One of the questions I’m asked most often day to day about fitness is:. “What supplements do you take?” There are plenty of theories and schools of thought out there about supplements, and much of it is perpetuated by the supplement industry itself and profit motive. The problem is that the best supplements are not expensive, and they do not require you to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars per month! Supplements are just that- they are SUPPLEMENTS.
That’s right – supplements are designed to enahance or SUPPLEMENT an already solid diet and training plan. Consider supplementation to be responsible for less than 10% of your total results. In my experience, diet is close to 60%, with training, recovery, and supplementation following.
Supplements should NOT be used as a crutch. Only use them when necessary to fill the gaps in your diet and to supplement deficiencies you cannot fix with diet alone.
With that said, out of all the supplements you can take, 20% of them will give you 80% of the maximum benefit. Anything else is a waste of money.
1. Greens Supplement
A greens product is one of the most underrated and most powerful bang for the buck supplements out there. The problem with vegetables is: they don’t taste good, they have a lot of fiber, and a lot of water. The fiber is a good thing, but it makes it difficult to consume enough of the good stuff to get the nutrients we need out of it. Powdered greens products are wonderful concoctions of superfoods, all the weird, exotic stuff you have to venture to the depths of the crunchiest Trader Joe’s to get to.
2. Fish Oil
As a species, we evolved while consuming a diet rich in omega-3s, during crucial stages of the brains evolution and development. The modern diet simply lacks many of these nutritious fatty acids and therefore most people have a deficiency. Omega-3 plays a crucial role in heart health, neurotransmitter levels (fish oil can improve depression), skin health, and nutrient partitioning. The last is one of the most overlooked benefits: improved nutrient partitioning means less of what you eat is stored as fat and more is efficiently used as energy or stored as glycogen.
3. Protein Supplement
While I always recommend getting protein from whole food sources whenever possible, this is not always the case when you are leading a busy lifestyle or simply training hard enough that you need supplemental protein, which is the case for most of the athletes I know. Generally, one gram per lb of lean body mass is the rule of thumb. Generally, I see too many people over-consuming protein and underconsuming healthy nutrients like vegetables and superfoods, healthy fats, and healthy carbs around workouts. I recommend a quality whey protein isolate after a workout, and another shake at some point in the day.
Another massively underrated supplement, magnesium plays a role in many important processes in our body including the production of ATP, regulation of stress, muscle tension, blood pressure, testosterone levels, depth of sleep, mood, and much more. Most athletes and people in general have a magnesium deficiency. There are a lot of great magnesium products out there, I suggest one based on magnesium citrate.
What’s the best pre-workout supplement? Most pre-workout products are stimulant based - they are designed to increase mental energy, focus, and endurance. Most “popular” pre-workout products are based simply on caffeine and a few supporting ingredients like beta-alanine (the tingle feeling you might get after taking a pre workout product). A premium preworkout drink will contain a proper blend of performance enhancers like beta alanine and citrulline malate, while also containing a solid stimulant and focus blend that gives you the mental kick in the butt you need to get going. Personally, I train first thing in the morning, so a scoop of pre-workout is exactly what I need to “get me in the zone”.