Let’s talk supplements… shall we?
If you clicked on this article in hopes to find the magic pill that’s going to melt off the fat, build all the muscle, and get you beach bod ready in 21 days… well I hate to burst your bubble, but no one has found that yet.
Because the truth is…
There is no magic pill.
There is not a single pill, supplement, shake, wrap, or program that, used alone, will give you the results you want.
Pretty unfortunately, huh?
Trust me, I know.
If there really was a magic pill that would help me get stronger, leaner, stronger, and faster you better believe that I would be all over it.
Unfortunately, it simply doesn’t exist.
Not quite the same thoughts that the supplement industry has you believing, am I right? There’s a reason they are a multi billion dollar industry.
Their unregulated false claims make selling to our “path of least resistance impatient immediate gratification” selves a walk in the park.
I mean, come on… enough of this.
I’m here to help you.
I’m here to save you money.
I’m here to save you time.
And I’m here to save you from the bulls*it lies they have you believing that will leave you confused and discouraged after falling for their sales pitch.
Truth be told, the only way to get a 6-pack, increase your strength, and improve your overall health and function is through consistently following a well designed, science-based, training and nutrition program.
Read the above sentence again.
Because this is where 95% of your results will come from. And is where you should place your priorities on when working toward your goals.
With that said, there are a select few supplements that may give you that tiny extra 5% when the above is in order.
Without further ado, I’m going to go over the supplements that I personally use and the only ones that I believe are worth adding into your diet and exercise plan ONLY if:
-Your diet and exercise are on point (again- this is the determining factor of 95% of your progress/results).
-You want the extra 5% of what may lead to long term progress and results provided you are consistently nailing your workouts and hitting your daily macronutrient targets.
Ok enough chitter-chatter, let’s get into it!
MY TOP 5 SUPPLEMENTS THAT ARE ACTUALLY WORTH THE MONEY
A multivitamin refers to a supplement in a pill form that provides essential vitamins and minerals. These are used to cover the bases when it comes to providing the vitamins and minerals our bodies need that we may or may not get from food alone.
-provides adequate dosages of vitamins and minerals to cover a risk of deficiency
-is cheaper and more convenient than purchases specific vitamins and/or minerals on their own
-a simple nutritional insurance policy
A basic one per day multi is considered a cheap nutritional insurance. It won’t hurt and may correct and/or prevent any minor vitamin/mineral deficiencies. It is probably best to be taken with food to aid in absorption.
The bottom line on multivitamin supplementation is that the long term health benefits and risks are inconclusive. There seems to be no literature supporting major benefits or harm with supplementation. I personally supplement with a multivitamin to decrease my risk for any nutrient deficiencies. If your diet is not very balanced and does not contain a variety of fruits and vegetables, a multivitamin may be beneficial to cover your nutritional bases to decrease a risk of vitamin or mineral deficiency.
2] FISH OIL
Fish oil is a form of fatty acids derived from the tissues of oily fish which contain omega-3 fatty acids, including eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA). These must come from food since our bodies cannot make them.
-Decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease
-Reduces joint pain
-Supports healthy bones
-Improves mood by increasing serotonin levels
Total intake of combined EPA/DHA of 1.8-3.0 grams per day.
Brad Schoenfeld says, “I take 2 g/day of high yield caps that provide a total of 800 mg EPA and 400 mg DHA”
A Standard capsule of fish oil may contain 180 mg of EPA and 120 mg of DHA (300 mg total fish oils) so the daily does would require 6-10 capsules per day which should be split at least morning and evening with meals.
I personally go with the liquid fish oil so I’m not poppin’ pills all day long.
*NOTES: you do not need to supplement with fish oil if you consume 2-3 servings of fatty fish on a weekly basis.
3] WHEY PROTEIN POWDER
Whey protein is one of two proteins found in milk, with casein protein being the other. Whey protein is the water-soluble part of milk. Whey seems to be the superior protein to supplement with after a workout as it is faster absorbed by the body compared to other forms of protein which means it’s very good at increasing muscle protein synthesis. It is also a high-quality protein source as it contains all of the essential amino acids for the body.
Though this is not needed per se, I do find it challenging for my clients to hit their daily protein requirements as they are not used to consuming that much protein daily. This is why I recommend protein powder as a supplement to increase their protein intake to their daily requirements if they struggle to meet their needs with while food alone.
The amount of whey protein to supplement with depends on the individuals daily protein requirements for their activity level, body type, and their goals.
