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Supplementation 101- Supplement Guide

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Today’s post has some homework assigned to it and will be one of a multiple part series.  Before you read any further, make sure you spend some time also reading these prior posts:

Nutrition 101
Posture 101
The Endorphin Plan
And many other previously posted articles on this site.

Assuming you have already taken all of the above to heart, you have implemented these basic training principles into your lifestyle, you are firing on all cylinders, and you are looking for the final 1-2% to make you feel or perform even better than we can continue to a high level conversation regarding supplementation.

Warning – these are supplements (as in they supplement – not replace – your already healthy lifestyle).  The solution to all life’s problems will never be found at the bottom of a bottle or in the form of a pill.  And I promise these supplements did not build the elite athletes that all too willingly cash the checks of supplement companies and endorse their products while telling tall tales of how much better this specific product or that specific product made them perform.  What these supplements will do is round out an already healthy training plan and help you to optimize every last bit of performance.

Shut up already.  Okay, now onto the ‘good stuff’.  As always, consult your doctor if you have known health conditions.  We do not gain any monetary compensation from these recommendations.  We are not peddling any of these products (few exceptions being group buys that are at or near cost of the product to offer additional benefits to our existing gym members).

How to Get Started

Run baseline blood work (second article here) prior to supplementation.  Run quarterly or semi annual blood work.  Monitor changes.  Shoot for optimal rather than just in “normal” range.  Make incremental changes (i.e., one supplement at a time) so you can see and feel how each individual change effects you.  Don’t worry, you can thank us for these gems later.

Supplements for Basic Health

Vitamin D3 (and Vitamin K). This is the miracle vitamin, so much so, it has its own council that is dedicated to conducting research and spreading knowledge about its wonderful benefits. Men – this is important to counteract the low Testosterone epidemic that has quickly grown over the last 50 years. Both men and women, research shows this will help improve your mood, immune response, and overall life expectancy. We are supposed to naturally synthesize Vitamin D from the sun but given the amount of time that wc spend indoors or with our skin covered, its no wonder that almost everyone in industrialized nations are D3 deficient. Ideally you want your blood work to show in the 70s. A heavy dose can be front loaded and then titrated down if your blood work shows that you are deficient. Maintenance dose is generally 2,000-10,000 iu’s daily. Take Vitamin K2 and K3 with your Vitamin D3 to make sure it’s being absorbed properly!
We use Naturewise Vitamin D3 and Innovix Labs Full Specturm Vitamin K.

Fish Oil. Helps with inflammation. ‘Nuff said. Okay, just kidding. Everyone talks about inflammation but very few people know what it actually means. Know that rash that you get from poison ivy or a bug bite? That same thing happens but on your insides when you eat an inflammatory food. There are known common inflammatory foods (which we try to eliminate through an elimination style diet like paleo) and you may also have additional allergies like say apples, peanuts, or shellfish. The key is purchasing a high quality fish oil. Nordic region fish or fish from other clean water are where we want our fish oil to be sourced from. Even good fats turn rancid and spoil if they are not properly cared for – these would not help inflammation, they would cause inflammation. Routinely crack open one of your gel caps and smell it to check the quality before consummation. Store in a refrigerator to prevent oxidation. What you are looking for here is a high EPA/DHA ratio.
We use SFH Fish Oil, liquid. Available in several different flavors at the gym. 

Vitamin C. Helps boost immune response. A happy immune system is a healthy immune system. This has been doctors’ go-to for years before modern antibiotics took over. The stuff is dirt cheap and is safe. Studies have been conducted at extreme doses and virtually no negative side effects were reported.
We use Now Foods Vitamin C 1000mg Sustained Release with Rose Hips or Doctor’s Best.

DHEA. (dehydroepiandrosterone).  DHEA is a precursor to male and female sex hormones. It helps with basically everything involved in a healthy life and there is still more that is not known. You can take a look at PubMed or Mayo Clinics information regarding DHEA and see that it is yet another wonder drug. Low testosterone epidemic? Moody? DHEA. Fatigued? DHEA. Warning, although this is in no way illegal and can be purchased over the counter, if you are a competitive athlete, DHEA may be on your banned substance list. DHEA is a precursor to male and female sex hormones. Again, although this is not illegal or a steroid, DHEA has made banned lists due to athletes using masking agents to hide other PED (performance enhancing drugs).
Currently use Swanson 50mg DHEA tablets but have used Doctors Best and many other brands as well.

L-Glutamine. This is an amino acid – in fact its the most abundant free amino acid in the body. Assists in recovery and sleep. Dirt cheap. Well researched for many years. Actually works.
Use whatever is on sale. NOW Foods generally has a good price.

Sleep Specific Supplements

ZMA (Zinc, Magnesium and Vitamin B6). Helps achieve deeper REM sleep. Your muscles require chemical reactions to fire properly. After a grueling workout or stressful day, there still needs to be ample zinc and magnesium to make these chemical reactions happen. Added benefit is that quite a few people report crazy dreams after taking ZMA.
Currently use NOW Foods ZMA.

Trytophan. Another essential amino acid. This poor guy gets a bad name from Thanksgiving turkey. Although its probably more the fact that we are glutonous and overeat on Thanksgiving, spiking our blood sugar, and drawing energy away from the rest of our body to our digestive system that ultimately sends us into a food coma, Trytophan may also have a hand in the matter. Trytophan has been linked to sleep and serotonin production. Its essentially a natural sleep aide. Be especially careful if you are taking any mood altering drugs (like anti depressants, SSRI’s) as these may counteract.
Source Naturals, Doctors Best, or NOW Foods.

