How to Design A Basic Supplement Program

I was reading an article by strength and conditioning coach Eric Cressey.  A client basically asked him how to bench press more weight.  Cressey asked how many pushups the guy could do.  The answer was “less than 10”.  Cressey informed the guy that until he could do the basic exercises with ease, he shouldn’t try to advance to bigger ones.

I think the same is true of supplements.

I have had nutrition clients with very complex conditions tell me about the wide variety of exotic supplements they’re taking.  Yet, when I probe further, I find that nearly all of them have completely bypassed the basics – and have all but rejected the most intuitive diet principles.

Let’s re-calibrate our health basics:

1).  Even if you’re not going to really commit to a fully healthy diet, at least mix in some greens, berries, garlic, and a few other powerhouse foods each day.

2).  Some of you need more than “micro-nutrient” supplementation, (vitamins and minerals).  Some of you need complete meal, whole food supplementation.  That means that you need to mix in some whole food powders – things like barley grass, wheat grass, spirulina, blue-green algae, etc.  These are power packed powders that can be thought of as complete meal supplements.  A serving of barley grass, for example, has the nutritional equivalent of a large spinach salad.  Throw this into a blender with berries and protein, and you’ve got a serious meal, (and you won’t taste the barley grass as much). 

Even better than the individual ingredient powders, are the multi-ingredient powders.  These have multiple whole food powders in them.  Not only is the nutritional value multiplied, but they also generally taste better than single ingredient powders. 

Here’s a couple I really like:

Superior Reds by Food Science of Vermont

Greens Protein 8 in 1 by Olympian Labs

3).  Another basic nutritional supplement is (obviously) the multivitamin.  I’m not even going to explain this.  It’s just too obvious.

4).  On top of the diet and/or whole food supplements and the multivitamin, I think the most important basics afterwards are fish oil and probiotics. 

For fish oil, I choose Nordic Naturals.  You don’t want to mess around with your fish oil.  They’re not all the same.  You have to be careful of the mercury and other heavy metals that contaminate fish these days.  The worst thing you could do is take a concentrated dose of fish oil if it also has a concentrated dose of mercury!  No, you need a pure, fresh, good-tasting fish oil that is already in it’s “triglyceride” form.  That’s Nordic Naturals.

There are actually quite a few good probiotics that I like.  Investigate Nature’s Way, VSL#3, Essential Formulas, and Natren.  There are other good ones, but these are a start.

ONLY AFTER you get the diet and/or whole foods, multi-vitamins, fish oil, and probiotics down are you in the position to actually benefit from all the other great supplements on the market.  Make no mistake about it – I love some of the supplements that my clients are already taking.  It’s just that they’re trying to run before they’ve crawled.  They often don’t have the basics down. 

The interesting thing I’ve noticed is that very often, once people have the basics, they end up not needing much else.  

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