With so many health supplements claiming to provide any number of benefits, it is often difficult to know which direction to take.
Despite the confusion, some staple supplements have dozens of research studies and unanimous support from all the leading experts in our industry.
Rather than blindly following label claims, hoping for the best, this article will help provide information on my top seven supplements for body composition and health!
Whey Protein Supplements
When it comes to improving body composition or adding lean muscle mass and reducing body fat, whey protein is always towards the top of the list.
Whey protein is one constituent of dairy (milk) protein, with the other being casein. During the process of making cheese, the milk used coagulates, separating the solid portion (casein) from the liquid. This liquid is what is constitutes whey.
Whey Protein is special as it belongs to a class of proteins, suitably named complete proteins, which provide a complete amino acid profile and include all nine essential amino acids required to build new muscle proteins.
Unlike incomplete proteins that you may find in some plants and grains, whey protein provides the key BCAAs that every athlete, including even the beginner gym enthusiast, needs to optimize their results and body.
Furthermore, whey protein has a very high content of the BCAA leucine. Leucine is widely regarded as the initiator of a biological pathway that deals with muscle protein synthesis. Out of all 28 amino acids, Leucine is king and vitally important.
Whey protein can be used to increase your total protein intake every day; I recommend 1-3 scoops a day, either post-workout or as a meal replacement or protein boost (with lower protein meals).
If using it as a post-workout solution I recommend, females consume around 1.5 scoops and males consume around two scoops.
The Benefits of Whey Protein
Whey protein provides some different benefits that justify being placed on this list of supplements.
- Increases Muscle Protein Synthesis: Consuming Whey protein reliably increases muscle protein synthesis and provides the necessary amino acids to help build muscle mass (30, 32, 35).
- Decreases Fat Mass: Multiple studies have revealed that when individuals consume whey regularly, this consumption correlates with a decrease in fat mass (10, 23) likely due to a direct increase in metabolism and also a reduction in hunger (10).
- Decreased Appetite: Whey protein has been revealed to have a beneficial effect on appetite, which can play a role in long-term weight loss (21).
- Improved Hunger Hormones: Whey protein consumption has also been shown to optimize your hunger hormones, reducing the bad hunger promoting hormone ghrelin and then improving the beneficial, satiating hormone leptin.
- Increase Insulin Sensitivity: Improving insulin sensitivity has been revealed with supplementation of whey protein. Doing so will help how your body uses carbohydrate when ingested (28).
Fish Oil / Omega 3 Supplements
Fish oil is one of the healthiest nutrients and fats on the planet.
Used for a variety of benefits, including general health, bone health, reducing cardiovascular disease risk, optimizing blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity and even boosting brain health.
Fish oil is a general term for supplements containing two specific omega-3 fatty acids: EPA and DHA. These are the two specific fats that provide all the unique benefits.
If taken regularly, fish oil has been shown to reduce triglycerides and improve cholesterol levels, two key markers of heart health and cardiovascular disease risk.
Other Benefits of Fish Oil / Omega 3
Fish oil or Omega 3 is also beneficial for brain health, specifically linked to the DHA fats. For example, studies have shown it can reduce incidences of depression and even cognitive decline as we age.
Unfortunately, in today’s society, generally, we consume a higher ratio of Omega-6 fatty acids or polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) than we do of Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids have been widely regarded as being pro-inflammatory, while Omega-3s are regarded as an anti-inflammatory.
Remember, inflammation is linked to diabetes, heart disease, obesity, impaired gut health and numerous other health issues. Reducing chronic inflammation with a healthy lifestyle and extra omega three intake is one of the smartest actions you can take for your health (7).
Along with fighting inflammation, fish oil can increase fat oxidation, i.e. the amount of fat you burn (6).
How to Take Omega 3 Fish Oil
Fish oil is a supplement that doesn’t seem to have immediate effects as you must increase your body’s stores. While you can obtain omega three from the diet, mainly via oily fish and walnuts, it is very hard to consistently obtain the required levels our bodies need on a daily basis.
For that reason, most people revert to supplementation, it is far cheaper (than three pieces of fish per day, for example), more convenient and allows you to stay consistent.
Aim for around 3-5 grams of fish oil per day that is high in EPA/DHA. You ideally want around 700mg of EPA/DHA per 1 gram fish oil, anything lower than 500mg per 1 gram is under dosed.
