Supplements – The Minimalist Way

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Supplements – The Minimalist Way

May 8, 2012

There was once a time when I believed everything I read online. Someone’s blog would tell me that training regimen Bingo Bango Bongo coupled with supplements x, y, and z yielded them killer results, and I’d go running to the nearest store with the names of said items scribbled on a piece of paper. In the middle of processing my order online for protein powder, an ad would entice me to buy the newest fat-blasting miracle product for just a few more dollars – and click, into my shopping cart it would go. Because if someone was telling me that such-and-such was true, then obviously that must have been the case, correct?

The supplement industry has no ulterior motive. Its aim is to provide customers with accurate, reliable information and deliver honest, effective results. Its mission is to help individuals shed fat, pile on gobs of muscle, and push and pull ungodly numbers in the gym, all the while feeling fabulous. Take this pill three times a day and you’ll burn 3lbs of fat overnight; throw this powder into your shake and you’ll be the next Ronnie Coleman. Monetary profit is far from its primary concern.

And that’s the biggest lie I’ve told all year.

Thinking about how much of my hard-earned money I’ve squandered on supplements that did nothing but dash my high hopes is painful. Hundreds and hundreds of dollars have gone to waste over the years as I naively navigated my way through supplement stores. Here are your dreams, tightly sealed in a plastic container – all yours for just $34.99! DO NOT PURCHASE IF SEAL IS BROKEN. What I didn’t realize then was that no amount of supplements was going to magically transform my body, broken seal or not. And with that knowledge, reality came crashing down on me.

This is what I know to be true today: barring no health abnormalities, the way that we look right now is largely (~70%) determined by our diets – what and how much we eat. Training and other forms of exercise comprise 20%, and the remaining 10% consists of a melange of factors: genetics, sleep, stress, supplements, etc. See exhibit A.

I just really, really wanted to make a pie chart.

Let’s not overlook the role of supplements: they are supplements, meaning they are meant to supplement everything else you’re currently doing.[Tweet ” You should not have a separate cabinet devoted entirely to pills, powders, and voodoo dolls.”] Swallowing a multivitamin does not give you permission to eat burgers and fries all day. Protein powder should not be your sole source of protein. Focus on your diet – full of nutrient-rich, whole foods – and sprinkle in extras on the side.

What’s more, of the hundreds of supplements out on the market, shockingly few of them have been scientifically proven to be effective. Sad, huh? Let me save you a good dose of time, money, and stress. Here are the handful of lucky winners:

Vitamin C. For you hardworking gym-goers, this is a must. It’s one of the best known and most essential nutrients out there. Vitamin C helps your immune system function optimally so you’re not sidelined and held back from the gym. It’s also great for protection against cancer, strokes, and cardiovascular and eye health. The recommended dosage is 500mg a day.

Vitamin D. For those of you who live in colder areas, this may be more important to you. I personally don’t take it because I get more than enough sunlight where I reside (holla, Californians!). But for the less fortunate folks (my condolences), vitamin D is important for fighting depression, osteomalacia/rickets, and chronic fatigue. Recommendations for how much to take are mixed, but generally I’ve found that 600IU a day suffices.

Multivitamin. No matter how healthy you think your diet is, there’s a good chance you’re still missing out on some essential micronutrients. Taking a multivitamin won’t fix all your nutritional fallacies, but it’s enough to keep your bases covered, especially if you’ve gotten into the habit of consuming the same foods day in and day out. Pop one pill a day and you should be good.

Fish oil. If there’s going to be any magical solution in a pill, this may just be it. It’s known for its benefits associated with cardiovascular health, blood pressure, brain function, inflammation, decreased bodyfat… I can go on, but I think you get my point. If you’re not already taking fish oil, I recommend you start now. If you are, then awesome – but you’re probably not taking enough. Some individuals recommend one gram per percentage of bodyfat (eg. 12g at 12%), while others prefer half a gram per percentage of bodyfat (eg. 6 grams at 12%). I personally recommend anywhere between 6-10 grams a day.

Protein powder. This is a supplement insofar as it is a processed source of lean protein. I keep some around as a standby because it’s convenient and it tastes good. For hardgainers, this is also a great way to easily increase calorie intake. My favorite for a while has been Gaspari Nutrition’s Myofusion – Milk Chocolate (blend with coffee and ice!). You’ll love this if you’re a fan of milkshakes.

Alright, I know what you might be thinking – but trying out supplements is just too much fun to pass up! Ever been to The Arnold? The Olympia? Any national-level fitness show? I know how exciting it is to zip through booth after booth, collecting free goodies ad libitum. Then you get back to your room and eagerly dump your newfound gifts onto the floor, your eyes wide with delight. It’s like Christmas for meatheads and fitness buffs like you and me.

Enter JackedPack. It’s almost too good to be true. Every month, you receive a box of sports nutrition supplement samples. The first month is free. There’s always something new for you to try. And if you like something enough, you can go directly to JackedPack’s store and purchase the product in full!

This month’s package. Ahhh!

