The supplement industry is MASSIVE. In fact, it’s currently a 36.6 Billion Dollar Industry. Crazy, right?
Well as you can imagine, the information within this industry matches the size of it’s net worth (i.e. there is A LOT of info)! And with that, comes confusion of understanding what’s right, what’s wrong, what’s evidence based, and what’s purely marketed well.
So because of that, I decided to write this blog in order to bring the most commonly asked questions about supplements into one single place. Along with the what, why, and how included for each and every supplement covered. I’m also going to keep each section brief enough to keep you moving along, but detailed enough to give you exactly what you need (quality info for greater understanding).
Both which I highly recommend using, still. Because when it comes to going massively in depth about supplements or learning exactly what research has been done, there’s no better place than examine.com.
And when you need to know the highest quality supplements, looking through actual lab tests that determine purity, quality, and efficacy – there’s no better place than labdoor.com
But today, at tailoredcoachingmethod.com, we’re going to give you the cliff notes for all the supplements you’ve been wondering about. Without making you dig or search each supplement up one by one, because the important ones are here. Add to that, we’re going to make this a hell of a lot easier for you by using a drop-down answer for each supplement so you can scroll through and get what you need, that much faster.
So, let’s get into this!
A Branched Chain Amino Acid supplement refers to 3 specific amino acids (of the 20 total). These amino acids are Leucine, Valine, and Isoleucine.
The main benefit of using a BCAA supplement is very similar to the benefits of ingesting protein in your diet; recovery. Leucine specifically helps play a big role in activating muscle protein synthesis in the body, which is a much needed anabolic process that induces muscle growth. Isoleucine can help induce glucose uptake into the cell, which is also helpful for maximizing performance. While Valine’s benefits are limited and not well researched, when it comes to its role inside a BCAA supplement.
The last benefit here is that BCAA’s can help prevent the serum decline that occurs during training; something that ultimately triggers a tryptophan rise in the brain, which is followed by a serotonin production, which causes fatigue. So BCAA’s could help prevent fatigue by allowing us to stay mentally sharp during training.
As great as BCAA’s sound from what I’ve just told you, the biggest let down is that if you’re consuming a high enough protein based diet (0.8-1.2g per lb), you got your bases covered and these benefits are already happening – science dietary protein is built up of amino acids. Adding to that, protein has all of the amino acids which may actually allow these select branched chain amino acids to function even better (the combination vs the isolation).
The only time we see highly valuable recommendation here is during injury recovery when extra aminos are needed, inside someone’s already very low protein diet, or with vegan/vegetarians who may be low on protein or aminos as a whole.
HOW TO TAKE:
The standard dosage of BCAA supplementation is between 10-20g.
EAA’s, or Essential Amino Acids, are very similar to BCAA’s but based on research and our expert opinion, slightly more beneficial. Reason being, it contains more than just the isolated BCAA’s; Leucine, Valine, and Isoleucine. Rather, EAA products contain 8 essential amino acids, including the 3 branched chain aminos; Methionine, Lysine, Phenylalanine, Threonine, Tryptophan, Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine.
EAA’s hold all the same benefits as BCAA’s, but in a greater effect and have more of a muscle anabolism/and-catabolism effect. An easy way to think about this is imagining a baseball game… one team has a pitcher, cartcher, batter, and an outfielder (BCAA’s). The other team has all 9 players (EAA’s). Who’s going to be more effective and cohesive? No doubt, the full team (EAA’s).
Amino acids work best when all are together and can work in combination. This is exactly why whey protein or whole food protein sources are so much more beneficial than just supplementing with EAA’s.
HOW TO TAKE:
We suggest taking 5-10g of EAA’s if you’re training fasted or in a glycogen depleted state, can’t get to a solid meal immediately post workout, or simply want something to sip on during a workout, which may also have a positive muscle recovery effect.
CBD is a popular one now-a-days, but the biggest problem lies in the fact that human research is so limited – it’s hard for us to make hard black and white claims on it’s benefits, rather than using personal anecdotes to explain what we believe is occuring. Animal research, however, has been promising to show relief of anxiety, stress, inflammation, and pain.
Another issue is misdosing – not only may it require a lot of CBD for us as humans to see noticeable benefits, but it’s also expensive to reach that dosage per day and often times labeling on CBD products is falsely advertised (less than shown).
But, what is it? CBD (cannabidiol) is the second most abundant cannabinoid in cannabis, right after THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). THC is the cannabinoid that gets you “high”, where as CBD does not – it creates relief, but not through a psychoactive property or feeling. CBD is typically used medically for things mentioned above; anxiety, stress, sleep, inflammation, and pain relief.
The first and most prevalently studied benefit to CBD is to prevent and treat epilepsy (similar to keto). This has been shown and has been shown with efficacy to be effective. The potential benefits, ones we know via animal research and human anecdote, stretch to the daily ailments and stressors mentioned above.
CBD doesn’t have many serious risks, unless used in very high quantities – and those are still minimal; things such as potential diarrhea, memory, fatigue, decreased appetite, and impaired coordination. Minimal and unlikely, but there. We also have zero long-term research done on the substance, so to say there is no serious side effects at this point is actually literally impossible.
The thing we do know, is that it appears to be much safer than many other pain remedies or treatments used by man today.
HOW TO TAKE:
The recommended dosage for pain, inflammation, anxiety, stress, or sleep is between the range of 5 to 100mg. Yes, it’s a MASSIVE range. Why? Well, because the research done is all between those dosages… which is limited, so there’s no real answer to the dosage question and it also highly depends on potency brand to brand (and the inclusion of THC, if within – as they have combined products, too). Usually we see a dosage of between 5-20mg in a product and it seems to be safe and effective.