Creatine Monohydrate Supplements
Creatine is a supplement that almost every athlete should be utilizing.
The benefits of taking creatine range from improvements in markers of athletic performance such as power, strength and muscle growth to potentially protecting and increasing growth of neurons in the brain!
Creatine is a substance that, when consumed, increases levels of phosphocreatine in the muscle. When the muscle is under stress such as during a bout of high-intensity exercise, this phosphocreatine donates phosphate to be used for energy production. When your muscle contracts, phosphate is removed from the body’s main energy source, adenosine tri-phosphate (ATP). When this phosphate is removed, ATP is converted to ADP and releases energy.
Phosphocreatine (creatine in muscle) donates its phosphate so that the new ADP can be reconverted to ATP again, for continued energy release.
What are the Benefits of Creatine?
Creatine boasts many different benefits that extend much further than just improvements in athletic performance.
- Increased Lean Mass: Supplementation with creatine may lead to an increase in lean mass in addition to a decrease in muscle breakdown (4,16).
- Increased Power Output: Creatine supplementation has time and again been shown to improve power output. This is a strong measure of athletic performance and may provide increased stimulus for strength and muscle growth (18).
- Decreased Muscle Damage: Creatine has been shown to reduce muscle damage, which can help improve recovery time from intense exercise bouts (3).
- Neuroprotection: Creatine supplementation may provide neuroprotection and even promote the growth of new neurons in the brain (20, 38)
Creatine comes in many different forms. However, the form that is the cheapest and most studied is creatine monohydrate.
Since muscle must be saturated with creatine for it to be effective, the suggested daily dose of creatine is 3-5 grams, preferably in the post workout period along with food.
You can learn more about creatine, the benefits, different dosing protocols and more in this full Creatine 101 Guide.
Garlic Extract Supplements
Having a strong immune system is imperative for long-term health. Garlic is a supplement that may help boost your immune system to provide protection against viruses and bacterial threats.
Garlic is also my favorite long-term supplement to ward off threats such as the common cold. In fact, studies have revealed that it can play a strong role in optimizing immune function to respond optimally to viral threats (2, 25).
Studies have even shown that along with garlic supplementation, not only the incidence of contracting a cold is reduced, but also if you do happen to have one, garlic significantly reduces the severity of symptoms (13).
Here are just some of the awesome benefits that garlic supplement provides:
- Rate of sickness: There is strong evidence that consistent supplementation of garlic reduces the incidence of sickness (13, 25).
- Decrease in Blood Pressure: Studies have revealed that garlic is a strong candidate for reducing blood pressure (31).
- Decrease in Total Cholesterol: Total cholesterol seems to be reliably reduced with regular supplementation of garlic (17).
Garlic can be consumed via whole garlic cloves however like fish oil, this isn’t that realistic on a daily basis.
It must be noted that in order to receive the main bioactive ingredient Allicin, which benefits of garlic are attributed, you must either crush or chew whole garlic for it to be produced.
For this reason, and just general ease of use, I recommend you consume around 1gram of garlic daily.
Melatonin is a natural substance that is produced primarily by our pituitary glands. Its main role within the body is a primary regulator of our circadian rhythm or sleep/wake cycle.
When you sleep and wake at a normal time everyday (i.e. inline with sunrise and sunset), your body begins to release melatonin towards the end of the day, based on this schedule. Eventually, it rises to a high enough level that it makes you incredibly tired and puts you to sleep.
However, in modern day life, this natural production is often interrupted due to constant exposure to blue light emitting devices such as televisions, laptops and smartphones.
Unfortunately, this artificial light emits a spectrum that directly inhibits melatonin release when it hits receptors in our eyes. This is a key reason why many people nowadays have sleep issues.
While you can and should take appropriate action to reduce blue light exposure at night, melatonin supplementation improves sleep quality by reducing symptoms of insomnia (22).
Benefits of Melatonin and How To Dose Melatonin Supplements
While most people think that’s the only benefit, melatonin can help with:
- Decreased Insomnia: Melatonin supplementation appears to reliably decrease incidences of insomnia (36).
- Increased Plasma Melatonin: Melatonin supplementation increases levels of melatonin in the blood, which may offset negative effects of light exposure (5).
- Symptoms of Jet Lag: Jet lag or symptoms of fatigue after travel across time zones seems to be decreased with melatonin supplementation. Likely due to re-alignment of circadian rhythm (11).