A leaner individual who is highly active or a person who is in a calorie deficit, I would recommend about 1 gram per pound of bodyweight for reasons such as:
-It’s an easy number to remember
-It helps preserve lean muscle mass while in a deficit
-Increases satiation when dieting making it easier to stick to the calorie deficit
Now a more sedentary individual who’s goals may not be body recomposition, the recommended intake is .45-.68 grams per pound of bodyweight (examine.com). Or let’s say someone who wants to maintain their weight or gain lean mass, I would recommend .82 grams per pound of bodyweight as this has been researched by Alan Aragon to be the superior amount to maximize muscle protein synthesis.
In my opinion, anything over 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight is not going to show any greater benefit. You are just wasting your calories on protein when you could be having more carbohydrates or fats in your daily intake to make your food and your diet more enjoyable.
Another thing worth mentioning (because I’m a bro and care about the little things) is the amount of protein (not just whey protein, but the protein macronutrient itself) through meal timing can be important if the goal is to maximize muscle protein synthesis and increase a positive nitrogen balance in the body. It has been shown that about 20-30 grams of protein consumed every 3-4 hours is superior for maximizing muscle protein synthesis throughout the day.
-convenient way to hit daily protein requirements
-increases muscle protein synthesis
-increases lean muscle mass
-improves recovery from training
-increases satiation while in a calorie deficit (reduces hunger)
-cheap source of protein compared to food when comparing serving per serving
Whey protein has also been shown to be particularly effective and may have more of positive effect on fat burning and satiety compared to other types of protein sources.
There are three different kinds of whey protein including whey protein isolate, hydrolysate, and concentrate. If you are lactose intolerant, whey protein hydrolysate or isolate (lactose free) may be more suitable for you compared to concentrate.
Creatine is a molecule in an energy system (creatine phosphate) that can product energy (ATP) rapidly to support cellular function. It’s basically a source of energy for your cells. It is a (legal) performance enhancing supplement that pulls water into the muscle cells.
Don’t waste your money on the fancy smancy brands of different types of creatine (buffered, micro used, kre-alkalyn, etc.) as no other form has enough evidence to claim it is better than Monohydrate.
-increases muscle size (from water content in the muscles)
-improves athletic performance
-increases muscle protein synthesis
-improves cognitive ability
-may help with treating arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, and depression
3-5 grams daily to keep muscles saturated
No specific time is more optimal than another. Some say post workout is best and is absorbed better this way, but the most important factor is to just be consistent with taking it everyday. You can take it with or without food.
I personally take mine post workout because that when it is convenient for me to take it and when I remember to take it.
*NOTES: you do not need to do a “loading phase” when you begin taking creatine. You can do a losing phase by (20 grams throughout the day for 5-7 days, then drop down to maintenance dosage) to saturate the muscle sooner, but this can be inconvenient and just a hassle for some. I’d recommend to just start out with the maintenance dose (3-5 grams per day) and your muscles will be saturated in about 4 weeks. Make sure to consume a lot of water while taking creatine as it can dehydrate you and can lead to muscle cramps. You can cycle on and off of creatine every 4-6 weeks, or you can take it consistently as you would will fish oil supplementation daily.
I don’t consider this a “staple” supplement as Vitamin D can be found in many Multivitamin supplements (mine contains 400 IU’s) and can also get through natural sunlight.
Did you know that 40% of Americans are Vitamin D deficient? I didn’t. Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, which means when supplementing with it, it’s best absorbed when taken with food containing fat.
Also a study at the Cleveland Clinic showed that if you take your vitamin D with the your biggest meal each day, you can increase the level of vitamin D in the blood by an average of 50%! This can also be a cost effective strategy as you will be absorbing more of the vitamin instead of wasting it.
Vitamin D is absorbed through the small intestine with dietary fat and are excreted slowly when needed.
Benefits of Vitamin D
-keeps your bones strong
-helps your muscles move correctly
-improves immune function
Other Fat soluble vitamins:
A, D, K, E
These vitamins dissolve in fat and can be stored in your liver and fat tissue until needed.
Like stated above for better absorption, these vitamins should be taken with a fairly large meal that is high in fat.
You can also get your Vitamin D naturally through sunlight. Studies show that just 15-20 minutes a day of sunlight can get you about 2000 IU’s.
This depends on the individual and how much sunlight you get daily. If you are out in the sun a lot during the day, you may not need to supplement with Vitamin D. If you are outside around 20 minutes per day, you may benefit from a lower dosed capsule at 2-3000 IU. I personally supplement with a 5000 IU capsule daily as I don’t get outside as much as I’d like to on a regular basis. But on weekend or times when I am outside for hours, I don’t supplement with Vitamin D that day as I get enough from the sun.
The bottom line with Vitamin D supplementation, if you are going to use it, make sure to take it with a large meal that contains dietary fat for best absorption.
These are my top picks for supplements as the ones I personally think are worth the money.
What are your favorite supplements and why?