Supplements are Supplements

I sit with a lot of people that ask me about what supplements they should be taking. 

Truth is few people truly need, benefit from, or can remember to consistently use supplements.

Moreover, supplements are just that: supplements. Additions. They should not take the place of proper eating and lifestyle habits. 

An extra hour of sleep, or a few more servings of kale, or a brisk half-hour walk in the fresh air and sunshine, done every day, will probably do you more good than most supplements combined.

So we’re going to start with two important principles:

  • Clear out the crap
  • Prioritize

These two principles should be high on your expectation list. Making these things a priority are important as they are the foundation for health, fitness, body composition, and overall wellbeing.

Just like anything else, a solid foundation of skills and habits should be formed before supplements are even considered. 

Here are some things to look for: 

  • consistency (shoot for 80–90% consistency to a given behavior before increasing the difficulty)
  • eating mindfully, and for most people, slower 
  • a minimum of 4–5 hours of regular exercise a week, ideally a combination of strength training, high-intensity “cardio” type training or conditioning, and some lower intensity modality (walking, yoga, etc.)
  • food quality (e.g. mostly whole, minimally processed foods, local/organic/Fair Trade, etc.)
  • food quantity that matches your needs
  • consistency (yes, it’s so important we are noting it twice)
  • an appropriate macronutrient ratio for your needs and activity level 
  • a minimum of 7 hours of high-quality sleep every night
  • plenty of parasympathetic-dominant activities (in other words: active recovery, rest, relaxation, and play)
  • as much low-intensity varied daily movement as possible (e.g. fidgeting, doing housework, walking the dog, standing to talk on the phone, etc.)
  • creation and maintenance of a healthy physical and social environment that supports your goals and values
  • removing or meaningfully addressing crucial limiting factors  (such as a soul-sucking stressful job, an addiction, clinical depression, etc)
  • behavior that matches your stated goals, values, and priorities
  • did we say consistency already?

Supplements' effect is small.

Not everything can be solved with a supplement. In fact, most supplements are of little use in the face of significant health problems. 

And of course, as we’ve reminded you, supplements are supplemental to a solid foundation of key habits. Popping more pills is not the answer. 

Another hour of sleep every night, or a few more servings of vegetables, or eating high-quality lean protein every few hours, done consistently, will do wonders for you — much more than nearly any legal supplement possibly could.

So while supplements have their place and should sometimes be recommended (which ones and why will be another blog post), be sure to establish good habits rather than looking to add more supplements to your routine. 

Live well, be well.