- Increased Growth Hormone: Melatonin supplementation seems to cause increases in Growth Hormone related with sleep. Supplementation may improve injury recovery, help you lose fat and increase muscle mass (9).
Melatonin can be taken in doses ranging from 0.5 mg to 10 mg (do not confuse mg with grams). I suggest that you start with a small dose (around 3mg is average) and increase as needed.
However, increasing your dose will not have a measurable effect on the length of time it takes to actually fall asleep.
Further, you should take melatonin only before bedtime and at a similar time each day to promote a normal circadian rhythm or sleep/wake cycle. Finally, because it alters your brain chemistry you should also check with your doctor first.
Click the banner below to check out CAPLabs Sleep Eazy, which 2g of melatonin and many other research-backed herbs to promote relaxation, growth hormone release, and improved sleep quality:
Green Tea Supplements
Green tea, otherwise known as Cemelia sinensis, is a plant with powerful benefits.
Although green tea has been consumed for many years, it is only as a result of recent research that it has been touted as a staple supplement for promoting fat loss, and even helping to prevent cancer.
Green tea’s success is largely attributed to the different types of catechins, or antioxidants that it provides.
In addition to other benefits, the catechin ‘EGCG’, for which green tea is famous, can freely pass through the blood-brain barrier and provide direct benefit on brain wave activity to boost cognition.
Benefits of Green Tea Supplement or Drink
In addition to Green Tea’s benefit on fat loss, it also provides other reasons to supplement with it regularly.
- Increased Insulin Sensitivity: Consuming green tea rich in EGCG catechins has ben shown to increase insulin sensitivity allowing for better glucose control (37)
- Increased Adiponectin: Studies on green tea have revealed an increase in the hormone adiponectin (12). Secreted by adipose tissue, adiponectin plays an immense role in glucose regulation and how fat is metabolized.
- Decreased Muscle Soreness: Supplementation of green tea extract rich in EGCG has been shown to reduce muscle soreness when taken prior to exercise. This may allow for greater muscle growth due to allowing an increased training frequency (15).
While simply consuming green tea may provide a similar benefit, using an extract supplement rich in EGCG is optimal.
Consider supplementing with an EGCG rich green tea supplement, twice per day (AM and around 2pm) to maximize the benefit. Only buy a supplement dosed at about 500mg mark, with over 40% EGCG content such as CAPLabs Green Tea with 48% EGCG content:
Probiotics are supplements that have taken over the fitness and health world in the last 10 years.
Research has begun to reveal that having a healthy gut and healthy bacteria levels can play an immense role, not only in digestive health but fat loss and metabolic health and even mental health as well.
In addition to helping maintain regular bowel habits, it has been suggested that having a healthy gut microbiome helps reduce your risk of becoming obese, likely due to an improvement in how you metabolize and absorb different nutrients, even reducing fat storage.
Studies have revealed that supplementation with probiotic supplements may even lead to favorable weight loss, alluding to the notion that the use of probiotics is almost essential for improving body composition and health.
Benefits of Probiotic Supplements
Supplementation with probiotics extends much further than simply improving digestion. Here are a few more benefits:
- Optimize Hormonal Function: Recent evidence suggests your microbiome is connected to different parts of the brain that regulate hormone secretion in the gut (34). Having healthy gut flora may optimize hormonal response to different stressors.
- Potential Decrease in Depression: Due to the complex connection between the gut and brain, supplementing with probiotics may reduce stress hormones implicated in depression (8).
- Reduced Inflammation: Studies have shown that regular supplementation of probiotics increases production of short-chain fatty acids in the gut, which may have anti-inflammatory properties (19).
- Reduced Risk of Contracting the Cold: A recent meta-analysis indicated that supplementation with probiotics may reduce your chance of contracting the common cold (14). This is likely due to an improvement in immune response to threats.
While there are many products that include probiotics supplements, yogurt and kefir are two of the best food choices if you eat them daily.
Whatever route you take, you need to consume them daily to improve gut health over the long term. Also, ensure that you are consuming those rich in strains such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium lactis which are 2 of the most research proven strains.
Take Home Message
While supplements are not an absolute requirement, they can certainly help and allow you to maximize your results. Of course, that’s only the case if you take research proven supplements, like the ones discussed above.
As with anything, ensure that you have a sound nutrition and diet in place first, in addition to using these supplements to optimize health.
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