I have found amazing benefits to using CBD oil. It is extracted from the hemp plant but contains no THC. Basically, what I’ve been told is that it’s like getting high without actually getting high (I’ve tried CBD but not the Mary J so I wouldn’t know). You don’t have the mind-altering effect or of those side effects of being high. Instead, you get the calming and relaxing benefits. Struggle with anxiety, stress, sleep, constant soreness and achiness? CBD is going to be a lifesaver. I recommend Cured Nutrition out of Colorado. I met the CEO and he is a really cool dude who also has a great podcast out there. For dosing, start small and find what works for you.
If you work at a job that requires random drug screening and you can’t risk CBD oil, then L-theanine is going to be your next option. It has most of the same benefits long-term as CBD. It just doesn’t work as quickly. Dose as indicated on the label and find the dose that works for you.
Glutamine here isn’t for its sports performance “benefits.” These are highly debated and I personally prefer to stay away from any supplement that is performance enhancing because once you stop taking it, your workouts will never feel the same. Here, we’re using glutamine for its calming effects on your gut. It reduces a lot of inflammation and calms any reflux, indigestion, heart burn, etc. Enteromend from Thorne Research is one of the best products out there. It contains glutamine, aloe, and licorice which are all really good for calming any gut issues you may have.
For those of you who want that pre/post workout boost, creatine and BCAAs are going to be my recommendation. Creatine boosts your power output production by as much as 5-15%. It is believed it increases the amount of a type of “energy” in your cell, kinda like ATP for you sciency people but way more energy-producing. Take 3-5g daily pre- or post-workout even on rest days. Creatine works best when it’s saturated within your muscle so stay consistent with it.
EAAs are essential amino acids. These are the amino acids we need to function that our body doesn’t produce on its own. Nine out of the 20 amino acids are essential. Three of these nine have a branched side chain and are our BCAAs or branched-chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, and valine). They increase the rate of protein synthesis while also reducing the rate of protein breakdown. For us resistance trainers out there, this is KEY. We can’t hold muscle if it’s always breaking down and never regenerating. It can also reduce the rate of perceived exertion (RPE) AND the time to exhaustion (TTE). Basically, they improve your “exercise capacity” if you will. Why? Because they compete with tryptophan which causes the release of serotonin which wants you to wind down and relax. BCAAs work best in a fasted state. Take 5-10g before a workout. If you are a morning exerciser, then 10-15 min. before your workout, take 10g BCAAs. Try to find a blend with both BCAAs and EAAs.
That makes up our list of supplements. There are a TON more out there. If you have any question about supplements and what you should take, sign up NOW for a free 15 minute supplement call and we can talk about what you should add to your diet to be successful.