Supplements are synonymous with the fitness industry, and everybody always asks, "What should I take?". After a decade of going down every avenue in the health and fitness world, I have learned a simple truth. 95% percent of the game is eating whole foods, getting adequate sleep, managing stress, engaging in functional exercise, moving frequently throughout the day, and fostering positive relationships. Know what all these things have in common? They can't be sold to you. You have to make them happen yourself... through intention and daily practice. With that introduction, here are the supplements that I use.
Because I'm a health nut...
There has never been a study to show a benefit of taking a multi-vitamin except in the case of severely malnourished populations. Yet, almost every wellness practitioner admits they take one "just in case". I am no less of a hypocrite. I do believe in quality though, so I take this one.
2) Fish Oil
Solid research exists showing benefit for virtually every system in our body. Quality is important for two reasons. You want high levels of the active omega-3 compounds (EPA/DHA). Also, fish oil can go rancid, so you want to buy from a fast-moving supplier where shelf time is minimal. Refrigerate as soon as you get it home. Here's the one I use.
3) Vitamin D
Again, solid research exists showing several benefits. Sun exposure is the best way to get vitamin D, but most of us don't have that option due to climate and lifestyle. Most multi-vitamins don't provide an optimal dose. You want between 2,000 and 5,000 IU daily.
We now know that our health is tied to having healthy populations of friendly bacteria in our gut. It's such a new and complex subject that there simply isn't sufficient research, but I believe there is enough evidence to warrant hedging your bet by taking a probiotic. I like this one because it has a delayed digestion mechanism to help the bacteria get past the acidic environment of the stomach and into the gut. Of course, putting good bacteria into your gut only matters if you're also feeding them. Hello, veggies.
Over 300 enzymatic reactions require this mineral, and upwards of 80% of Americans are deficient. Veggies are the main source of this mineral. I learned from using a food tracker that it was often a struggle to get enough magnesium from my diet. There are different chemical forms of magnesium as a supplement. Magnesium oxide is the most common form but has poor absorption, so stay away from that one. This is the one I use.
Iodine is critical for our thyroid gland which regulates metabolism and other important hormones. The only good food sources are sea vegetables and fish. Most brands of table salt are fortified with iodine which is sufficient for most people. I use sea salt which is usually not iodized. Therefore, I take a kelp supplement to make sure I'm getting an adequate amount.
I think of turmeric as my "what the hell" supplement. There is no solid proof of its efficacy, but there are many purported benefits with anti-inflammatory topping the list. It's inexpensive, and I don't see any downside. Make sure you get one that contains pepper extract as that improves absorption.
And because I'm a meathead...
I've blogged about creatine before. It's safe and has been proven to help increase strength gains and muscular growth. Creatine monohydrate is the most studied form, and it's also the cheapest.
Zinc is important for testosterone production. Did I mention I'm a meathead? Zinc also improves immunity. As with magnesium, there are several different forms. Zinc picolinate is reported to have better absorption.
BCAA refers to the three branch chain amino acids - leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Because I train in the morning in a fasted state, I take it pre-workout to help prevent muscle breakdown. Dosage is 5 to 10 grams. If you're not a skinny dude (or gal) working out in a fasted state, don't bother. You're likely getting plenty from your diet.
Conspicuously absent from this list is whey protein powder. Like most people, whey was probably the first supplement I ever bought back when I was a newbie. Whey is the part of cow milk that used to get thrown out or fed to the hogs before it became a goldmine for the supplement industry. It would be impossible to consume pure whey without gagging so they have to add a ton of artificial sweetener and flavoring to it. It comes from cows that are pumped to the gills with steroids and antibiotics. And... it's totally unnecessary for most people. If you're eating two servings (palm sized pieces) of meat per day, you're getting plenty of protein.
Now, if you think that's a long list of supplements for someone who just said they are only 5% of the game... you're right. Health and fitness is my passion, so I give myself permission to go all in. If your interest and goals are more moderate just take fish oil and vitamin D. Those two supplements represent the biggest bang for your buck.