Supplements are just that. They are meant to supplement a healthy and balanced diet, which can be very convenient in day-to-day life. There are a few supplements that I would consider more essential than others as it can be genuinely difficult to get enough in your diet despite the best intentions.
If your goal is muscle gain, power or speed, creatine monohydrate is a ‘must-have’. These supplements are pretty tough to get through the diet alone and, as well as good evidence on the benefit to health and performance, they also have virtually no risk of negative side effects at the recommended doses.
Additionally, a multivitamin can be a good safety net in the modern world of high stress and fast living where optimal nutrition is not always possible.
You may wonder why I have not mentioned protein shakes yet. This is simply because I consider protein powder a food source, especially in this day and age with it being so versatile and readily available. It can be used in post-workout shakes or smoothies, meal replacements, desserts or even in protein cooking.
So these are the five supplements I would argue that you should be taking every day. Below I discuss why!
Omega 3 fatty acids
Omega 3 fish oils and krill oil contain EPA and DHA, which are polyunsaturated fatty acids. These have a host of benefits including increasing good cholesterol and reducing inflammation.
For general health, taking 300-600mg of combined EPA and DHA a day is ideal. This constitutes one capsule of Reflex Nutrition’s Omega 3 capsule.
Krill oil contains the same fatty acids (EPA/DHA) but because of their chemical composition, they are more effective so you need smaller doses for the same benefit. In addition to this, krill oil contains another compound called astaxanthin, which is the red pigment found in various sea foods. Benefits include lowering bad cholesterol.
Although these benefits can be gained from eating oily fish several times a week, I tend to build EPA/DHA into my daily supplement stack to ensure I get enough and then eat fish when I can.
Although vitamin D3 can be gained from the sun, it can be hard to get enough. It would involve being out in the midday sun in your bathing costume, every day, all year round. Now, I am lucky enough to travel a lot with my work and also be in my trunks more often than most and despite this, I still take a vitamin D3 supplement to be sure.
The optimal dose is debatable and in an ideal world we would get our vitamin D levels tested regularly so we could gauge the dose accordingly - this is what elite athletes do.
However, as vitamin D supplementation has a large margin of safety and a host of benefits, it is worth taking regularly regardless. I tend to take one or two capsules of the Reflex Vitamin D3 supplement every day, which is 2000-4000IU and well within safe limits. I vary it according to how much I am in the sun but will take some every day all year round. The benefits include improved bone health and wellbeing as well as improved immune health and increased cognition. It can also reduce the risk of various diseases including certain cancers, diabetes, and heart disease.
Creatine is the big daddy of supplements as far as I’m concerned. It is the most studied supplement out there and has well-defined benefits with minimal to no side effects. What more could you ask for?
You COULD get it entirely from your diet but that would entail eating around 1kg (2lbs) of steak a day. I recommend taking 3-5g of creatine monohydrate on an ongoing basis depending on size and muscle mass. Gone are the day of complicated loading or cycling protocols.
It would be theoretically optimal to take it post-workout with carbohydrates but I opt for convenience and take it when I remember. This tends to be the first thing in the morning with my coffee, protein shake, and morning supplements.
The benefits include increased power output and there may be increases in lean mass as well. Basically, if you lift weights or do short sharp sprints (i.e. most sports) then creatine is a no-brainer for you.
My diet is healthy. It’s pretty much my job as a nutritionist and bodybuilder to eat well. Despite this, I take a regular multivitamin as I know that despite my best efforts life can get in the way.
I use Nexgen Pro to cover all the bases and try to eat a huge variety of fruit and vegetables as well.
There isn’t much more to say about multivitamins as you are not ‘treating’ a specific problem or deficiency but look at it as an adequate dose of a wide variety of vitamins and minerals.
As mentioned above, I count protein supplements as a food source. Protein in itself has a huge range of benefits including muscle growth and increased satiety (making you feel full) especially while dropping body fat. Protein is easy to find in any diet so supplementation certainly isn’t essential but given it’s convenience, excellent nutritional profile and great taste there is no reason for anyone not to regularly include it as part of a healthy active lifestyle.
I’ve used a huge variety of protein shakes over the years. Reflex Nutrition’s 3D Protein and Micellar Casein have formed a mainstay of my daily supplementation schedule due to their excellent sustained release formulations.
These basic supplements are the ones that should always form the base of any supplement stack. There are countless others available and use of these will depend on personal preference and need.
For more information about supplements, come and find me on Instagram @projectgoliath – I’m always happy to answer questions.
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