It is too bad that probably the most commonly asked question goes something like this…
“Which supplements should I use to get stronger, shredded and make me more invincible than Hulk jacked up on PCP”
The real Hulk…
And this is not a bad question because you are interested in trying to progress your body to the next phase of performance and fitness.
Rather, it is too bad as the majority of the time those asking about supplements generally have bigger concerns to address before worrying about which supplements will help them shed fat faster and cause explosive muscle growth.
Before we venture into the supplement rabbit hole, which is deeper than deep by the way, supplements should be just that…SUPPLEMENTS!
As defined by Merriam-Webseter.com a supplement is, “something that completes or makes an addition”.
Supplements are not (and should not) be considered the main focus of whatever it is that we are talking about, in this case our nutritional regimen.
If you are scarfing down two bowls of Cap’n Crunch (my childhood favorite) and a Pop Tart for breakfast, a chicken finger platter for lunch, a pizza for dinner, and refusing to even consider a vegetable or fruit, the best supplement in the world is not going to help.
And on top of that, most of the supplements you find at stores or online make crazy claims about results whether that be the amount of fat it burns, the pounds of muscle it will cause you to grow or the endless energy it will provide you throughout the day…all without scientific proof or FDA approval.
But hey, they make an absolute killing on tricking people into spending hundreds of dollars per month so I guess they get the last laugh.
I personally hate being tricked (and get pissed) so I’m not into that.
So with that out of the way (sorry for the mini rant), this article IS about supplements as this is a question I find myself answering often.
What follows are the supplements I take, and I will explain why.
I am not saying you should take them, especially since I don’t know your current situation. So it would be a good idea to ask your doc before venturing into them (I have to say that).
What I am saying is that I take these and have found them to be beneficial for ME.
So what are the supplements you will find in my cabinet (or fridge)?
The reason I take a multi-vitamin is simply to make sure that I am hitting all of my bases when it comes to vitamins and minerals.
I consume a significant amount of vitamins and minerals from all of the whole foods I eat on a daily basis such as veggies, fruits, meats and quality grains.
But even with a pretty solid diet, many of us are deficient in certain vitamins and minerals, especially if you regularly exert at a high intensity (i.e. training, practice, games, competition).
Like anything else you want to look for a quality vitamin, not one that is thrown together by some big name company looking to just make a buck.
Personally I take Men’s One Food Based Multivitamin by Rainbow Light
As the name implies it is a food based multi that contains quality ingredients.
And don’t worry ladies, there is one for you too!
2. Vitamin D
After completing a 60+ page paper and an accompanying presentation on vitamin D for my senior thesis, I was sold on the benefits of making sure that my vitamin D levels were adequate.
Studies have found that vitamin D (also known as the sunshine vitamin) can do some pretty damn good things for you ranging from protecting you against certain diseases such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, to enhancing muscle function and helping you build and maintain stronger bones.
But if you are deficient, well, those things can be negatively effected.
While spending as little as 20 minutes in the sun wearing shorts and a cut off can result in a sufficient amount of vitamin D, in certain climates this is not always doable (especially the Northeast during the fall, winter, and early spring months). And for those of us that like to wear layers of clothes year round, you are not getting the exposure necessary.
Plus if your skin color is of a darker tone, it is harder to absorb the rays necessary to stimulate vitamin D production.
Lastly, studies have shown that it would take a massive amount of vitamin D supplementation to actually result in detrimental side effects.
For this reason, I take Carlson Vitamin D3
It helps to ensure that my vitamin D levels are sufficient all year round. A great thing for optimal health and performance!
3. Fish Oil
The benefits of fish oil and the omega 3 fatty acids found within them have been reported for years.
The part that is tough is that you have to eat fish regularly to attain the amount of omega 3 fatty acids necessary to help improve health parameters.
So unless you live near the ocean and your diet consists of a regular intake of fish, then you will likely need another way to obtain that level of omega 3 fatty acids.
This pic is beautiful, but I can guarantee there are no fish around there!
This is where fish oil supplementation comes in.
I use Carlson Very Finest Fish Oil in liquid form. It comes in lemon and orange flavor and you don’t experience any of the fishy burps.
