What Are Supplements?
The average gym goer will have two different perspectives on supplements and how they feel it’ll affect their body. The first group of people see supplements as a fast track to seeing results, like they’re a cheat code to expedite the process. While others wouldn’t touch a supplement with a 50 foot pole because they don’t need it and people that take it are cheating or super hardcore (I used to fall into this category when I started).
The reality is, neither of those perspectives are entirely accurate!
Do you need to take every supplement in the Vitamin Shoppe to see success? Of course not!
Are supplements the secret to success? They could be! It really comes down to finding which supplements you need and understanding how they’re going to help you on your fitness journey.
We’ll be touching the major points on a bunch of the most relevant supplements here but first, let’s start by defining what supplements are:
Supplement – Something that completes or enhances something else when added to it.
The key phrase in that definition: “enhances something else.”
What is that something else?
That something else is your nutrition program (notice how I didn’t say diet). In a perfect world, you should be receiving all of your necessary calories, macronutrients, and micronutrients from whole food sources and the meals you consume daily. In theory, you can see all the results you desire without taking any supplements at all! With proper nutrition, sleep, and training, results will come without any supplementation!
We don’t live in a perfect world though, sometimes things don’t always go your way, and that’s when it makes sense to fill in what we are lacking in our diet with supplementation.
So supplements aren’t magic pills/powders nor are they enhancement drugs or dangerous for you (in most cases), they’re simply a tool to fill in the gaps that you’re missing from your nutrition program, that’s all.
What To Look For
Before we break down specific supplements we have to make one thing clear. It’s important to note that supplements are NOT regulated by the FDA. Pretty much anyone that can afford to start a supplement company can do that if they chose to. Even worse, since the FDA doesn’t actually check for label accuracy to validate any supplements it leaves the door wide open for people to scam the unsuspecting and uninformed consumer. Supplement companies could fill all of their containers up with sugar and claim them to be something else with no penalty to them!
Not cool bro.
Fortunately there are a few things you can check for when purchasing supplements to ensure that you’re getting a high quality product that will do what you intend of it:
- USP Label – most general vitamins and supplements may be verified by lab studies. Those that have been verified should have a USP label on the container to confirm that it is a legitimate source and actually contains what it is labeled to.
- NSF Certified – This is the gold standard in supplement testing, any supplement that is NSF certified has gone through a series of rigorous tests to ensure it is free of harmful additives and contains what it claims to contain.
- CGMP – Is a label that evaluates the facility that the supplement is manufactured in to ensure the facility and its manufacturing processes are properly cared and cleaned for as well as avoiding cross contamination between other products.
Purchasing a supplement with the labels and certifications above will ensure you are getting a quality product. Unfortunately not all products get tested by these independent third parties. So for those that don’t have the label you can visit Labdoor.com. Labdoor is a massive database that’ll rate each product based on a number of variables including label accuracy and ingredient purity so that you know that the supplement you’re purchasing is high quality and exactly what you’re looking for.
To make things easy for you, I’ll be linking my product recommendations for each supplement. These will all be products that I personally use daily, recommend to my clients, or have a high rating on Labdoor.com.
I will also be rating them as either:
Essential – great for all individuals, geared toward health and longevity and may have performance enhancing benefit
Recommended – proven to be effective for health and longevity but can also likely be obtained by a diverse high quality diet
Again, these recommendations may not apply to everybody; it depends on what you are
lacking in your nutrition plan. So I would suggest you take a look at your eating habits and see what you need before you start adding all of these to your cart!
Omega-3 Fish Oil
I can probably write an entire article on Fish Oils alone because they’re THAT important. The average western diet is highly deficient in Omega-3 Fatty Acids but dominant in Omega-6’s. The ratio between Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids is so much higher than it should be that it is imperative that we make an effort to consume more Omega 3’s whenever possible. Benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids include:
- Reduce inflammation
- Improve cardiovascular health
- Improve cognitive function
- Increased fat oxidation
- Disease Prevention
- Balancing out your fatty acid ratio
- And so many more!
