Up Your Sense: Supplements

Should I take the red pill or the blue pill?…wait…What colour is viagara again?

I’m not going to lie; supplements are a staple in my diet.  Do I need them?  Perhaps.  Do I like them?  You bet I do.

It’s kind of funny.  People are either against supplements, or they support them.  I think that 99% of the population who are against supplement are oxymorons (not the correct definition, but you’ll understand my pun shortly).  The top 2 reasons that people are against supplements is that:

  1. People are afraid of synthetic forms of nutrients, and
  2. They think that they are able to get these nutrients through food.

The latter is actually a valid argument.  The former is BS.  Here’s what I have to say about that:  STOP EATING PROCESSED SH*T, GROW UP AND EAT LIKE AN ADULT, then (and only then), are you able to argue against #1.

Now, let’s get to the point.  I’m going to break down a select few (by few, I mean bunch) of supplements into three groups:  1. Mandatory for Everyday Health, 2. Not Mandatory – But Useful, and 3. Not Mandatory – But Awesome.

Click to buy some Fish Oil!

Mandatory for Everyday Health

  1. Fish Oil – Miracle Supplement.  Studies show that fish oil will:  boost metabolism, act as an anti-inflammatory, decrease body-fat percentage (one study found that a Fish-Oil-Supplementing-Group lost 2 lbs of fat and gained 2 lbs of muscle compared to a control group that didn’t change at all), better glucose and insulin tolerance, and a VAST amount of cardiovascular and blood lipid benefits.  AVOID COD LIVER OIL!  Talk about bang for your buck!  Dosage:  Dr. John Berardi, PhD recommends between 3-6 grams of EPA and DHA combined per day.  This dosage is usually 3x that of the recommendations on the label.  Listen to him; he’s the Doctor.  The supplement companies (who make the recommendations on the label) are not doctors.
  2. Vitamin D3 – Unless you’re a surfer, or you work outside all day, your vitamin D levels are probably low.  Vitamin D helps keep your bones and joints strong and healthy.  Recommendations:  Winter:  Take 4000IU’s each day.  Summer:  Take 2000IU’s each day.

Not Mandatory – But Useful

  1. Protein Powder – Try to get most of your protein from real food.  When that is not possible, it is advised to use a protein supplement.  Also, protein shakes are an awesome treat when you are on a very strict diet and need a “cheat meal”.  Recommendations:  Find a powder that has as little ingredients as possible.  The main protein source should be from either: whey isolate, milk protein, casein, rice protein, or a mixture of the four recommended.  The powder should not include any forms of sugar (look for a powder that has less than 2g of carbs per serving), and should be sweetened with stevia.
  2. Greens SupplementsIf you’re not getting at least 6 cups of non-starchy vegetables a day, you need to use a greens supplement.  Greens supplements help restore the natural pH of your body (so you’re not too acidic – like vinegar, or basic – like bleach).  Recommendation:  Take 1-3 scoops daily.  Favourite Brand: Genuine Health Greens+ Daily Detox – Natural Tea Flavour.
  3. Workout DrinksBefore I begin: Workout Drinks are mandatory for athletes.  The best way to get the most out of your workout is to drink a workout beverage before, during, and/or after your workout.  The specifics of this topic are enough for a whole new article, so I’m going to stop now.  Recommendations:  For fat loss, sip on 5-10g of BCAA’s throughout your workout.  For everything else, drink a 2:1 carb:protein drink with 5-10g of BCAA’s.  Extra credit:  Adding creatine, and beta-alanine for individualized goals.
  4. ZMA – If you are lifting heavy weights, your body will need more zinc and magnesium for better recovery.  Also, this stuff helps some people sleep.  Recommendations:  Males: Take 3 capsules before bed.  Females:  Take 2 capsules before bed.

Not Mandatory – But Awesome

  1. Melatonin – If you’re having trouble sleeping, this is your absolute last resort (but it WILL work).  Be careful with this stuff (as it is one of the few hormones sold over-the-counter).  Dosage:  Take no more than 5mg as you lie down to sleep.
  2. Valerian Root – Valerian root is great for relaxing your body before bed.  I find that if I am jittery before bed, this is a great supplement to help me fall asleep (it also works amazingly with melatonin).  Dosage:  500-1000mg before bed.
  3. Creatine monohydrate – Before you say something:  it’s safe.  The more research that comes out, the more I fall in love with this supplement.  Besides the obvious strength and power gains, supplementing with creatine monohydrate has shown to have cognitive effects, positive energy effects, and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease in the elderly.  By the way, this supplement is mandatory if you are over the age of 50.  Dosage:  Men:  Take 5g (1 teaspoon) per day.  Women:  Take 2.5 g (1/2 teaspoon) per day.
  4. Beta-Alanine – This is my new favourite supplement.  Beta-Alanine helps buffer lactic acid, healing, muscle recovery, and muscle contraction.  In other words, you can run longer, play harder, lift heavier, and recover faster.  I have found that combining this supplement with creatine and BCAA’s is the single best athletic performance enhancer that is legal.  This has to be what drugs feel like.  Recommendations:  Research is very new concerning this topic.  I have found that I have best results with two 3.2g (1 teaspoon) dosages per day.  Take one in the morning, and one in the afternoon.  Warning, beta-alanine gives a temporary pins and needles feeling the first 1-2 weeks of dosing.

There you have it.  A boat load of knowledge bombs.

Also, everything I wrote above is meant to be recommendations.  I am NOT a doctor, and I take no responsibility for whatever foolish ideas you come up with (taking creatine monohydrate until you have diarrhoea – which is a possible side effect if you take above 5g per day).

Where to Go From Here:

This approach is a good starting point to taking supplements, but if you really want to learn about what supplements work, and which ones may work best for you (and saves hundreds of dollars on supplements each year), then I recommend Examine’s Supplements Reference Guide (click here).