4. Protein Powder
Easily the most talked about supplement, protein powder, is a staple in most competitive and general population athletes nutritional regimen, myself included.
On average I have about one scoop of protein powder per day. But this scoop is not meant to replace the quality proteins I am consuming from whole food sources such as chicken, beef, dairy and fish.
Instead, I use it as an addition to foods to boost the protein content. These foods include shakes, greek yogurt, oatmeal and a delicious pumpkin snack I have 2-3 times per week at night (just ask for the recipe).
Every once in a while I will have a scoop of protein in almond milk if I can not get a meal in at that time and have to wait a little later.
So in no way in protein powder a huge component of my nutritional intake, and it shouldn’t be. It does not provide the other nutrients, vitamins and minerals that the whole food sources mentioned above do.
Protein powder should be used to enhance foods and provide you with a little more protein that you may not be getting with the whole foods you are eating.
The only time I would recommend that you use protein powder as a main component to your nutritional intake is when you are trying to lose fat. You can use it to replace a meal.
For example, you can have a scoop of protein in almond milk, some veggies and a Tbsp of peanut butter as a meal instead of a piece of chicken, serving of rice and a salad if you are trying to cut back a little on calories.
Lastly, protein powder in itself will not make you jacked (dudes) and it will not make you look like a man (ladies).
Protein is just one macronutrient along with fats and carbohydrates, that is necessary for growth, health and performance. It is not a magic substance that will result in you blowing up like the hulk when he pissed off (second Hulk reference, I know).
But protein is extremely important for optimal health and performance, as well as achieving the lean and athletic body that many of us are working towards.
It is a combination of whey protein (faster digesting) and casein protein (slower digesting), both of which are dairy derived. So if you have a sensitivity to dairy then you will want to look for another alternative protein such as a plant based protein powder.
The second most talked about about supplement in the strength and conditioning and performance training world is Creatine (in my experience anyway).
Creatine is a major player in your explosive energy system, and when you are more saturated with creatine your energy system is able to replenish quicker which allows you to continue to put out a high effort for a longer period of time.
Putting out a higher effort for a longer period of time allows you to accrue more quality work and therefore allows you to achieve greater results when it comes to high intensity physical work.
This is an advantage when it comes to sports that have a high intensity component to them such as sprinting, throwing, jumping, etc.
And the same goes for resistance training at a high intensity (heavy weight or explosive movements).
So it is easy to see why it is a supplement that is pretty popular. And the good thing is that there is a large amount of research to back up these claims.
Not only has it been shown to help improve performance, but there have been links to other health benefits as well as enhancements in cognitive performance.
This is why I take creatine, and the creatine I take is Optimum Nutrition Micronized Creatine.
If you search for creatine you will find a million gazillion different types, all claiming to be the purest, highest absorbing creatine.
Don’t fall for the claims and the higher dollar sign. Go with the basic creatine monohydrate and you will have the best results and save a TON of money in the process.
To Supplement or Not to Supplement
So there you have it, the only supplements I use and why I use them.
I am not saying you have to use them.
They may not be for you, and if you are looking to add them to your regimen I would encourage you to talk to your doc and get their input as well.
What are your thoughts? Do you take any supplements?
Go ahead and leave some comments and pass this along to help out your buddies, family and loved ones (or those you might like only a little).
To your health and performance,
This is the follow up article to the last, which described the easiest way to get more from your warm up. If you didn’t yet read it, check it out here… The Easiest Way to Get More From Your Warm Up
A brief recap though: The goal of the warm up encompasses a few components, but one that is often overlooked is actually physically warming up the core temperature and tissue temperature of the body.
The easiest ways to do so are to drink a hot beverage (one that contains caffeine is best), wear a sweatshirt and pants to start, and hit some low level aerobic exercise for a few minutes.
And if you really want to take it up a notch, try saving a gazelle from the dangers of the safari.
Once your core and tissue temperatures are elevated, you are ready to move into the meat and potatoes of the warm up.
And while I do believe that a warm up should have a heavy emphasis placed upon it, I also feel that many of us spend way too much time on the warm up.
By the time all is said and done it may take 20-30 minutes for us to finish the warm up. For that reason, below are the steps to an effective and efficient warm up that will leave you ready to dominate your training session.
SPECIFIC soft tissue and static stretching work.
