Over 5 years ago I published an article on the four best supplements on the market. It quickly became one of the most linked to, re-posted and ripped-off articles I ever wrote. However, between the old Elements website getting hacked (twice) and crashing beyond all recovery, that article has been lost to the abyss of the internet. I am still frequently asked about this topic, so I thought that I would not only rewrite the article, but update it to reflect my last five years’ worth of continued research and experience.
I haven’t included references in the article, but they are easy to find and you can find the majority by clicking here.
It is important to note that I am not a doctor, and I don’t pretend to be one on the internet. If you are pregnant, have a chronic condition or are taking medication, you should consult a physician before commencing any supplementation regime.
The most important thing to know about supplements is that, as their name suggests, they are supplementary. You cannot supplement your way out of a crappy diet and poor lifestyle choices. If you dine on fruit loops three times a day, get 5 hours sleep and are more stressed than a goldfish in a blender, jamming pills and tablets down your gullet isn’t going to help.
Magnesium is necessary for maintaining healthy heart function, the transmission of nerve impulses and the formation of healthy bones. It’s probably the most underrated supplement on the market. It’s cheap, easy to obtain and, unlike the majority of supplements, it actually does something.
Maintaining a good level of magnesium aids in the production of Adrenosine Triphosphate (ATP), helps lower Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) levels and improves the quality of your sleep.
You lose magnesium through your sweat, and it is difficult to get a sufficient amount from dietary sources of magnesium, such as dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds and fish. So practically everyone can benefit from supplementation.
There are many forms of magnesium supplement, each claiming to be better than the others. All you really need to know is to avoid magnesium oxide as it is difficult to absorb and there is little sense in paying for a supplement your body cannot use.
If you do decide to start taking magnesium, start with a dose of 100mg a day, and over the course of a couple of weeks build up to taking 300-400mg a day.
Vitamin D lowers inflammation, improves cognition and sleep quality, reduces the risk of breast cancer, lessens the effects of seasonal affective disorder, and is absolutely critical for the healthy functioning of your body.
In addition, up to 50% of Australians are deficient in Vitamin D, which seems insane in a country that is practically synonymous with sunshine. But the reality is that an increasing number of Australians spend the majority of their time indoors either at school, at work or at home. Add to that the fact that increasing age, weight and inflammation makes it more difficult to convert sunlight to vitamin D, and you end up in a situation where supplementing the most abundant and freely accessible vitamins on earth makes sense.
A sensible supplementation dose is between 2000iu and 5000iu a day.
So much has been written and said about fish oil (or more specifically Omega 3 essential fatty acids), that I will not add it here. Simply put, fish oil is straight up the best anti-inflammatory supplement you can take.
Fish oil is comprised of the Omega 3 essential fatty acids Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). When determining your dose, you should be looking at these combined values, and not at the total amount of fish oil. If you are an itty bitty person, you’ll probably want around 2g a day, and if you’re a giant you’ll probably want about 4g.
What about Zinc?
Some of you may remember that in my original supplement article I also recommended taking Zinc. It is the case that the majority of people are low or even deficient in zinc, and that supplementing zinc would benefit practically everybody and athletes in particular.
The problem is that any dose that actually makes a difference, also makes 90% of people feel incredibly nauseous about 20 minutes after ingestion. The nausea passes quickly but is still unpleasant enough to make Zinc supplementation not quite worth it. If you have dreams of being in the Olympics for weightlifting or the discus, consider trying some Zinc supplements, otherwise I would suggest giving it a miss.