Supplementation has become one of the sexiest topics in the health space in the last decade or so. Eddie, what can I take to look better? Eddie my hair is thinning, or my libido is low, or I am experiencing brain fog, on and on and on. I love to geek out on this stuff and find it fascinating to discover pieces that might complete a puzzle and make someone optimum. Yes, sometimes the answer is a pill. But 99% of the time, supplements are not the answer. To be our best, we must combine ‘old school’ wisdom with modern technology. There are many pillars to this, let me explain.
I like to tell my clients that they can get an ‘A-‘ on mental and physical performance on lifestyle alone. An A- looks like a very healthy person and feels damn good. An A+ looks like a fitness model and feels damn great. Getting to the latter person may take some modern technology. You can get a good idea of old school wisdom by watching the Netflix series on The Blue Zones, which follows around the oldest, happiest, and healthiest people in the world to see what they have in common. Sure, this show was a bit cherry picked, but there are still some gems here. Mainly, the centenarians just move a lot with purpose and surround themselves with awesome people. Now the fun question to ask is, what if these centenarians also had performance-based supplements? Hmmm.
I do not like to shortcut the lifestyle elements of longevity and performance, so let’s make sure we have a handle on this before diving into supplements. I believe that optimizing these lifestyle elements will make a much more profound impact on your health than any pill you could ever take. Here is an article I wrote on items that can help with optimizing lifestyle habits, XR Best Purchases.
1. Sleep: Sleep is king and nothing is a better anti-aging drug than quality sleep. If you want to age well, sleep well!
2. Stress Management: Stress management is a very close second to quality sleep in terms of anti-aging. Put your phone down and stop freaking worrying about everything!
3. Movement: Proper exercise keeps you strong and healthy. An hour or so of effective exercise daily will outperform any supplement for anti-aging.
4. Nutrition: What you eat builds every cell in your body. If your nutrition is dialed in, very few supplements will ever be needed. Here is a recent article I wrote on optimizing nutrition: Nutritional Success
5. Purpose: Knowing your 'why' gives you more life force than you could ever imagine. This energy will power every other part of this list.
6. Family, friends, community: Togetherness, love, and laughter are some of the best therapies out there for almost everything. Good luck finding that on amazon.
7. Mental stimulation: This comes in many forms from hobbies to games to work. To stay mentally sharp, you must be mentally stimulated.
8. Natures Elements: Connecting with the earth and the outdoors is essential. There you go. Perform those eight FREE components and you will probably thrive like you never thought possible. If you are a bit savvy, you can even batch a few of them together. Maybe ride your bike to play pickleball with your friends and family. Boom, you just sweat, laughed, exercised, de-stressed, and challenged yourself in nature. This will probably help with a better night sleep too. Ok, yall get the drift. Now that you have checked all those boxes, let’s get on to supplementation.
As always, I am not a doctor and do not misconstrue this as medical advice. These are just some of the brands and supplements that have worked very well for me, my friends, family, and clients over the years. I encourage everyone to consult with their physician before trying any new supplements or medications. We are also all unique and respond to things differently. You may need to try a few different blends out before finding the perfect fit for you.
I like to prioritize supplementation based on the list above. Sleep being the most important in terms of supplementation and nature being the least important. Everything will get better if you improve your sleep, so if you are not sleeping well, supplement on sleep first and it will most likely solve other issues you may be experiencing. Get my drift? By the way, I think nature is just as important as sleep, you just can’t take a nature pill to create a walk in the park, at least not that I am aware of. I list my favorite starter supplements per category at the end of the article.
Sleep: If your sleep is great, and you can quantify this through an Oura Ring or mindfulness, then great. If not, and you have done all the strategies from eliminating heat, light, electronics, food, and alcohol a few hours before bed, then maybe we can look to supplements. There is a whole industry built on sleep supplements and this rabbit hole goes very deep. Magnesium and melatonin work well for most but combining these ingredients in a blend with other things like Gaba, L-theanine, 5-HTP, Chamomile, Glycine, Passion Flower, Lemon Balm, B-6, Valerian, Tart Cherry, Lavender, ashwagandha, and much more can help create the perfect night’s sleep.
Stress: Stress can most effectively be managed by lifestyle practices. Exercise, hobbies, and breathwork work wonders in this space as well as minimizing stimulatory products like caffeine, cell phones, and EMF. But even then, we can use some exogenous support. I cannot seem to chill out regardless of the situation, so this category is near and dear to my heart. I have found that adaptogenic herbs and mushrooms such as Reishe, Schisandra, Amla, Eleuthero, Ashwagandha, Tulsi, and Chaga, alongside a Matcha tea, which is naturally high in L-Theanine, is the best! If you can replace your morning joe with adaptogens, you are well on your way.
