Most of you who are reading this article are probably already taking certain nutritional supplements which are popular among bodybuilding folk, such as conjugated linoleic acid, glutamine, fish oil, whey protein, and glutamine. However, there are basic nutritional demands in everyone which competitors might not be addressing in their daily regimens. In addition, those demands change as we age, as do the supplements which confer optimal health. In an effort to address those demands, I have compiled a list of supplements which you should consider adding to your regimen.
The following supplements serve as core nutrients which people of all ages require:
Multivitamin – I realize that there is some controversy regarding multivitamins, but I happen to be in the camp that is pro-multivitamin. Contest prep meal plans are notorious for being deficient in a multitude of nutrients, underscoring the need for a high quality multivitamin/multimineral supplement.
Vitamin C – This miracle nutrient is a potent antioxidant, assists in wound healing, aids in the absorption of iron from foods, and is critical for the development of collagen. Recommended daily dosages of this important vitamin are anywhere from 1,000 milligrams to 5,000 milligrams, split into 2 to 4 doses.
Zinc – One reason why this mineral is so important for men of all ages is because it is required for sperm production. Zinc is also a potent aromatase inhibitor, but only in doses of 100 milligrams or more per day. If you choose to take high doses of zinc, be sure to also take copper supplementation.
Alpha-Lipoic Acid (ALA) – This is a potent antioxidant which also aids with glycogen uptake. Basically what that means is that ALA will assist your body in metabolizing dietary sugars more efficiently. ALA is also great for brain and liver health. Recommended dosage is 100 milligrams to 300 milligrams daily.
Probiotics – These beneficial bacteria promote intestinal heath and a stronger immune system. The general population can obtain probiotics from milk, yogurt, tempeh and other products, but those who compete may opt for a supplement which will keep one’s diet contest-friendly. Look for formulations which have at least 20 billion live bacteria.
Vitamin D3 – This vitamin has gotten a lot of attention in recent years as a result of research which determined that the vast majority of the human population is deficient. This deficiency is largely the result of wide use of sunblock (thus turning off the body’s production of vitamin D3), and a drop in milk consumption. Why is Vitamin D3 so important? Vitamin D3 is associated with bone health, but may also play a role in the prevention of diabetes, cancer and multiple sclerosis. If you are like a vampire and remain indoors all day, take at least 1,000 international units (IU) daily. I personally take 5,000 IU daily to get the most of its ability to absorb calcium. I also recommend getting vitamin D3 from dietary sources like whole eggs or fatty fish like salmon.
Calcium – Calcium supplementation is essential for individuals who don’t consume lots of dairy or calcium fortified foods. Ironically, calcium supplements are absorbed more readily in the presence of lactose and protein. However, if dairy products are forbidden due to lactose intolerance or contest prep diets, consuming protein when calcium is taken will enhance absorption. Make sure to take vitamin D3 with calcium supplements to further enhance absorption. Recommended dosage is 1,000 milligrams per day, split into two doses.
Add these to your regimen if you are in your 30’s:
Glucosamine – This supplement is especially important for those who lift weights since it can ameliorate pain from joint inflammation. A good daily dosage is 1,500 milligrams. I tend to recommend formulations which contain MSM and NO chondroitin, because I have had too many patients complain of gastrointestinal upset with the chondroitin formulas.
Vitamin B12 – Vitamin B12 is found in animal protein, but the body cannot access it well, and this impairment becomes worse as we age. Because of this, taking a B12 supplement should become a part of your daily regimen if you are over 30.
DHEA – This is a controversial supplement because it has a considerable side effect profile, but I am including it here because so many people who compete can benefit from it as they age. DHEA is a sex hormone precursor which is secreted mainly by the adrenal glands and which is usually abundant in people who are in their 20’s. However, production begins to decline in one’s 30’s, and continues to drop significantly over the decades. It is a key player in maintenance and building of muscle, fat loss, and slowing the aging process. Side effects include heart palpitations, elevated blood pressure, breast enlargement, testicular atrophy, and interactions which certain medications. For this reason, you should consult with a physician to determine if your DHEA levels are low and if you may benefit from DHEA supplementation.
Individuals over 40 should add the following:
Leucine – This is probably the most important supplement you can add to your regimen as you age, especially if you are a competitor, because it helps to offset age-related muscle loss. One of the branched-chain amino acids, leucine is unique in this regard. Add 2 grams of leucine to a couple of your protein-containing meals. Leucine powder is VERY bitter, so make sure to mix it with a tasty protein powder, or take it in capsule form with your whole food meals.
Coenzyme Q10 – This antioxidant aids in ATP production, especially in the heart. It’s a good idea to take at least 30 milligrams per day, but I personally take 100 milligrams daily for the cardiac benefits.
Saw Palmetto – If your bathroom visits in the middle of the night are frequent and are not confined to your water-loading evenings, then you are probably experiencing prostatic enlargement. If this is the case, you might want to consider taking saw palmetto at a recommended dosage of 160 milligrams per day.
Over 50? Stack this supplement onto the above regimens:
Phosphatidylserine – This nutrient is important for optimal brain health. Take 200 milligrams per day.