The question I get almost every day is, What Supplements should I be taking? This often comes from young underweight males who think there is some magical supplement that will turn them into Conan the Barbarian in record time. My response is always what does your diet look like and how often do you sleep a night. These are the two most anabolic factors that affect muscle growth and recovery. This is because of the hormonal changes and recovery factors that good quality sleep and nutrition can have. The first thing before you touch supplements, is to dial in these two variables before you touch a supplement and you will see the benefits immediately. As Stan Efferding says if you sleep 5 hours a night and take Creatine you’re an idiot.
Another great way of finding out what you need is to get a blood test, then there is no guessing game on what supplements and what dosages. However, a blood test can be expensive so below is a list of 5 supplements that most people are deficient in
1. Omega 3/Fish oil
The average American gets 15% of the very conservative 1,750 mg recommended by the US government. Our ancestors were raised on an even ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 now the classic Western diet is anywhere from 10:1 to 50:1.
This ratio has now been proven to cause elevated rates of cancer, diabetes, cancer and obesity. This is because of the importance of Omega 3 at the cellular level.
Omega 3 increases insulin sensitivity which effects the way that our bodies store carbohydrates. Poor insulin sensitivity leads to fat gain, decreased muscle mass, diabetes and poor recovery.
Omega 3 has also been proven to decrease the risk of heart disease and help with brain function. All-important factors on why you should be supplementing with Omega 3. Aim for 3-4 grams a day.
Even with a proper diet most athlete are deficient in Magnesium, and this can be very detrimental to performance. This is because during training Magnesium is used and athletes train more often so they need to supplement with Magnesium.
Magnesium is crucial for the metabolism of ATPases, which is crucial for the breakdown of ATP. When ATP is broken down muscles can then contract. A shortfall in magnesium can then lead to cramping, lethargy, fatigue and reduced power.
Magnesium has also been shown to raise testosterone levels, which is crucial in recovery for athletes. This is because magnesium has been shown to help with the quality of sleep, and sleep is crucial in creating optimal hormone levels.
Zinc is also a supplement that is primary in raising hormone levels. Zinc has been shown to raise GH (growth hormone), IGF-1 and testosterone. Taking Zinc can also help with sleep, which is why ZMA is such a popular supplement to take before bed. Both Zinc and Magnesium help with sleep and optimal hormone levels, so taking both before bed allow for you to recover and rebuild at a higher rate during sleep.
Sodium is crucial in hydration of athletes who are training at a very high frequency. Sodium is an important electrolyte that allows you to hold onto water not just deplete water through sweat and other body functions. Drinking excessive water without sodium will cause you to become dehydrated because you will end of depleting yourself of electrolytes. If you have cramping and chronically fatigued sodium intake might be your problem. Ensuring that you get a few grams of sodium a day will allow you to hold onto water.
5. Vitamin D
Most people are deficient in Vitamin D because humans don’t get enough exposure to the sun. People work inside or live in northern areas that don’t get sun light most of the year, so are then deficient in Vitamin D. Estimates have been as high as 70% of Americans are deficient in Vitamin D. Ensuring that you supplement with Vitamin D is crucial for health.
Vitamin D has been shown to improve the relaxation and contraction phases of muscles. Deficiencies can lead to a loss in strength and power output both important for athletes. Vitamin D also has a relationship with insulin sensitivity. Which is important in gaining muscle and reducing fat. Poor insulin sensitivity ensures that nutrients are more likely to get stored as fat and not in your muscle. Which will lead to fat gain and poor recovery from intense workouts. Vitamin D also has many effects on the brain and diseases such as Parkinson’s and cancer.
Ideally getting a Vitamin D test will give you an idea on how much you should take. But If you can do this taking anywhere from 2,000 to 8,000 iu every morning will help if you are deficient.