Creatine is one of the most well-researched supplements in the world, literally. Not only from a “how many times it’s been studied” standpoint, but a winning track record perspective as well. It always comes on top and we’re yet to find a research study that shows negative side effects, drawbacks, or claims that it doesn’t work as we believe it does.
It works by increasing recovery, performance, and even cognition. This occurs by creatine helping us produce more ATP and rapidly producing better energy during intense activity. The cognitive benefits come from an increase in memory, cognitive decline (may be helpful in preventing Alzheimer’s), and mental fatigue. All things that help us day to day inside training and our daily work life.
Adding the benefits of improving recovery, strength, and power-output – creatine is very likely to help us increase muscle mass on our body. Ultimately, creatine is a great supplement for any person with a goal of gaining lean muscle mass, losing fat and retaining muscle tissue during a caloric deficit, and/or seeing a cognitive advantage in their daily life.
There have been no known risks or dangers to taking creatine on a daily basis, even within the youth it has shown to be helpful in physical and mental development.
The one thing people tend to see, worry about, or misunderstand, is it’s effects on the kidneys. Creatine will increase levels of creatinine in the body, which can be a marker to warn you of poor kidney health. However, this increase in creatinine isn’t due to poor kidney function – it is simply due to more creatine being consumed in the diet (backed by research). Even intense exercise or an increase in protein based foods can cause this rise in creatinine, but neither these prove kidney dysfunction either (in fact, they’re health promoting). Therefore it is not something to worry about and we shouldn’t take the creatinine level by face value. Only times you may want to be concerned is if you’ve had prior kidney issues, failure, or surgery.
HOW TO TAKE:
Recommended dosage for Creatine Monohydrate is between 2.5g – 10g/day. A common dose is 5g daily, which is often recommended. 2.5 would be for youth or a very small individual, whereas 10g daily would be recommended for someone with substantially more muscle mass. Our recommended brand for pure creatine is Muscle Feast and for an all-in-one post workout supplement, which includes creatine, we suggest Legion’s Recharge.
Electrolyte supplementation isn’t super common, as if you’re staying well hydrated, eating primarily whole foods, and have natural forms of sodium in your diet – you may not require extra supplementation.
The caveat will be for high performing athletes or individuals who are training more than once per day, especially those in high heat who end up sweating profusely. In these scenarios, a simple electrolyte supplement can come in handle to keep you hydrated to perform better.
We do not recommend salt tabs for this because they’re primarily 2 electrolytes only, when there are 6 the human body needs, and because it can often be too much salt for someone’s diet, creating some sodium dysregulation in the body.
HOW TO TAKE:
The best route to take here for dosing is to ensure you have enough water, sea salt, and whole foods in your diet. If you decide to add in because you do feel you need extra, supplementing with something like Endurolyte during training may help – especially during endurance based training sessions. But again, this is not a replacement – it’s more of a supplement to add to or relieve the stress of there not being adequately enough for the performance at hand.
As a molecule, an electrolyte is a mineral – sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, phosphate, and bicarbonate. We need them to function, keep water in the body, and regulate our systems. They’re essential for life – but we can obtain them through food and minimal supplementation, fairly easily.
First, we have to define the quality and efficacy of this product… Rule number 1, if there is a proprietary blend and there is no telling how much of each ingredient is within that blend, toss it. Don’t buy it. It’s not worth it. It’s probably not what they make it out to be.
Second, we need to understand what the key beneficial ingredients within most pre workouts actually is. The first is going to be caffeine, which we’ll get into by itself soon. Next would be beta-alanine, then potentially things like beetroot, betaine, and/or citrulline.
The biggest thing to remember here is that there’s not much research on “pre workouts” because every one is different. What we do know is that caffeine works and the others mentioned above do as well, but only in specific scenarios, which we’ll touch on in their own individual sections here shortly.
Our recommendations are to stay hydrated, have adequate carbs prior to training/in your daily intake, keep sodium levels high enough, and lastly, add some caffeine via pill, coffee, or pre workout to enhance energy levels for better performance.
If you do decide to supplement with a pre-workout product, we trust Legion supplements more than any other brand and highly recommend their pre workout Pulse.
Fish oil is a SUPER supplement, literally. It’s why we wrote an entire article on it, itself (right here). So for a more in depth approach to this one, check out that article.
For the cliff notes… Fish oil is a fat based supplement extracted from fish, but it’s truly omega-3 fatty acids – that’s what we want. These two specific fatty acids we need are EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). These can be found in more food items outside of just fish, but their potency in fish is greater than most.
EPA and DHA are very important for human development (this is important for youth/babies, too), regulating inflammation in the body, various metabolic signaling pathways, and even cognition/brain function. They are also known to help with some reduction in blood pressure, triglycerides, and even depression (shown to potentially improve mood in those suffering with major depression).
So when it comes to overall health, cognitive improvements, joint inflammation, disease prevention, the metabolism, liver detoxification, skin, hair, nails… the list kind of goes on, as it seems… it’s a powerful supplement and worth taking.
HOW TO TAKE:
We recommend using Carlson, Legion, or Viva as they’re all proven to be a higher quality than most other brands, to refrigerate to avoid rancidness, and dose with 1.5-3g of combined EPA/DHA daily (usually 3-4 capsules).
We also recommend listening to our podcast with Evan Demarco, aka the “fish guy”, who broke down exactly why we need fish oil on the interview we did together.
Algae Oil (Vegan Omega-3’s)
Similar to the above, Algae Oil is a vegan replacement for fish oil. It has the same omega-3 fatty acids and all the same benefits as fish oil will, with the downside of price being higher than fish oil (likely just because it is more difficult to make than fish oil is).
The other important thing to remember here is that the amount needed as a vegan is 1.5-2x more total EPA/DHA than the animal product consuming individual. The reason is simple; besides fish or algae, omega-3 fatty acids are mainly found in meat and eggs, making it much more difficult for a vegan to get the required amount for optimal health and body composition.
