One question I am often asked, “Brian, what supplements do you recommend?”
Ideally you should be able to get all your nutrients from a balanced nutrition plan. Sounds good, but tough to accomplish for most of us.
Of the tens of thousands of supplements on the market, I only use a handful.
My promise to you is that I will only recommend supplements I have personally used, or that I am presently using, in order to realize a noticeable health and fitness benefit.
(NOTE: More information, uses and benefits of specific supplements detailed below.)
My Daily Supplement Regimen
My day begins with a glass of water followed by 1 to 1 1/2 cups of black coffee. That’s right, I drink coffee.
Pre-workout – Approximately 30 minutes prior to my morning exercise routine, I drink a protein powder and arginine supplement mixed together in a glass of water and I often include a packet of Emergen-C. There are many quality protein powders on the market and many more not so great choices. I like the Muscletech brand and if you are a Sam’s Club member it is the most affordable high quality protein supplement I’ve tried so far.
MUSCLETECH PREMIUM WHEY PROTEIN PLUS
One scoop provides 20 grams whey protein blend (whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, whey peptides) 9 grams carbs, 1.5 grams fat and only 140 calories. The plus refers to a recovery blend which includes a small amount of creatine and glutamine.
The best price I have found is through Sam’s Club at only $34.98 for a 5 pound tub, 57 servings. Occasionally they have it on sale for even less! If you drink it just about every day, that is a 2 month supply, $20/month, About .70 cents per serving.
If you are not a Sam’s Club Member I have found it on Amazon for about $1o.oo more and free shipping. That’s still less than .90 cents per serving. Search for Muscletech Premium Whey Protein Plus.
I’ve tried both the Chocolate and Vanilla – I prefer the Vanilla.
One serving provides 5000 mg of L-arginine, 1000 mg of L-citrulline, PLUS 100% RDA of Vitamins C, B6, B12 and Folate, 625% of Vitamin D3, and 25% of Vitamin K, along with other ingredients, all to support the body’s production of nitric oxide, with only 4 grams carbs, and 35 calories.
At $39.97 for a 30 day supply that equals about $1.33 per day.
I use it every day so I buy the L-Arginine Plus 6 pack to save $46.85, which drops my daily cost to $1.07.
Recovery – Research has shown that consuming a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein after exercise results in higher glycogen stores than consuming carbs alone. This aids in repairing and rebuilding muscles and is a key factor in how your body will recover and adapt to exercise. The optimal window is immediately following exercise up to 30 minutes.
I have tried various recovery supplements including the P90X Results and Recovery formula, however you can simply use a scoop of protein powder in a glass of juice or gatorade and get results.
What I discovered with the P90X R&R was that the recommended serving of two scoops was too “sweet” for me so I only used one scoop, which doubled the daily supply reducing my daily cost per serving.
One scoop provides 20 grams carbs, 5 grams protein, 0.5 grams fat, along with a number of vitamins and minerals plus 350 mg L-arginine, 250 mg L-glutamine, 250 mg creatine.
Plus at $49.95 for a 25 day supply at the recommended two full two scoops it is a bit pricey. Since I only used one scoop it lasted me 2 months and worked out to $1.00 a day.
Breakfast – For the past 4 years I drank a Complete Meal shake each day for breakfast. I experimented with different brands and found Shakeology to have the best taste with the most complete quality ingredients. By itself in a glass of water it is not all that palatable so I always added fruit and used a blender. However, it is by far the most expensive at $129.95 for a 30 day serving bag, partly due to supporting the Beachbody MLM machine. That is about $4.33 a serving. If you like it, and can afford it, then by all means drink it.
