I used to be a supplement junkie. I used to have nearly all letters of the alphabet and all minerals of the periodic table in my supplement box. I also used to take protein, creatine, and occasionally glutamine, too. I took this combo for increasing athletic performance and increasing speed of recovery.
I never took all my supplements at the same time, and I never took them all every day, but my main reason for having so many was for self-experimentation. I won't go into the details of it, but after years of self-experimentation, I've come to a conclusion:
The majority of supplements are unnecessary; some supplementation could even be harmful. Minor tweeks to your diet and lifestyle will give you much better results.But, in my case, there are some supplements I think are worth taking. These are the ones that I am currently taking:
This is the only one I take regularly. I take 1000–3000 IUs a day in winter. Ideally I would like to get all of it from the sun, but in winter I don't have many chances to get outside when the sun is at peak hours. When I'm not supplementing with vitamin D in winter, I get sick more often and I feel depressed. SAD? I think so. I feel worse in every possible way without vitamin D. I get plenty of vitamin D from the sun in the sunny months, so no supplementation is necessary for me in summer.
Here is an amazing presentation, “Vitamin D and Prevention of Chronic Diseases.” It's a captivating and occasionally hilarious 60 min. video—seriously.
If you're living in an industrialized nation you should probably worry about your omega 3/6 ratio. A 1:1 ratio is said to dramatically reduce markers of inflammation. Unfortunately Omega 6s are everywhere. They're in vegetable oils, food at restaurants, soy, and grain fed livestock. Being exposed to these are going to throw off your natural omega 3/6 ratio. I eat fish, rich in omega 3s, at least three times a week, but this is still not enough for me to get near a 1:1 ratio. Ideally I'd like to remove the inflammatory omega 6s, but it's quite hard. So to balance the scale I have to supplement.
When I was younger and skateboarding, I put lots of pressure and impact on my joints. I used to always have trouble with inflammation. I was sore for days after a session. Now, much older, I can skateboard for longer and not feel any pain from inflammation the next day. Is this thanks to fish oil supplementation and trying to avoid omega 6s? Perhaps.
Another reason I take fish oil is because I believe it helps with cognition. Maybe it's a placebo effect, but when I'm supplementing with it, I do feel an increase in my concentration ability. It also has many other benefits. See here.
Yes, basically that's it for me. I do have other supplements, but I rarely take them. They are mainly left-overs from my junkie phase. I trashed quite a few, but these are the ones I decided to keep:
Not for it's claimed libido increasing properties, but because I thought it would increase testosterone, therefore increase ability to gain lean body mass by anabolic exercise. I never felt any difference in my “gains” when taking it. I experimented for about one month.
For my bones, teeth, and eyes. Little did I know, offal, which I eat a few times a week, is rich in vitamin A. I'm not taking it anymore, but I still have it. I bought the bottle two years ago!
To improve the strength of my teeth and nails. For the last few months I drank way too much coffee and I think it depleted my mineral stores . My teeth and nails felt weaker. I took it for a few days and felt results. Placebo effect? Maybe… But my teeth are feeling better, it prevents future tooth decay, and my nails are hard enough to stab through someone's chest.
Calcium + Magnesium
Vegetable soil doesn't offer the minerals it used to… Magnesium helps with stress, sleep, and exercise recovery. Also, possibly from the excess intake of caffein, as stated above, I think I was suffering from adrenal fatigue. Magnesium helps with this, too.
For building muscle mass and speeding up recovery. I bought a 3 kg bag about a year ago. I stopped taking it regularly because I don't like the bloated feeling from getting calories in liquid form. Also, I'd rather get my protein from natural food, rich in vitamins and minerals, too. I'll take it only on physically strenuous days I'm desperate for time, protein, and calories.
If you're following a Paleo template or Primal diet, you probably won't have to supplement. However, vitamin D supplementation is recommended in winter if you work indoors during the day and live far away from the equator. You should be able to get 10 min. of sun a day during the sunny months, right? Fish oil is recommended if your omega 3/6 ratios are offset due to processed foods, grain fed livestock, and so on.
Eat well, supplement less.