By: Danny Osias and Russell Graham
You may be starting your health/fitness journey or you’re looking to improve performance in certain activities. Most of your results should come from following an exercise and meal plan consistent with your goals. You don’t necessarily need supplements to gain muscle or lose weight, but the right ones may help! If you have the budget, there are supplements that can work to enhance body composition and physiology, including muscle growth, fat loss, strength, inflammation, mood, gut health, energy levels and more. (For a full picture of health components see previous blog posts including “Good Health is Exercise and…” )
1. Protein Powder
Protein Powder is a condensed and powdered form of protein, made from either animal or plant based sources. It can be created from eggs, milk (whey), peas, soybeans, rice or hemp. Protein powder makes getting enough daily protein much easier, which helps you lose fat and build muscle faster, burn more calories and experience less hunger. Optimal protein intake varies from person to person based on goals, but a good rule of thumb in general is to consume approximately 0.8 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day.
Reference: Effects of Protein Supplementation on Performance and Recovery in Resistance and Endurance Training (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/
A large percentage of Americans diets are deficient in critical micronutrients. For some people, diets that contain processed foods and lack a diversity of fruits and vegetables can cause deficiencies. Add this to the declining soil quality and inadequate nutrient absorption and even those who eat a healthy diet of whole foods can still come up short on certain nutrients. Also active people tend to have an increased need for zinc, magnesium, vitamin C, Vitamin B and many more. There is evidence that supplementing with a high-quality multivitamin may be beneficial whether you exercise or not.
3. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that has widespread effects on health, including metabolic processes and absorbing calcium from the intestines. Specifically, Vitamin D appears to have anti-inflammatory effects throughout the body. Low Vitamin D levels have been associated with obesity, insulin resistance, heart disease, and diabetes. Always make sure to check this with regular blood work tests at the doctor. Some of us come up short with this vitamin because we don’t get enough exposure to sunlight, which is one of the biggest drivers for our body making the Vitamin D it needs. This is where supplementing comes into play and is recommended by experts. The recommended daily doses fall around 1,000-2,000 IU per day. Because vitamin D is a fat-soluble, it should always be taken with a fat-containing meal or snack for better absorption.
4. Fish Oil
Fish oil provides your body with two key nutrients, Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) that are otherwise hard to get enough of through diet alone. Together these nutrients are known as “omega-3 fatty acids”. The benefits of supplementing with fish oil include reducing the risk of heart disease, decreasing systemic inflammation, improving cognitive performance/brain health, optimizing fat loss, and accelerating muscle growth. For general health, a combined intake of 500mg to 1.8g of EPA and DHA per day is sufficient. For reducing muscle soreness, you want a higher combined intake of around 3g per day. Fish oil is best taken with meals to improve absorption and prevent the “fish oil burps.” If you are eating a healthy diet along with exercising regularly, supplementing with fish oil may help you achieve your fitness and body composition goals faster.
References: Fatty acids from fish: the anti-inflammatory potential of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.
Fish oil and omega-3 fatty acids in cardiovascular disease: do they really work? (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/
5. Creatine Monohydrate
Creatine is a substance found naturally in the body and in high amounts in foods like red meat. It is the most well-researched molecule in all of sports nutrition and safest according to studies (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.
References: Effect of creatine supplementation on body composition and performance: a meta-analysis (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.
Disclaimer: No content in this blog should be used as or substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician. Always seek advice from your medical provider before taking a supplement. Some of these supplements can have certain interactions with medications or medical conditions.