Whether you’re like me and have a shelf full of supplements or you are new to supplements altogether, the breadth and depth of supplement options on the market can be very overwhelming. Where do you start? What is really necessary? Having just received an e-mail stating, “Help me!!! What are a few supplements that I should take to support my fit lifestyle?”, I thought I would share my top five supplement essentials for a lean and healthy physique:
- Multivitamin/mineral: Intense training and periodic calorie restriction makes a high-quality multivitamin a must. Even if we follow a balanced, nutrient-dense diet, we likely still have some gaps to fill, as the demands we place on our bodies deplete us of the micronutrients we need for optimal functioning. When we are depleted of vitamins and minerals, we experience a number of negative effects, including fatigue, lack of mental focus, immunity suppression, hormonal imbalances and slowed metabolism, to name a few.There are countless multivitamin/mineral formulas on the market offering a variety of benefits to suit almost any goal or life stage. Do some research on what’s out there, and decide what is best for your needs and goals. For instance, if you need metabolic support, make sure the multivitamin/mineral has sufficient levels of iodine, selenium, ferritin, B-12 and zinc. If you want improved training endurance and recovery, Gaspari Nutrition’s Anavite offers a full dose of Beta-Alanine and L- Carnitine L-Tartrate.
If you want to take the guesswork out of what vitamins/minerals you personally need, there are tests like SpectraCell to determine what you are lacking. I did the SpectraCell blood test a few years ago when I was feeling fatigued all of the time. The results indicated that I was very low in B-12 (levels placed me in the 20% percentile). I temporarily supplemented with high doses of B-12 and my energy returned within a month.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: This powerhouse supplement has been shown to decrease inflammation, support fat metabolism, enhance mood and improve skin hydration. I take an omega-3 fish oil capsule twice daily with a 500mg EPA/250mg DHA ratio. I also supplement with flaxseed oil once or twice daily.
- Probiotics: Probiotics facilitate proper absorption of nutrients by supporting the digestive system. Specifically, probiotics replace the good bacteria in our guts that are depleted by antibiotic use, stress, hormones, aging and infections, to name a few. When the good bacteria are depleted, our digestion and immunity are compromised. I supplement with probiotics daily to ensure I am getting the most benefit from the foods and supplements I consume and to stave off illness. Probiotics are available as a supplement and in food sources, like Gaspari Nutrition’s Myofusion Probiotic Series Protein Powder.
- Thermogenic: Thermogenics (or fat burners) are an essential supplement for me when I am trying to shed a little body fat. Thermogenics help to burn more calories by causing the body to create more heat, and because of their stimulant effect, help to decrease hunger and to increase energy. More energy leads to an improved mood, better focus and more intense training. More intense training leads to more calories burned. Currently, I am taking a thermogenic in the morning before cardio (Phenorex or sometimes a generic 200 mg caffeine pill) and again in the afternoon. That said, I’m always careful to not overstimulate before training. Overstimulation can constrict your blood vessels, allowing less blood and nutrients into your muscles, which is counterproductive to your weight training.
- Protein Powder: Sufficient protein intake is paramount for building muscle and increasing metabolism. Getting in my goal of approximately 170 grams of protein a day with only whole foods can be challenge. This is especially true for individuals on the road a lot or with busy schedules. Thus, utilizing a protein powder for one or two meals a day is extremely helpful. Besides helping me to get in my protein for the day, protein powder satisfies my sweet tooth that could otherwise threaten my fitness goals. For me, it doesn’t get better than a Cinnamon Roll MyoFusion shake.
Other supplements I regularly take: Greens Formula, Glutamine, BCAAs, Pre-workout (Super Pump Max), Calcium/Magnesium/Zinc (most multivitamin/mineral supplements do not have sufficient doses), Iron.
Tips To Get The Most Out Of Your Supplements
- Take supplements in divided doses (2+ times a day), because the intestines cannot absorb the entire day’s nutritional needs at one time and you are not getting the entire benefit from the supplement.
- Unless the directions on the supplement bottle indicate otherwise (e.g. Probiotics), don’t store your supplements in the refrigerator, bathroom or other humid environment. Store them in a cool dark place instead.
- Ideally, fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K) should be taken with a meal containing a little oil or fat.
Drake, V. Micronutrient Research For Optimal Health. Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University (Accessed May 1, 2012 at http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/)
Pati, S. Anti-Aging Medicine: Reality or Myth. Anti-Aging Medical News, Winter 2008.