The short answer is…YES. However, not all supplements are created equal. It is the goal of this article to help you avoid some of the supplementation pitfalls that could be sabotaging your health as well as unnecessarily emptying your wallet. (Because lets face it, this $hit is expensive).
IT’S CALLED A SUPPLEMENT
First and foremost, supplements should do just that – SUPPLEMENT your overall lifestyle. The first goal would be to address all our needs through our nutrition and daily health practices before resorting to taking a supplement to do so. I have put out loads of free content on how to do this within the articles on this site as well as my podcast (link at the end of this article. ) You can also check out my Food Foundations eBook which lays out exactly how to optimize your diet.
However, we don’t live in a perfect world and due to a multitude of reasons (a big one being genetics), this may be unrealistic for everyone.
If we are to fill the holes left behind from our diet and lifestyle practices, we need to know where those holes are! That leads us right into Step 1 when discussing any supplementation regimen:
GET A BLOOD TEST
I cannot stress this enough. Everyone should be getting blood work done at least once per year anyways and I advocate 2-3 times per year as you get closer to 50 years of age. Getting a full blood panel done gives us a snapshot of what’s going on inside our body as well as how efficiently it’s carrying out a lot of our necessary functions. It will expose any of those holes and deficiencies that are being left behind by our diet and arm us with the knowledge to be able to do something about it.
Without a blood panel telling us where we should be aiming our supplementation energy, we are throwing darts in the dark and hoping for the best. And given the price tag on supplements these days, I’d rather not piss my money away – literally.
There is still a step, however, that comes before rushing to the local Vitamin Shoppe after we get our blood test results. That step is trying to fill the gaps with our diet! As I mentioned before, goal number one is to address all of our needs through our nutrition. Once we become aware of deficiencies in that diet, we should take action by changing the diet first, to try and address those issues. If you are already partaking in practices that should of kept the deficiencies from being present OR after a 3 month period of implementing consistent changes to no avail, then you can begin to turn to supplements to try and rectify the situation. Be sure to always talk to your doctor first!
Do your homework to see which supplements you should be taking
Here is the thing about the supplement industry: ITS CROOKED! I would venture to say that most supplements we have access to in this country are garbage. Not only will they not help you with trying to improve your health by filling in deficiencies, but they will be of detriment to your health. They are in the game of making money just like any other industry, and unfortunately a lot of these companies will cut corners to drop costs and improve profits. You can see this easily when you see the amount of “health” supplements that contain loads of artificial ingredients and fillers that have been proven to have negative effects on human health.
This brings us to Step 2: DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Research the supplements you are looking for. Look at the companies that produce them. What is their mission? Do they have a good standing? Do they have good reviews? What other ingredients are in their supplement and why? Look these things up and make sure to do any research you have to understand what you are putting in your body. We are partaking in this practice to improve our health. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot and waste your money because you want to be lazy and ignorant.
The last part of this process is retesting to see if you have fixed the issue. This should be easy because you should be getting bloodwork done once per year. However, in some cases depending on what your deficiency is, you may want to talk with your doctor to get a check up on that particular test in a 3–6-month period to see if the changes you are making have taken hold. Once it has been rectified, you can discuss with your doctor about how to proceed forward with supplementation. In some instances, you may be able to drop the supplementation all together once normal levels are reached, and proper diet changes have been made. But in most cases you will probably find yourself with a smaller, less frequent dose to maintain proper levels.
Now I am going to completely contradict everything I just said and tell you my top supplements that just about everyone could benefit from – not really though. Yes, you need to be getting blood work done to see where your individual needs are. However, there are some supplements that are good to take because they reinforce positive health effects or can help us adhere to certain dietary practices. Once you see these supplements, you will understand why I am recommending them.
