I am going to get on my soapbox a bit here...fair warning.
Let me clearly articulate from jump, there are NO magic bullets, miracle pills, or panaceas that will get you the results you want. If you really want to make marked improvement in your health and performance; get enough sleep, get your nutrition on point, manage your stress, follow a training plan to manage workload appropriately, and THEN we can look to add supplementation to maximize performance. If you need a 300 mg hit of caffeine to have enough energy for your workout you are likely under fueled, over stressed, or under recovered.
Supplementation is an adjunct to optimize performance or improve your nutritional profile, and should be used as such. When used appropriately and from quality manufacturers, supplements can be helpful in improving diet and performance.
Unfortunately, dietary supplements are not regulated by the FDA so it is very important that you only take supplements made by companies with clear quality assurance and testing standards that are transparent and available for the public.
There is also the problem of marketing claims and package labeling. In the US, there are not strong regulations preventing dubious claims so long as you indicate, "These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease", which you will find on pretty much every dietary supplement sold rendering it useless. Marketers and manufacturers can make ridiculous claims of efficacy and benefit with VERY LITTLE oversight or regulation. They typically only get caught or in trouble when someone is harmed.
The problem with figuring out if you are getting a clinically effective dosage is that manufacturers are only required to say what the ingredients are but not required to tell you how much of each ingredient is in their product, ostensibly to protect their intellectual property. This is why you see the "Proprietary Blend of XYZ ingredients" on so many supplements.
So you may or may not be getting the dose you need to get the desired result depending on IF the product actually contains what the label says it contains (which is not checked by the FDA) and IF you can somehow ascertain how much of the desired ingredient is in the "Proprietary Blend".
I only use and recommend supplements that are evidence based, transparently labeled with clinically effective doses and from manufacturers with good manufacturing practices. These are the supplements and brands I use personally and with my athletes.
*I am an affiliate of Gaspari Nutrition and you receive a 20% discount off of retail prices by using my affiliate links or code JWright20 at checkout.*
- Coach Jordan
I divide my supplementation recommendations into 3 categories: Essentials, Recommended, and Optional.
Essentials: These are the supplements that I recommend for everyone as they are important for optimal health and typically deficient in people eating a traditional Western diet.
Recommended: These are supplements that are safe and effective but geared more toward performance enhancement or other specific goals/needs.
Optional: These are supplements that have promising research or anecdotal support, and may be worth including in your regimen if you have the budget and/or a specific need.
As someone with a strong family history of heart disease, I have been taking fish oil supplements to reduce my cardiovascular risk for many years now, and I generally recommend it to all my athletes as a foundational support supplement. Research is very strong in support of its benefits, and there are few side effects or risk of harm as long as it is free from heavy metal contamination.
Clinical dosing recommendations vary, but typically fall in the range of 1-6 grams per day, but concertation of EPA & DHA are also very important. The Omega-3 contains essential omega-3 fatty acids:
960 mg of DHA ( docosahexaenoic acid) has been shown in recent research to support cardiometabolic biomarkers.‡
720 mg of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) has been shown in research to reduce inflammation, support mood & brain function, and cardiovascular health.‡
Gaspari Nutrition | Proven Egg Protein | $35.99
Getting adequate protein intake everyday is the biggest challenge that my athletes most consistently face so taking a supplemental protein can help ensure you have enough protein to support your lean tissue and your goals. This 100% Egg White Protein is highly bioavailable and free of hormones, antibiotics, dairy & lactose with no artificial flavors, colors & sweeteners and comes in a variety of flavors.
Gaspari Nutrition | Vitamin C | $7.49
Vitamin C is an important, water-soluble, vitamin that has demonstrated support for many parts of the immune system. It's essential for general health and well being, and less and less concentrated in the modern food supply.
