Supplement game 101 (2017 revised version)
Aside from “How do I get abs in 2 days” or “How do I get fit without working out”, “which supplements to take” remains my number 1 question asked.
It always seems like I’m pointing the finger at social media for preying on peoples naivety when it comes to supplements…..and for the most part I am. Sure so and so lost 10 lbs and now is an online coach recommending you buy their wonder supplement that promises to help you too.
The supplement game has skyrocketed like crazy over the past few years. There are literally hundreds of supplements and categories that its no wonder anyone would be confused as to what to take.
Being that I got asked again recently about taking supplements and what are the best ones to take I figured id write it out in case you might be wondering the same thing.
My opinion on supplements has come full circle over the years. Ive gone from “newbie lifter stage to where supplements are king” to , “Take a seat right here sonny and let me explain how all this works and why”. Ive tried practically every supplement and have spent what feels like a car payment on monthly supps in the past. So do me a favor and trust me on this topic………youll save yourself alot of time and keep your wallet pretty plump.
First off I have to come right out and say that supplements are just that. Supplements. They are meant to supplement a healthy nutrition plan. I know thats boring and youve probably heard it before but its worth mentioning again. And again. And again. So just like the mantra “fish are friends, not food” goes, so must “supplements are just that, supplemental” be.
When it comes to supplements I have what you can say a tier system. Basically the foundational musts for supplements. The itd be cool but dont panic or go broke if you dont need them. And lastly the specificity supplements (aka the high roller or technician supps).
These are supplements that are not only a good idea to take but also act as an insurance policy for the nutritional deficiencies we most likely have. No ones perfect.
Remember when I mentioned of coming around full circle with all my experience with supplements? Well after all this experience I realized that had I used these foundational (or boring) supplements id be 100x healthier ,fitter, leaner, energetic, clear headed, with optimal hormones. And id save myself a ton on buying other supplements to mask or deal with the real deficiencies I likely had. These foundational supps not only optimize your health and wellness but work towards your fat loss and muscle building goals behind the scenes.
Here they are.
Whey protein- As much as I love steak, there’s no way id be able to get in the amount of protein I need without adding in protein in supplemental form. Its like a meal on the go. This alone has been the catalyst for alot of clients results as one of the biggest issues is getting enough protein in to help with the grueling workouts. Whey isolate is my go to. Any good quality 100% whey isolate will do. Dont skimp on this. Youre gonna have to shell out a bit for it but its quality were talking about and your body.
Magnesium- This mineral is responsible for so many functions in the body that it would take a blog post of its own to list everything. Its a relaxing mineral which helps the nervous system as well as the muscles relax. Athletes or intense exercisers need this for sure. Also people who have trouble sleeping, have cramping issues frequently, even teeth grinding at night. Magnesium comes in many forms and each affects different systems and tissues differently. I usually stick with Magnesium citrate as its an affordable and good option.
Fish oil- So if magnesium warranted an entire blog to describe then fish oil would need an entire book. The benefits of fish oil are so vast that there’s a joke in the industry that says if it you cure it with fish oil or deadlifts youre probably gonna die. Seems a bit much but its true (not the dying part). From treating depression, balancing hormones, joint and cartilage treatment……the list goes on. Moral of the story, take fish oil. Carlsons brand is usually pretty good as well as vitamin shoppe’s brand.
Vitamin D3- This little fella is one that most of the population is deficit in. If you go and get bloodwork done at the docs office im willing to bet that youd come back low in vitamin D3 (if youd like to take that wager let me know). Vitamin D3 is another one that has a whole host of benefits but in a nutshell this is one that would definately need to be taken care of if optimal hormones is the goal.
Probiotics- Gut health is boring as shit but its one of the most improtatnt and overlooked issues. The gut has been called the second brain and with good reason. Neurochemicals like seratonin which were once thought to be produced in the brain are actually in the gut. Which is why one of the main treatments for treating depression and any cognitive issue is making sure your gut health is optimal. Also certain issues like immune issues and allergens have alot to do with the gut. If youve ever eaten something and no matter how clean it was youd still bloat then check your gut health.