While I always show every athlete how to foam roll the whole body, and use the lacrosse ball on several different spots such as the bottom of the feet, glutes, pecs and shoulder girdle, the best approach is to attack the areas that are the most problematic before training.
If you foam roll the entire body as well as utilize the lacrosse ball, etc. you are likely to spend upwards of 10-15 solid minutes working on soft tissue.
Instead, dedicate 3-5 minutes and attack the 1-3 most problematic spots.
For example, if you have stiff hip flexors, foam roll both hip flexers and then use the lacrosse ball or tiger tail to go over them one more time afterwards.
Do the same for any other body part that is the highest priority.
Then move on to one static stretch for each problem area, such as a half kneeling hip flexor stretch for the hip flexors.
If your entire body feels like you have to spend a significant amount of time on it, you have a bigger issue than worrying about warming up.
2. SPECIFIC mobility and activation
Just like the soft tissue work, if we are not careful we can end up spending 10-15 minutes trying to mobilize joints and turn on certain muscles.
While this is important, not every joint needs to be mobilized, and not every muscle needs to be activated.
Again, attack the joints and muscles that are of highest priority to you. Typically the stiff muscle is accompanied by an inactive muscle on the opposite side of the joint.
Staying with the hip flexor example, completing a half kneeling hip flexor mobility followed up by a single leg glute bridge is a good approach.
It is typical to find glutes that are not as active as they should be when the hip flexors are stiff. And if you know anything about me, I am obsessed with getting the glutes to work.
Not only because they perk up and look nice when they are they main player in lower body exercises, but because they are extremely important for optimal lower body function and injury prevention.
So getting back on track, by mobilizing the hip joint and more specifically the hip flexor, you have a greater chance of activating the glute by immediately following it up with a glute activation exercise (glute bridge).
Again, this is just one example but this principle can be applied throughout the entire body and should take 3-5 minutes. For more help with this just reach out to me on Facebook.
3. SPECIFIC and COMPOUND movement preparation exercises.
Staying with the specific theme, you don’t have to go through every big movement each and every session.
If the focus of your training day is the squat and chin up, make sure that your squat pattern and vertical pull pattern is addressed.
This could be some squat mobility work into a body weight squat. You can then follow this up with some forward facing wall slides and pike push ups to get the shoulder girdle moving for you.
And even better, make it more efficient by combining some qualities. Try the spiderman with rotation and hamstring to get the hips mobilized and upper extremities going for you.
There are endless options with this combination method. You just need to know what you are trying to attack and go from there.
This should take another 3-5 minutes
4. Dynamic Movement.
Lastly, you want a dynamic movement component that gets the body moving with a little more speed and intent.
This could be a series of high knees, lateral shuffles, butt kicks, carioca, skips, crawls, etc.
The goal is to get the body moving with a bit more speed, and to further increase temperature as well as range of motion of the joints.
Putting It All Together
Taking just touched upon you can create a simple template to use for an effective and efficient warm up.
- Soft Tissue (foam rolling, lax ball, tiger tail, etc.) and Static Stretching (3-5 minutes)
3-5 areas that are of highest priority for soft tissue
1-2 areas that are of highest priority for stretching
2 .Mobility and Activation (2-4 minutes)
1-3 exercises that are of highest priority for each mobility and activation
3. Movement Preparation (3-6 minutes)
3-5 specific exercises that prepare the patterns of the main training program. Best to try
and combine some movements for a more efficient flow.
4. Dynamic Movement (2-4 minutes)
5-10 higher speed movements such as high knees, shuffles, skips, etc. done in a quick
As you can see, at the very most this type of warm up should last no longer than 19 minutes, and hopefully more towards the lower end of 10 minutes.
Of course if have been training or playing sports longer and your body has more mileage on it, you will likely have to spend a little more time warming up.
But if your warm up and program are solid and both are allowing you to progress appropriately, you should notice that the warm up doesn’t need to be as long as your body is better able to recover and not being so broken down.
Attack your warm up with specificity and not only will you have a more productive training session, but you will spend less of your precious time trying to prepare for the main work of your program.
What does your warm up look like? Do you even warm up? Do you take 30+ minutes to get going? Let us know, and pass this info along!
To your health and performance,