There is a lot of confusion out there with regards to nutritional supplements. The main thing I have learned working as a trainer and in a supplement store is that people want to get healthy but do not know what to take. The first suggestion I always make is, start with your lifestyle (eat right, be active, do not overwork or stress yourself and get quality sleep), then comes supplementation. In this blog post, I cover the five supplements that everyone should be taking daily, explaining why they are needed, the doses required* and how to consume them.
There’s a long list of reasons to take multivitamins, including boosting immunity, increasing energy levels, detoxing your body etc. These benefits can mainly be attributed to correcting any nutritional deficiencies you may have due to some gaps in your eating habits. Your ability to absorb some important nutrients may be compromised by health conditions like diabetes or taking prescription medicine. In addition, as we age it becomes really difficult to absorb nutrients from food making it all the more important to take a multi regularly. Vegetarians and vegans can also be very deficient in certain nutrients including most B vitamins and iron.
Daily dose and how to take: Dosages can vary from 1 to 3 per day depending on product. Always take with food for maximal absorption.
Studies have found that taking fish oils can be linked to reducing triglycerides which are a type of fat found in your blood which your body will convert into stored fat into your body. Needless to say, if you are trying to reduce your body fat, you won’t want many triglycerides in your bloodstream. In addition, fish oils are known to improve heart health by lowering blood pressure and plaque buildup in arteries, as well as improve cholesterol levels by increasing HDL (i.e. the ‘good cholesterol’ that removes the bad cholesterol from where it shouldn’t be). It is also known to improve mental health, for example reduce symptoms of anxiety and slow the cognitive decline of older adults suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Fish oil can also play a role in reducing inflammation for people experiencing joint pain, including those suffering from arthritis.
Daily dose and how to take: 1-3g per day, Take with a large high fat meal for maximum absorbability and to avoid the fish burps.
Vitamin D is commonly referred to as the sunshine vitamin since, in simple terms, your body produces it by absorbing sunlight. For us in Canada, sunshine is not in abundance for a good chunk of the year and what little sunshine we do get in the winter months will not be absorbed very well as most of our skin would be covered. That said, vitamin D should still be taken all year round with larger doses required during the winter. It is also important to note that the darker your skin tone is the more vitamin D you need to supplement with, since melanin reduces your ability to absorb the UVB rays required to make the vitamin. The main benefit of it’s supplementation is that it increases your body’s ability to absorb calcium and phosphorus, thus make your bones and joints stronger. It is also known to be an effective treatment for SAD (seasonal affective disorder) aka “the winter blues”.
Daily dose and how to take: Anywhere between 2000-10,000IU per day depending on time of year, skin tone and how much time you spend in the sun. Take daily with a high fat meal.
There are over 300 enzyme reactions in the body that are activated by magnesium, which leads to thousands of biochemical reactions on an ongoing basis everyday. These include muscle contractions, nerve transmission, energy production, regulation of a steady heart beat, nutrient metabolism among many processes. While it is important to regularly eat magnesium rich foods (dark leafy greens, seeds, yogurt and others) it’s not as easy as it sounds due to soil depletion from modern day farming practices making magnesium levels lower in these foods. Another thing to consider is poor absorption of magnesium caused by antibiotics and some prescription medications harming the digestive tracts. Symptoms of deficiency include poor digestion, muscles spasms/aches, trouble sleeping, headaches and anxiety among other conditions. When you think about how common all these symptoms are, it does not come as a shock that over 80 percent of us are magnesium deficient.
Daily dose and how to take: The glycinate, bisglycinate and citrate forms of magnesium have great absorbability although the citrate form may cause an unwanted laxative effect in some people. Women should take 300mg per day and men should take 400mg with food. As a sleep aid, take a dosage 1-2 hours before bedtime.
The word ‘probiotic’ is combined from greek and latin literally translating into ‘for life’. In the nutrition world, they are defined as microorganisms that provide numerous health benefits when consumed. These include improved digestion, nutrient absorption, constipation relief, treating some gastrointestinal conditions and boosting immunity from disease to name a few. There is also a growing concern that poor gut health can cause mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. And while antibiotics and other forms of modern medicine serve a very important purpose, overprescription is a great concern. Due to the introduction of these treatments, generations of us have had our gut flora completely devastated. This leaves room for the ‘bad bacteria’ in your gut to flourish causing sugar cravings, serious gastrointestinal conditions such as IBS and a weakened immune system. Since it is safe to say that most of us have been through a round of antibiotics at some point in our lives, or have taken prescription medicine, we should be taking a probiotic everyday to maintain a good balance of bacteria in the gut.
Daily dose and how to take: To maintain overall health 30-50 Billion CFUs per day should be sufficient although people suffering from severe gastrointestinal conditions may need higher doses. When you start taking a probiotic symptoms like gas, bloating and mild diarrhea are common but if they persist for longer than 5 days it might not be the right product for you. Everyone has a unique ecosystem in their gut, so a product that works for one person may not work for another. Take a dosage with your largest meal of the day.
* The dosage recommendations are for the general maintenance of health. They may not be sufficient if you have a serious nutrient deficiency. You can find out your levels by getting tested by your doctor.