Supergreens- Its no secret that its taken me years to outgrow the whole veggies are gross phase (its still in the process). Even though I eat more veggies now then I ever have (and on purpose too) and enjoy it, I still dont get enough in. Which is the case for alot of people. So I supplement with supergreen powder. Mix it in with your protein powder and youve got a nutritonal powerhouse shake. My two favorites are Athletic greens and any of the Amazing grass brand (they have a chocolate one I mix with my chocolate protein).
*Zinc (especially men)- The reason I have this as a maybe is that even though most lifters are deficit in this, its always a good idea to get bloodwork done to test if in fact you are as extra zinc can affect other minerals. Also the reason I say mostly men is becasause low zinc levels corrolate to lower testosterone levels.
The Itd Be Cool Supplements:
EAA’s/BCAA’s- Id prefer EAA’s as they give you a more complete profile of aminos. Just think of it as a real good insurance policy. One that helps with recovery. I like to sip on it throughout my workout.
Stims (preworkouts)- To be completely honest alot of the pre workouts out right now are all practically the same. Sure some have a few different ingredients or in different amounts but they all basically do the same. Ive been asked to recommend a specific brand or product but there’s a small problem with that. The problem is the market changes so much and so fast that what Id recommend would change in about 3-4 weeks and then that cycle continues. For that reason id recommend the simple and effective Caffeine+L-Tyrosine+L-Theanine combo. Caffeine is extremely cheap (you can get it at HEB for like $4). Tyrosine is an amino acid that can be converted to neurochemicals that we need and Theanine helps keep you focused and takes the edge off of caffeine. Basically calm focused energy without jitters.
Creatine- This is the most researched supplement in the world. It has a ton of benefits from strength and power to cognitive/depression. There are many forms of creatine all boasting to be superior to the regular monohydrate version. Really there is no need for any of the fancy stuff. There’s a reason why the regular monohydrate version is still around, because it works and its cheap. This would be something id recommend for everyone, BUT ……women who are looking for fat loss can do without this. Even though it would help build strength and muscle. Creatine has a small way of gaining a little bit of water weight (in a good way, as it helps pull it into the muscles) so if you’re weary of seeing fluctuations on the scale (even though its just that, fluctuations) then you can do without it.
Bronkaid- This one is technically not a supplement. Its an over the counter bronchial medication. It has ephedra in it (its medicinal purpose is to help the lungs) so if youre stim sensitive then be weary. Along with the slight energy and metabolism boost this gives itll help a ton for people who have any form of asthma or allergies. Its a life saver for me during allergy season (which is basically all year now) and keeps my workouts going full speed rather than feeling like an elephant is sitting on my lungs.
The High Roller/Technician Supplements:
Pepto pro- (Casein hydrolysate) This type of protein has been separated into di-peptides and tri-peptides which dont need to be digested which allows them to be absorbed instantly in the body for recovery. Basically think of protein as a chain link. When consumed they need to be digested and from there that chain gets broken down into links (di and tri-peptides). Then those links can finally be absorbed and used where needed. This skips all that and goes straight into the system to aide in faster recovery. When superhuman recovery is needed I like to sip on this during my workout coupled with one of the following supplements next.
HBCD (Highly Branched Cyclic Dextrin) or Vitargo- HBCD is the new kid on the block and has showed extremely great results. Vitargo is an older yet still good source. Both of these are “carb” sources and I put them in quotes because they dont act like your typical carb drinks. HBCD is great because it gets emptied by the stomach fast yet its clustred (like a rope) so tightly that it takes a while to break down in the intestines. So you get at fast absorbing fuel and replenishing source that is sustained for a while. Rather than the old school maltodextrin or sugar type approach that would cause a huge insulin spike as well as no sustainability leaving you crashed with energy.
Mixing these 2 supplements makes me feel superhuman as I dont ever really feel sore from a grueling workout with these two.
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