“What Supplements Should I Take?” This is a question that I get on the regular! It’s not surprising. They are advertising so often that they seem like a complete necessity if you are going to start training, dieting, or just work towards getting healthy.
But, the majority of the people asking me this question aren’t really in a place that they need to be asking this. If supplements are priority #1 for you, you need to adjust your priorities pronto! You’ll learn quickly in this game that supplements aren’t the key to success. They can help in specific situations, however. So, I’ll show you my list of recommended supplements and when/if you need them.
What Supplements Should I Take? (If Any)
Before we look into what I consider important supplements, we need to make sure things are all in order.
Rule #1 – Get your nutritional intake in order.
Supplements are not a replacement for your bad nutritional habits. They just won’t do you justice if you don’t eat properly. Too often I hear that someone started taking fat burners and when I ask what their daily calorie intake is, they don’t even know. What the fuck is that!?!
Rule #2 – Get your training optimized and consistent.
This is typical of beginner bros. They hit the gym once and then go out to GNC, or Bodybuilding.com, and spend $200 on the “latest and greatest” supplements. Then, they train inconsistently and/or totally off-par with how they should train for their specific goals. Don’t be this guy/gal! If you aren’t training right, you aren’t in the right place to start taking supplements.
Rule #3 – Get your recovery in order.
This is almost always overlooked. In order to get the best results, you need to have the best recovery possible. Supplements aren’t going to help that much in that department if you don’t implement recovery techniques and know what you are doing!
If you need help nailing these 3 rules, you should spend some time reading our blog, or start training with us/get coaching from us. Once you have these rules down to the T, we can start looking at the necessary supplements for you!
Multivitamin supplements are big business. I don’t have any stats in front of me, but I can safely say that these are probably in the top 5 best selling products in the supplement industry.
That doesn’t have to be a bad thing. In some situations, multivitamins are vital to improve overall nutritional intake. But, what about someone who eats well and strives to get their micronutrients in naturally from whole food sources? What about the flexible dieter who likes his junk food that is actually fortified with a good amount of micronutrients? Are they actually beneficial?
Getting Into Optimal Vitamin Intake
In reality, it’s hard to tell. The RDA for each vitamin doesn’t always equal optimal amounts. A lot of the vitamins and minerals can be consumed in higher amounts for improved health. In addition, if you are getting most of your micros from fruits and vegetables, micronutrient degradation is something to keep your eye on. The easiest way to put it, the longer the fruit/veggie is off the plant/vine/tree, the less vitamin content it is going to contain.
This is a big reason why I recommend everybody have a nice, little backyard organic garden and to pick your fruits/veggies on the day of on consumption! Stores, and even farmer’s markets can hardly compare!
Back to the point, it’s better to be safe, than sorry with your micro intake. That is why I recommend that you take a multivitamin. But, here is the deal: only take half of the recommended dosage if your nutritional intake is balanced and planned well.
Another thing to look into is vitamin products made from whole foods, instead of the synthetic versions. You can read more about this here.
Fish Oil/Omega Fatty Acids
Fish oil supplements are almost as popular as multivitamins. They are also in the group that I consider to be important supplements. Most people in America aren’t eating enough fish, or other sources of Omega 3 fatty acids, to justify leaving this supplement out.
If you are a daily fish eater, you don’t need to worry about it. You can also optimized your Omega 3 intake with other types of foods. However, this can take away from the whole idea of flexible dieting. While I don’t recommend replacing food with supplements in general, Omega 3 fatty acids have a little exemption.
The benefits of fish oil supplements have been studied a lot. There are tons! It has been shown to improve cholesterol levels, lowering the “bad” and raising the “good”. It has anti-inflammatory benefits, which can prove useful to reduce soreness after training. It helps with joint issues, which is something often seen with regular, heavy training. There is also an increased rate of fat oxidation and a lowering of cortisol, two great benefits for body composition.
This is usually my number 1 answer to the “What Supplements Should I Take” question.
You can check out the huge list of benefits over at Examine.com.
Fiber supplementation gets thrown in with the “old people stuff”. Trainees usually forget that fiber is a critical part of their dietary success. We need proper digestion and elimination of wastes from our bodies. That is what fiber is doing for us!
If you are tracking your fiber intake through something like MyFitnessPal and getting 1.5% of your daily calories worth of fiber (in grams), then supplementation isn’t necessary. I don’t recommend this to anyone unless they can prove that they are in need of it. The dosage obviously depends on how many grams you are short every day. Unless you are eating the same foods every day, chances are, your dosage will change every day.
It can be pretty easy to hit your fiber goal with food alone. Get some more veggies, fruits, and whole grains. Beans are also a fantastic source. If you really can’t hit your goal every day, then opt for a supplement. I prefer a sugar free, flavored psyllium husk product. They are cheap and easy to get in with your meals.
