“What supplements should I take?”
It’s easily one of the most common questions I’ve been asked during the past 10 years, as supplements transformed from a niche market into a perceived quick fix for everything from fat loss to increasing your strength 1.675%.
And while the supplement industry clearly doesn’t need any help selling their products—they make an estimated 25 billion dollars, consumers clearly need more help deciphering what they really need.
That’s why I went to nutritionist Dr. Chris Mohr, one of the leaders in the industry. Chris developed Dietary Supplement U to become a trusted source on supplements to help you find the information you need, so that you could make more informed decisions.
Here are 7 supplements that are worth your money, according to Dr. Mohr.
While the human body can produce many vitamins and minerals naturally, fish oil is something we can’t make naturally, so you need to supplement to supply your body with what you need. Which is why Mohr calls fish oil a supplement “you must take.” And while you can receive some from eating fish, you’ll have to eat a lot of fish consistently. For most people, eating fish 1 to 2 times per week will not do the job, which means you need to supplement.
The key is making sure you’re taking more omega 3’s. You see, most people’s diets are higher in omega-6 fats, which are inflammatory. You want more omega 3s, which have anti-inflammatory benefits. Increasing intake of a high quality fish oil, can reduce triglycerides, reduce the risk of heart disease, help with recovery from exercise, brain health, potentially diabetes and may even help with losing body fat. The key is getting a high ratio of EPA to DHA (these are 2 of the 3 omega-3’s), so look for brands that offer a high concentration and aim to get a minimum of 2 g EPA + DHA daily.
Born Approved: Athletic Greens Fish Oil
If fish oil is most important, than Vitamin D is arguably tied for the title of “most important supplement to take,” says Mohr. Data suggests a majority of Americans have less than optimal blood levels, primarily because it’s difficult to get from food (sources included canned salmon, milk, sardines are all good sources). While most know that sunlight is a great source of vitamin D, the sun is not strong enough from November to March in most places to provide you with sufficient amounts. And even when you are outside, you’re mostly covered with clothing and/or sunscreen, which block the beneficial (and harmful) rays.
Vitamin D researcher, Dr. Robert Heaney said in a recent interview “Vitamin D won’t cure anything, but supplementing with it will make everything better.” Most experts agree that supplementing with a minimum of 1000 IU’s daily is a good start.
Born Approved: Athletic Greens Vitamin D
While a high quality omega-3 and vitamin D are both essential to take daily, whey protein isn’t a supplement you “need,” but it’s probably a great idea to take it, says Mohr. Whey does certainly offer some unique benefits; it’s high in the ever-important branched chain amino acids (BCAA’s), which can play an important role in muscle building, muscle recovery, and even fat loss. More importantly, whey protein is a quick, convenient source of quality calories. Add some fruit a scoop of nut butter and you’ve got a perfect, on the go meal that takes 60 seconds to make.
Born Approved: BioTrust Low Carb Protein
While not quite a replacement for fruits and vegetables, these are a good “insurance” policy. Greens supplements can help improve a diet that is low in fruits and vegetables, says Mohr. That’s because less than 1 percent of men and 4 percent of women ages 18 to 24 eat the recommended 5 servings (or more) of fruits and vegetables each day. And for people ages 25 to 34, those percentages on jump to 6 percent and 9 percent, respectively.
Again, your best bet is to just eat more fruits and vegetables. Food is always a better option than supplements. But if you’re not going to eat them, or you’re not going to eat enough, it’s better to supplement with greens than completely neglect this essential part of your nutrition.
Born Approved: Athletic Greens
Cinnamon might seem like an odd addition, but this spice is actually loaded with antioxidants, which as most people know help with everything from fighting disease to protecting your body against the effects of aging. But maybe more importantly, studies have shown that cinnamon may improve insulin sensitivity, an important hormone that plays a key role in the process of storing fat. And the more you improve your insulin sensitivity, the more you can control your blood sugar and enjoy carbohydrates.
Most studies have shown 1 g (about 1/2 a teaspoon if adding your own) daily is sufficient.
Turmeric is a spiced commonly used in Indian dishes. One component of turmeric is called curcumin and with 100’s studies and counting, it is gaining some serious traction in the supplement world, says Mohr. A 2010 study suggested curcumin has anti-cancer, anti-viral, anti-arthritic and anti-inflammatory properties.
Here’s the caveat: Several of these studies have been done for with animals and for specific clinical situations (Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, etc), but there seems to be one undeniable major benefit of turmeric that can help you even if you are disease free; turmeric has strong anti-inflammatory benefits. And if there’s a point to be driven home, it’s that the more you can fight inflammation, the better your body will respond and the healthier you’ll be.
Born Approved: You can add curcumin to your foods, or supplement with about 500 mg daily.
We all eat (a lot) of food every day, and yet we really pay attention to our digestive system. Healthy gut bacteria plays an important role in overall health, digestion and immune system, says Mohr. More specifically, probiotics can help replenish and nourish our internal supply of good bacteria. What does this mean for you? Possibly less gas, bloating, abdominal pain, and inflammation. You see, there are millions and millions of different strains of bacteria in our guts. Probiotics help keep a healthy GI “ecosystem” and keep things in balance.
Born Approved: I’ve recently been using BioTrust Pro-X10 and been very pleased. But if that doesn’t work for you, supplemental doses are typically expressed in billions of live organisms. Aim for a product from a trusted brand that lists at least 3 billion organisms per serving — and keep it refrigerated after opening to protect those organisms. Food such as Kimchi and live sauerkraut are great natural source.
Are these the only supplements you should take? Honestly, it depends on your diet. In fact, some people need to take very few supplements, while others will benefit more to make up for deficiencies in their diet. And there are several other supplements not listed here—such as creatine—that have a long line of research supporting their benefits and safety.
In an upcoming post, I’ll share exactly what I take each day and the amounts. Until then, your best bet is usually to take a minimalist approach to supplements, and instead focus on improving the foods you eat and not looking for a cure-all pill or powder.
Make it count,
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Adam Bornstein is a New York Times bestselling author and, according to The Huffington Post, “one of the most inspiring sources in all of health and fitness.” An award-winning writer and editor, Bornstein was the Fitness and Nutrition editor for Men’s Health, Editorial Director at LIVESTRONG.com, and a columnist for SHAPE, Men’s Fitness, and Muscle & Fitness. He’s also a nutrition and fitness advisor for LeBron James, Cindy Crawford, Lindsey Vonn, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. His work has been featured in dozens of publications, including The New York Times, Fast Company, ESPN, and GQ, and he’s appeared on Good Morning America, The Today Show, E! News, and The Cheddar.