Our recommended brand is Nordic Naturals. We also recommend listening to our podcast with Evan Demarco, aka the “fish guy”, who broke down exactly why we need fish oil on the interview we did together.
Krill Oil, another similar supplement with the same basic benefits and reasons to supplement with. Krill oil has a mixture of fatty acids in the form of phospholipids, mainly phosphatidylcholine. Some research has shown that it may be easier for the body to absorb than fish oil, more cardioprotective, and may even have some fat burning effects.
It’s hard to say as krill oil isn’t something that is as studied as caffeine or creatine, for example. But from the research we do have, it looks promising.
The obvious difference here is that it’s derived from Krill, rather than salmon or other fatty fish. The reasoning for buying krill oil over fish oil would be for the potency and absorption, as it allows you to consume less of it for the same added benefits.
Glucosamine is a derivative of shellfish that is thought to be and sold as a joint health supplement, to relieve pain inside inflamed joints. Studies have shown that supplementing with glucosamine sulfate can reduce the rate of joint tissue (collagen) degradation and the risk of osteoarthritis.
Most studies are done in athletic populations, supplementing with around 3,000mg. Studies themselves are also fairly limited and not always promising. For example, most benefits are shown to be minor and most relevant in athletes participating in high impact sports, specifically.
Glucosamine is primarily sold as a joint health supplement. Studies show that supplementing glucosamine sulfate will reduce the rate of collagen (joint tissue) degradation and symptoms of osteoarthritis. Though glucosamine is comparable to acetaminophen, the reference drug for osteoarthritis, in potency, it is not as reliable.
Studies on athletes supplementing glucosamine are limited, but preliminary evidence suggests doses as high as 3,000mg of glucosamine sulfate may be able to slow joint degradation. This effect is most relevant for athletes participating in high impact sports, like running.
Glucosamine is safe and the only real known side effect is potential gas. There has been evidence that may suggest possible insulin resistance, but further research showed no significant metabolic risk (no issues with glucose metabolism).
Potential benefit? Yes. Worth the money? As a desperate last measure, yes. Our recommendation is to focus on food quality, sleep, stress management, and proper exercise – as that will do much more for your joint health than glucosamine can.
Glutamine is another essential amino acid, derived from protein. It’s found in EAA supplements, meat, eggs, and in very high amounts in dairy protein such as whey or casein.
This amino acid was previously suggested as a potent muscle building agent, which is what drove sales in the earlier years of the supplement industry boom. However, it has been proven to not enhance muscular adaptation (growth) in healthy individuals; rather, it has only been shown effective for muscle growth in individuals suffering from physical trauma such as burns, knife wounds, disease states that waste away tissue (such as AIDS).
The main benefit found in glutamine for most individuals is going to be it’s positive effect on intestinal health and the immune system. These systems can use glutamine as the main preferred fuel source, rather than glucose.
For an overall healthy body and functioning system, glutamine is absolutely needed – it’s an essential nutrient. However, it is not something we suggest supplementing with as you will get enough within your diet if you’re eating a high protein diet that’s based on 80% or more of calories coming from whole foods.
However, we do suggest it if there are any gut, intestinal, or immune system stressors in the individual at hand. Lastly, we’d also recommend it if recovering from a traumatic injury or surgery, as it can help rebuild wasted muscle tissue in the recovery process.
Green tea has been used as a fat burner for years and although there is evidence to show it has fat burning properties, it is not a “fat burning supplement” worth putting too much trust into.
Green tea is actually a nutrient called Camellia Sinensis, which is a plant that is often used inside hot water (drank as tea). It’s a water soluble nutrient, which is why it makes most sense to consume it as a tea rather than consumed whole or by pill.
This nutrient is very health-promoting and has been shown to benefit literally almost every human organ in the body, so although it’s not as potent of a fat burning as some marketing may lead you to believe… it’s well worth consumption! It has been shown to be cardioprotective, neuroprotective, anti-obesity, anti-carcinogenic, anti-diabetic, anti-atherogenic, liver protective, and even helpful for the vascular/circulatory system.
The most commonly shown catechin in green tea, of which there are four, is EGCG – this is the fat burning nutrient within green tea. It is best used in high doses of 400-500mg per day – but this requires pill forms, often, because most teas are 50% or less of this.
This is not something we bet our bottom dollar on when working with a client, because no supplement that is legal can truly promote such reliable fat loss results that it’s worth spending much money or thought into. However, if you have the extra cash to spend and want every 1% of help to get you lean, it can be worth it (worth better health, too).
Magnesium is an essential mineral and micronutrient that is required for human health and survival. It’s commonly found in whole foods like spinach, some whole grains, quinoa, nuts, dark chocolate, avocado, and some foods in the bean family.
Magnesium serves many different purposes, which is the reason it comes in many different supplemental forms such as: magnesium chloride, magnesium sulfate, magnesium citrate, magnesium oxide, magnesium glycinate, magnesium orotate, and magnesium L-threonate.
Deficiencies in magnesium are actually pretty common amongst the average individual and it’s a very applicable nutrient for better performance, body composition, neurological health, and hormonal balance. So it’s important to get through your diet and/or supplement!
Deficiencies in magnesium can increase blood pressure, reduce glucose tolerance (poor ability to absorb carbohydrates properly), and cause neural excitation. There’s no real danger in over supplementing magnesium, as the body will take what it needs and use it – then get rid of the rest. Which makes fixing deficiencies very easy, however it may cause gastric or digestive upset.
Any form of magnesium can be used to repair deficiencies, however we recommend citrate or glycinate for loading to improve muscular recovery, cramps or performance, and l-threonate for cognitive enhancement.
