Before we dive into this topic, I am all about making as many improvements as possible through food first. After you get your nutrition on point, supplements enhance the experience, but they do not replace whole foods. No powder or pill will give you what nutrient-dense food will give you, and there is no way to shed body fat without paying attention to the number of calories you consume each day. Supplementing with vitamins and minerals will fill in the nutritional gaps that occur in a healthy diet as most of us are creatures of habit and do not get the variety in our diets that would be the most preferable. Disclaimer aside, let’s chat about some of my favorites, what they do, and where you can find them in food.
No matter how fantastic your diet is, I always recommend having a multivitamin to fill the inevitable nutritional gaps.
What to look for:
Remember to store your vitamins in a cool, dry place and keep tabs on the expiration date.
The benefits of supplementing with fish oil are amazing. It boosts your mood by aiding in serotonin release (seeing a trend at how your energy and mood is affected by what you eat?), helps to maintain strong bones in conjunction with a healthy amount of calcium, and promotes healthy ratios of HDL to LDL cholesterol. HDL is the good cholesterol in our bodies and LDL is the cholesterol we want to keep low. Fish oil helps already healthy cholesterol levels stay balanced.
Foods containing this supplement: Fatty fish.
Tip: Strive for a good balance between both Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids.
Whey Protein Powder/ Plant-Based Protein Powder
Eating endless amounts of meat can be difficult especially if you just don’t want to because you are a vegetarian, getting protein in with a shake for a meal or two makes the fit- life that much easier and allows us to get to our protein targets no matter what conveniently. You’ll want to shoot for a minimum of 1 gram per pound of lean body mass.
The macronutrient protein is the most important macronutrient for building and maintaining lean muscle tissue. If you were to focus on only two things with your diet make sure to pay attention to your calorie totals and your protein intake for fat loss.
Branch chain amino acids are essential nutrients the body finds from the proteins in foods especially meats, dairy products, and legumes. They include leucine, isoleucine, and valine. BCAAs help your body avoid muscle breakdown during training, preserve lean muscle mass when dieting, and increase energy and focus.
Tip: Add a powdered form to your water during training sessions.
I love Chromium! This mineral helps with the absorption and digestion of carbohydrate. It helps to move glucose from the bloodstream and into the cells used for energy instead of fat stores.
The body needs very little chromium, and with a healthy diet you are likely to get enough chromium from food but I take 200 mcg each day.
Food containing this supplement: brewer’s yeast, meats, potatoes (especially the skin), whole grain bread and cereals, fruits and vegetables
5HPT naturally increases your serotonin levels. Increased serotonin levels help curbs cravings because when our serotonin is low, we gravitate toward the quick sugars to get it up fast. 5HTP also helps elevate our mood and relaxes us. This supplement has helped me greatly with relaxation, sleep, and craving control.
Magnesium keeps blood pressure stable, heart rhythm steady and bones strong! Magnesium also combats cortisol. After having lab work done (I highly recommend seeing where you stand with your hormone levels) I realized I have high cortisol in the evening (darn you, stress!). Having 250 mg of magnesium in the late afternoon with a meal containing complex carbohydrates helps combat my high cortisol levels.
You will not reach a toxic level of magnesium from foods, but the RDA recommended certain amounts from supplementations. Women who are my age, for instance, should not supplement with more than 360 mg per day. Too much magnesium supplementation can be fatal.
Nuts, green leafy vegetables, whole grain cereals, beans/ peas/ soybeans.
Check out my blog about bloat! Potassium is amazing and helps regulate our water balance. I like to take 99 mg of potassium as needed to rise my potassium levels closer to my daily sodium intake. I also love to hydrate with Vita Coco coconut water that is high in potassium.
Potassium is identified by the American Dietary Association as a nutrient of concern (that most of the population is not getting enough) along with dietary fiber, Vitamin D, and calcium.
Potassium regulates your heart, fluid balance, and helps lower your risk for diseases such as diabetes and also stroke. Potassium helps reduce the chance of forming kidney stones and aids in bone health. It also protects in the loss of muscle mass.
Bananas, avocados, strawberries, milk, nuts, green leafy vegetables.
Vitamin D fights disease, fights depression and boosts weight loss. Vitamin D and calcium seemed to have an appetite-suppressing effect in those who took the supplements while participating in a weight-loss study.
Most of Vitamin D comes from sunlight exposure, but with the use of sunscreens, spending lots of time indoors (me never seeing the sun at my old desk job), and pollution from cities there is a good chance you are missing out on your recommended amounts.
Immune system booster extraordinaire! When you are in a caloric deficit, your body is more susceptible to illness. Making sure you keep your Vitamin C levels up will help your immune system fight anything that comes it’s way by combating free radicals in your body.
Citrus fruits, broccoli, cabbage, peppers, melon, cauliflower, potatoes, and tomatoes.
My bare minimum picks are a quality multi, fish oil, BCAAs, and protein powder. A healthy diet is number one, and you don’t need to purchase any fancy supplements to get the job done. Give your food the once over and see where you can step up your game then use a few of these to fill in the cracks.