Which Supplements You “Should” Take
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,