IntroI 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:
Vitamin DThis 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.
Fish OilIf 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.
CreatineIt gets you jacked, it gives you explosive athletic performance, and it has almost no negative side-effects. I've been taking it intermittently since high school. I've always felt better and stronger when I have creatine in me.
Protein PowderFor 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.
ConclusionIf you're following a Paleo template or Primal diet, you probably won't have to supplement. However, vitamin D supplementation is recommended if you work indoors during the day and/or live far away from the equator. You should be able to get 10 minutes of sun a day, during the sunny months, right?
Eat well, supplement less.