Supplementing with magnesium will only improve body composition and performance if there is a prior deficiency, studies are not promising for its use to add into an already sufficient diet in hopes to superload and create an enhanced performance result.
HOW TO TAKE:
Dosages are recommended to be between 200-400mg daily.
Melatonin is a hormone, a neurohormone specifically, that’s naturally produced in the body to help us regulate our sleep patterns by actually causing us to fall asleep each night. Light suppresses melatonin synthesis; which is why it’s important to have electronics off and lights out when the time to sleep is approaching, as this will allow you to actually fall asleep. Add to that, this is one of the many reasons why blue light blocking glasses have become very popular – they help to allow melatonin to be produced effectively without turning out the lights.
Supplemental melatonin acts as an external route of helping your body to produce melatonin before bed, which can be helpful for those who have commonly disturbed sleep or poor circadian rhythms. Shift workers or people experiencing jet lag are good examples of this.
Melatonin has also been potentially associated (currently going under more research) with anti-cancer properties, eye health, reducing tinnitus, and improving your mood (mainly by helping you sleep better).
Although there’s no direct performance or body composition benefits here, it’s clear that improved sleep does help with fat loss, metabolic processes, and recovery for more muscle tissue growth. Therefore an argument may be made for it’s indirect role of helping you transform your physical body.
HOW TO TAKE:
The common and effective dose of Melatonin is 3-5mg. There are no known negative side effects, however relying to heavily on the supplement will cause your body to not naturally produce it. So it’s recommended to cycle on and off over time.
Multivitamins are somewhat of a safety net supplement, just making sure you cover your bases and don’t fall short on any one nutrient as there are many within each multivitamin. Multivitamins aren’t always the best at fixing specific deficiencies, because often times a deficiency in a specific nutrient requires a higher dosage of that one nutrient than a multivitamin can offer.
Example would be having a zinc deficiency, which may require 30-45mg of zinc daily – however this would require taking a zinc supplement because although multivitamins include zinc, they fall short by 35-50% of the dosage needed to repair a deficiency.
Therefore we suggest this as an extra supplement if you’re ok with spending the extra money, just to double down on making sure you have your nutrient bases covered on top of a whole food based diet.
HOW TO TAKE:
We suggest and recommend Legion’s Triumph because it’s designed for the every day gym goer or athlete.
Greens powders are a popular supplement and have been the past 5 or so years. They act very similar to a multivitamin as a way to ensure you have your bases covered when it comes to micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). The added benefit of a greens powder is that they often come with digestive enzymes, probiotics, and actual micronized veggies which you may not have otherwise gotten in your diet.
We also like this as a mentally healthy habit, because having one each morning puts you in the mindframe that you’re starting your day healthy. We’ve seen this act as a consistency builder in our clients, seeing more adherence to a diet plan after starting the day on this foot.
Probiotics are living microorganisms, supplemental ones include lactobacillus reuteri and casei, that are claimed to help with gut health, improve digestion, and relieve gastric stress.
The truth is that they’re still in their infancy with quality research and from what we do see, they’re not as promising as the media makes them seem. It’s not a daily supplement for the average person and if there are not any predetermined, specific, gut related issues or intolerances – they’re unlikely to provide any benefit at all. In fact, in this situation they’re likely to just pass right through and not even be absorbed (which is like digesting money, without benefit – literally).
Specific strains of probiotics may be consumed in isolation to help prevent or help improve symptoms of diarrhea, IBD, and IBS, but these effects are population and disease specific.
There is no strong evidence to show improvements to normal gut health, mood, metabolic syndrome, autoimmune diseases, or athletic improvements.
The only times we recommend taking a probiotic is when there are predetermined digestive stress, dysfunction or disease present. The only other time would be during long travel times when gastric emptying can be affected negatively.
Whey Protein Powder
Whey protein is a supplemental form of dairy protein, which is rich in the essential amino acids needed for rebuilding muscle tissue. This can act as a food replacement when an individual cannot get to a whole food protein source fast enough after a workout or just in a meal, in general.
Whey protein is a fast acting and easily digestible source of protein, arguably the best and most efficient at both of those compared to any other forms of protein. This makes it beneficial for muscle growth and has been shown in studies to be very effective at helping quickly to start the recovery process.
Whey protein has no known negative side effects, including the harm of your kidneys (which has been shown to ONLY be negatively impacted if there are prior kidney disease or dysfunctions present). The only time protein can be a problem is when people have intolerances to whey or lactose, itself. During this, it’s not whey as a supplement that’s causing gut stress, but the source in general – meaning cheese and milk would cause issues, too.
Whey protein is mainly beneficial for its ease of consumption, making it a food replacement to help those who struggle to hit their required daily protein intake.
We recommend Legion’s protein powder as it’s grass fed, sourced well, has only natural ingredients, and ranked highly on labdoor.com.
Casein Protein Powder
Similar to whey, casein is a powdered form of dairy protein that allows individuals to get access to an easily digestible form of protein to more easily hit their daily requirement of protein.
Within milk, their are curds – casein protein is actually the curds of milk. It has gel-forming capabilities and intestinal slowing properties, which causes it to be slowly absorbed. This makes casein potentially better for consumption at night, because it will slowly release as you sleep – allowing a more steady flow of amino acids, muscle protein synthesis, and recovery.
We recommend Legion’s protein powder as it’s grass fed, sourced well, has only natural ingredients, and ranked highly on labdoor.com.
Vitamin-B is a water soluble vitamin, meaning we need water present to transport the nutrient itself. It’s general known as a vitamin that helps with neurology – health benefits associated with cognitive function, brain health, and neurological components of the body. It’s also helpful in keeping nerve and blood cells healthy in general, as it plays a role in making our DNA.
