Supplement Breakdown: What are the Essentials?
With in the last few years, the supplement industry has exploded in popularity. Everyone is looking for the next thing that will make them bigger, leaner, and lift more weight. But the reality is, most of the products out there are GARBAGE.
With virtually no regulations, there are tens of thousands of products on the market. Many of which, are low quality, and unnecessary. But with all these choices, where do you start?...After this post will you will know where to start and what to look for!
DISCLAIMER: This article does not cover all supplements that are effective. I simply cover the supplements I find essential.
Also, before we get into the supplements, let me first say, that supplements mean nothing if your nutrition and hydration levels are already in order. So before you read this, eat a healthy meal, and chug a glass of water!
In my opinion everybody should be taking fish oil. Young, old, or athlete, fish oil has tremendous benefits. Fish oil is rich in omega-3s which most people are sorely missing from their diets. Some of the benefits of fish oil include decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, decrease risk of depression, and an increase in immune system function.
In a previous post, I mentioned the effects of inflammation on our country. Well, guess what, the fatty acids in fish oil help decrease that as well. So for people who experience joint pain (slowly raises hand), fish oil can help those creaky knees move a little bit better.
What to look for:
- Sustainably caught fish free form mercury
- 3rd party verified fish oil to guarantee potency and purity
- Amount of Omega-3: 2000-4000 mg, 5-7g for athletes
Protein powder is probably the most popular fitness supplement out there. Protein powder is usually taken post workout, but can also be used as a meal supplement. Now let me say that ideally, you want most of your protein from whole food sources like lean meats, and eggs. But what makes protein powders great is how easily digestible they are. They only take about 30 minutes or less to reach muscles after ingestion, which is far less that solid food proteins. Consider a protein shake like liquid chicken.
This rapid digestion is key for your post workout needs. When we strength train, we are essentially breaking down muscle (catabolism). Protein helps us spare muscle, and recover better from our workouts.
What to look for?
Personally I prefer to use vegan protein powder, but either way quality is important.
Minimal Ingredients-If you have a hard time pronouncing the ingredients, then NOPE!
Avoid gimmicky brands and trust brands that are well established
Ideally NSF certified for quality and purity.
I view multivitamins as gap fillers. They fill any gaps that you may have in your nutrition. With so many people today worried about "macros", they often neglect the "micros". That usually leaves gaps in our daily nutrition. Multivitamins are micronutrient gap fillers. They fill any gaps nutritional gaps you may have during the day. Micronutrients such as folate, iron, and vitamin A are important for daily functions and metabolic processes.
What to look for:
- Ingredients based on whole foods and not synthetic ingredients. For more detail on what to look for, read this.
Other Supps for Increasing Performance
The next few supplements are not necessarily essential, but are very beneficial for overall performance. There are many out there, but here are a couple.
For my money, creatine is an absolute must for any athlete. Creatine is one of the best muscle building supplements out there. Creatine improves performance and increases lean muscle mass. There are some rumors out there that creatine can have a negative effect on the liver and kidneys, but there has not been any evidence to support any negative side effects in healthy individuals.
Magnesium is another supplement that is increasing in popularity recently. It is believed that most people are deficient in Magnesium do to the lack of magnesium in today's soil. This affects the amount of magnesium we would normally be getting in your diets. Magnesium helps relive muscle aches, calm nerves, and help with. For that reason, I prefer to take it in the evening before bed.
As there name implies, and as I have said before, a supplement should be used to supplement a healthy diet. But if you've got all that down, and are drinking plenty of water, then supplements can be a great addition to your nutrition plan!