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EVERYTHING MEN SHOULD KNOW ABOUT SUPPLEMENTS

What supplements should I take?

Nutritional supplements are a multi-billion dollar industry. Every day, you're probably bombarded with advertisements on social media for products that promise to help you lose weight, build muscle, improve focus, improve digestion, enhance your sex life, clear your skin, reduce inflammation and so much more. 

Supplement companies love to overpromise and underdeliver, especially in the age of influencer marketing where it takes a single Kardashian making an Instagram post to get thousands shelling out big bucks for teas and wraps that do nothing more than dirty up a couple of dishes. 

In spite of all the BS out there, not all supplements are gimmicks. Some can be quite helpful for you and can make it easier for you to achieve your fitness goals. Let's break down some of the FAQs of supplements and take a look at some of our favorites.

Picking the nutritional supplements that are right for you.

How do I decide what supplements I need?

Walk into any drug store or GNC, and you'll see wall-to-wall options for supplements that you could take. In truth, there are probably several that could benefit you. The problem is that supplements are expensive, and brands will try to convince you that you need to take their supplements whether or not you actually do. You could end up spending a lot of money just for you to produce some very expensive, neon-colored urine. 

Because of this, when shopping for supplements, it's helpful to start from a position of thinking about what supplements are and what they're supposed to do. A nutritional supplement is not a pay-to-win strategy for wellness. You cannot dose your way out of bad health or into successful fitness outcomes with over-the-counter vitamins and workout supplements. 

Instead, the name supplement should give us a clue about what they should do: supplements should supplement your existing diet. They fill in gaps in your diet, provide nutritional insurance for days when you can't have a well-rounded diet, or provide a temporary boost in energy. 

Within this framework, there are a few approaches you could take:

  1. Have bloodwork and/or genomic analysis performed by a medical professional. This route has become surprisingly trendy in recent years with companies like Rootine and Baze mailing medical sample collection kits to your house so that you can send a blood sample off to their lab and get personalized vitamins delivered to you monthly. Many medical offices– perhaps even your primary care provider– can also make recommendations based upon your bloodwork and lifestyle. 
  2. Take a broad-spectrum multivitamin supplement that covers major nutrients and minerals. This route is pretty convenient and can be more cost-effective than having something precision-made for your biological data. Broad-spectrum multivitamins range from drug store branded daily vitamins to higher-end supplements like Athletic Greens. These supplements generally include major vitamin groups, iron, magnesium, and a few other essential nutrients. Higher-end products also generally contain additional components, such as prebiotics and probiotics that can help your body absorb the other nutrients in the mix. As a word of caution on this type of vitamin... avoid the gummies. I know that they're fun and delicious, but gelatin-based multivitamins are high in sugar and notoriously bad about being made unevenly, so you may not always be getting the dosage the bottle says you are getting. 
  3. Take a hyper-targeted approach based on your specific concerns and goals. If you already eat a well-rounded diet and aren't too concerned about filling gaps in your nutritional intake, you can also take dietary and performance supplements to target specific concerns or goals. A classic example of this would be taking a pre-workout supplement that's high in caffeine, niacin, taurine, and L-arginine before a workout; these supplements aren't rounding out your diet, but they are giving you a short-term boost in energy to help you perform at your best for a specific action. Other types of supplements in this category could be supplements for joint health, fish oil as a heart health preventative, or echinacea for immune support. 

How do I Know if a Supplement is High Quality?

One of the best things you can keep in mind when browsing for supplements is that if something sounds too good to be true, it is. 

No, those $60 pills aren't going to give you a testosterone spike or be the equivalent of going on steroids. Apple Cider Vinegar pills aren't a panacea for every ailment known to man. You're not going to suddenly be able to grow a full beard because you bought a $40 bottle of b-vitamins. 

Instead, look for brands that make reasonable claims about what their products actually do. Take Athletic Greens, for example. On their website, they claim that they use high-quality ingredients; contain 75 vitamins, minerals, and whole-food sourced nutrients in each serving; and are a water-soluble supplement that you're meant to drink daily. It's plain language that doesn't overpromise on outcomes and instead focuses on ingredients. 

In a similar vein but with a different approach would be a company like Amino Co (you can read my review of each of Amino Co's four primary supplements here). The marketing focus you see on their website isn't one of amazing, outlandish claims. Instead, they focus on their decades of history as a research company focused on attaining incremental health enhancements through specifically targeted combinations of amino acids. They aren't shoving flashy products in your face– they're citing their research. 

In addition to over-promising, another red flag to look out for is any product that states you'll go through a detox period or which claims to be a detox in and of itself. 

The term "detox" has been coopted as pseudoscientific marketing jargon. Whatever a brand states your body is doing during a "detox" is not a claim backed by science. Your liver and kidneys have you covered when it comes to detoxing. Instead, detox products are generally just a diuretic, fiber or magnesium to help you poop more regularly, or an innocuous trace mineral with little scientific inquiry to support the claims being made. 

Some supplements will also try to convince you that they're high quality because they've been certified by some entity with a scientific-sounding name. One thing that's important to note about supplements is that they are not approved by the FDA or other governmental bodies that have to abide by strict quality control standards. As a result, there are independent reviewers that dole out quality assessment scores and accreditation, but it's best to not put too much faith in these bodies since they mainly exist to profit off of the supplement industry rather than uphold scientific standards or consumer interest. 