The benefits of Omega-3’s can’t be overlooked and the fact that the average western diet is so deficient in them makes supplementing them essential!
Vitamin D deficiency has become extremely common among human beings in the modern world, especially those that live in climates that may not receive adequate sunlight year round. Being on the low end of the reference range for Vitamin D will compromise performance, recovery, and hormonal output. Vitamin D is also vital for immune function and also strengthens bones. It’s usually best to adjust dosages for different times of year to account for changes to sun exposure. For instance, during the Winter months you might want 50% more Vitamin D supplementation than in the Summer months.
Vitamin D Recommendations: Top Notch Vitamin D3
Magnesium is under consumed in the typical western diet and with underconsumption of this mineral comes an increase in inflammation. Magnesium is also required for energy production making this nutrient essential for those focused on performance or who train frequently. It will also aid in bone health, muscle health, cardiac output, relieving anxiety, and PMS relief. Magnesium is a macro mineral that you should definitely be making an effort to include in your diet.
Greens are in between essential and recommended because they can easily be replaced with the right diet. However, I feel that vegetables are something that an overwhelming majority of people under consume, so I’m giving Greens the nod to be essential. Greens act as a serving or two of vegetables so that you can get your recommended dosage in the day. They are loaded with micronutrients, enzymes, probiotics, prebiotics, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that you may routinely miss throughout the day. They’ll prove to be helpful in improving your overall health and digestion.
Greens Powder Recommendations: Top Notch Greens
The most popular of supplements, but also the one taken most out of context! Protein powder is nothing more than an easy way to add protein to your diet, that’s it! As we know, protein is an essential nutrient, meaning that your body can’t make it on it’s own so it’s essential that you get it in your diet. It’s vital to various metabolic processes, rebuilding muscle tissue, and hormone production. Protein powder is just an isolated nutrient that comes from various food sources – depending on the type of protein powder – to help you achieve these easier.
Whey protein is the most common form of protein powder. Whey is one of two proteins that come from dairy milk. It’s most commonly used for post workout because it is a fast digesting (90-120 minutes to fully digest) protein which will help in the recovery process. There are a couple different Whey Protein products you might see on the shelf, which are:
-Whey Protein Concentrate – Whey concentrates means that at least 30% and no more than 89% of the powder is made up of Whey protein. So if it’s 30% protein that means that the remaining 70% can be literally anything.
-Whey Protein Isolate – Whey protein isolate means that at least 90% of the powder is made up of whey protein. We typically want to consume Isolate proteins whenever possible so that we avoid consuming too many fillers.
Casein protein is the other protein that comes from dairy milk. Unlike whey, Casein is a slow digesting protein (takes 6-8 hours to fully digest). Taking Casein would be most beneficial prior to long periods of time that you won’t be eating as it will keep you feeling full.
Vegan protein powders are also popular supplement option and can be made from any one or combination of brown rice, pea, soy, and hemp derivations.
Although, there are all kinds of protein powder variants and flavors out there they all serve the same purpose – a simple to implement and cost effective way to add protein to your daily intake.
Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that aid in your digestive function. Probiotics have multiple health benefits as a result of its ability to keep the gut healthy and functioning properly. When you keep your digestive system healthy, you are able to reduce levels of inflammation, keep your immune system functioning, regulate energy levels throughout the day, and maintain a steady hormonal output.
Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in the body and is actually used in medical settings to treat the negative effects of cancer. Glutamine also serves as a tremendous benefit to the GI tract and is a building block of protein. Glutamine is a semi-essential amino acid because your body is able to create it but not always in large enough quantities which is where supplementation comes in.
Creatine is the single most studied supplement to date and is probably another supplement that can have it’s own article but we’ll get the idea across here. Creatine is an amino acid that is naturally found in your muscle tissue and is found in red meat as well. Creatine is a catalyst to energy production and allows for a greater power production in training and it also aids in improving cognitive function. Improved brain health AND stronger, healthier muscles? Sign me up!
Again, these aren’t all of the supplements on the market – not even close! However, these are the ones that I feel everybody should be aware of and most people will probably find most useful on their fitness journey!
Sources: Jen Reviews