The ABC’s of Supplements: Breaking down the Basics


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Walk into any supplement retailer, and the first thing you do is ‘Ooh’ and ‘Aah’ at the walls of bottles, bags, capsules, tablets, tubs, tins, tubes, and pills. Honestly, it’s overwhelming even for the most seasoned veteran, because it seems like every other week, either a new company, ingredient, flavor, or supplement is released. It’s hard to keep track.

So before you walk into a store just to walk back out because you don’t know what to get, stop, breathe, and read this. Then maybe print it out and put it in your pocket to bring with you!

The Basics:

1) Whey Protein

If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it 1,000 times, “Protein is the foundation of muscle building.” Not that it’s impossible to build muscle without taking protein, but why would you wait in line for something, if the express lane is open?

What: Whey protein digests quickly, and therefore gets to your muscles faster to start building, repairing, and recovering. Whey also contains peptides (factions of small proteins) that can help increase blood flow to the muscles, thus leading to faster repair as well.

How much: 1 to 2 scoops per day, depending on how hard, how often you train, and how much you need in your diet.

When: Depends how much you like it! I mean, you don’t want to replace EVERY meal with whey (this isn’t a SlimFast diet), but there’s a time and place for this supp. In your breakfast smoothie, or morning oatmeal is great, but in a perfect world, you take this post-workout. Immediately. Like, right away.

Why: Protein is made up of amino acids, and amino acids are the building blocks of muscle. Your muscles need them to grow, repair, and even maintain their current size. Carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen are the elements that build proteins. You’ve heard the term, “anabolic”? It means that you have enough protein in your diet, which will put you in a positive nitrogen balance, or in an “anabolic state.” If you’re “anabolic”, it means your body is primed for muscle building. So the more protein you take in, the more primed you are.

2) Fish Oil

There’s no way you’ve been watching TV, listening to the radio, or browsing anything health/fitness related on Google without hearing about the benefits of fish oil. This is probably the best general health supplement,

What: Fish oil is a blanket term for eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), two omega 3 fatty acids. We don’t produce these naturally, so we need to take them as supplements. The average Western diet (tons of beef, eggs, and poultry) is exceptionally high in Omega 6. The suggested ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids is somewhere between 4:1 ratio and a 1:1 ratio, but the average Western diet sits at about a 12:1 to 25:1 ratio. We need to rebalance this.

How much: If you can afford it, eat oily, fat, fleshy, wild, cold water fish 2-3 times per week. These are high in O3s. Supplements are great, but remember that if you can get it in real food, that’s ideal. Aim for about 2000-3000mg of DHA/EPA per day, so look for a fish oil supplement that has 500-800mg of EPA and DHA.

When: Take your supplement 2-3x/day with food.

Why: Research has shown a reduction in body fat due to fish oil consumption, decreased levels of depression, increased muscle protein synthesis, improvements in heart function and health, and lastly, for those in the aging/injured population, it also has promising effects on muscle degeneration.

3) Multivitamins

We’ve been taking them since we were kids, and would grab The Flintstones off our mothers’ palm. Multivitamins have been (or at least should have been) a staple of our supplement regimen since we were tots, and ideally, nothing should have changed. You need these.

What: Multivitamins have been referred to as ‘the insurance plan’ of our diets. Whether you’re a bodybuilding on a low-carb or low-fat lifestyle plan, or just a healthy gym goer eating a normal diet, you need a multi.

How much: Every single vitamin and mineral has an RDA (recommended daily allowance), which would take forever to list here. So I will just suggest that you find a multivitamin that has at least 100% of the RDA for the majority of micronutrients. With that said, often the ‘Fitness’ type multi brands will have more than 1000% of the RDA; don’t worry. You’re training hard, and your body needs that much.

When: Twice a day. Morning and evening.

Why: You never know exactly how many micronutrients you’re getting in the foods you eat, and with all the emphasis in MACROs these days, you need to remember how important vitamins and minerals are too to overall health, fitness, repair, growth, and recovery

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Disclosure: I may receive affiliate compensation for some of the links below at no cost to you if you decide to purchase a paid plan. You can read our affiliate disclosure in our privacy policy. This site is not intending to provide financial advice. This is for entertainment only.

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