Devin's Top Recommendations for Supplements That WorkDevin's Supplement Guide: Part 2 of 2
In Part 1: How to Know if a Supplement is Worth Taking, we talked about our selection process for a supplement. Both for brand and for the supplement ingredient itself.
Here in Part 2, Devin will talk about his top 3 recommendations for supplements and make brand recommendations.
Recommendation #1: Multivitamins
If you’re already eating a nutritious diet
A multivitamin can add extra coverage and enhance the good results that you’re already enjoying. Our farm soil is notoriously over-farmed, meaning that our foods don’t provide as much nutrition as they did even 20 years ago. (source)
The research on multivitamins can be conflicting, especially when you look in terms of disease prevention and changes in mortality rate. True, multivitamins won’t stop you from dying and it doesn’t look like it will stop you from getting cancer. This has led to a number of reports that they’re not worth taking.
Instead, I recommend reviewing the research on the beneficial effects of multivitamins on mood and energy. The research shows that multivitamins can absolutely improve quality of life.
The beneficial effect of multivitamins on mood and energy
- Increased alertness
- Reduced anxiety
- Reduced fatigue – especially cognitive fatigue (source)
- Overall improved feelings of well being
- One study found significant reductions in feelings of depression anxiety in men
- A large review of 8 studies found that multivitamins, especially those with high levels of B Vitamins, led to overall improvement of everyday mood even among healthy people
Studies on multivitamins show a strong link between a multivitamin and improvements in mood and happiness. These benefits include increased alertness, reduced anxiety, reduced fatigue, and overall feelings of well being. (Link 1, Link 2, Link 3)
If you’re not eating a nutritious diet
A multivitamin can be a gamechanger.
Check out Precision Nutrition’s phenomenal guide on “fixing a broken diet”. No, really. Go read it, and then come back.
Ready? The very first step in their system for getting back on track is “Identifying and Removing Nutrient Deficiencies”.
As “Fixing a Broken Diet” points out, nutrient deficiencies are very common in the United States and especially across the world. Even athletes and nutrition undergraduates are deficient – especially in Vitamin D and Vitamin E.
(Source: USDA 2009, first seen here: http://www.precisionnutrition.com/fix-a-broken-di…
It shows how people can eat “clean” and only eat “healthy foods”, but still get lousy results and feel sluggish.
I’ve been there myself. I used to eat a raw diet with zero sugar, no grains, no dairy, and tons of fruits and veggies. I still didn’t feel quite right, until I started up on a good multivitamin.
Centrum doesn’t cut it. Big old D from Labdoor. 67th place out of 68th. What about Gummies? 64th, 65th, 66th, and 68th of 68 (sorry Fred Flintstone, you got last place)
For a premier multivitamin, I recommend and personally take Thorne’s Multi Vitamin Elite. The Multi Vitamin Elite is NSF Certified, making it effective and safe for athletes. I recommend this to my clients interested in maximizing recovery after workouts and for those interested in fat loss.
It has two parts – an AM blend for energy and a PM blend for rest, relaxation, and stress relief. The PM blend includes “Relora®, a proprietary blend of plant extracts shown to curb late-night cravings, optimize cortisol and DHEA levels, and aid in weight management*”.*
Special considerations for multivitamins:
An affordable option is Basic Nutrients, which is very similar to the Multi Vitamin Elite. A few differences are that Basic Nutrients has less of some ingredients, is taken all at once, and does not have Relora®.
Men over 40 often benefit from compounds that support prostate and cardiovascular health – Al’s Formula
Prenatal multivitamins are often recommended to women that are pregnant or expecting.
Women over 50 often benefit from a multivitamin with an emphasis on bone health and hormonal support for menopause – Meta Fem
Other brands that I recommend are Emerald and MegaFoods, both of which are available at Whole Foods. NOW also has excellent multivitamins that are well ranked by Labdoor. Garden of Life was top-ranked.
Thorne isn’t listed, but that’s likely because Thorne is only sold by medical professionals and select health & fitness professionals. Labdoor makes commission off of affiliate links), and they generally review brands that they can sell via Amazon’s affiliate program.
(Full disclosure: I also use affiliate links, and am able to provide Thorne to my clients via affiliate links. If you use one of my links, it helps support the gym and it’s an easy way to “tip” me for writing articles. Thorne is also only available to purchase through registered professionals, so it’s the only way to provide it to my clients. I include alternate recommendations for those who are made uncomfortable by affiliate recommendations or would prefer a different price point.)
Recommendation #2: Fish Oil
Useful for: Heart Health, Brain Health, Improving Cholesterol, Controlling Blood Sugar
Overall, Examine.com reports that fish oil is highly effective for:
- Improving cholesterol by reducing triglyceride levels (reliable reductions of 15-30%), increasing HDL (“good cholesterol”), and reducing LDL (“bad” cholesterol)
- Improving symptoms of depression and reducing anxiety
- Improving ADHD in children
- Improved mood
- Improved fat oxidation (slightly increased fat burning, noticed at 6g per day in one study) (source)
- Possible improvements in controlling blood sugar have been noticed in studies with more than 3-4g per day
- Reducing inflammation (https://examine.com/supplements/fish-oil/#hem-inflammation)
- Fish oil may help reduce hunger during the day and improve feelings of fullness (source)
In other words, research indicates benefits of for improved heart health and improved mood. Most of the effects were found in studies where participants took more than 3 or 4 grams per day.