It is generally used with elderly and vegan individuals, as those are the two most common populations in need of supplementation to avoid deficiency. As we age, neurologic components of health become more of a priority – therefore supplementation may be necessary. Vegans can be deficient easily due to their lack of animal sourced foods, making b12 a potential supplemental need.
It’s fairly easy to get enough vitamin-b in your food through animal sources if you’re eating meat or fish of some kind. Therefore we rarely recommend supplementing this to any clients other than our vegan or vegetarian clients.
Vitamin-C is an essential vitamin that is water soluble, meaning we need water present to transport the nutrient itself. It’s a strong antioxidant, which makes its main benefit fighting off the common cold and keeping the immune system strong (as does strength training).
Vitamin-C is a great vitamin to get enough of on a regular basis as an athlete (or anyone who consistently trains) because it can lower the risk of getting sick by 50%. It’s also able to reduce the duration of being sick or having a cold by 8-14%, for anyone supplementing with it.
When training hard or having stress present in your life regularly, this becomes a great way to keep your body’s immune system strong and avoid an over production of stress in general as it also helps modulate cortisol.
Finally, Vitamin-C has been shown to provide neuroprotective effects, benefit proper blood flow, and potentially preserve testosterone levels in men because of its oxidative stress protecting mechanisms.
Vitamin-D is an essential vitamin that is fat soluble, meaning we need fat present to transport the nutrient itself. This is why it becomes more important to supplement while dieting due to lowering body fat levels and/or a reduction of fat in the diet.
The sun is a major source of natural vitamin-d, but in today’s society and common lifestyle (world-wide) it’s very uncommon to get enough vitamin-d just from sunshine. Therefore aiming to get more out of the diet or through supplementation is recommended.
The benefits of vitamin-d are widespread; hormonal balance, immune health, bone strength, cognitive enhancement, decreasing disease risk, and more.
HOW TO TAKE:
We highly recommend that 90% or more of average individuals supplement with some form of Vitamin-D3 at a dose of 1,000-5,000/IU’s daily. We suggest taking it alongside fish oil or with a meal containing fat in it. Labdoor.com has some great recommendations from multiple quality brands.
Zinc is an essential mineral that the body needs in order to survive. It’s commonly found in meat, egg, and legume products, as well as some shellfish such as oysters.
Zinc is needed for antioxidant enzymes, brain function, immune health, and even hormonal levels to stay in a positive balance – testosterone is a well known hormone that needs optimal levels of zinc in order to remain high. It’s commonly taken to reduce risk of illness and fatigue, as well as to avoid low levels of testosterone levels.
It cannot directly increase testosterone levels unless testosterone levels are predetermined to be insufficient, therefore you need a deficiency in order for it to be an effective test booster. This applies to insulin sensitivity, as well – when zinc is low, insulin resistance is more common and supplementation can be helpful to bring levels closer to normal.
Zinc is lost via sweat, which makes it more important for athletes and gym goers to supplement with since they’re higher candidates to become deficient.
There are many forms of zinc, all which can be effective but require different dosing to be beneficial. We recommend 5-20mg for the common individual and 25-45mg for the individual at potential risk of deficiency.
HOW TO TAKE:
Per examine.com, the recommended dosing per form of zinc is as such:
“- Zinc citrate is approximately 34% zinc by weight. For a dose of 50mg elemental zinc, take 146 mg zinc citrate.
– Zinc sulfate is approximately 22% zinc by weight. For a dose of 50mg elemental zinc, take 220 mg zinc sulfate.
– Zinc gluconate is approximately 13% zinc by weight. For a dose of 50mg elemental zinc, take 385 mg zinc gluconate.
– Zinc monomethionine is approximately 21% zinc by weight. For a dose of 50mg elemental zinc, take 238 mg zinc monomethionine.”
Beta-alanine is a precursor to carnosine; it can be used as a buffer agent that may improve muscular endurance inside competition, sport or training. It’s primarily beneficial for long-duration anaerobic performances. Think of activities that create a lot of lactate and create that burning sensation… assault bike, 20+ rep sets, long hill sprints, etc…
Beta-alanine helps to buffer acidity, helping regulate pH levels in the muscle and improving performance (performance outputs that may be limited to metabolite/lactate accumulation).
The only time we suggest investing in it or supplementing with it is when you’re performing a movement or exercise for at least 30 seconds non-stop and definitely if you’re performing a duration that lasts well over 1 minute of non-stop effort. This is being generous, too, as most research is more supporting of 60 seconds or more compared to 30 seconds but experience will show us that individual differences occur with metabolite accumulation. Therefore it may be helpful in exercises lasting slightly less than 60 seconds, too.
HOW TO TAKE:
Dosing of beta-alanine is best between 2-5g depending on total body mass. Although you will feel the tingling effect, that has nothing to do with its actual production and benefit. It is not time dependent and when it is present in your system consistently, it will provide the benefits associated.
D-aspartic acid is an amino acid that was very popular in the early supplement days as a hopeful testosterone booster, as it is a regulator of testosterone synthesis. This may be helpful in aiding male fertility; studies do show temporary increases in testosterone with males supplementing with d-aspartic acid.
The benefit of d-aspartic acid, much like most natural hormone influencing supplements, are pretty limited to those who are deficient. It’s not a supplement that will increase testosterone to supraphysiological levels, like a performance enhancing drug (steroid) would. In some athletes, studies have shown a temporary rise that may be helpful to influence strength gains, however after 1-1.5 weeks t-levels return to the individuals natural baseline.
D-aspartic acid works by stimulating the central region of the brain and causes a release of hormones such as follicle-stimulating hormone, growth hormone, and luteinizing hormone.
Research isn’t promising enough for us to recommend this for performance or body composition changes. But the research that has been done has a standard dosing of 2-3,000mg daily and showed no harm or negative impacts.
