Check with a doctor before starting any supplement plan
There’s no secret that many men swear on the benefits of certain supplements. Unfortunately, if you went by testimonials, manufacturer websites, and poorly designed research studies, you’d ingesting nothing but supplements–because virtually every supplement on the planet has an army of supporters who swear by it– an MD paid to lend a quote about it, and a poorly designed study to support an ingredient or two in the supplement.
Furthermore, the nutrition and supplement industry is largely unregulated, giving license to manufacturers to essentially exaggerate, mislead, and dilute active ingredients down to minuscule levels with no accountability whatsoever.
However, despite our skepticism regarding the supplement / nutrition industry, some supplements do have a place in your life. Here is a sensible routine in our opinion, arrived at through a critical lens (mind you I am not an MD), based on research we’ve read and personal results I’ve had.
If you’re serious about gaining muscle while gaining as little excess fat as possible, high protein intake, and a high protein / calorie diet ratio, is a must. If you can accomplish this through eating lean meats and diet alone, that is the preferred route in my opinion.
However, not everyone can easily eat the “bodybuilder recommend” amounts of protein from regular food alone. To that end, protein supplementation has value. Most protein supplements are quite similar, so I typically encourage you to choose your supplement based on type (Whey or Casein based are the most popular, with rice and pea mixtures fitting if you’re Vegan), taste, and price.
My favorite is Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey Double Rich Chocolate Flavor, mostly because the price is right and I like the taste.
2. Zinc and Magnesium
The literature is mixed on the benefits of many vitamins, and the same holds for zinc and Magnesium. However, zinc plays a role in the production of testosterone and in the strength of the immune system, and there is some evidence that in those with deficiencies in zinc, that zinc supplementation has benefits and has led to increased strength gains. Furthermore, zinc deficiency is not uncommon in athletes. With that said, there is also plenty of evidence that zinc supplementation is no more effective than placebo for athletic performance.
Magnesium, while capable of causing an upset stomach if you ingest too much of it, has been shown to have some vascular benefits. I have personally noticed a difference in my energy levels and sex drive when I’ve supplemented with zinc and magnesium, especially in times when I haven’t been eating a lot meat, and while hardly scientific, there are many threads on popular bodybuilding forums started by those who have posted about changes they’ve noticed once they started supplementing with zinc + magnesium or ZMA. Increased “morning wood” is a very common one which I’ve noticed as well.
You can get your zinc and magnesium through a ZMA supplement (which also includes Vitamin B-6) such as Optimum’s Nutrition ZMA Capsules (the best value I can find without extra questionable ingredients) or you can simply take a zinc and magnesium supplement individually. I haven’t noticed much of a difference whether or not I got my zinc and magnesium through ZMA or as individual vitamins.
It’s typically best to take at least the zinc at night without food, as calcium can interfere with absorption of zinc.
3. Vitamin D
Vitamin D deficiency is very common and it has been linked to a variety of ailments ranging from mood swings to cancer. Your body requires sunlight to synthesize vitamin D, which at the time of this writing, in the midst of a pandemic, there’s a good chance you’re not getting as much of as you’re used to.
Vitamin D supplementation is relatively easy, there are plenty of cheap supplements available. In my opinion, they are all pretty much the same, the only differences being price and dosage. The recommend dosage is around 1000 IUs (25mg) though there is some evidence that suggests higher (as much as 5000 IUs) is optimal.
I usually get Nature’s Bounty Vitamin D3 2000 IU dosage which seems like a reasonable dosage, higher than the standard dosage, but not excessively high like some of the 5,000 or even 10,000 IU options out there.
4. Fish Oil
Fish oil is a oil rich in Omega-3s and DHA that supposedly helps reduce inflammation and aids cardiovascular health. These claims are not without controversy, though in my opinion, there as at least credible evidence from meta studies that diets rich in fish are healthy and on the margin, it appears to me that fish oil does have some health benefits. There’s also little that I’ve seen that suggests fish oil is harmful and most concerns about PCBs and mercury do not seem to be very credible. (Mercury is a concern when eating fish, but seemingly not with fish oil).
I usually just buy Nature’s Bounty as it’s affordable and easy to find. While testing of fish oil supplements have shown variations, it’s very difficult to find credible information about which ones are actually good or bad, so I just go with the easy one to get.
While the evidence on the benefit taking a regular daily multivitamin is mixed–most multivitamins do have at least reasonable amounts of Zinc, Magnesium, and Vitamin D. In other words, a multivitamin can be an easy way to get those vitamins and a bunch of other vitamins as well. However, dosage amounts of zinc and magnesium are generally low versus levels where I’ve seen results, and often multivitamins include calcium which can hurt the absorption of zinc.
When I’m lazy I go with One A Day’s Men’s Multi because at has 100+% DV of both Zinc and Vitamin D and it’s cheap. However, it (along with many multis) is low on magnesium and it does have calcium which can negatively impact zinc absorption as I mentioned earlier.
Check with a Doctor
The supplement plan presented here is just my opinion based on my personal experience and reading of scientific literature. You should always check with a doctor before using any supplement as we all have unique health profiles.