Let me preface this post with this: I am not a medical professional or supplement expert. I am merely sharing with you my knowledge and personal experience with supplementation.
There are thousands of supplements available on the market today. Each individual has different needs and goals, so there is no one perfect mix of supplements for everyone.
As you probably know, it would be best to obtain the majority of our nutrients from a well-balanced diet. However, for a variety of reasons, ranging from lack of knowledge on proper nutrition, to individuals training intensely for sport or recreation, many of us may need a few supplements to help keep our immune system up or boost athletic performance.
I only take a handful of supplements: a whole food multi-vitamin, fish oil, whey protein isolate, BCAAs, glutamine, B complex 100, and the occasional thermogenic fat burner and pre-workout supplement.
My Supplement Breakdown:
Whole food multi vitamin - If you can only afford one supplement, I would suggest taking a whole food multi vitamin. It covers all the basic nutrients your body needs.
They help keep your immune system up and prevent against nutritional deficiency. A whole foods vitamin is preferable over a synthetic one because it is more easily absorbed and utilized by your body since it is made from whole foods.
Fish oil - According to the American Heart Association (AHA), clinical trials show that omega 3 is effective in reducing the incidence of cardiovascular diseases. Fish oil is a great source of omega 3.
It also lowers the level of LDL (bad cholesterol) and increases the level of HDL (good cholesterol). I take fish oil for overall heart health, but I also eat a decent amount of fish, so on those days, I skip it.
Protein - I take a whey protein isolate post workout for it’s fast absorption and purity (isolates contain 90% or more protein and very little to no fat and lactose).
Another type of protein to consider is casein. It is a slow digesting protein that takes several hours to digest. Casein is a great option for meal replacement shakes or right before bedtime when your body is about to go 7-8 hours without a meal.
BCAAs - Branched chain amino acids may help increase the length of your workouts and help curb exercise-induced muscle fatigue. Studies have shown that dieting groups supplementing with BCAA’s increase muscle retention and maximize fat loss more effectively than non-supplemented groups.
Glutamine - During intense training, your body’s glutamine levels become greatly depleted. This can result in decreased strength, stamina, and recovery. Supplementing with glutamine can help metabolize body fat while supporting new muscle growth.
B Complex 100 - One word - energy. B vitamins help your body pull energy from the nutrients you eat and help get oxygen to the muscle tissue.
I take B Complex 100 because it provides 100 mg of the B vitamins. This is a great way to get a stimulant-free energy boost.
Thermogenics - I’m usually pretty hesitant recommending thermogenic fat burners, for many reasons. Main one being that some of the stronger ones can make some people feel sick.
Thermogenics work by increasing the body temperature and metabolism, resulting in an increase in energy level, focused concentration, and often elevated mood level. It also works as an appetite suppressant. They should be cycled - no more than 6 weeks of continued use so you don’t burn out your adrenal glands.
If you’re new to thermogenics, I wouldn’t take them on an empty stomach the first time and do NOT consume additional stimulants or caffeine while the thermogenic is still in your system. I usually take thermogenics on days that I know I have a lot to tackle and am low on energy.
Pre-Workout supplements - On days I know I have a particularly hard training session ahead of me (usually leg and back days), I’ll take a pre-workout supplement to give me that extra boost to help me finish strong and stay focused. There are so many pre-workout supplements on the market today. Different pre-workouts use different main ingredients.
The following two are my favorite pre-workout main ingredients. I have found that pre-workouts with one of these two main ingredients usually provide me with great focus and energy without making me itchy or twitchy, which is an unfortunate side effect to some other pre-workouts I have tried in the past.
Beta-Alanine - Increases the amount of work you can perform at high intensities. It helps your muscles contract with more force.
You may feel a slight “tingle” in your neck or arms, or slight burning, itching and redness on your scalp or ears - for me, it’s usually my forehead and chest. This is called “acute paresthesia”. Don’t freak out, this is a normal side effect that some people get. No long term effects have been observed from this side effect.
It usually lasts about 60-90 minutes. If this is an issue, simply lower your dosage. Again, first-timers, don’t take it on an empty stomach. That’ll only make you more likely to experience the paresthesia side effects.
Creatine - Improve your high-intensity training ability, increase energy levels, endurance level, stamina, muscle power and speed up the rate at which your body recovers.
Supplements are a great way to enhance an active and healthy lifestyle. But don’t expect them to fix an unhealthy one. There is no substitute for a healthy diet and exercise.
Your supplements can’t work unless you do!