L-Carnitine and Acetyl L-Carnitine
There’s 2 main forms of carnitine that are popular, specifically in the fitness community, and they are L-Carnitine and Acetyl L-Carnitine. Both are produced by the amino acids lysine and methionine; when acetylated it becomes Acetyl L-Carnitine. This compound is also found in meat, so it is a naturally produced supplement.
The main reason this is a popular supplement is because it can help with the mitochondrial oxidation of long-chain fatty acids. This is a fancy way of saying helping to use fat for fuel, or so we would assume – research is very limited on this supplement, which makes it hard for us to indefinitely say this is a valuable supplement to invest in for better fat loss.
There’s two purposes here and they’re split between the two forms: L-Carnitine is typically used to help with performance and body composition as it can help limit muscle damage, improve blood glucose and insulin sensitivity, and potentially use more fat as fuel (old school bodybuilders often used this with caffeine prior to fasted cardio). Acetyl L-Carnitine crosses the blood-brain barrier more efficiently, making it possibly more useful. It also has the added effect of cognitive enhancement, making it potentially valuable for productivity, memory, and cognition.
This supplement has promising and amazing-sounding benefits, but is limited in research in athletic population – making it hard to justify. If there’s money to spend without stress, it can be hopeful and definitely not risky as there are no known side effects.
We know that it may reduce fatigue, which could lead to improvements in performance and more energy expenditure, helping fat loss. So even if there is no direct “fat for fuel” advantage, it may still help body composition while improving cognitive performance as well.
HOW TO TAKE:
Daily dosing is between 500-2,00mg; Acetyl L-Carnitine (600-2,500mg) and L-Carnitine (1,000-4,000mg).
Testosterone boosters are almost always a waste of time and money, to be frank and honest with this supplement review. There are many proprietary blend based supplements that combine things like ashwagandha, forskolin, hibiscus macranthus, etc…. Different nutrients and herbs that may have small effects on testosterone when isolated. But the problem with these is that the dosing of each nutrient within these “complex pills” is so small that there is very minimal effect, if anything at all.
It’s our recommendation to save your money and hopefulness; skip out on these supplements and focus on better sleep, stress management, overall macronutrient intake, and strength training.
Yohimbine is a known and potentially effective fat burner supplement. This is rare in our industry because the actual truth and validity behind fat burners is scarce at best. Yohimbine is a compound that is stimulatory, meaning it will give you energy and stimulate your central nervous system.
It can aid in fat loss and some believe it to be a helpful tool to help eliminate stubborn fat that is hard for you to lose, especially at the very tail end of a diet when you’re approaching very lean levels of body fat. It’s also known to be helpful to aid erectile dysfunction and sexual desire.
Yohimbine is best used in a fasted state with the combination of caffeine. It works by increasing your adrenaline levels, increasing total energy, and inhibiting a regulatory process in fat cells that normally would suppress fat burning. This blocking, is what creates the potential stubborn fat loss benefit. The effects can be partially reversed by food intake, which is why it’s best during a fasted state (think morning cardio).
The risks of yohimbine are actually common, as well. So we need to be careful recommending and taking this supplement as it can be overly stimulating for some, cause anxiety, and/or upset stomach. Some experience none, others experience all. So start small with dosing and work up IF it’s showing to be effective.
HOW TO TAKE:
Dosing should be at 0.2mg/kg bodyweight. Example: 14mg for a 150lb person or 18mg for a 200lb person. We recommend Primaforce.
Alpha-GPC is a type of nootropic known to enhance cognitive properties that may lead to better productivity, memory, and thought processing. It has also been shown to enhance power output in athletes, making it a great overall performance enhancing compound.
Alpha-GPC stands for Alpha-Glycerophosphocholin, but you’ll never need to call it that. It’s found in different whole foods, but for effective benefits it needs to be dosed in supplement form (higher doses than what’s available in food).
All research done has been in rodents or the elderly to prevent cognitive decline, so although it has yet to be tested on youth or otherwise healthy human individuals… it has shown to be promising in what we’ve seen in the tested populations. It’s a supplement that you have to plan on crossing your fingers, spending some money, and hoping to see the benefits.
If you have a very cognitive dependent job, family history of neurodegenerative disease, or are a high output performance athlete – it may be worth supplementing. More research needs to be done for the recommendation to be definitive, although as of now it is promising.
HOW TO TAKE:
Standard dosing is between 300-600mg daily, however dosing in studies done on the elderly to avoid cognitive decline has consistently been 1,200mg split into 3 doses of 400mg daily. Even in the rodent studies, it’s estimated at 48-96mg/kg/daily – which equates to 3,000-6,500mg daily for the average individual).
L-Tyrosine is another amino acid that can be helpful in reducing stress and could potentially help with memory loss. It’s metabolized to help produce catecholamines like adrenaline and dopamine, which can get depleted from stressful situations. It’s because of this that it may be a useful supplement to help your body handle and recovery from acute stressors.
High doses may be needed for any significant effect to actually take place and those doses, although safe, may cause increased heart rate and blood pressure. Research isn’t very promising at this point and what we have seen comes down to stress placed on the body from cold (temp) and sleep deprivation. In those scenarios, it may help delay the depletion of these catecholamines (dopamine/adrenaline) so that you can better handle the stress; kind of like an insurance policy.
For humans, it’s most commonly used as a pre workout supplement to better handle acute stressors. We don’t recommend this as the results are not very promising or notable, it is another bill to add to your monthly load, and we prefer the body to be able to better handle the stress you’re placing on it within training, which stimulates the adaptation process.
GABA, or Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid), is a “downer” neurotransmitter. It’s a nootropic type of supplement that may be used to relax, calm down, and prevent stress. It acts by helping to balance or control the depressive and sedative actions of the brain. GABA is safe and has been shown to be effective for some select individuals, but also has difficulty crossing the blood brain barrier – which is important for effective benefits to occur. Most research has been done with the goal of enhancing growth hormone metabolism in the dose range of 3,000-5,000mg. Because of these studies and the more commonly known (or hoped) benefits, GABA dosage is unclear.