Douglas Labs | Vitamin D | $13.00
Vitamin D, also known as the “sunshine vitamin”, is an essential fat-soluble vitamin that plays many important roles in the proper functioning of the body. Though classified as a vitamin, vitamin D is actually a key regulatory hormone for calcium and bone metabolism. Adequate vitamin D status is essential for ensuring normal calcium absorption and maintenance of healthy plasma calcium levels.† Besides bone support, vitamin D has many other roles in the body, including modulation of cell growth, neuromuscular and immune function.† Numerous scientists now feel that supplementation with vitamin D at levels greater than previously thought necessary is critical to helping maintain healthy bone remodeling and healthy vitamin D plasma levels.†
Douglas Labs | Magnesium | $20.90
Magnesium is a mineral with a fundamentally important physiological function that plays an essential role in a wide range of cellular reactions. Magnesium is involved in protein synthesis and energy metabolism to maintain muscle contraction and relaxation. The magnesium-adenosine triphosphate (Mg-ATP) molecule provides the energy used in physical activities. The utilization and distribution of magnesium is regulated by exercise, which in the presence of abundant magnesium may decrease oxygen requirements by muscle cells to enhance physical movements.
Gaspari Nutrition | OMEGA-3 | $19.49
Gaspari Nutrition | Creatine Monohydrate | $12.00
When it comes to supplements that support sports performance improvement, good old fashioned Creatine Monohydrate is the OG and undisputed king. You don't need to fancy it up with multi-forms, alkaline creatine, buffered creatine, etc. That's just BS marketing to convince you to buy a more expensive (profitable) version of a staple supplement that works in a simple, cheap form.
How much do I need?
The scientific literature is conclusive: you need about 3.5 grams of pure creatine daily to eventually reach muscle saturation. Creatine monohydrate is about 73% creatine and 27% monohydrate salt (which makes it mix well in water).
Do I REALLY need to load?
The short answer is no, you do not NEED a loading phase but it shortens the time frame to start seeing benefits. You need to reach muscle saturation to see the performance benefits supported in the research. It takes about a month to do that with a 3.5 gram daily dose. If you do a loading phase of 20 g daily you will reach that saturation point in about a week.
Be forewarned that creatine monohydrate is associated with water retention (it's 27% salt after all) so do not be surprised if your weight ticks up a bit right away, but that is merely water retention that is helping your muscles perform better.‡
Gaspari Nutrition | Glycofuse | $45.37
Athletes training in highly glycolytic activities like kettlebell sport, CrossFit, or MMA need a high-performance carbohydrate-based supplement. Glycofuse® uses Highly Branched Cyclic Dextrin (HBCD) as its main ingredient. Unlike other simple carbs, it is low glycemic and does not cause a rapid rise in blood glucose levels while providing sustained energy over prolonged aerobic and anaerobic physical activities. Providing rapid gastric emptying and avoiding bloating common to many carbohydrate-based supplements, makes this supplement ideal for post workout source of carbs for recovery and glycogen replenishment.‡
Gaspari Nutrition | Proven EAAs | $25.49
There are nine essential amino acids that must be present in sufficient amounts for the body to grow and repair muscle tissue. It is proven that these proteins are termed "essential' because the body does not produce them and, must get them from dietary sources. Without them, your body's ability to support anabolic activity may be compromised. ‡
Proven EAAs provides 9 grams of the full spectrum of all essential amino acids, including 6 grams of BCAAs in a scientifically supported Leucine heavy ratio of 4:1 :1, to maximize muscle growth and recovery. Each serving comes in an electrolyte matrix to improve athletic performance.‡
Gaspari Nutrition | Proven Greens & Reds | $29.99
Different colors of fruits and vegetables contain different kinds of phytochemicals – each with their own unique set of qualities. The major colors are red and green, not coincidentally located at opposite ends of the color wheel. Red fruits and vegetables tend to contain more anthocyanins, tannins, flavonoids, carotenoids, and stilbenes. Greens contain coumarins, phytosterols, and lignans as well as flavonoids. Broadly, these chemicals participate in anti-oxidation, lipid metabolism, and glucose metabolism.‡
Proven Greens & Reds is Gaspari's premium, nutrient-dense, all-natural, superfood, high in natural vitamins and minerals, and strong phytonutrients that help promote good health and a strong immune system, good digestion, helps process toxins and naturally balances alkalinity. Only the highest quality, all-natural, ingredients go into Gaspari's Proven Greens & Reds. Extracts from wholesome, organic, dark red fruits and berries and dark green vegetables, free of pesticides and genetic modifications, are the only ingredients you'll find in Gaspari's new Proven Greens & Reds.
Gaspari Nutrition | L-glutamine | $13.85
L-Glutamine is the most prevalent amino acid in the body, and it's highest concentration is found in the gut. Research suggests that individuals with leaky gut syndrome or other digestive issues may benefit from supplementing with L-Glutamine to restore gut health and function.‡