Not all supplements are created equal
The supplement world is an unregulated industry, making it hard to separate what works from what is simply modern day snake oil. While there are resources out there such as examine.com or PubMed which can help you research the efficacy of various compounds, it can still be an overwhelming task. Since you work hard for your money, the prudent thing to do would be to only buy supplements that are effective and do what they are supposed to do. Based on scientific research and my own personal experience, here are 4 supplements that are actually worth the money.
1. Vitamin D3
Nowadays, most humans spend a lot of time inside. As a result, Vitamin D deficiency is rampant. The worst part is that Vitamin D plays many roles in the body, and in some ways acts more as a hormone than as a vitamin. Some roles of Vitamin D in the body include:
- Strengthening bones and preventing osteoporosis
- Regulation of blood pressure
- Regulation of hormones like testosterone
- Regulation of cardiac, endothelial and smooth muscle cell functions
- Plays a role in cardiovascular protection
- Improves immunity
- Limits inflammation
- Reduces the incidence and severity of common cancers, autoimmune diseases and infectious diseases
That is a pretty important list of functions, and that doesn’t even cover all of the roles Vitamin D plays in the body! The tricky part with Vitamin D is finding the proper dose. It would be worth your while to get some blood work done to find out where your current levels are at, and from there work with your doctor to aim for 20-30ng/ml in your blood. In elderly populations whose levels rise above 30ng/ml, risk of fall and respiratory illness have been shown to increase. I personally take 1000-5000iu per day, depending on my activity level (exercise depletes vitamin D levels in a transient fashion), sun exposure, and dietary intake.
2. Creatine Monohydrate
There is no question that creatine in an effective supplement. Creatine works primarily by assisting in the production of energy via the ATP-Creatine Phosphate system. As Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) gets broken down into Adenosine Diphosphate (ADP), creatine comes along and picks up phosphates to recycle them back to create more ATP. In short, this allows for more fuel for the ATP-CP energy cycle which produces explosive, powerful movement. Additionally, creatine plays various roles in brain function, much of which is being recently investigated by scientists. Some benefits of creatine monohydrate include:
- Increased power output
- Increased lean muscle mass
- Improved hydration status
- Improved anaerobic running capacity
- Reduced fatigue levels
- Increased testosterone levels
- Decrease in symptoms of depression
- Decreased myostatin levels
- Improved glycogen resynthesis
A typical dosing regimen would include .3mg/kg for 5 days during your loading phase, followed by .03mg/kg indefinitely. I personally take 2-10g per day, with more emphasis on consistent use than being neurotic about how many mg I get on any given day. Realistically, I am averaging around 5mg per day.
L-Theanine is probably my favorite single supplement of all. Theanine is an amino acid which is not common to the diet, and supplementation is the only way to get a significant source. Some of the effects of L-Theanine include:
- Increase in relaxation without sedation
- Reduced anxiety
- Improved sleep quality
- Inhibition of over-stimulation (i.e. prevents the caffeine jitters)
Typical L-Theanine Dose (preferably taken on an empty stomach) depend on the goal. A 1:1 ratio with caffeine (200mg Theanine with 200mg Caffeine) is especially useful when focus and stimulation is needed without overstimulation. 400mg is appropriate when you are feeling anxious or having an anxiety attack, and 200-400mg before bed is effective when feeling restless.
4. Magnesium Glycinate
Magnesium Glycinate is a form of Magnesium which is formed by coming Magnesium with Glycine. Glycine is a fantastic amino acid to take in and of itself, thanks to its effects on cellular hydration/swelling as well as its effects on relaxation. Because of its method of absorption in the body, magnesium glycinate allows higher doses of Magnesium to be taken without the risk of an emergency trip to the toilet like some other forms of magnesium can cause.
Some of the effects of magnesium include:
- Improved relaxtion and reduced muscle tension
- Decreased blood pressure
- Decreased symptoms of asthma
- Improved insulin sensitivity
- Improved aerobic exercise capacity
- Increased muscle oxygenation
- Reduced migraines
- Improved sleep quality
- Reduced symptoms of diabetic neuropathy
- Reduced symptoms of depression and PMS
As far as dosages go, 400mg is a good place to start as it is the 100% daily value. On some nights where I have drank caffeine and had an intense workout too close to bedtime, taking 800-1000mg is effective at helping my body relax and transition into sleep. I don’t suggest doing this daily, but once in a while is fine.
- Clinical pharmacology of the dietary supplement creatine monohydrate. (n.d.). Retrieved October 27, 2016, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11356982
- Hansen, K. E., & Johnson, M. G. (2016). An update on vitamin D for clinicians. Current Opinion in Endocrinology & Diabetes and Obesity, 23(6), 440-444. doi:10.1097/med.0000000000000288
- L-Theanine reduces psychological and physiological stress responses. (n.d.). Retrieved October 27, 2016, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16930802
- Magnesium – Scientific Review on Usage, Dosage, Side Effects. (n.d.). Retrieved October 27, 2016, from https://examine.com/supplements/Magnesium/
- Scientific Review of Creatine. (n.d.). Retrieved October 27, 2016, from https://examine.com/supplements/Creatine/
- Wimalawansa, S. J. (2016). Non-musculoskeletal benefits of vitamin D. The Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. doi:10.1016/j.jsbmb.2016.09.016
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