This is quite possibly one of my favourite subjects to talk to men about. Particularly with men who are training in the gym and looking to make improvements.

The short answer to this question is yes. I wish I could tell you otherwise but I can’t. There are a lot of different avenues to explore when it comes to supplements. And a lot of caveats that also accompany any discussion about supplements.  Here’s what I’m going to do, I’m going to tell you what a supplement is. Why supplements are needed for optimal health, what to look out for on the labels and then my personal recommendations.

I can’t tell you exactly what to take, because I don’t know your health history. I don’t know your training goals and I don’t know if you’re taking any medications that might not be compatible with certain supplements. Legal Disclaimer! Before taking any supplements please consult with a doctor or qualified health care professional.

What Is A Dietary Supplement?

This took me a long time after I qualified as a PT and nutrition coach to get my head around. If you don’t know what a supplement is for then don’t worry you’re not alone. It took me a good bit of time study to know what’s what. My answer when anybody asks me what a supplement is goes like this. It’s a product designed to bridge the gap between the nutritional demand of the body, and the actual nutrients you eat from food.

Supplements can come in the form of pills, capsules, liquids and powders that needs to mixed to be drinkable as a liquid. Some of the most common supplements out there you may have heard of are protein powders or protein shakes. Multivitamins you may have seen advertised on the TV, fish oil you may have seen on the TV as well as things like magnesium and zinc. Supplements are only meant to bridge this gap, they’re not be relied on as a staple form of food. As sad as it is that we can’t get all the nutrients we need from food to thrive. We get enough for the body to what it needs to survive. Then the supplements to the rest to make your body thrive and make you feel incredible.

Optimal Health And The Role Of Supplements.

As we know the demand for food over the last 50 years has increased massively. With this increased demand there has been a need for quicker turn around crops. This means there is less nutrients available in the soil for the plants, veggies or fruits to uptake. Thus meaning there is less nutrients in the veggies, fruit or plant that we eat. I was listening to a Joe Rogan podcast not that long ago, an American Dr on the show said that they have 60 harvests left of certain mass producing farms. After that, the soil won’t be good enough to grow crops. If the nutrient content of the foods we eat is declining as they reported in: Journal of Food Composition and Analysis

Volume 56, March 2017, Pages 93-103. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889157516302113

If the nutrients that we’re actually absorbing from food is getting less and less. Then it makes sense that we need to top up these nutrients with supplements. A lot of your bodily functions rely on micronutrients. These are the vitamins and minerals we get from food once it’s been broken down and digested.  Let’s take B-vitamins as an example from B1 to B12 your body needs them for such things as. Energy production, liver function, transportation of nutrients, vision, breakdown and absorption of nutrients. Nervous system health, gut function and more.

If you’re not eating enough fruits and veggies and a wide variety of good quality. Which in my experience is a large percentage of people. Then you’re going to need to top up B-vitamin stores with a good quality B-vitamin supplement blend. You can by stand-alone B-vitamins like B9 folate, but I’d only go for these if you have blood test results that state you’re B9 deficient.

Looking At Supplements In A New Light.

I hope this paints the picture that supplements are not evil, like I used to think when I first qualified. All they’re doing is bridging the gap between what your body needs in terms of micro nutrients. And how many micro nutrients are provided by the foods you eat.

Like with B-vitamins, essential fatty acids are another supplement that when having the right amount can have massive health benefits. Nutrients that are called essential are called so because your body cannot make them internally. There are essential fatty acids and amino acids, this doesn’t mean that you should be getting as much down your neck as you can. I’ve seen PT’s in the past drinking powdered essential amino acids at least 3 times a day! Which for the record is far too much! Too much of anything in the human body is a poison, and the poison is always in the dose. Water is essential for life, yet drink too much of it and you can drown from the inside out.

The benefits of taking fish oil supplements from sustainable sources, cold water, small fish is very well documented. Here is just 1 article found after a quick google search. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/40253

The benefits listed to taking fish oils for optimising health are huge as you would have seen in the link. If you can’t be arsed to read the link the quick list of benefits are.

Lower triglycerides, thinner blood, reduced blood pressure, lower inflammation, improved heart function, switch on of genes to burn fat, and switch off of genes to store fat to name a few. Ide T, Kobayashi H, Ashakumary L, Rouyer IA, Takahashi Y, Aoyama T, Hashimoto T, Mizugaki M: Comparative effects of perilla and fish oils on the activity and gene expression of fatty acid oxidation enzymes in rat liver. Biochim Biophys Acta2000, 1485:23-35.

The Problems With Studies

Studies can be very contradictory. The majority of studies you hear about in the news have had a lot of funding put behind the. Such is the case when it comes to supplements. There are some studies that rave of the benefits of taking fish oil supplements. There are others that say eating the actual fish is enough. Trouble is from my experience, it’s a very rare thing that people eat fresh fish twice a week…

What I’m trying to say here is that there are huge discrepancies in the medical information out there. Looking at the results of some studies, 2-4grams of fish oil per day is optimal for health. Other studies suggest that a stand-alone omega 3 supplement doesn’t improve any functions or health issues in the body. In my experience 1st hand taking them, suggesting to client that they try them. It’s all been positive. Better cognitive function, lower blood pressure and joints that move a little easier.