In a systemic review of fish oil’s effect on health, it was found that “most trials reported that fish oil significantly reduced all-cause mortality, myocardial infarction, cardiac and sudden death, or stroke.”
Here’s the gist of why Omega 3 is so important, especially for Americans.
Examine.com’s notes indicate that the effects on weight loss and fat loss are unclear, but fish oil may be beneficial for people with existing insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is a key symptom of Type II diabetes or pre-diabetes. Simply put, the body is unable to regulate blood sugar correctly. And it’s much more common in the US than you think.
According to the CDC in 2012, 37% of U.S. adults over 20 are pre-diabetic and 51% of those 65 or older are pre-diabetic. 14.3% of the US population is diabetic. This means that over half of the US population is diabetic or pre-diabetic.
How Fish Oil Affects Inflammation
Fish oil also becomes important when a client is dealing with high inflammation.
The body thrives when the ratio of Omega 3 fatty acids to Omega 6 fatty acids is 1:1. When this happens, the body experiences far less inflammation and is more sensitive to insulin.
As a result, a nearly equal ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 is linked to a healthier heart, improved blood lipid profiles, a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, and even reduced risk of breast cancer.
The typical American diet is highly processed and high in saturated fat. This provides an Omega 3:6 ratio that is often closer to 1:20 than 1:1. Cue high inflammation and poor sensitivity to insulin.
In the early days of Precision Nutrition’s online coaching, the very first nutrition habit for new clients was to take a daily multivitamin, a probiotic, and a super high dosage of fish oil. Why? Because it balanced nutrition, removed major deficiencies, made people feel better, and improved the body’s ability to burn fat.
It was removed simply because people do best when they make their own choices.
In that light, I strongly recommend taking a daily multivitamin and fish oil supplement. Unless you’re eating fatty fish (like salmon, sardines, or mackerel 3x a week or more).
Examine.com has a thorough review. They recommend 1g a day for general health and 6g a day (2g, 3x a day) for reduced soreness. The studies that found improvements in heart health (reduced triglycerdies) often had 4-6g per day.
I take Thorne’s Omega Superb – Lemon Berry because it’s over 1g actual Omega 3 per teaspoon. It’s important to note that most fish oil labels include the total amount of fish oil (often 1g) and then detail how much EPA and DHA (both are the actual omega 3 fatty acids) is in the product.
1 teaspoon of Omega Superb contains 1,140mg of EPA + DHA. It makes taking a higher dose easier. For 3g of fish oil, it’s only $0.80 per day.
If the thought of swallowing the liquid oil freaks you out, check out Super EPA. It contains 1g fish oil per softgel and 695mg of Omega 3 each capsule. It’s highly concentrated.
PN recommends 3-9g a day of total fish oil (about 1-3g of EPA + DHA). This means 1-3 teaspoons of Omega Superb or 2-4 softgels of Super EPA. Super EPA has 90 softgels, meaning that a $30 bottle can last you for 45 days ($0.67 per day) at a moderate dose or 23 days ($1.34 per day) at a super high dose. Either way, it’s a great value for high quality.
Alternatively, you can supplement with Krill Oil. I recommend visiting Allstarhealth.com for Krill Oil.
- Precision Nutrition – All About Fish Oil
- Precision Nutrition – Why We Stopped Recommending Fish Oil: It may be good for you, but being told to take it isn’t (all about why they recommend fish oil, multis, and probiotics to their clients)
- Labdoor’s Fish Oil Rankings
- Examine.com – Fish Oil Review
- For my clients with weight loss goals or heart health goals, fish oil becomes a top supplement.
- Most of the studies with high positive effects, whether it was for improving fat burning, reducing triglycerides, or improving mood, came from amounts over 3-4g per day.
- They also took place after 6-8 weeks. Fish oil takes time to work.
Recommendation #3: Probiotic
Useful for: Gut Health, Digestion, Fat Loss, Mood
Probiotics have been all the rage in health news, lately. They have been linked to everything from mood and personality to weight gain and inflammation.
An unhealthy GI tract, lacking in the right microorganisms, can affect weight gain by:
- Make you hungrier by reducing the feeling of satiety after meals
- Make you fatter by increasing the formation of fat cells via triglycerides
- Make you burn less fat by decreasing fat oxidation by muscles during exercise
- Reducing insulin sensitivity
Not only that, but studies are finding that obese individuals have less healthy gut bacteria than people with a healthy weight. Studies where they’ve added probiotics have led to weight loss in humans, even without a change in diet.
In other studies, they found that the people that successfully lost weight had a different gut bacteria than those who didn’t – right from the start!
“Both of these studies demonstrate that the microbiota are differentiated between people prior to the change in weight, which suggests that therapeutic interventions aimed at reshaping the gut microbiota may be beneficial for weight loss as well as preventive against weight gain.” (Source)
Even when those people that didn’t lose weight dieted just as strictly!