1. Fish Oil. A good quality fish oil is one of the most beneficial supplements a person can take. There isn’t much that fish oil doesn’t have a positive effect on when it comes to human health. Most of which is found within the cardiovascular system and heart health and in case you didn’t know, cardiovascular disease is the number one killer in our country. The benefits of fish oil can of course be found when eating high quality fish on a regular basis within your diet. However, that fish needs to be wild caught and of high quality. Unfortunately, that can get expensive and, in some areas, even hard to find. In that instance, fish oil is a phenomenal supplement and should be at the top of your list because unless you’re eating high quality fish almost every single day, you can still reap major benefit from taking a quality fish oil. My favorite companies are Carlsons and Nordic Naturals.
2. Vitamin D3+K2. Especially for those of us that live in the north and have to deal with winter 6-7 months out of the year! Vitamin D is so important for proper health and vitality. This is also a vitamin that has a very broad “normal range” when you go and get a blood test. I always prefer to be at the higher end of that range. There is a ton of science out there to support higher Vitamin D levels being correlated with a strong immune system and improved mood. This is why having a supplement to support that goal can be helpful. Especially if you don’t want to sit in the sun all day or if you have sensitive skin. I prefer liquid forms of this supplement and have used Thorne for the last few years. The K2 combo supplement helps your body assimilate the D3 so your body can use and absorb what you are getting. Luckily, Vitamin D is a pretty inexpensive supplement so it can easily be implemented. How much you take on a daily/weekly basis will depend on your deficiency or where you fall in the normal range with your blood work.
3. Magnesium. There have been reports that show upwards of 80% of the population are deficient in magnesium. When you understand what magnesium does and how difficult it is to get in our diets, this makes a lot of sense. Magnesium is used in upwards of over 300 bodily functions and is also a primary substance to help us deal with stress. We live in the most stressful world known to mankind. I’m not just talking about life stress, work stress, relationship stress, but stress from air pollution, Wi-Fi signals, artificial light exposure! These are all things that humanity has never had to deal with until recently. All of these things can act as a stress on the body and magnesium is burned up quick trying to deal with it all (on top of everything else it normally as to do!). Magnesium can be taken in through eating dark leafy greens and other kinds of veggies, but chances are you are not going to be able to eat enough of these types of foods to really keep you into an optimal range – especially if you are physically active. This is a supplement you really want to do your homework on because there are a lot of different types of magnesium and a lot of other things companies can add to the supplements as fillers. I have always trusted BiOptimizers with my magnesium supplementation.
4. Glutamine. Glutamine is an amino acid that is best known for being the amino acid that helps with muscle recovery after workouts. That has been its big marketing stance for as long as I can remember. While that’s all well and good, it is not the reason it is on this list. Glutamine has been shown to strengthen and support our gut lining. Science has shown the importance of gut health in the last 10 years and how crucial it is to keep it strong and functioning well. So many chronic diseases and ailments begin with a breakdown within the gut. Obviously, a proper diet is going to be the biggest factor in determining the health of our gut, but glutamine can help reinforce the security of our guts to make sure we are keeping it safe to do the job we need it to do.
5. Whey Protein. Protein is king. In my opinion, a lot of people could improve their diets by making high quality protein a priority. Having a good quality protein supplement can really open up a diet and give people a lot of options. It helps if they get in a pinch and don’t have time to eat and it also allows them to make smoothies where they can throw in other veggies and fruits they might not otherwise eat. Kale salad? No thanks! But I’ll easily throw that into a smoothie with some berries. This is yet another supplement you want to be sure to do your homework on. Not all protein powders are created equal. Not even close! You want the least amount of ingredients possible. Transparent Labs has been my number one option for a long time. BioChem and Thorn are other ones I have used intermittently as well.
There you have it! Hopefully now you feel more comfortable navigating the realms of supplementation. These recommendations are for general health purposes and ones that will help most people in most cases.
I have spoken on more supplements on my YouTube channel. You can find that video here:
I have also spoken extensively on Creatine on my podcast. You can find that episode here:
Prioritize your health. Don’t be intimidated or scared. Go to the doctor. Find out where you can improve and get after it.
If you need any help, I got your back.
Time to grind,