My Top 5 Most Valuable Supplements for the Everyday Athlete
You knew I was going to preface this with how important your diet and real food is….right? If you are eating whole foods in a wide variety, then you will cover the majority of your vitamin and mineral needs. Remember you don’t eat nutrients – you eat food. Whole foods behave differently from their individual parts. For instance, the nutrients from a steak are more bioavailable than consuming the equivalent nutrients from a pill or powder. Antioxidants from food are beneficial, but taking mega-doses of some synthetic antioxidants comes with risks we may not even know about. The nutrients in food work together in a process known as food synergy. In short, this means food is more powerful than the sum of its parts. That’s why it’s important to start with a nutrient-dense diet, then supplement specific nutrients according to your specific needs and goals.
Let’s talk about expensive pee...with half of the U.S. population taking a multivitamin, many people seem to think multivitamins are the first line of defense against malnutrition and disease. In fact, the opposite is true. Multivitamins can actually do more harm than good. There are two major problems with Multivitamins: They are generic so you are getting the wrong amounts of vitamins and minerals, essentially you may be getting too much of some vitamins like A and E and not enough of others we tend to be deficient in like vit. D, K, magnesium and zinc. There is no way to fit “a complete spectrum” of nutrients in one single pill. Having said that, a multivitamin that is divided into 3-6 pills that you take throughout the day can be quite effective and replace the need for other supplementation. The second reason is the quality of vitamin forms. Nutrients come in different forms that behave differently inside your body. An example is Folate, an essential B vitamin, but folic acid, the kind found in generic multivitamins, can cause a lot of problems. Over half the population has a certain gene that if you're supplementing with folic acid you will feel tired and weak. Many multivitamins are made with fillers and additives that make it hard for your body to even absorb the nutrients. So, even if they have the right amount of a nutrient on the label, very little may reach your cells.
As with many things in life, you get what you pay for with supplements and if it’s really cheap compared to quality tested brands done by outside sources, it’s not going to help you. Having said that let’s talk about the 5 supplements that can help you recover and perform better as an everyday athlete, which we all are to varying degrees. I will also preface this by saying I didn’t include some common supplements like creatine and protein powder like whey or collagen on this list because with a precise and careful nutrition plan you don’t need them and the everyday person probably doesn’t need them. Full disclosure, I use them regularly because it’s so challenging to get my required number of calories from whole foods. I also use them for more efficient recovery and convenience around my workouts. Now on to my top 5 supplements:
Caffeine: If you're not already a caffeine fan then you are missing out on an amazing pre-workout supplement. Pre-workout mixes aren’t usually designed for sustained energy so although they have caffeine, they also have several other stimulants. This can cause stomach problems (i.e.- disaster pants) or overstimulate you in a workout. Caffeine will not dehydrate you (despite a common myth) and will help you tap into your fat stores for energy. A simple black coffee or plain tea is all you need before a workout depending on your caffeine tolerance.
Suggested dose: 60-120mg of caffeine before a workout of any distance depending on your tolerance.
EAAs: (Essential amino acids) They help offset any possible muscle loss while promoting protein synthesis (muscle growth) by being in abundance in your blood (amino acid pool). If you’re working out regularly, you may actually be burning calories faster than you can take them in. EAAs have been shown to be an effective endurance supplement option by staving off fatigue in athletes. Additionally, EAAs also reduce muscle soreness and speed up muscle recovery. Athletes who take EAAs promote the building of lean muscle mass.
Suggested dose: 1-2 scoops as needed between workouts and during workouts longer than 60 minutes.
Krill or fish oil: Absorbing the omega-3 fatty acids from krill or fish oil (a combined supplement is best) will help a runner ward off the damaging effects of inflammation. Humans are not able to produce Omega–3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) which are why they must be obtained through your diet or through supplements. Every cell in our body is surrounded by a lipid layer (fat) and this outer layer can be damaged by oxidation from exercise. For athletes in particular the performance enhancing effects are increasing muscle growth, improving strength and physical performance which are reasons enough to take krill/fish oil but it also reduces exercise-induced muscle damage and delayed-onset muscle soreness which makes it one of the main supplements for runners especially when it comes to recovery and endurance.
Suggested dose: 1000-2000mg per day with meals depending on how much fatty fish you eat on a regular basis. See how much your supplement has of EPA and DHA aiming for at least 1000mg total per day.
Magnesium and Zinc: I included these together because they are so synergistic to each other. Magnesium is used in over 300 enzymatic processes, including all of those involved in ATP (energy) production. Magnesium assists with energy and muscle contraction, it promotes strong bones and muscles and is a big supporter of cardiovascular health and nerve function. Zinc, on the other hand, helps you metabolize energy (so you can put it to good use). Both of these minerals are essential, and both can be depleted quickly during exercise. In these cases, a little supplementation can go a long way and help you go a long way healthier. Magnesium also helps our bodies relax, which is why you’re seeing it marketed as a sleep supplement in the form of ZMA(zinc, magnesium and B6).
Suggested dose: 200-400mg of Magnesium and 50mg of Zinc, taken at night before bed on an empty stomach.
Vitamin D: Vitamin D acts on over 1,000 different genes and serves as a substrate for sex hormones like testosterone, human growth hormone, and estrogen. It moderates immune function and inflammation. It assists in calcium metabolism and bone formation. It’s no coincidence this is one of the few vitamins humans can make on their own, with a little bit of sunshine and it’s actually classified as a hormone. Without it – we’d be dead. However, unless you are a nudist or live at the equator year round you are probably deficient in Vit. D. Additionally, Vitamin D3 is involved in a number of processes that are key for optimal athletic performance - muscle contraction, nerve stimulation, immune system, and improved anti-inflammatory response. It is a fat soluble vitamin but If you’re concerned about toxicity from supplementation as long as you get adequate vitamin A, it’s almost impossible to overdose on D. The recommended supplement would include Vitamin D3 with Vitamin K for absorption and assimilation.
Suggested dose: 1,000 IU per 25 pounds of body weight*
*Your skin tone affects your dose. People with brown/black skin don’t convert sunlight into vitamin D as quickly as lighter-skinned people. If you’re brown-skinned, a safe bet is 1,500 IU/25 pounds of body weight. No matter what your skin color, always test your blood levels because your individual response to dosage varies.
This list is by no means exhaustive, it’s the five I found would give you the biggest return on your money and what we are all typically deficient in. Although I recommend doses of the supplements and all my information is from scientific research studies with trusted sources, I am not a doctor, I don't even play one on T.V. To really know what supplements you need, have your blood tested and interpreted by a doctor so you know the levels of your Vitamin D, Magnesium, Zinc and lipids. Then try some supplements along with your healthy diet for 3 months under your doctor's supervision. Have your blood retested and note the changes, not only in your numbers but in your performance and recovery. We always suggest measuring where you are starting at and then making changes before you retest. At Nutrition1st we believe anything you measure you can change. That goes for the major things like your food quality and quantity down to the micronutrients like vitamin and mineral levels. If you want some guidance with your nutrition go to our website and set up your free discovery call. Stay healthy and keep moving!
Don't forget to check out our latest YouTube video about supplements! Like and Subscribe for more content like this!