My Top Five Supplements

Another article on supplements???

Yeah, I know.  There are better topics I could be spending my time on than a list of my top 5 supplements.  The fact is I could never buy another supplement and I would be okay. That’s what the meaning of the name implies, right? That they are supplemental to a well rounded diet, intended to enhance and fill in gaps, but not necessary.

I like to think of them as insurance policies.  Probably not necessary, but there if I need them.  If I slip on my diet a bit (like skimping on my veggies) something like a greens powder can help out.

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Far Too Many Supplements

Of course, one look at my cupboards and it’s obvious that I have taken out far too many insurance policies, and some of them are probably pretty pricy policies.

I needed to make those stacks more manageable and limit my consumption a bit, especially as I evaluate my finances to determine if could survive on a lower income. So the result of that contemplation is the following list of 5 supplements that I can justify continuing to stock my shelves with.

1. A Multivitamin

This definitely falls under the insurance policy category.  A good diet should provide you with sufficient vitamins and minerals, but just in case it doesn’t it is a good idea to supplement.  Finding a good, quality vitamin is important and be sure to take it with a fatty meal to maximize absorption of fat soluble vitamins. One of the best resources for finding a good one is www.labdoor.com. They’ve performed extensive testing of 75 different commercial brands and have them ranked according to quality and price.

Or my personal recommendation (although not on the labdoor list)  is a multi from Pure Vitamin Club, a high quality supplement made with no “extra” ingredients, like fillers, dyes, or other crap. That is hard to find in a vitamin. This is a very affordable option too.

2. Greens Supplement

For many people getting in the recommended servings of vegetables in a day can be difficult.  One option is eating at least one huge ass salad everyday, but even that can leave you short if you’re not making a conscious effort the rest of the day to keep those veggies coming in.  So I always start my day with a greens supplement in my lemon water to get my body alkalizing and start benefiting from the antioxidant properties. I’ll also add a scoop to my post workout protein shake or to a late night glass of water if it’s a rest day.

My absolute favorite and by far the best quality greens powder I’ve come across is Onnit’s Earth Grown Nutrients. It gets bonus points for being extremely tasty too.

I also use Amazing Grass Powders as well because they are a cheaper alternative to the Onnit stuff, and just a slight step down in the quality department in my book.

3. Fish Oil

This is a supplement that everyone should be taking.  Fish oil provides a healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids, specifically EPA, DHA, and some ALA.  Why is this important? Well the standard American diet has thrown our balance of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids out of whack, with most diets being strongly skewed to the omega-6s, which are pro-inflammatory.  That means that many of us are walking around in a constant state of inflammation, which is no good for the body.

Balancing that ratio by consuming more omega-3s can help alleviate that inflammation.  Other documented benefits include improving heart health, enhancing immunity, and aiding in weight loss. There’s also evidence that it can help with certain diseases and disorders such as alzheimers, ADD, depression, and macular degeneration, amongst others.

There has been some recent concern that extremely high intake can have some negative consequences so it’s best to stick to the manufacturers recommendations until more is learned.  This should go without saying, but make sure you are using a high quality supplement. Avoid the cheapest brands at Wal-Mart because you pay for what you get. Again, check out labdoor for a thorough review or check out my go-to brand, NutriGold.

4. Protein Powder

So this really could have been a top 3 article.  After the first 3 choices, numbers four and five are much less necessary in my mind. I was on the fence with including protein on the list because you should be able to meet all of your protein needs with whole foods.  Most days I do just that, but many times after a hard workout I don’t have a huge appetite, but I can slam down a protein shake with relative ease. That convenience factor is the reason why I included it here.  Rapid nutrient intake during the post workout window. Check.

Personally, my body doesn’t handle whey real well, so I’ve been experimenting with various vegan/vegetarian proteins.  The best one I’ve come across is Onnit’s Hemp Force, but again it’s pricey so I’m always looking for a more affordable option.

For you whey consumers again check out labdoor.  All whey proteins are definitely not created equal.  Many of the popular brands are chock full of fillers, artificial sweeteners and flavors, and other nonsense so grab yourself a high quality brand off the list.

5. Digestive Enzymes

This was another tough choice until I went back and reread the title I chose for this article and remembered that I was writing about my top 5. For me, digestive enzymes are essential.  My eating schedule may have something to do with that as I basically eat two large meals a day so I need a little more help breaking down the larger quantities of food and aid in nutrient absorption.  For you six small meals a day type people these may not be as necessary.

I’d recommend a brand that has a broad spectrum of enzymes, containing at a minimum protease (for proteins), lipase (for fats), and amylase and cellulase (for carbs and cellulose). Fortunately these are relatively cheap and as mentioned can assist with food breakdown, nutrient absorption, and can in some cases can ease acid reflux, indigestion, and gas.

Just the other day I forgot to take mine with lunch and I could definitely tell the difference. There was a little more “churning and bubbling” going on downstairs if you get what I’m saying. My personal brand: Source Naturals

So there you have it, my top 5 supplements that I would likely continue to take were I suddenly subsisting on a fledgling personal trainer’s salary.  Like I mentioned, it was a little difficult to fill out the last couple spots on the lists so I would be remiss if I didn’t include an honorable mention section to highlight a couple of other worthy candidates.

Honorable Mention

Vitamin D – This is a “vitamin” (actually a hormone) that most Americans are deficient in. Different studies cite different numbers but I’ve seen anywhere from 40-75%, which is a lot of us.  Most of this deficiency is due to a lack of sun exposure.

Why is this a bad thing? Well, Vitamin D plays many important roles in the body such as muscle function, immune system response, glucose regulation, and absorption of calcium. Supplementing in the winter months is highly recommended.  The only reason this didn’t make the cut is that I read a recent article that suggests that we store enough Vitamin D in our fat cells and liver to make it through the winter. This makes sense from an evolutionary perspective, but is only helpful if you get enough sun in the summer and fall.

Magnesium – The rates of deficiency for this vital mineral are kind of scary.  70-80% of the population could be well below the RDA amount, and some experts say the RDA level is too low to begin with.  Magnesium plays a role in close to 300 essential metabolic reactions so you can see why supplementation could be critical. When choosing a supplement avoid magnesium oxide due to low bioavailability and instead go with magnesium citrate or glycinate. Topical magnesium is supposed to work great too and I have been testing out this brand.  Or you could just take a bath with Epsom Salts (Magnesium Sulfate).

Okay, now the list of my top 5 (or 7) supplements is complete.  You’ll notice there are no fat burners, muscle builders, or other “magic pills” cluttering it up.  I chose only items that I believe work naturally in the body to assist in its regular processes. Everything on the list can also be obtained from a well rounded diet so these are by no means necessary.  They are supplemental. These will compliment a good diet and fill in any gaps that should any arise.  These are my “insurance policies” and it would be a good idea for you to adopt some (if not all) of them too.

What do you think of list? If there anything I missed? Anything that shouldn’t be there? Drop a comment below to start the discussion.

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