Movement – Joint Health: Movement happens more when your body and specifically your joints are happy and healthy. There are all sorts of bodywork practices from massage to Rolfing to Myofascial Release, etc. that can help your body stay young. But with even the best practices, degeneration is inevitable and certain supplements can help with our movement ability. Turmeric, Ginger, Bromelain, Frankincense, Glucosamine, MSM, Chondroitin, Collagen, Serrapeptase, Protease Enzymes, fish oil, and much more can support healthy joints and work as strong anti-inflammatory agents. Here is a detailed article I have written on optimizing joint health for more specifics: Joint Health
Hydration: Movement can be greatly enhanced with proper hydration which requires key nutrients. Hydration and mineralization, like all supplementation, depends on a host of things from the individual to the exercise to the environment. Once a plan has been established, look for minerals like sodium, magnesium, and potassium from clean sources. You can further enhance these minerals with delivery systems such as, alkalinity, molecular hydrogen, and much more. Hydration is my favorite place to start a performance supplement regiment and definitely the lowest hanging fruit in terms of effectiveness.
Performance - Physical: Movement can also be enhanced with proper performance based supplementation. Performance or Pre-workout supplementation can allow you to push a bit harder to help achieve your desired results. Creatine and vasodilators like L-Arginine, L- Citrulline, and Beetroot extract, are popular choices and the gold standard for increasing performance across the board. Optimizing hormones can also be lumped into this category. Here is a piece on testosterone optimization I wrote a while back that will help with hormonal health and the supplements involved: tsr
Performance - Mental: Mental clarity is gold these days and seems to be harder and harder to come by. Brain fog is mainly created from chronic stress, inflammation, and distractions. Once you have taken all the necessary steps to clear these spider webs out, proper supplementation can help sharpen your mind. Quality nootropics contain ingredients such as B vitamins, Alpha GPC, Ginkgo Biloba, Coffeeberry Extract, and more. I like to add these ingredients to my afternoon matcha and sometimes into a pre-workout elixir.
Recovery: Movement is also enhanced with proper recovery programming. Your next workout is only as good as your recovery from your last workout. Movement is medicine when it comes to recovery, but assuming you have done all your rolling and stretching, eaten like an educated adult, and maybe even took some of the previously mentioned anti-inflammatory agents, then sufficient protein is necessary. Animal protein, specifically Whey, is the most bioavailable, but plant proteins can work too. I love whey protein and try to have it daily but essential amino acids have become my secret weapon when I need to recover super-fast from intense training.
Nutrition: Nutrition is one of the most important factors in all types of performance and how you choose to eat depicts most of your supplement regiment. I supplement much less now because my diet has improved so much. But assuming there are still holes in your nutrition, you can individually supplement what you are lacking or there are some good ‘all in one’ products. The goal with these is to get as many micronutrients as possible in the right ratios. Multivitamins are great in a pinch as well as a desiccated organ blend if you are 'carnivore' but I prefer a meal replacement so I can get my macros too. I look for a fourth of my bodyweight in quality protein alongside, a bit of MCT oil, polyphenols, fiber, and a wide array of vitamins and minerals in a meal replacement.
Immunity: Immunity is my jam because I HATE feeling bad! I like to have everything possible on hand in the immunity department so I can throw everything but the kitchen sink at an illness. A few of my favorites are vitamin D. vitamin C, Oregano oil, colostrum, garlic, and zinc, but there are literally hundreds of other agents that have shown effectiveness. I have written a detailed article on supplements to use when under the weather. Check it out here: Anti viral diet
Digestion: If you can’t digest your food and supplements then you cannot benefit from them, so digestion is a big supplemental category. We produce fewer digestive enzymes as we age, and our digestive aiding organs tend to downregulate. Accumulation of toxins and antibiotics can have a negative impact as well. I often recommend digestive supplements first in a regiment to make sure their nutrition can get assimilated. Digestive enzymes, Betaine HCI, OX Bile, Probiotics, and Prebiotics are a few of the many agents that can help aid digestion. Here is an article I wrote on gut health for a much more detailed road map on resetting your gut: Gut-Health
Weight Loss: I am not a big fan of the highly marketed ‘fat loss’ products out there. They can overstimulate hormones now that can downregulate later on. Eat and move like an educated adult and you will most likely lose weight. However, if you have sluggish insulin, it can be difficult to burn stubborn bodyfat. Certain ingredients like bitter melon and berberine can help in keeping your blood sugar levels a bit lower so the body can tap into bodyfat stores more readily.
