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What supplements should I be taking?

Have you ever walked into a supplement store and the salesperson tries to sell you everything on the shelves?

They spit buzzwords at you like “Creatine”, “enzymes”, “fast-acting glucose”, “amino acids”, etc. with the goal of convincing you that you should be taking about 10 supplement pills a day to make sure you’re reaching optimal health.

According to the FDA, there are over 80,000 supplements being sold in stores all around the U.S. That’s a lot; and when you look at the claims for each one, they are all advertised as vital.

The truth is that you can get most of your necessary nutrients through proper nutrition and sleep. If you are eating well– such as whole foods and complete protein– you should be good to go! That being said, some supplements can be useful and may be beneficial, depending on your diet/lifestyle and what your goals are. 

Before we dive into some common supplements, I want to mention that the focus should always be to get the most out of your nutrition! Do not go to your nearest supplement store and stock up on bottles of supplements. Instead, focus on adjusting your nutrition first and optimizing your diet to meet your goals. Once your nutrition is completely dialed in, then you should consider supplements if they are necessary. Dr. Andy Galpin– a respected professor of Kinesiology at the Center for Sport Performance at California State University, Fullerton– mentioned that supplementation “should be used more like a dollop of hot sauce on top of your giant taco salad. You have to keep them supplemental.” They are not meant to cancel out poor rest and nutrition. 

Further, if you are deficient in any nutrient or vitamin/mineral, you should consider finding the root cause. For example, if you are deficient in a vitamin/mineral, is that a result of your body’s defense mechanism? Or an underlying health problem? Before throwing in supplements to combat the deficiency, first find out why. It can be due to something more serious.

Questions to ask yourself when you start taking supplements:

  1. Is it safe? What are the side-effects? You will notice that some supplements have side effects like indigestion, bloating, etc. Be careful with the dosage and amounts consumed. 
  2. Does it work? Is there evidence supporting its use? Always look for research to support the use of the supplement. Some supplementation serves minimal benefits. You’ll notice that the best supplements have the most research-based claims. 
  3. What is the cost? Supplements can be expensive! You should not be spending hundreds of dollars on extra supplementation; if you are, then you are most likely neglecting your nutrition. 

Below is a list of supplements to consider. 

Protein Powder

  • Protein is the building block for muscle. 
  • Although most, if not all protein consumption, should be through meats and other natural sources, protein powders are extremely useful for those who are unable to meet their recommended daily protein intake. 
  • This is especially important for athletes who require higher levels of protein consumption for muscle recovery/repair.
  • We recommend whey protein. Whey protein concentrate is more cost-effective, however whey isolate is higher quality and contains more protein per gram. 
  • If you decide on a plant-based protein, look for one that has all nine essential amino acids.

Creatine

  • Creatine is a natural substance in the body that is used for muscle contraction. 
  • We generally get our creatine through milk, red meat and seafood. 
  • In a normal omnivorous/carnivorous diet, you consume one to two grams/day of creatine. Vegetarians may have lower amounts of creatine in their bodies.
  • Creatine is one of the most studied supplements and has been proven to be effective for the following:
    • Athletic/physical performance
    • Recovery after intense activity
    • Handling heavy training loads
    • Increasing muscle mass
  • Sold in the form of creatine hydrochloride (HCl) or monohydrate. Stick with the monohydrate, it’s usually more cost effective and has the same effects.

Fish Oil

  • Fish are full of EPA and DHA, the omega-3s that are found to be essential for disease prevention.
  • Benefits include aiding in:
    • Heart health
    • Eye/sight health
    • Brain development
    • Maintaining healthy weight
    • Inflammation reduction
    • Brain function
  • When choosing a fish oil, go with one that’s in the natural triglyceride form.

Notice that the list of recommended supplementation is short– this is because we believe in absorbing all of the necessary nutrients through food and sleep. When you have a sustainable and healthy approach to nutrition, sleep, and exercise, your body will respond by producing appropriate amounts of vitamins and your nutrition will naturally provide your body with what it needs.