One serving provides more than 70 ingredients:
- Super Protein Blend
- Super Fruit/Antioxidant Blend
- Super Green/Phytonutrient Blend
- Adaptogen Blend
- Comprehensive list of Vitamins and Minerals
- 17 grams protein, 13 grams carbs, 1.5 grams fat
Shakeology is advertised to be a daily dose of dense nutrition, meal replacement shake, and simply the most nutrient-rich, superfood-packed protein shake on the planet. I believe it helped me stay healthy and lean but there is a lot to be said for what one believes and the effect that belief alone has on your health. It had become a habit more than anything that I was hesitant to stop. Nonetheless I have given it up.
My current routine is to drink my Pre-workout protein/arginine/Emergen-C shake before and during my morning workout. I am now eating a small bowl of gluten free oatmeal mixed with some walnuts, blueberries, bananas and a touch of honey post workout.
You can drink a fruit smoothie after your workout. Fresh fruits are good in season but if you buy bags of frozen fruits, it makes more of a frozen smoothie when blended. I usually add half a banana as well. You can add all sorts of food items to make the drink more palatable to your taste and/or add more nutrients. Cucumber, spinach, peanut butter, blueberries, strawberries, mango, banana, low-fat yogurt, etc, etc.
Fish Oil supplement – I take one every day and recommend it to everyone for the many overall health benefits.
MegaRed Fish Oil contains oil from 100% pure Atlantic krill. One of the most abundant organisms, Krill is well below the conservative international harvest guidelines and the Antarctic is some of the purest waters on earth limiting the possibility of contaminants. At less than a quarter a day you can not beat the health benefits for the money!!!
Probably the main reason that I stumbled on MegaRed is due to its size. Some of the fish oil products I have taken in the past were giant capsules that would get caught in my throat. MegaRed is a smaller, easier to swallow, capsule.
Snacks – Other than fruit and nuts, I occasionally eat a protein bar. I don’t eat them everyday however they can be a great meal replacement when you are limited for time. As a snack they are a better choice than basic junk food or a candy bar. They are also great for helping you increase your daily protein intake. As low as $1.50 to $3.00 a bar depending on the brand you prefer.
I like the Think Thin bars, but I have tried many brands.
I also like Pure Protein Bars – The chocolate peanut butter flavor, for example, provides 20 grams protein, 16 grams carbs, 6 grams fat along with some vitamins and minerals with only 200 calories per bar, and it is gluten free.
I eat about 99% gluten free.
My favorite Protein bar was the P90X Peanut Butter. It actually tastes like a candy bar!
Each bar provides 20 grams protein, 30 grams carbs, 8 grams fat along with other vitamins and minerals at 260 calories, and it is also gluten free.
Protein/Arginine/Emergen-C shake in Water for Pre-workout and during workout.
Protein & fruit blended in water post workout or gluten free oatmeal with nuts and fruit.
Since I exercise in the mornings the oatmeal or shake is my breakfast as well.
Fish Oil supplement.
Occasional protein bar as snack. Otherwise I snack on nuts most days and/or fruit.
Eat whole foods vs man-made food as much as humanly possible – every meal, every snack, every day!
More information, uses and benefits of specific supplements
Whey Protein Powder
Though not impossible, it can be difficult to obtain your daily protein requirements from your food alone, particularly if you are stepping up your exercise regimen.
Whey protein is considered a complete protein as it contains all 9 essential amino acids and is low in lactose content.
Reported benefits of consuming whey protein include: gain in lean tissue mass when used in conjunction with a resistance program; decrease in fat mass; decrease in both cholesterol and blood pressure; and promising anti-cancer properties, among others.
Essential amino acids cannot be made by the body. As a result, they must come from food. The nine essential amino acids are: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.
Non-essential amino acids are not less important. The body is simply capable of creating them on its own. If you consume adequate levels of protein and carbohydrates each day, your cells should make enough.
However, you may not be able to synthesize them in large enough quantities to gain maximum benefits or satisfy your body’s requirements. For example, during times of rapid growth your body cannot keep up with enough arginine production. Therefore you might consider adding some to augment production.