You can read more about fiber supplementation and whether you actually need it at WebMD.
Protein powder is in the group of conditionally necessary supplements. It’s as easy as this: if you are getting about 1g of protein per lb of body weight, you don’t need a protein supplement. Getting in that amount from food means you are getting plenty and won’t see much benefit from a protein supplement.
Some of you will argue with me citing all of the research of positive benefits of protein powder ingestion. But, at the end of day, protein intake from any high quality source is providing almost identical benefits. Don’t buy the idea that protein supplements are magic. They are just protein!
Some people can’t eat as much meat/dairy as they need to hit their protein goals. Vegetarians/Vegans can also face the problem of under-eating protein. If you are tracking your macros and see that you aren’t getting to your protein goal on a daily basis, it’s time for a diet change or a supplement.
Don’t come at me with a comment of how your protein supplement reduced soreness or made you stronger. You would have seen the same changes from getting that amount of extra protein from food as well.
“What Supplements Should I Take?” is almost immediately followed by: “I’ve heard pre workouts are great to use.” Yes, they definitely can be. If you find a lack of energy in the gym, or just want that extra bit of performance enhancement to push harder and further, pre workouts are a great choice.
Are they necessary? Not at all.
Are they necessary for me? Yes 🙂
With the right ingredients, like what is found in our DIY pre workout, you are going to see performance benefits, as well as a few body composition benefits thrown in. These ingredients have been shown to increase strength, power, endurance, and improve your time to fatigue. Throw all that together and you have a better training session. It’s as simple as that.
Ergogenic aids are great for trainees who are perfect with their training plans, nutritional plans, and their recovery tactics. That icing on the cake can be great. Many people feel noticeable benefits from pre workout products, something that can’t be said for most of the other products on the list. The easiest way to get these ergogenic aids in is to include them in your pre workout product. We’ve already done that with our homemade pre workout.
Muscle & Strength Builder
Now we are narrowing down to supplements that I almost always call unnecessary. Still, I suppose they can have their place if you have the money and want a little bit more from the process.
Supplements that are touted to increase strength and muscle mass, beyond normal ergogenic products like we include in our pre workout recipe, are usually expensive and don’t deliver enough to quantify the cost. I don’t know about you but spending $80 on a natural mass builder and only getting an extra lb of muscle from 8 weeks isn’t a good ROI.
However, we have a DIY muscle and strength building recipe that is very cost-effective. The ingredients are also scientifically backed. (Note – the article is coming soon on the layout, be patient).
There are a few higher quality products on the market that might be worth a look. Still, if you have diet, training, recovery, and the rest of the supplement bases covered, I wouldn’t invest too much into these kinds of products. After all, natural products are not going to give you PED like results, even if they are marketing that.
Fat Loss Supplements
Again, we have a homemade option to save money. I wouldn’t even consider pre-made fat loss blends. They are way overpriced. You are better off buying a couple ingredients by themselves. Most of the ingredients in those popular products aren’t even scientifically validated anyways.
The main use I see for a fat loss product is the powerful placebo effect. When someone is taking a fat loss supplement, they tend to train harder and do better on their diet. I’ve seen it with clients quite a few times. Chalk it up to extra motivation and move on!
Even with the best products, or our DIY blend, you aren’t creating a gigantic difference with these products. If you are already very lean and need to lean out a bit more, they may be useful. If you are 12+% body fat as a guy, or 20%+ body fat as a woman, don’t bother. You can get great results with diet alone.
Supplements I Don’t Recommend
I’m sure you’ve noticed a few gaps in my recommended supplements and the best selling supplement categories. The first one that comes to mind is BCAA products. If you are eating protein throughout the day, like a normal person, you aren’t much by adding in a BCAA product.
Nootropics are pretty popular right now. I don’t really recommend them due to the lack of long term studies and their overall safety profiles. Also, I’ve tried a few and didn’t experience any noticeable benefits with any of them.
Crazy stimulants are also something I don’t recommend. If you cycle of caffeine properly, caffeine can give you as big of a boost as you need. No need to resort to amphetamines for that extra rep in the gym. Stop sacrificing your health for this shit!
There are a ton of other things that I didn’t list here, but I obviously don’t recommend them if they didn’t make the list.
Supplements Are Only Meant To “Supplement”
Now you know my answer to “What Supplements Should I Take?” The answer is always dependent on the individual. It might be none, or it might be a good portion of these. Just make sure that you know that supplements are not even close to as important as your training, nutrition, and recovery! They are the cherry on top of the perfect Sundae that is your physique and performance!
Make sure you share this article with your friends and leave a comment below with any questions/comments! I’d love to chat with you about what supplements you use, or don’t use!
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