Are there any "staple" Supplements that every guy should take?

Technically, no. Everybody is different and every body is different. Therefore, we all have unique nutritional needs. 

That said, there are a few supplements that the majority of individuals will benefit from taking. Here's what I would recommend starting with: 

Prebiotics, Probiotics, and Fiber

Your digestive health is hugely impactful. A healthy gut will help in many other areas of your life and wellness. Prebiotics and probiotics help the bacterial ecosystem in your digestive tract remain healthy. The presence of good bacteria can help aid in digestion and alleviate bloating. Fiber is also helpful because most of us just don't get enough nonsoluble fiber in our diet. Fiber creates bulk, which helps move waste through your digestive system (AKA it helps you poop more). 

Calcium, Vitamin D, and Glucosamine

Supplements containing calcium, vitamin D, and glucosamine are important for joint and bone health. Especially for folks who exercise regularly, we strain our joints on a fairly consistent basis. Supplements in this category aren't miracle elixirs that prevent us from getting hurt at the gym, but they can help our body connective tissues repair themselves when strained too hard. 

Protein

What list would be complete without a classic? Protein supplements– usually in the form of powders– are awesome at helping us increase our protein intake on a daily basis. If you're working out regularly and trying to build muscle, not getting enough protein in your diet and slow down your progress since proteins are broken down in a way that fuels muscle repair and provides energy during strenuous activity. 

Honorable Mentions

If you're eating a well-rounded diet, the supplements above are probably adequate on their own. That said, I also think that many folks find some benefit in incorporating the following supplements as well:


Our favorite supplements

Best Preworkout and Energy Supplements

Amino Co Perform Blend

Gentle Energy, Good for Focus: AMINO CO PERFORM

If you don't like the intensity of most preworkouts but still want something to give you an edge in the gym or power through the afternoon slump at work, I recommend Amino Co's Perform. The flavors are great, the product is backed by science instead of hype, and the caffeine isn't overpowering.

jacked factory product photo

High Octane & Vasal Dilation: Jacked Factory

I really like Jacked Factory as a company, and this has been my person go-to preworkout supplement for a while. If you're sensitive to caffeine or niacin flush, then this probably isn't the supplement for you. If you do have a decent caffeine tolerance, though, this can really help you power through intense workouts.



Best Protein supplements

optimum nutrition whey protein

Value and Protein Quality: OPTIMUM NUTRITION

Optimum Nutrition is a classic, and for a good reason. They don't overhype their products. It's just good quality whey protein that you can get in high volumes and for a good price. 


isopure protein powder

Best Taste and Texture: ISOPURE

In my experience, Isopure hasn't been overly sweet or too heavily flavored with artificial sweeteners. Plus, it blends really well when either shaken in a bottle with some water/milk or when added to a protein smoothie. It did well to not be too chunky or grainy, which can make some proteins unpleasant.


 

Best Multivitamins

gnc mega men multivitamin

Well-rounded and affordable: GNC Mega Men

These are a pretty standard daily multivitamin. At times, the ratios of the vitamins they've included feels excessive (you'll notice bright urine about an hour after taking them), but ultimately these are fairly affordable and cover pretty much all of the must-haves for a multivitamin.


Viome Supplements

Most Tailored to You: VIOME

I recently tried Viome and wrote a full review of their products, which you can read here. Viome creates a custom blend of nutrients, prebiotics, and probiotics for you based upon your genetic markers and digestive biome. Plus, the supplements you get will be recalibrated each time you retake their health test. It's pricey, but incredibly well catered to your specific needs.


 

Best for Digestive Health

psyllium husk powder

Best for Bowel Regularity: Psyllium Husk (Pretty Much Any Brand)

If bowel regularity is something you struggle with, a tablespoon of psyllium husk powder each day will help immensely. Psyllium also comes in a pill form, but I prefer to just buy the powder– it's immensely more cost-effective. One important note on psyllium husk is that it's best to mix in with water and then drink quickly and immediately as it will soon turn into a slimy sludge. 


swolverine probiotic

Best Probiotics: Swolverine

It's hard to go wrong with any probiotic if you're not taking any. Recently, though, I've been impressed by Swolverine and find that their products are fairly high quality without being too expensive, so they get my pick for best probiotic.


 

Best for Muscle and Injury Recovery

amino co heal

Gold Standard of Recovery: AMINO CO HEAL

This is my favorite product that Amino Co makes. It's high quality, tastes good, and does a great job at improving recovery times. It is a central part of my post-workout routine; since I get it in vanilla, it's easy to mix in with my protein and creatine after each workout.


micronized glutamine

Most Underrated: Micronized Glutamine

Micronized Glutamine is underrated and deserves some recognition in the fitness and wellness space. Glutamine is the most abundant free amino acid in the body. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Recent studies also suggest that Glutamine might help gut function, the immune system, and other essential processes in the body, especially in times of stress.


Updated Headshot- Blake Reichenbach

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Founder Blake here– I've tried everything we're recommending!

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