As a follower of forums like Bodybuilding.com in high school (I know, I know), I was always experimenting on supplements, trying to get the edge in athletics and in the gym. With the exception of illegal Steroids or prescription Growth Hormones, i’ve tried just about every kind of supplement on the market.
Some were ok, but most weren’t. Many were just junk food with neon colors on the bottle. In fact, if you go into Costco today, there will be junk supplements as high as the eye can see (I’m looking at you, gummi-vites). Protein powders will be packed with artificial flavors and GMO corn and soy products and multi-vitamins are loaded with filler ingredients.
I don’t recommend multi-vitamins because everyone is different. We all have varying excesses and deficiencies and those need to be addressed on an individual basis. But there are a few supplements I recommend to just about everyone. (Remember: make sure you are doing your own self testing. Not everyone should be taking every supplement all of the time.)
Here is the the list:
This is the king of minerals. Magnesium is an essential mineral that we all need for a variety of reasons. A magnesium deficiency plays a role in several different dysfunctions including, high blood pressure, poor sleep quality, heart arrhythmias, tachycardia, cholesterol, dehydration, heart disease and many other things. It is also linked to diabetes and asthma. If that isn’t enough motivation, nearly 80% of people are magnesium deficient.
I usually supplement with magnesium citrate or glycinate. There are some other quality forms that are effective but these two I find work best when taking before bed. I sleep much deeper when taking magnesium. Taking a ZMA supplement stack could also be effective, as zinc is a power supplement as well and works hand in hand with magnesium.
I’m also doing weekly magnesium injections. These are “magic shots”. You feel better, happier and more calm throughout the day. And considering magnesium aids the recovery of just about every disorder or disease, it’s worth getting an extra weekly shot on top of supplementation.
Strength coach Charles Poliquin has said that even people with perfect diets are lacking in magnesium, so make sure you are adding this in regularly.
Aim for 1-2g per day, around bed time.
2. Omega 3’s/Fish Oil (EPA and DHA)
Fish Oil is packed with Omega 3 Fatty acids. Most Americans are very deficient in Omega 3’s and very high in Omega 6’s due to the amount of junk oils like canola, cottonseed and vegetable oils and trans fats. You need some omega 6’s but not the ratio of 6 to 3 fatty acids like most americans have now. Omega 3’s like DHA and EPA have incredible effects on things like joint health, but the real money is in brain function. DHA/EPA supplementation can help preserve quality brain function and keep you thinking sharp. It also promotes better sleep quality.
If you are looking to shed some excess fat, Omega 3’s can help as it helps improve insulin resistance. If your fat cells are made up of unhealthy fat cells, insulin will not bind with them easily leading to resistant insulin and higher cortisol levels. High cortisol levels can lead to fat storage.
Fish oil quality is key. Don’t just pop any old fish oil from Wal-Mart and think you are getting quality supplements. Fish oil from farmed fish is one of the worst things you can eat and can cause mercury poisoning among myriad of other problems. Or at the very least you will be wasting your money on junk and will feel worse after taking them. I recommend Krill Oil as a quality omega 3 source.
Dosage is tricky depending on the person, and too much is not a good thing. Aim for an extra 1-2 grams depending on the individual.
3. Vitamin C
No, don’t go chug a bunch of sugary orange juice for vitamin C. Orange juice is a very inefficient way to get your vitamin C. But vitamin C is one of the most effective supplements on the market. It has a very powerful effect on immune function and when you are sick, vitamin C is one of the best things you can take. The only problem is it’s very difficult to get enough of the vitamin in regular food. A study has found that nearly a third of people are vitamin C deficient (Study here). In fact, on one of my first nutrient tests, I was deficient in Vitamin C!
I pop Vitamin C every few hours while traveling to help keep my immune system firing. I recommend 250-500mg every 2 hours when traveling. Just avoid those sugary vitamin C packets like Emergen-C. They are loaded with real and artificial sugars.
On a regular day, get 1.5 grams minimum.
4. Collagen Protein
If you can tolerate it, Collagen is one of the best life giving supplements out there. It is a building block protein that renews cells in your body and is that elastic protein in your skin that allows it to shift, bend and move. Collagen renews organ tissues, skin, hair, nails and muscles.
Collagen production slows as we age, which is why we see these chemical-packed collagen products geared towards older women. Supplementing with it can help fill in for this lack of production. The list of benefits is very long:
- Reducing Wrinkles
- Tighter skin
- Restful Sleep
- Immune system rejuvenation
- Healthy Joints
- Improved energy
- Stronger and healthier nails and hair
- …and more
Collagen is plentiful in things like animal bones and cartilage, making bone broth a potent super food. If me, my wife or kids gets a cold, we take bone broth. My wife and I have gone on Bone Broth fasts for a day or two for detox when sick. This stuff can arm your white blood cells with machine guns!
Another way to get it in is with Collagen protein powder. You can mix this in your butter coffee in the morning or take it with your greens shake. I supplement with it in my greens shake or after workouts.
Kombucha has caught on as a very popular drink in places likes Whole Foods, but this one is for good reason. Kombucha is a fermented beverage made with tea and some sugar. It contains colonies of bacteria that cause the fermentation process. After fermentation, Kombucha produces carbonation and probiotics, polyphenols, a variety of acids, and enzymes that lead to a variety of positive benefits.
One of the biggest side effects is an improved gut biome. GERD symptoms, heart burn, low stomach acid and leaky gut syndrome can all effects of a poor gut biome. Kombucha can help aid recovery from these problems. The Gut Biome has been called the second brain by many doctors and researchers including Dr. David Perlmutter, author of Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain–for Life (I highly recommend this book for a better understanding on the gut biome’s connection to health and disease). Kombucha can help restore the gut back to optimal health and hence heal a lot of these issues we as a nation seem to be dealing with incessantly.
Kombucha is also a fantastic detoxification food. Resetting your stomach after eating bad food or recovering from a long life of poor eating is essential. Kombucha will help usher healthy bacteria into the stomach and is especially helpful if you’ve taken antibiotics in the past. Antibiotics wipe out all stomach bacteria, including the good stuff, and Kombucha can help replenish that.
(Note: As Kombucha has caught on as sort of a fad, some brands have come out with these high sugar Kombucha drinks. These are to be avoided. There is now need for excess sugar, and these things will take you out of ketosis as well. I stick with Synergy’s Organic, Raw Citrius Kombucha, which has very little sugar compared to many of the others.