Weighing up which supplements you should take can be confusing. In short it should come down to nutrient density, or bioavailability (how well its absorbed by the body in its supplemental form) and should have consistent well proven research. Overwhelmingly the majority of supplements are a waste of money.
Vitamins and/or minerals you suspect you are lacking are obviously important. Particularly if you follow a diet that omits certain food groups. If you're certain you cant make up these deficiencies by changes in a whole food diet (or by getting some sunlight in the case of vitamin D) then supplementing is key. But so is quality. Don’t buy the cheapest supplements, buy them from a brand with a good reputation and whose products are independently tested.
These are recommendations based on my own personal experience and clients i've worked with. Just remember how much we all vary as humans. The best way to work out what you need is to get full blood reports and a consult with a nutritionist or functional medicine practitioner. Think of my list as an insurance policy in terms of what your body needs most and will make the biggest impact on your overall health. I've listed the supplements below in order of what I deem the most important.
Omega 3 fish oils:
The majority of us don’t consume nearly as much high omega 3 foods such as seafood or wild game as we used to so a good quality omega 3 oil is an essential. I personally use Bare Biology’s ‘Lion-Heart” capsules. These internationally and independently tested and have a high concentration of the omega 3 oils EPA and DHA
This is the hormone we manufacture ourselves from exposure to the sun: Practice the minimal effective dose of 15 minutes a day so that you don't risk sunburn. If you live somewhere that has limited sunshine at any point during the year, it may be better to supplement with vitamin D. People with darker skin can be more at risk of vitamin D deficiency. I wrote about vitamin D deficiency here as well as the best food sources to get it from.
A good quality Protein powder is extremely helpful being that it IS the most important macronutrient. 'Proteos' in Greek literally means 'of most importance'. Protein is very satiating making it less likely for people to over eat providing they eat enough for their bodies needs. Protein intake needs to be higher in active populations.
Between 1.6-2.2 grams of protein per Kg of body weight is the scientific consensus for active people. Even 3grams/kg is completely fine so long as there is no pre-existing kidney disease. These higher amounts can be effective for those that find it hard not to over eat due to the satiety effect. Protein also costs a lot metabolically to break down so you burn more calories doing so. I recommend a good quality plant-based blend protein powder to help you reach adequate protein intake but make sure the blend has a full amino-acid profile -this allows those amino acids to be combined into protein your body can use.
A good quality whey protein powder is also an option. Although its protein content is more bioavailable, I recommend these less often because processed dairy does tend to be pro-inflammatory as well the fact it proliferates the poor practices of the industrial dairy. Many people –who aren't clinically lactose intolerant– feel much better when they try a non-dairy alternative, so if you've always used whey or casein as your post workout I recommend trying a plant based version just as an experiment. My favourites are Nuzest in Vanilla or Form in Chocolate Salted Caramel
These are not replacements for not eating your veggies. However they are more like an insurance policy for busy lives to ensure we’re getting enough antioxidants from the real superfoods: vegetables. Studies also show that due to industrial crop farming season after season on the same soil, many soil minerals are significantly depleted. This means we should probably be eating far more than the often quoted ‘5 a day’. Greens powders also contain fibre which most of us eat too little of.
You'll notice I don't include and 'multi-vitamins' in my list. Again I think its more important to find out specifically which nutrients you're deficient in and supplement with top-quality bio-available forms of those individual nutrients rather than waste money on lower quality combinations.
These can be amazing for most people however the balance of healthy vs unhealthy or 'bad' bacteria that populate our gut can vary hugely depending on the individual. What works well for someone, may have the potential to make someone else's symptoms worse. My best recommendation is to try one and keep track of how you feel:
Did it help your energy levels?
Notice an improvement in your immune system during the winter months?
IBS, bloating, gas improve?
I personally did a 12 week course with symprove and i definitely think it helped.
Decide on what one suits you best, or alternatively increase your intake of fermented foods. Sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, and naturally low fat, low sugar greek yogurt.
The next few are more orientated towards maximising your progress in the gym. Having said that, because the influence aspects of your hormonal profile towards fitness, they will benefit your overall health as well.
Creatine is one of the most researched sports supplements and is proven to help with lean mass gain and both athletic and aesthetic goals. Its suitable for both men and women. So it will help build muscle, as well as ‘tone’ muscle.
is a combination of Zinc, Magnesium and vitamin B6 and has been shown to aid recovery and help sleep. In doing so it helps optimise our natural testosterone levels. Yes ladies your natural levels of testosterone should be optimised too. Sugar and white flour (wheat) has been shown to lower blood levels of zinc and magnesium so its another reason to ditch the wheat.
I personally prefer to take a these separately, insisting on a good quality zinc supplement and a good quality magnesium supplement. B6 is a co-factor in converting the amino acid tryptophan into serotonin: our feel good hormone. However its rare that one needs to supplement with B6 if they follow a Common Sense Approach diet (Just like the PR1MEBODY 'Balance' and 'Fast Track' diets included in my 12 week Online Transformation plan... Obviously) however having said that many vegans need to keep a look out for low B6.
is another pre-cursor to serotonin and is more effective at increasing or natural serotonin levels. I prefer and recommend 5-HTP combined with zinc and magnesium before bed. However consult your GP before you take 5-HTP as it can interfere with other drugs such as SSRI anti-depression medication.
has been shown to have some improvement in insulin regulation so it can help those that may have a deficiency to help them lose weight.
The only true well researched ‘fat burner’. It will increase your metabolism slightly to burn a few more calories and can also give your workouts a little extra kick. It has numerous health benefits from heart, brain and anti-cancer properties. This is most likely due to the huge antioxidant load of organic, freshly roasted coffee beans. As with everything, the secret is in the dose. Have no more than 2-3 cups a day to ensure good sleep and not risk adrenal fatigue due to heightened cortisol levels (cortisol is our stress hormone and is stimulated by caffeine). This is also why you shouldn’t have caffeine after a workout when youre supposed to be relaxed in ‘repair and rebuild mode’.
Avoid pre-workout supplements that contain cheap filler and tend to have hyper-doses of caffeine to make you ‘feel it’. Getting your caffeine from good quality coffee beans will ensure you get all the longevity health benefits.
If you have any further questions about supplements, get in touch!
Bye for now,