“That’ll be 642.83 and now you know what supplements you should take!” said the 22 year old cashier at MaxMuscle.
I was checking out with a tub of boring ol’ creatine, but the skinny kid in front of me in line had a year supply of everything, from protein, to muscle gainers, fat burners, pre workouts, and some other stuff that I had never heard of.
“Come back in next month so we can get you restocked on your weight gainers, because this is only a 30 day supply”
I tried not to stare as the kid hoisted his supplement plunder off the counter and staggered out the door
In this article you’ll see:
- What supplements should you take?
- What are the top tier supplements you should be taking
- What supplements you should avoid
- What should you look for in a pre workout?
But the supplement business is a BIG ONE, and there’s plenty of reasons why. But keep in mind that these are supplements not mandatories, and if you’re eating 9 Olive Garden breadsticks per day and thinking that protein powders and fat burners are going to keep you feeling and looking good, think again.
Another thing to remember is that the supplements that a 24 year old guy looking to add 10lbs of muscle needs, are going to be different from the 40 year old female who wants to drop 20lbs of stubborn body fat.
I’ll give you my general favorite recommendations, but if you’re looking for answers on specifics, or what should YOU take to get better results, hit me up, and we can talk about what it takes.
Do I need to be taking supplements?
Short and douchy answer: “No, you should be eating all perfect food all the time and scrubbing your hands with organic Scandinavian Bleach if you so much as brush up against a GMO apple.”
However, that’s dumb, and in a country where the supplement industry is raking in a staggering 36 BILLION dollars per year, there’s a pretty good chance you have bought or will buy supplements in your life time.
So what supplements should I take?
Protein Powder. Make sure you get a high quality “Whey Protein Isolate”, which is the most one of the most bio-available for the money you’re spending.
It’s a good way to add a quick, satiating meal to your day, especially if you’re on the go. It’s also a great way to take in more high quality nutrients when trying to add muscle, and adding protein throughout the day will keep you anabolic even between workouts.
- As a meal replacement or between meal snack.
- Post workout
Creatine – Make sure you get creatine monohydrate, and not some weird proprietary blend bullshit. A lot of companies try to throw in a bunch of additives, and then sell it for 4 times as much, but your basic, effective creatine monohydrate will be fairly inexpensive, and ruthlessly effective.
- After your workout in your post workout shake.
Electrolytes – Crucial for staying hydrated, dropping fat, and performance, take these first thing in the AM (avoid electrolytes with sugar), during a workout, and before bed (if you tend to pee a lot at night)
This is my new favorite supplement. It helps me get up and get firing faster, plus if I had a few drinks, it kills a hangover like nothing else.
You lose 1/2tsp of sodium for every 60 min of exercise and 1/4tsp for every 2 cups of coffee.
I freaking love the LMNT electrolytes for this. They have sodium, potassium, and magnesium, which is a full spectrum and better than just adding sea salt.
Zinc/Magnesium – These boost growth hormone and testosterone levels. They also help with getting deeper more restful sleep.
I’ve tried a few brands, and some I didn’t think did a whole lot, but there were a few that I did feel helped me sleep deeper. And regardless of whether the claim about an increase in GH/Test, I know that deeper sleep will increase both of those things naturally.
pro tip: make sure that the Magnesium type ends in the suffix: “-ate”. Like “taurinate, gluconate, glycinate”. Avoid Oxide and Chloride
- Before bed. Don’t exceed rec’d dose
Vitamin D: You also probably don’t get enough of this. Doctors in Seattle literally stopped testing people because they were just like “Yea, there’s a 100% chance you’re deficient. Buy pills, take 5000 iu’s per day”.
When I was sick I would take double or triple that for a few days, and it seemed to help things clear up.
I prefer the drops for absorption. Here’s the brand I take
- In the morning with breakfast.
Vitamin D Update 8/1/17
A New study shows that Vitamin D has increased efficacy when taken alongside Vitamin K2.
Vitamin D has a plethora of great benefits, but supplementation can often lead to over-calcification of the arteries. Vitamin K can help alleviate some of those potential symptoms, as well as adding additional positive effects, like: decreasing risk of cancer, increasing bone density, and playing a role in heart health.
The author of the information I read suggests up to 500mcg of Vitamin K per day.
Fish Oil – While our modern diet is riddled with Omega 6’s, we don’t get enough Omega 3’s to prevent inflammation and keep our bodies functioning at a high level. It’s important to try to get a 2-1 ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6, but often times we’re the opposite, or even worse.
Getting a high quality fish oil supplement can help fix that, in addition to all of the other benefits: bone strength, hair sheen, general healing, skin quality, eye health, etc.
- 2 times per day with breakfast and dinner.
Probiotics – Gut health is one of the most overlooked pieces of overall heath and recovery abilities. You can get probiotics by eating fermented foods like kim-chee or sauerkraut, and also by eating the seeds of the Papaya (taste peppery).
If you come of antibiotics, it’s always a good practice to take a probiotic to help bring back some of the good bacteria to help you break down and digest food, in addition to playing a major role in building back up the immune system.
Generally these need to be refrigerated all the way from start of production until you buy them to be maximally effective. So keep that in mind when you buy.