An amino acid obtained from red meat, poultry, fish and dairy, arginine is needed for the body to make proteins. It is converted in the body into nitric oxide, which causes blood vessels to open wider for improved blood flow. Our ability to produce nitric oxide is reduced as we age.
Arginine also stimulates the release of growth hormone, insulin, and other substances in the body. It is used for heart and blood vessel conditions including congestive heart failure, chest pain, high blood pressure, and coronary artery disease. It is also used for recurrent pain in the legs due to blocked arteries, decreased mental capacity in the elderly, erectile dysfunction, and male infertility.
Other uses include improving athletic performance, preventing the common cold, improving kidney function after a kidney transplant, high blood pressure during pregnancy, boosting the immune system, preventing inflammation of the digestive tract in premature infants, with pain relievers for migraine headaches; with conventional chemotherapy drugs for treating breast cancer; with fish oil and other supplements for reducing infections, improving wound healing, and shortening recovery time after surgery.
The most abundant amino acid in the body, glutamine is produced in the muscles and is distributed to the organs. It is important for providing fuel to many different cells in the body and is needed to make chemicals in the body such as other amino acids and glucose.
If the body uses more glutamine than the muscles can make, muscle wasting can occur. As a supplement it is used to improve athletic performance, reduce muscle breakdown, and promote muscle growth. Supplements that include glutamine might help keep this amino acid at beneficial levels.
Glutamine is also used to counter some of the side effects of medical treatments, cancer chemotherapy, diarrhea, nerve pain, muscle and joint pains, to protect the immune system and digestive system, for improving recovery after surgery and radio chemotherapy, for stomach ulcers, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, moodiness, irritability, anxiety, insomnia, increasing well-being in people who have suffered traumatic injuries, preventing infections in critically ill people, and alcohol withdrawal.
Creatine is a chemical produced by the body from amino acids for use by muscles. About half of stored creatine originates from food, mainly from meat.
It is most commonly used for improving functional exercise performance and increasing muscle mass. Approximately 95% of the body’s total creatine is located in skeletal muscle.
Research has shown that creatine supplementation of 5 to 20 grams per day appears to be safe and devoid of adverse side-effects, while effectively improving the physiological response to resistance exercise and increasing maximal force production of muscles in men and women.
However long-term ingestion of large quantities of creatine has the potential to cause side effects. Do not overdose and avoid this supplement if you are asthmatic or have kidney disease.
One study showed that total creatine was significantly lower in vegetarians vs omnivores. However, the subjects showed the same levels after using supplements.
Interestingly a placebo-controlled double-blind experiment found that a group of vegetarians who took 5 grams of creatine per day for six weeks showed a significant improvement of fluid intelligence, and had higher overall IQ scores than the control group. The researchers concluded that supplementation with creatine significantly increased intelligence compared with placebo.
Omega-3 rich fish oil is one of the most well-researched nutrients on earth, containing Omega 3 fatty acids DHA and EPA.
Hundreds of studies have suggested that omega-3s may provide benefits to a wide range of diseases including cancer, asthma, depression, cardiovascular disease, ADHD, and autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Other benefits may include improved healing, decreased risk of macular degeneration, improved brain function, decreased risk for Alzheimer’s and dementia, lower risk of developing prostrate cancer, assistance in healing traumatic brain trauma…and the list goes on.
It has also been suggested that fish oil supports muscle protein synthesis, limits muscle protein degeneration and improves exercise recovery largely due to its anti-inflammatory effects.
The U.S Food and Drug administration (FDA) does regulate supplements, however it treats them as food vs medications. As a result the labels are not scrutinized as closely as pharmaceuticals in either ingredients or claims.
Sometimes the labels don’t reveal the complete or correct ingredients. Worse yet, the manufacturers don’t necessarily need any evidence that their product is safe or effective.
Buyer beware. Do your own research prior to taking any supplements. Talk with your doctor about any supplement you are considering to be certain it will not interact with any other medications you are ingesting.