I’m also saying that the quality of food is declining, that’s why in the UK the 5 portions of fruit and veg daily is increasing to 7. Soon it’ll be 10 which is what’s recommended in functional medicine circles. With the decline of micronutrients in food this is why supplementation is required for optimal health. You can still lose weight, lose fat and gain muscle without them. But with them it’ll be a whole lot easier and you’ll be healthier for it provided you’re not buying the cheap nasty supplements.

What To Look For On A Food Label.

This can be tricky unless you know how to read labels and what the ingredients in the bottle actually are. There is also the issue that the supplement marked is not regulated by any food standards agency. Which means what’s on the label isn’t always what’s in the supplement. There was a case in the states where a guy was making a vitamin D supplement, stating on the label that they were 1000 IU (international units) capsules.

When they finally got tested there was nearer 10,000 IU’s per capsule. With the vitamin D council recommending 5 to 10,000IU’s per day depending on location. The guy who reported the company was taking close to 50,000 IU’s a day! Needless to say he suffered vitamin D toxicity and poisoning.

When reading a food label or supplement label, the ingredients have to be listed in the order of quantity. The highest quantity goes first and the least volume goes last. There are also key compounds in supplements to watch out for that should be no go’s when you see them.

The above slide (taken from a lecture I gave to PT’s about supplements) shows a very good quality supplement that I won’t name. Mainly because I don’t want to show favouritism towards any particular brand and I don’t need people going out and buying loads of it. Plus other brands are out there that do the job, just personally I like this one. As you can quite clearly see the order of ingredients from top to bottom is reflected in the quantities of each ingredient.

The bad guys of the label to watch for the following:

  • Calcium carbonate
  • Magnesium oxide
  • Ascorbic acid
  • Acetate
  • Modified corn starch
  • Maltodextrin
  • Corn starch
  • Silicon dioxide
  • Zinc oxide

They are not all necessarily bad in their own right. But let’s say you’re taking a multivitamin daily, you’re taking the recommended dose. But then you look at the label and see this…

Of the first four ingredients 3 of them are less than optimal for the body to absorb. Sulphates, carbonates and oxides means the nutrient you want is bonded as salts. They’re very poorly absorbed by the body and most of the time you end up peeing them out. Some expensive pee a lot of people are producing. Minerals that are bound with amino acids AKA chelated, are much better absorbed by the body. Things like magnesium glycinate, zinc taurate that kind of thing are what you should be looking for.

My Personal supplement Recommendations

For my clients I always recommend for the first step to any type of body shape change. Is to replace calories that cause inflammation and are very calorie dense with calories that are much more nutrient dense and lower calorie. Instantly there are results here but eating much more fruit and veg and cutting down on the low nutrient high calorie food. Once this adjustment has been made, I ask if they want to and if they have the budget to take their health to the next level. 90% of the time is a resounding yes. Then and only then will I start to recommend the supplements to them. My recommendations are the following.

  • Fish oils to help with lowering inflammation, improve joint function, continuing to help with heart health and more.
  • A broad spectrum high quality multivitamin, not the popular one a day method… The benefits to this are numerous and include but are not limited to. Energy production, liver function, nutrient transport, nutrient absorption, mental sharpness and more.
  • Magnesium in the form of glycinate or taurate. The reason being is that it’s better absorbed by the body. Magnesium is involved in over 300 functions in the body and I recommend you take. I won’t state dosages on here. Work with your own doctor or health care professional for that.
  • Zinc, again in any form where it’s bonded to amino acids and not an oxide or sulphate. Zinc like magnesium is heavily involved in a lot of processes in the body. So a massively important supplement.

These are my bare basics that are non-negotiable. I do recommend others on top of this but this will all be based on individual assessments and needs.

Summing It Up.

I hope that this has helped you realise that supplements are not evil and good quality supplements are definitely worth the investment.  The cheaper one a day type supplements, do not have enough of any particular ingredient to have any long lasting benefit. That’s anecdotally the feedback I’ve been given. Any changes of benefits that people have felt I generally tend to put down to a placebo effect. Which to be fair, if it’s making you feel better I’m all for it.

Another point to sum up is that the quality of food, doesn’t contain the amount of nutrients it used to. I wish I could tell you that you can get all the micronutrients you need from the food you eat. But for optimal health levels I can’t say that’s true, which is why we need to take supplements.

Always, always check the food label and watch out for supplements that claim they can do it all in one pill. The multivitamin that I take you need to take 4 a day because they use high quality ingredients. Mixed with other high quality ingredients, meaning the molecules are bigger and they can’t fit into a 1 day pill.

A supplement will only work if it’s backed by a good nutritional set up. A diet packed with fruits and veggies plus high welfare meat with supplements. That’s what will work. Eating shit and drinking too much booze too regularly and taking supplements isn’t going to work! You can’t out train or out supplement a bad diet.

My trusted brands are from the following sources.

www.Thorne.com

www.poliquingroup.com

www.phd.com but again make sure you check the labels! Finally I use www.myprotein.com for my protein and creatine powders.

Thank you again for reading my post. As always, any questions, hit me up on info@coachingformen.net