I don’t have a great rec on these – but just make sure you’re buying the from the refrigerated section.
Or honestly, just buy a papaya once per month and eat 3 seeds per day for a week.
- With a meal, twice per day
Vitamin C – You probably don’t get enough of this, and it’s good for everything from curing scurvy, to boosting your immune system, to helping you recover after a hard workout.
- In the morning or evening. To help you remember, keep pills by your toothbrush so you take them when you brush you teeth.
Pre-Workouts – I love a good pre workout, but keep in mind that you’re not getting ‘new’ energy, you’re simply borrowing it from later. That’s why it’s not great to take energy supplements (including coffee) on a daily basis. Give your body a bit of time to recover a couple days per week.
The major effective ingredient in every pre-workout is caffeine, so when companies say they have a “proprietary blend” it’s usually a mix of taurine, guarine, beta alanine (the tingly sensation you get if you take too much, also prevents fatigue in muscles), and some form of creatine (to enhance the pump).
Also, when they say “proprietary blend” what they mean is “We don’t have to tell you anything we put in here, so it might be 95% cat dander, and 5% crystal meth. Go on, try it. You’ll like it.”
I usually prefer a stim free pre workout as caffeine can constrict your blood vessels which decreases the blood in your muscles.
MAKE SURE YOUR PRE WORKOUT CONTAINS: at least 6g Citrulline Malate or L-Citrulline, and 2.5g of Betaine.
- 15 minutes before your workout.
Pre- Workout Update 8/1/17:
A New Study has shown that taking pre-workouts that contain both caffeine (as 95% do) and taurine, are LESS effective than a simple cup of coffee.
Taurine is a NON ESSENTIAL amino acid. Non-essential simply means that the body produces it on it’s own and it does not need to be consumed. Taurine is found in most energy drinks, like Monster and Redbull, and in a lot of pre-workout powders.
However, Taurine has an antagonistic effect on caffeine! This means that when you take both at the same time, you’ll have less:
- cognitive enhancements
- muscular endurance
- desire to listen to Rage Against the Machine at earsplitting volume.
So bottom line, if you’re looking for a a quick boost to energy, AVOID TAURINE. If you’re buying a pre-workout supplement and the manufacturers didn’t even take the time to do the basic science that a 9th grader with a computer could find out, DITCH THAT SHIT.
Greens Supplement – This is one I personally like because I just don’t eat enough fruits and veggies during the course of a normal day.
I think of this like insurance. It’s a good way to get the phytonutrients to stay healthy and prevent inflammation from training, poor eating habits, and day to day activities.
I’ve been loving a greens product that doesn’t have wheatgrass but instead uses blue-green algae.
- In your breakfast shake
- Before bed – I like to mix in a packet of Emergen-C with it for flavor and added Vitamin C boost.
Low Priority (don’t waste money on this garbage)
Weight Gainer Powder/Shakes – This is one of the biggest scams of the supplement world. They add low quality protein to low quality carbohydrates (mostly coming from maltodextrin or some other compound that is basically pure sugar) wrap it up with a label that shows some monster bench pressing 900 lbs then eating everyone else in the gym who makes eye contact with him.
And for all the assholes working at supplement stores preying on people’s insecurities to sell sham products, fuck you.
Take This Instead:
- 3 extra peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on top of your normal diet.
Fat Burners – On the opposite side of the scam coin, you’ll know these by the lithe sensual female wearing booty shorts and looking over her shoulder in a surprised “who me?” expression.
The majority of these products have similar ingredients as pre-workouts, which means that caffeine plays a strong role. However, as Dr. Oz continues to shill worthless products, you’ll see some of the supporting ingredients change. Some offenders: green coffee bean extract, raspberry ketones, garcinia cambogia, etc.
These products are sold as stand alone weight loss aids, and to be fair, THEY CAN AID IN WEIGHT LOSS. Caffeine causes a slight uptick in overall body heat and heart rate, both which burn small amounts of extra calories. Additionally, caffeine is an appetite suppressant, and can arguably help you control cravings.
Take This Instead:
- Coffee in the morning and afternoon.
Carb Blockers – These are touted as being able to block your body from digesting carbs by blocking the enzymes that digest carbs, allowing them to pass peacefully from your mouth to your toilet. (that’s a gross sentence. sorry)
In theory, this can work because they’re reported to block 50-60% of the enzymes that digest carbs.
In reality, though, this doesn’t translate to blocking the carbs from being digested, it just slows the digestive process as your body takes a while to generate new enzymes. In fact, studies have shown that these block around 7% of the COMPLEX carbs that you take in.
The other bummer? This doesn’t apply to simple carbs. Sugars, juices, and even fruits – only the complex carbs found in starchier products (so “starch blocker” would be a more apt name)
Take this instead:
- 1 healthy dose of personal accountability to eat less sugar. You’re an adult. Eat like it.
Garcinia Cambogia/Raspberry Ketones – Can we just move forward and agree that as a country we will stop buying supplements that we see on TV?
Unfortunately the answer is “Yeah! We’ll definitely sto…….Did you say I could lose 10lbs in 3 days?!?!?”
Take This Instead:
- Cigarettes. It’s hard to eat when you’re smoking.