There are so many supplements out there.  Some are great and a lot are just junk.  When it comes to starting a program, make sure you understand that supplements are by definition a supplement to a healthy diet and lifestyle, not a replacement for it.  Using some thermogenic fat burner does not making drinking that daily soda or having that bagel for breakfast healthy.  You can’t put a band-aid on your problems with supplements.  However if you are working on improving your health, adding supplements can take you to the next level where you are feeling better than ever.

An important things to understand about supplements is Quality is key:

It’s amazing what you can get away with on a label these days.  Everything from prescription drugs to the food we eat is supposed to be regulated to protect us as the consumer.  But the truth is that the standards are rarely up to the task.  If you are going to invest money in your health through a supplement program, it is better to buy quality stuff that works, than completely waste your money on stuff that won’t work and could possibly have negative effects on your health.  You get what you pay for a lot of the time.  A quick hint is that most of the things that are good for you don’t need fancy seven-page ads in the latest swimsuit-covered magazine.  Good quality products and brands tend to stand on their own and usually are not found in your local commercial supplement store.

Exotic supplements are rarely a good idea, and most are only for really healthy people.  We have all seen those before and after pictures for some fat burner or muscle gainer that improved results by 1700% according to some research done on mice in the basement of the guy who is selling the product.  Here is the honest truth about all the muscle building pro-hormones, thermogenic fat burners, energy boosters, etc.  No one ever got fat because they didn’t have enough hydroxycut in their diet, and people don’t feel like crap because they don’t have enough stimulants in their eggs in the morning.  People get fat and tired because they don’t exercise, don’t sleep, expose themselves to toxins, have too much stress, and eat junk.

If you really want to feel better you need to start by getting rid of the reasons you gained weight or became fatigued in the first place.  You do this by avoiding toxins, cleaning up your diet, exercising, and improving your basic nutrition through consuming the essential nutrients in the following supplements.  This is one of the first steps BioSignature practitioners take to strip off more fat and add more muscle to their clients, and doing it in less time than any other personal trainers out there.

  1. Digestive support – HCl + pectin

If you are not digesting your food properly you are already fighting a losing battle.  Having poor digestion means you are getting less protein and vitamins from your food.  If you have poor digestion from low stomach acid production you are also prone to infections and digestive issues.  No other supplements can make up for not being able to digest properly; after all, supplements require digestion and absorption too.  If you want to learn more about digestive support visit: http://www.functionalfitmag.com/blog/2011/12/21/digestion-101-the-importance-of-stomach-hcl-and-pepsin/

 

  1. Probiotics

Once you have squared away whether or not you are producing enough stomach acid, the next step is to make sure you have good gut flora.  Probiotics are healthy bacteria that populate the gut.  These beneficial bacteria help you break down protein, fats, and carbohydrates, as well as fight off infection.  They actually create many of the B vitamins you use for energy and help make serotonin, which is the brain hormone that makes you happy and helps you sleep.  If you have been eating a lot of processed or high carb foods, you likely have reduced the amount of beneficial bacteria in your gut.  Having healthy gut flora and optimal stomach acid response is not only a great start to improving your health, it will make every other nutritious food and supplement you consume more beneficial.  If you have tried eating healthy or taking supplements in the past with little results, this may be the step you have been missing.

3) Multivitamins

Think of the multivitamin as the Swiss army knife of supplements.  A good multi will have a little bit of everything to support what you may be lacking in your diet.  Our food quality has declined quite a bit over the years, and our need for nutrition to combat the effects of pollution and stress has gone up.  If you’re only able to take one supplement other than your digestive support, a multi may be a l good choice.

A multi is not a complete nutrition solution, however.  There are things that are not included and other things that are just not at a high enough dosage for most people.  Putting all the nutrients you need in a multi formula would either have you taking 50 capsules per day or swallowing a baseball.  Other supplements are needed for a complete nutrient based supplement program.  You don’t want to cut down a tree with a Swiss army knife — you want a chain saw.  This is why even though a multi provides small amounts of minerals, like magnesium, it’s not the full amount most people need to achieve results. The dosage in a multi is usually only 5% of the therapeutic dosage and in some multivitamins the quality of minerals is poor because the manufacturer is trying to save space.  For example, magnesium oxide is a cheap, small molecule that is easily packed into a capsule and it easily passes through the body without being absorbed, in comparison to other forms of magnesium that are larger and more absorbable.  This is why magnesium oxide or other small molecule nutrients are so common in many cheaper supplements.

You want to choose a multivitamin that fits your needs and has high quality nutrients and delivery.  Having the right balance of nutrients is key because an imbalanced multi can actually create deficiencies in other vitamins and nutrients.   A good multi should be encased in a coating that will break down rapidly in the body because this will facilitate greater absorption and higher bioavailability. Lastly, your multi should be tested for toxic solvents and heavy metals.  You want your supplements to improve your health, not give your body more stresses to deal with.