Skin and Hair: Hydration is the most effective initial strategy for optimal cellular health in the skin and hair department. Beyond hydration, a few boxes to check are vasodilators(mentioned in the performance sections,) fish oil, collagen, aloe vera, amla, and more. Similar ingredients can be found in topical formulations. Here is an article I wrote on the perfect skin diet called the ‘face lift’ diet: The Beauty Cleanse
Anti-Aging: Anti-aging is the most fun category of all that is ever changing and growing rapidly. The biggies at the moment are NAD, C60, and Urolithin A. These supplements are often packed with other synergetic compounds to possibly make them more effective. I think good resources to follow on anti-aging are David Sinclair and Peter Attia. This category has now become my focus. I no longer am really interested in setting PR’s and breaking records. I really just want to feel as good as possible!
Miscellaneous and everything else: There is a supplement out there for everything you can imagine and more. Careful though, supplements are a very unregulated industry. Stick with the brands mentioned below or other reputable companies. Topics I get asked a lot that I didn’t cover in this article are heart and vascular health, reproductive health, preventative supplements, and the microbiome. If you are interested in a topic, good sources for information on targeted supplements are examine.com, PubMed, and The Life Extension Foundation. Podcasts that are very informative on supplements are The Huberman Podcast, The Drive with Peter Attia, and Mastering Nutrition with Chris Masterjohn.
Pharmaceuticals: Pharmaceuticals when used correctly can greatly enhance or even replace a supplement regiment. For instance, a low dose tadalafil will blow away any over the counter vasodilator for a great pre-workout. Rapamycin probably has more anti-aging benefits than all the supplements listed above combined. Bioidentical hormones when balanced correctly can be magical for all pillars of aging, and stem cells and peptides can help you recover better than any joint support product out there and possibly reverse aging in the near future. So, before you break the bank on supplements, it is definitely worth your time to meet with a good functional medicine practitioner. They can fine tune your physiology down to a science with very few supplements and pharmaceuticals.
There are lots of great supplement companies out there. The four all-encompassing supplement companies that I feel have very high-quality products are Life Extension, Designs for Health, Pure Encapsulations, and Thorne Research. You can most likely find exactly what you are looking for from each of these companies. I like to compare the products from these companies and choose based on specifics. I also like to rotate supplements often. For instance, if I get a ‘joint support complex’ from one company, I will most likely get a similar blend from one of the other three companies the following month.
There are also a lot of specialty supplement companies out there that carry more specific products ranging from upgraded coffees to liposomal and transdermal delivery systems to more fringe products that haven’t gone through years of testing yet. I use products from all the following companies and normally purchase when they run specials. Just go ahead and join their newsletters. It can be a pain in the ass sometimes, but you will save some bucks in the long run. Mitozen, Quicksilver Scientific, Bodyhealth, Bulletproof, Kion, Jigsaw Health, Heart and Soil. Co, Four Sigmatic, Mara-labs, Biooptimizers, Wizard Sciences, Timeline Nutrition, Calroy Health Sciences, Biostack Labs, Matcha Kari, LMNT, are all companies I often purchase products from their promos that I love!
Below are my favorite products for each category and a good place to start. I just mention a few products per category for simplicity’s sake, but normally there is a synergetic blend with multiple ingredients. For instance, I think collagen works better with vitamin C, but I just mention collagen and fish oil under the skin category. If someone is starting a supplement regiment, I would have them create a two-week detailed food and activity journal and see what is going on. From here, one can see holes in their programming. Getting labs done with your practitioner is the gold standard for nutrient testing if you want to really dial this in. As always, have a goal and a plan. If you want to get stronger, you may want to pay more attention to performance supplements, though I would still argue that sleep is king. Find a budget that works for your goals and study up a bit. Feel free to reach out if you would like me to help you with a more elaborate and tailored list for you. Here is an example of a detailed goal driven plan with the food and supplements incorporated: Daily Routine
Performance - Physical
Performance – Recovery
Performance – Mental
Skin and Hair
There you have it. Again, I urge you to get a goal and a plan! Run down the rabbit hole a bit and put some research into this. Experiment and find what works best for you. Here is another article on my favorite supplements which may be another good starting point: Top 10 Supplements
Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have any questions!