Berberine is a natural herb that has been shown to strengthen immune function, improve metabolic processes, increase insulin sensitivity, and promote longevity/increase lifespan.
It’s mostly commonly used by diabetics as it can be helpful in aiding blood sugar levels. It’s been researched alongside metformin, a prescription diabetic drug, and shown to be just as effective in this regard.
Berberine’s main benefit and most common use is to help reduce insulin resistance and improve biomarkers of type 2 diabetes; i.e. fasting glucose and glycated hemoglobin. Berberine activates AMPK (monophosphate-activated protein kinase) enzymes, while inhibiting protein-tyrosine phosphatase 1B – this increases insulin sensitivity. Other known roles include protecting beta cells, regulating hepatic gluconeogenesis, and reducing cytokine signaling.
Now… that’s all science jargon, much which may not matter to you. What does matter, is that berberine can be a potent health supplement that increases insulin sensitivity, allowing your body to better absorb, break down and utilize carbohydrates for fuel.
The only known side effects to be concerned with are possible gastrointestinal upset or potential hypoglycemia, but both rare and typically only predicted during high dosages.
HOW TO TAKE:
Dosing for berberine has been studied at 1,500mg per day, taken in 3 doses of 500mg each. It’s recommended to stay between 900-2,000mg daily and always divide up the servings into 3 or 4 dosages, of 400-500mg each. Berberine should always be taken with or right after a meal, ideally including carbohydrates.
We recommend the brand, Swanson.
MCT Oil has been on the rise since the beginning of the new-keto era (*I say new because Keto is old and has only just resurfaced it’s popularity). It has risen with keto because MCT oil is pure fat and can be used within a keto diet to ensure you’re getting enough fats within your calories; that which from a healthy and easily digestible source.
MCT stands for Medium-Chain Triglycerides, which are a class of saturated fatty acids that contain 6-10 carbons. They’re found in multiple food fat sources, but the primary and most potent source of MCT is coconut oil. This fatty acid, MCT, is potentially helpful in fat loss as it can improve fat loss results when consumed in place of another fat source – this is key, because calories matter most and if you simply add MCT’s on top of your current caloric intake, no matter it’s isolated benefits you will still be in a caloric surplus and that will lead to weight gain.
The mechanisms of MCT oil are known to enhance fat loss when replacing other fats with it, because it is one of the only fat sources that can be quickly absorbed in the liver for readily available fuel. Most fats take time to digest and break down, then support low intensity efforts throughout your day. MCT oil however acts faster, much like glucose, and can be converted to a more fast acting fuel source, as compared to any other fat.
The main benefits of MCT Oils are faster digestive properties, leading to more easily and readily available fuel for the body to use, and cognitive enhancement, most likely do to it’s fast acting fuel properties, also. This may be a great replacement fat source when fat loss is the goal, because it may allow your body to use more of the ingested fat, as fuel, compared to other fat sources that are not as easily digested and utilized for performance.
Over using MCT oils within the diet can lead to upset stomach and leaky gut-like symptoms, such as diarrhea. An organic brand is recommended, such as viva, and can easily be found at most health food stores. But there are no dosage recommendations from us, as it is context specific (person, caloric intake, macronutrient breakdown, etc.).
5-HTP, or 5-Hydroxtryptophan, is an amino acid that your body naturally produces but can also be taken in supplement form. Your body uses it to produce serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter known to help aid relaxation, mood, and sleep. Low levels of serotonin are typically associated with depression, anxiety, sleep issues, weight gain, and other health risks.
5-HTP is a precursor for serotonin, therefore it may be a useful agent to help promote better serotonin production. It’s shown to help individuals who have preexisting serotonin depletion, therefore we only recommend it for clients who are experiencing depression-like symptoms, clinical depression, or high levels of body inflammation (which is seen in metabolic syndrome).
Lastly, 5-HTP may help blunt appetite – so it may be useful during fat loss phases to encourage satiety from food.
HOW TO TAKE:
Dosing for 5-HTP is between 300-500mg daily, taken either once per day or divided into 2-3 smaller doses. For food satiety benefits, take with a meal.
Collagen is a component of joint cartilage, so much like protein, as collagen peptides are a form of protein, we already have them in our body and need them to sustain physical health. Supplementing with Type 2 Collagen has shown to result in less inflammation in instances of osteoarthritis and rheumatism, while also improving general joint health.
There are 2 forms of collagen: Hydrolyzed and Undenatured Type 2.
Hydrolyzed is the most common and most popular on the market. It’s taken in doses of around 10g per day and is primarily for skin health and has very little, but some benefit to joint health. It is very unbeneficial when it comes to performance and muscle growth, as it’s amino acid profile is lacking key anabolic amino acids, that cause actual tissue repair and growth on the muscular level. Because of this, it should not be counted toward daily protein intake or used as a replacement for whey protein, when the goal is muscle growth, fat loss, or strength gains.
Undenatured Type 2 Collagen is less common and should be taken at lower doses, around 40mg per day, for the treatment of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. This is especially beneficial when there is an autoimmune related component to it.
We also see a possible benefit for sleep and general health appearance, much which can be contributed to aiding in skin health. The benefits of collagen, combined, lead us to believe that it may be an anti-aging or longevity based supplement.
At the end of the day, collagen supplements are hyped up beyond what they need to be, they’re very cheap to make as they’re made from the leftovers of many animal tissues, and do not hold much, if any, benefit to muscle growth, fat loss, or performance.
