I am not a big believer in supplements. For the most part I see the supplement industry as a bunch of charlatans selling the modern version of snake oil. The supplement industry profits by exploiting your health fears and then pointing to themselves as the solution. People are all too eager to pay for the fantasy that some supplement will stop them from getting sick or give them ripped abs. When it comes to your health, I believe that money is better spent on quality food, cooking equipment and nutritional education.
Are all supplements bad? I don’t know. My guess is there is more about nutrition that we don’t know than what we do. There is a long history of supplements that were the rage that we now know are worthless. Remember in the early 1990s how chromium picolinate was going to make us lean? Everything mankind has needed to survive has been found in food. I don’t believe we are as smart as Mother Nature. I’m not alone in this belief. Michael Pollan wrote an entire book on this topic called In Defense of Food.
What supplements do I take?
- Vitamin D3 – During the winter months I take Vitamin D3, because I can not get it from sunlight living north of the 37th parallel. It is ironic that I am posting this today as some study just came out saying that supplemental Vitamin D may not be necessary. I follow a few blogs written by trusted PhDs. I’ll be interested to read their analysis.
- Fish Oil – I am slowly phasing this supplement out. It is primarily used to correct Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratios. Since I source high quality meat and have removed all seed oils from my diet, my n-6 to n-3 ratios are pretty good. There is also an endless debate on which fish oils are good for you and which are terrible. I’d rather just eat a can of sardines.
- Magnesium – Many smart people on health blogs I read rave about the importance of supplementing Magnesium.
- Creatine Monohydrate – The only supplement that I know of that can produce drug like effects. Creatine has been proven to add a few pounds of muscle. Is it real muscle or does the muscle hold more water making it look bigger? Who cares? I like the effect. 🙂
Supplements that may have value that I don’t trust.
- Protein Powder – I gave gone back and forth on this one. High quality protein should come from food, not from some lab in New Jersey. However, I am an ectomorph that lifts weights. I may need it, but I’m highly skeptical. My nutritional mentors are split on this supplement. Maybe I’ll add it into my seasonal approach and take it during the summer when my training level is the highest?
- Multi-Vitamin – Vitamins come from food. I believe the primary reason people are vitamin deficient is because they have poor nutrient absorption. Taking a vitamin doesn’t solve problem, it is just a hack. A better solution would be to stop eating grains and foods that spike insulin – both of which reduce nutrient absorption. Also eat more high quality animal fat. I recognize that some people won’t take those steps and a vitamin may be useful.
One supplement that I will probably try.
- BCAA – I’ve been reading how branch chained amino acids benefit the body when doing fasted resistance training, which I do. Art De Vany and Martin Berkham (LeanGains) are both proponents of BCAA supplementation.
I want to conclude by stressing that I don’t know if supplements work. I suspect the majority don’t. I’d rather focus my energy on eating a varied diet of clean healthy food.
How about you? What supplements do you believe work?