In other words – it wasn’t their fault. They did everything right on the diet, but still didn’t lose weight because of their gut bacteria.
Product recommendation: Thorne’s Floramend Prime Probiotic
Thorne’s flagship Probiotic is Floramend Prime Probiotic, also a key part of their free Weight Management Program. Floramend contains Lactobacillus gaseri and Bifidobacterium (B. Bifidum & B. Longum) strains of probiotics.
Specifically, these two strains have several benefits for weight management and fat loss.
- A human study on Lactobacillus gaseri found a near 5% reduction in visceral (organ fat, the deadliest type) after supplementation
- Bifidobacterium enhances the absorption of calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus – all critical for bone health
- Bifidobacterium can reduce the chance of weight gain, especially in adolescence.
- Adding bifidobacterium has been shown to reduce inflammation and improve glucose tolerance (source)
Floramend Prime Probiotic is excellent for general gastrointestinal health. It is also formulated to be able to resist stomach acid, unlike many products.
PN recommends starting with a 5B dose, which is what FloraMend provides.
You can also get probiotics from fermented foods, such as kimchi, kefir, yogurt (thanks, Jamie Lee Curtis!), and saeurkraut. If you eat plenty of fermented foods (1-2 servings a day) and are healthy, you could be all set.
PN has a great article here (All About Probiotics), which also explains the benefits of pre-biotics. Pre-biotics can be found in food or supplement form, and basically give the probiotics what they need to survive. They’re often found in legumes, fruits, and whole grains.
For other brands, check out Labdoor’s independent lab analysis of probiotics here.
If you skipped to the bottom, here’s the good part.
For fat loss, I recommend taking a high quality multivitamin with fish oil and a probiotic supplement. Thorne’s Weight Management Program recommends taking 2 servings of Super EPA a day and 1 serving of the Floramend probiotic.
For general health (improved mood and increased energy), I recommend taking a high quality multivitamin with fish oil.
For heart health, fish oil can be very effective at reducing mortality rates and improving triglycerides. Most of the effective studies use dosages of 4-6g per day of fish oil.
For a probiotic, I only recommend Thorne’s Floramend as it contains both Lactobacillus gaseri and Bifidobacterium. Both of which are shown to be effective for fat loss and improved digestion.
Why I Recommend Thorne Research Products
It used to be that only medical doctors could provide Thorne Research products to their clients. It’s not available in stores. Through my certification with Precision Nutrition, I’ve been able to recommend Thorne to my clients. I’m very glad to be able to do so, as their quality is top-notch and their prices are similar to those of other high-quality providers.
- Thorne is one of the few companies that conducts stability testing on its products. Meaning that their products are guaranteed to be 100% effective up until their expiration date.
- MayoClinic is conducting clinical trials on specific Thorne Research products. It’s rare for a supplement line to have clinical trials on its own products, especially with an institution as well-regarded as MayoClinic
- Free of magnesium stearate, stearic acid, palmitic acid, and vegetable stearate. These chemicals can negatively affect the absorption rate of supplements. /// They use no binders, coatings, disintegrants or fillers or lubricants (including magnesium stearate, stearic acid, palmitic acid, and vegetable stearate) that may impair nutrient absorption.
- Thorne doesn’t use tablets, which may inhibit absorption and/or quality, and uses only capsules. If they use fillers, they’re naturally sourced as well.
- Exceptional nutrient quality and safety. The raw ingredients are tested for purity, mineral concentration, vitamin content, and potency before undergoing rigorous contaminant testing.
- Pure ingredients, whereas many other companies dilute vitamins in unnecessary ingredients
- Plus, they use vegetarian capsules instead of gelatin sourced from beef or pork.
- Non-GMO Verified
- NSF Certified for Sport (some products, not all, but the manufacturing facility has been inspected as part of that process)
- GMP Certified
- Only USDA organic-certified skin care line
- Official Nutritional Supplement Partner for the National Governing Bodies of USA Gymnastics, USA Pentathlon, USA Rugby, USA Triathlon, USA Taekwondo, US Rowing, and USA Softball, many of members of the US Olympic Committee
Learn more at https://www.thorne.com/quality
Nothing on this page is a substitute for the qualified opinion of a doctor or other medical professional. Always check with your doctor before adding a supplement to your personal care to make sure that there are no harmful interactions or contraindications. To be clear – I’m not a doctor, I don’t play one on TV, and please remember to always take my opinions with a grain of salt. There’s no substitute for your own research!
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-Devin Gray, CSCS
Personal Trainer and Nutrition Coach
NSCA-CSCS, FMSC, Pn1 Certified
B.S. in Exercise Science – Texas A&M University, Cum Laude
Devin is the owner & head coach of Optimize Fitness & Performance. He is an exercise geek, with a long list of certifications and coursework for personal training, nutrition coaching, and injury post-rehabilitation. In his personal workouts, Devin combines gymnastics drills, free weights, and kettlebell exercises to stay fit.
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