All that being said, it’s not a bad supplement and there are no risks of taking it. Also, if you wish to possibly improve your skin health, nail growth, hair vibrance, and potentially have a small increase in joint inflammation, supplementing with some collagen in the morning on an empty stomach may be a good idea.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is exactly what it sounds like; vinegar made from apples! The main benefits are improved insulin sensitivity and blood glucose regulation and reduced appetite, which makes it a common dietary supplement as it may indirectly help digestion and fat loss.
Too much apple cider vinegar can damage various tissues, tooth enamel, and the digestive tract, because of its acidic nature (which is the case with all acidic edible items).
Research isn’t overwhelming and is limited, meaning it’s not something that we should tote as magic, but rather a small improvement and potentially worth daily supplementation. A common dose is a tablespoon daily or with 1-3 meals per day, usually meals containing carbs. We often recommend Now Foods ACV Capsules, to avoid the nasty flavor of The ACV Shot.
Citrulline Malate is a supplement comprised of L-Citrulline bound to malate, an organic salt of malic acid, which is an intermediate in the citric acid cycle. Research on citrulline malate vs. L-Citrulline is limited, but it’s thought to be a better form for performance enhancements.
L-Citrulline is an amino acid in the urea cycle, along with L-Arginine and L-Ornithine. Taking citrulline increases plasma levels of ornithine and arginine and improves the ammonia recycling process and nitric oxide metabolism. During this process, it is turned into L-arginine in the kidneys, which actually makes it more effective for increasing arginine levels in the body than supplementing with pure arginine (the notorious nitric oxide supplement known for helping you get a pump in the gym).
Because of this, we actually don’t typically recommend arginine but rather citrulline malate. There is limited research, but the research we do have is promising and leads us to believe it may reduce fatigue, improve endurance (aerobic and anaerobic), and increase arginine levels, helping to achieve better blood flow and more of a pump during training.
HOW TO TAKE:
For increased pump and performance, dosage ranges between 6,000-8,000mg about an hour prior to exercise. We suggest Bulk Supplements for citrulline malate.
Beet Root Juice is a supplement version of its title, juiced or micronized beet root. It’s relatively new and has limited research, but the nutrient itself has a high nitrate content that’s said to help enhance performance, much like citrulline malate or arginine is. Dosing is suggested around 6.4-12.8mg/kg, if we’re targeting the supplemental form of beet root. This is similar to about 500g of actual food beetroots. We suggest trying it out via smoothie form, as food sources of beetroot have other healthy and beneficial nutrients in them. If you experience improved performance, supplementing may be worth it.
At this time, there is too little research to claim it as an effective performance enhancer or for us to recommend clients purchasing.
Caffeine is one of the most studied performance enhancing supplements there is on the market. Caffeine is a stimulant, meaning it acts as a central nervous system “activator” or “wakening agent” to increase alertness, cognition, performance, and overall energy. It is also used as an anti-sleep agent for those needing to stay away for long periods of time.
It is naturally produced from coffee beans but can also be created in a lab. Regardless, caffeine has the same structure and benefits regardless of if it comes from coffee, pills, tea, or energy drinks.
Caffeine has a lot of science to back up it’s efficacy, but it’s description is very simple. It’s a compound that increases energy and alertness, making it helpful for both labor, mental work, and sport performance. Studies do show a correlation between caffeine and fat loss, but it’s primarily through a means of increased heart rate and energy, which leads to harder training and that is what results in fat loss (making fat loss an indirect benefit of caffeine, technically).
Something to note is that you can create a tolerance to caffeine, meaning it’s important to keep intake moderate so you do not grow a tolerance and have nulled effects from it. Because of this, you may need to keep it moderate or cycle it in and out. Be aware that loading caffeine and then removing can lead to withdrawal, poor energy, and headaches.
HOW TO TAKE:
Dosing for caffeine is very person dependent, but ranges from 100-500mg per day.
Ashwagandha is an herb known as an adaptogen, classified with other adaptogens like lions mane, siberion ginseng, rhodiola, etc…
Ashwagandha specifically is better known for its calming effect to help reduce stress and anxiety. It may also improve strength performance, glucose metabolism, and possible increase testosterone levels. All the benefits and results seen from ashwagandha are proven by limited research, so more is needed for us to confidently recommend it under normal circumstances (potentially worth it in situations of extreme need of help).
Some research shows it’s ability to reduce cortisol levels, which may be the reason for its effectiveness on performance, stress, anxiety, and other health properties.
HOW TO TAKE:
Standard dosing is around 300-500mg of a root extracted ashwagandha, daily, with meals (once or broken up).
L-Theanine is another amino acid known for having calming effects, commonly taken to help improve sleep, improve mood, promote relaxation, and reduce stress and anxiety. It’s an amino, but it’s not essential and is very hard to find within the diet. Because of this, it’s needed to be supplemented with in order to have a positive brain health/neurotransmitter effect.
L-Theanine is found in green and black teas. It should be supplemented with at night if one experiences difficulties sleeping or tends to have a lot of stress or anxiety. L-Theanine can “take the edge off” when feeling wired, consuming too much caffeine, or needing to down regulate the nervous system late at night prior to bed.
HOW TO TAKE:
Dosing tends to be 100-200mg daily. It can be taken prior to bed, but it hasn’t been shown to directly induce sleep, rather it’s a calming agent that simply makes sleep better. In fact, coupled with caffeine seems to show a great effect for stimulating cognitive performance without the anxiety, which may be why some energy drinks contain theanine as well.
Cody McBroom is owner and head coach of Boom Boom Performance. He’s a Strength and Nutrition Coach located in Seattle WA, but coaches people and other coaches internationally. His passion is helping individuals change their lives through body composition transformation, as well as creating content across all platforms to help individuals and other coaches learn more about how to apply the science of training and nutrition. Click Here Now to Apply For Coaching with Cody.