4) Zinc

Zinc is one of the most common and serious mineral deficiencies.  If you have digestive issues and stress you almost certainly have low zinc.  Other signs that suggest you could have low zinc levels:

    • Poor immune function
    • Ridging on finger nails
    • Low testosterone
    • Trouble concentrating
    • Slow recovery from exercise
    • Slow wound healing

“Zinc is essential in supporting over 100 enzyme and hormone functions in the body.” – Charles Poliquin.  Having low zinc will decrease the effectiveness of exercise, making it harder to build muscle and lose fat.  Add on top of that, getting sick more often and recovering slower and it’s pretty obvious how essential this mineral is to your health and your results.  A daily intake of zinc is required to maintain a steady state because the body has no way of storing zinc. There are food sources of zinc such as organic grass fed meats, chickpeas, almonds, and cashews.  The reason zinc is such an issue is because we need more of it now, and we get less of it in our food due to commercial farming practices, which have depleted the soil of zinc.  This is why it’s necessary to supplement zinc even if you consume a diet high in red meat and seafood.

5) Magnesium

Magnesium is used in over 360 enzymatic reactions in the body and deficiency is almost as common as zinc.  Those most likely to suffer from low magnesium levels are those dealing with stress and almost every person that exercises if they are not also supplementing with magnesium.  The easiest way to predict if you are low in magnesium is to assess your sleep.  If you have trouble falling or staying asleep, magnesium could be the perfect supplement to improve it.  Other symptoms of low magnesium include gastrointestinal problems, fatigue, low testosterone, poor memory, cognitive decline, muscle loss, weakness, tingling, seizures, bone disorders, diabetes, chronic inflammation, and coronary spasms.  In fact, in terms of bone density, many believe that magnesium levels are the determining factor of how well your bones holds calcium, making it more important than calcium supplementation for bone density and preventing osteopenia.

Magnesium is involved in many reactions of metabolism and energy formation, so needs increase with more physical activity, athletic participation, or strength training.  You can also lose minerals like zinc and magnesium in sweat.  This is why people that exercise need more.  Magnesium levels will be influenced by the presence of other minerals including zinc, calcium, and potassium, as well as prescription drugs.  Some foods that contain magnesium are:  halibut, almonds, cashews, and green vegetables.  But even a diet high in these foods does not meet the requirements for most individuals.

6) Vitamin D3

Every cell in your body uses vitamin D. It is essential for immune function, bone health, muscle function, peak athletic performance, cancer prevention, reproductive health, and the list goes on.  Vitamin D3 is such an important supplement that it really needs its own article if you want to cover all the benefits.  In short, there are very few diseases that are not positively correlated to low vitamin D status.

25 Reasons to Take Vitamin D

Vitamin D dosing and research

7) Omega-3s from Fish Oils 

The omega-3s, DHA and EPA, are absolutely essential to your diet.  They support the health of every cell in the body.  They counter chronic inflammation, support the brain, help with fat loss, and protect the heart, among other things.   EPA is responsible for the anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3s while DHA supports the brain and nerve tissues.  The most popular dietary form of omega-3s is fish oil capsules.  Grass fed meat, mentioned earlier, is also a good source.   One thing you must be careful of is that many labels include ALA (alpha linoleic acid) as omega-3s.  The truth is that only about 4% of the ALA actually gets converted to omega-3.  This is why using fish oil is the preferred source for omega-3 supplementation.

Health benefits from optimal omega-3 levels include decreased chronic inflammation and pain, better cardiovascular health, peak brain function, fat loss, improved insulin sensitivity, lower blood pressure, Alzheimer’s prevention, and improved athletic performance. Omega-3s can also improve the health of every cell in the body.  Because we get so few omega 3’s from our diet, and we get so many other fats in our diet, it is important that we get enough omega-3s to reap these health benefits.  The dosage is higher than most would think.  For most people, six high quality fish oil capsules (or 1 to 3 grams) per day would be a maintenance dose.

When it comes to fish oil supplements, quality is very important because fish oils are naturally high in heavy metals.  Cheap fish oil manufacturers often either do not clean the fish oil or they clean it with solvent detergents, which in turn are carcinogens.  Good quality fish oil will be purified with a carbon dioxide process that leaves it free of heavy metals and solvents, but it will cost you a little more.

  1. Electrolytes

Electrolytes are extremely important, especially for those dealing with low energy levels and for those that exercise.  In short, our bodies are like giant car batteries, and we need electrolytes to conduct the electro-chemical signals.  If you are low on electrolytes, everything your body tries to communicate from cell to cell is like trying to have a phone conversation when you are losing the signal.  Proper electrolyte levels improve total body function, energy levels, and performance.  A good electrolyte formula is much more than what we see in advertisements. Some sport drinks can get by with saying their product contains electrolytes by simply adding sodium.  A good electrolyte has a high bioavailability of sodium, potassium, bicarbonate, and chloride.  It will also usually contain some trace minerals like zinc and magnesium.  It should be strong enough that it appears to have a slightly salty taste, in most cases.  Flavored formulas will cover up this taste with sweeteners and should be avoided.  Care should be taken with those on blood pressure medications since taking strong electrolyte formulas may interfere with the medication or digestion.

While I listed the essential supplements in a 1-8 order, the real benefit comes from taking them all as a total program.  Many people will think that this is a lot, but in reality it isn’t much when you consider how poor our diet is and how much more stress our bodies have to deal with on a day-to-day basis.  The biggest mistake people can make when it comes to their health is trying to cut corners or to do the bare minimum.  While taking any of the above is better than taking none, just as any exercise is better than no exercise, rewarding results and improvements only become apparent when you are doing it right.  Don’t try to save by skipping part of the program or by buying cheap supplements that are not tested for quality and proven to work.  It’s better to spend a little more money, time, and effort on something that works than waste a little money, time, and effort on something that will bring you no benefits.