I had the pleasure of meeting one of the co-founders, Alex Lewis, back in March when I visited New York City for a week, and this is legit. I just received my second box from them and I’m already figuring out when I want to consume each item.

Click here to sign up for Christmas every month! Remember, the first month is free.

The chances of my going out of my way to purchase anything other than the supplements listed above are slim to none, so JackedPack is a great option for me. I still have the opportunity to try out some cool stuff – you know, just for funsies! – at a sweet, sweet deal.

So there you have it. Now get out there and lift some heavy ass weights!

17 Comments
  1. Brian 7 years ago

    I signed up for JackedPack and got my first shipment.. that bread was good stuff.. I’m *definitely* looking into getting more of that..

  2. Jon 7 years ago

    If you like the Myofusion Milk Chocolate, you should try the Chocolate and Peanut butter flavor (probiotic version only IIRC). It’s like a Reese’s you can drink 🙂

    I’ll have to check out the Jacked Pack thing, sounds like a good way to sample a bunch of different things without getting stuck with a 40 serving tub of something that tastes like boiled @ss.

    • Sohee Lee 7 years ago

      Maybe one day I’ll venture out and try something new. I’m a creature of habit; once I find something I like, I tend to stick with it for a looong time.

  3. Pedro Remedios 7 years ago

    And what about sources of those vitamins?

  4. Jennifer 7 years ago

    Can you prop a fish oil brand you like?
    I’m tired if wasting money on the taste it an hour later, or better yet, smell it oozes from my pores.
    I want the benefits without tasting or smelling like a fish.

  5. Brian 7 years ago

    Wait a minute. I’m confused. The tone of your article seemed to be about being skeptical of the efficacy of supplements out there in the market place–after all, no supplement as of yet is regulated by the FDA. Then suddenly you seem to endorse the JackedPack products. Free supplements are good but aren’t you still naively trying products that lack supportive data attesting to the product claims on the labels?

  6. Brian 7 years ago

    I think you should add some sources in for everything – any studies that backs things up are great in an article about supplements (for fish oil, for example, I’ve had a hard time finding studies that link it to many of the things you cite). Could even be as simple as a link to wikipedia.

    Also, I agree with the other Brian that the plug for JackedPack seems very out of place in an article where you are being (rightly) skeptical of supplements.

  7. Clement 7 years ago

    I’m a greenhorn when it comes to supplements and recently decided to get a good protein powder to meet my nutritional needs, so thanks for the recommendation!

    I have a question – I’m not sure if you are familiar with Kiefer’s carb-backloading protocol, but I’m on it. Would it go against its principles if I were to take the myofusion protein in the morning (I train in the evening)? I ask this because Kiefer warns against raising insulin, and whey and eggs have been proven to cause that (www.seanhyson.com/blog/carb-backloading-qa-part-ii). Thanks!

  8. Alex 7 years ago

    600 IUs of Vitamin D? That’s definitely under-dosed, and you might even by surprised at how low your level is, despite living in CA (I know I was). Have you gotten a 25 OH Vitamin D test? Optimal level is around ~50 ng/dL at least. I’ve been taking 5000 IUs for months to boost mine up. Bottom line – get tested.

  9. Jake 7 years ago

    If this is the minimalist way, then what is the maximalist way? Seems crazy, wtf just eat real food and youll be fine.

  10. Torrello 7 years ago

    I recon 6th and 7th on the list would be calcium and iron?
    I recommend lots and lots of iron. On a stick. A big metal stick 🙂

    • Sohee Lee 7 years ago

      If you’re deficient, then sure. Otherwise I don’t think that’s too huge of a deal.

  11. Jai 7 years ago

    This article is great. A lot of people look for the “quick fix” (which supplements will get me results faster kinda thing) and tend to rely on supplements. Being a hard gainer I have to map out my meals and macro-nutrients for the day, everyday, when I’m bulking to keep the results steady. I try to get the most out of my foods but find i cant reach my protein and carb macro goals without my fat macros exceeding my goal amount (one protein shake right when i wake up and right after i work out takes care of the protein goal). However the only supplements I take are creatine, protein powder, carb powder, multivitamin and a BCAA supplement. the creatine I cycle and once i reach my target weight i will stop taking it. I havent seen too much on the internet about carb powders and supplementing my carb intake so I was just wondering what your take on carb powders are? or if you have any other suggestions on carbs i could intake without adding to my daily fat totals.

    • Sohee Lee 7 years ago

      Ah, don’t know much about carb powders. They’re likely overrated. If you’re really having a hard time eating enough, however, and you don’t mind spending the money, then go for it.

      If you’re a hardgainer, I wouldn’t worry about limiting your fat intake (remember that fat doesn’t make you fat). Whole milk is a great source of all three macronutrients and I’d strongly recommend it for anything struggling to put on quality weight. Protein takes a backseat in importance when adding mass (and conversely, becomes increasingly critical the harder you diet).

  12. Danielle 4 years ago

    hi! if soemone who tracks macros starts taking 2x fish oil tabs a day would you track it? kit is like 4g fat but if you do it day in day out it it worth poping it into mymacros+ every day for years? (same with some multivitamins having 3g carb?)

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