5-HTP is Trytophan’s little brother. Its a metabolite of Trytophan that you can ingest. This will lead to the natural conversion of 5-HTP to Trytophan in the body. Same outcome, different method of arriving there.
Source Naturals, Doctors Best, or NOW Foods.

Melatonin. We naturally produce this hormone in rhythm with the sun’s rays. This is the reason why you wake up in the morning (without an alarm clock) and why you fall asleep at night. Your levels of melatonin determine whether or not your body sends the signal to be awake or asleep. Melatonin levels naturally drop in the morning, insuring that you wake up instead of becoming a morning snack for a hungry bear. Levels gradually increase throughout the day until nighttime. By supplementing with melatonin (in reasonable dosages – not ones meant to incapicitate a bear [reminder, more is not betterbetter is better]) you are sending the signal to your body that its time to shut down and go to sleep. Have not found one brand that was better than the next. Start with a low, low dose like 1mg every other day.
Currently use Source Naturals tablets 1mg.

Performance

(The Reason You All Came Here.  Pssst, all the other supplements will help create a more optimal you, so they will also improve performance in the long run.)

Creatine. Probably the most studied modern supplement on the planet. This was all the talk when we were kids and Mark McGuire was slamming home runs. Come to find out, it was not just creatine but also the real juicy stuff. Creatine is naturally found in red meats. So when your smart friends tells you, not “to take creatine, just eat red meat”, punch them in the face. Now that his face hurts, explain to him that the effective dose of creatine has been found to be 5grams daily. You would have to eat pounds upon pounds upon pounds of red meat in order to achieve a similar dose to supplementation. Don’t worry – creatine is safe as per long term studies that have run 20 years at this point.  Supplementation helps during the creatine-phosphate cycle (energy system). This allows you to eek out one additional rep or to workout for longer, which in turn positively effects your strength, which in turn likely increases your muscle mass. None of this is remotely related to steroid compounds. Little known added bonus – that retained water weight and a muscle well supplied with energy/nutrients that you gain from ingesting creatine will also help to eliminate cramping.
Universal Creatine available for sale at the gym. 

Beta Alanine. This is creatine’s little brother in terms of where it shows up on the supplement map. This has not been out in the public for quite as long but there is still a decade plus of research behind the supplement. Just like creatine, it will allow you to push yourself further for longer, resulting it improved cardiovascular and muscular performance. Be careful, beta alanine is known to give users a niacin flush which makes their skin feel warm, flush, and tingly. You will quickly get used to the sensation but it may catch you by surprise if you have never tried before. Effective dose is 2.5grams daily.
Optimum Nutrition is a good brand.

Caffeine. You know how we feel about our buttered coffee. Use Bulletproof Coffee, Caveman Coffee or any high quality organic coffee source. Use good filters and how quality butter and oil. Caffeine is proven to help concentration and alertness. It has been used for thousands of years. Why change now?
Bulletproof coffee beans available at the gym.

Protein. Amino acids are the building blocks for muscles. Proteins are comprised of amino acids. By feeding your body protein, you are providing a constant supply of the building blocks necessary to build muscle. A positive nitrogen balance has been shown to be healthy and a necessary condition to build muscle. Use any protein that you would like EXCEPT soy-based (its estrogenic – hello low testosterone epidemic!). Whey has been used by bodybuilders for 50 years because of its fast absorption and its nutrient profile.

  • Whey protein is fast releasing and we recommend it for post-workout shakes.
    SFH Pure Whey and Recovery Whey are available at the gym.
  • Casein is slow releasing and we recommend it for meal replacements and bedtime meals.
    MuscleTech Casein is available at the gym.
  • Paleo protein is available for people with dairy intolerances. There are plant based proteins and animal based proteins; we recommend animal based as the amino acid profile is more complete.
    MHP Paleo Protein is available at the gym.
  • Lastly, Collagen protein is an animal based protein that is generally of the highest quality and has added benefits for skin, bone, hair, nail, and digestion. It can be used as a meal replacement and works extremely well mixed into Bulletproof style coffee.
    Bulletproof Collagen is available for pre-order at the gym.

Simple Carbs. Probably the most under utilized supplement outside of the powerlifting and bodybuilding world. Insulin is only problematic when your body is not functioning properly and you have developed an insensitivity to insulin levels. This is akin to “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”. If your body is always flooded with sugar (which means it will also be flooded with insulin), your body eventually tells insulin that it is not invited to the party and locks him outside. With that said, spiking insulin at the right time is probably the most anabolic feat that you can legally perform (add in heavy squatting, deadlifting, and resting to that hot list). Insulin is a transportation hormone.  After a workout session, you want to spike insulin levels to transport nutrients (like those proteins/amino acids that you are supplementing) when your muscles need them most. This will quite literally flood and fill your muscles.  The added benefit is that the carbs you used to spike your insulin, also supply much needed glucose/glycogen to your muscles.  Looking to add pounds to your body or to your maxes? Add carbs, especially post workout. Check out The Endorphin Prescription Plan or Carb Backloading for additional information.
Supplement of choice here is Gaspari Nutrition Glycofuse, available for pre-order at the gym. CytoCarb is a less expensive option that also works extremely well, and is unflavored so it mixes well with any flavors.