One of the questions I receive most frequently from clients and members of the Bikini Boss Community is what supplements should I be taking?!
While this differs based on individual need, goals, health history, etc. there are supplements that I recommend all of my (otherwise healthy) ladies start taking especially when beginning an intense health and fitness regimen.
But first, let’s talk about WHY supplementation is so important.
In an ideal world, we would get all of our nutrients from the foods we consume, but food today is not anywhere near the quality of the foods we used to have. From soil degradation, GMO’s, the use of chemicals and pesticides, and long transport times, food has lost much of its nutritional value… And in certain instances, supplements can actually work to help remove toxic chemicals present in the body.
But what about organic food?
Yes, I absolutely encourage you to purchase organic and non-GMO foods when possible, but organic, non-GMO isn’t fool proof and isn’t always feasible for everyone.
It’s for this reason that I highly recommend taking a number of supplements to make sure your body has all of the vitamins and minerals it needs to function and run your metabolism properly.
Secondly, let’s talk about STRESS. We all have constant physical, mental, and emotional stressors that are bombarding us daily. Our current lifestyles are SO demanding and in turn our bodies take the brunt of it.
Stress is one of the primary underlying factors that can make a healthy person’s metabolism go haywire, yet it’s so often overlooked.
Additionally, when we are chronically stress and bombarding our bodies with processed foods, alcohol, prescription drugs, environmental toxins, etc. we begin to alter our gut micro-biome and our body’s ability to properly digest, absorb, and assimilate the nutrients that we are getting from healthy foods.
You can eat the cleanest, most nutritious diet, but if you are not digesting and absorbing your nutrients properly because of any of the factors listed above, your metabolism is still going to go haywire and you run the risk of deficiencies.
So with that being said, what supplements should all women be taking, particularly those who are looking for the healthiest approach to fat-loss and building lean, toned muscle?
- Multi-Vitamin and Mineral Supplement
We know our bodies are one big chemical reaction (see our Metabolism 101 post). If we aren’t getting the ideal amount of nutrients from food, and our digestion is frequently impaired, how do you expect your metabolism to function optimally? You don’t. That’s why it’s critical to take a quality multi-vitamin.
Think of vitamins and minerals as the foundations for your metabolism. When you build a house you don’t start putting up the walls and the roof until you have a SOLID foundation from which to build upon.
If you only had the money to purchase one supplement, I would recommend this one. Remember, our goal is to win the NASCAR race, we need to have gas in our tank before we can start supercharging the engine.
So what should you be looking for in a multi-vitamin and mineral supplement? It’s best to get capsule form, so if you pick up the bottle and shake it and it sounds like rocks, set it down and walk away. Your body will have a harder time digesting them effectively and it’s a waste of your time and money.
Secondly, you can look for a neutraceutical multi-vitamin that contains additional nutrients like antioxidants and enzymes for maximal health benefits, plus they’re usually chelated for better absorption.
- Omega 3 Fish Oil
Omega 3 fats are critical for health and are used to make every single cell in our bodies. When I say every single cell, I’m being literal; your hair, skin, nails, nerves, organs, muscle, mitochondria, etc.
Most people’s diets are deficient in omega 3 and high in omega 6/9 which can cause inflammation, so it’s not only essential but also critical to supplement with omega 3’s to bring your body back to the proper balance.
To clarify, omegas 3s are a type of fat – not a pharmaceutical. If you’re deficient in Omega 3 fatty acids, your body is going to use the little bit that you have for your brain and nerve cells, however, this will leave other tissues (like muscle) deficient.
If you think back to chemistry class- the diagram of the cell with the cell membrane, nucleus, and cell wall. Well, that cell wall is the way nutrients like proteins and carbs are carried into the cell. So any deficiency of fatty acids affects the permeability of the cell well making it difficult for nutrients to move across.
Poor nutrient delivery = poor metabolism = poor results.
We recommend taking a supplement that has a DHA:EPA ratio of 2:3 and at least 2.5g omega 3s per serving.
- Vitamin D
It’s not just for your bones! Vitamin D is insanely important for immune function and regulating all mineral uptake in the body… and if you’ve lived to see the fourth quarter of 2020, you know how important immune function truly is.
Yes, your body synthesizes vitamin D from sunlight, but there are many factors at play that affect your ability to get sufficient sunlight and optimally converting it into the usable form of vitamin D.
These factors include living indoors, widespread sunblock use, lack of time outdoors, age, geographic location, time of year, etc.
We recommend using a liquid form vs. pills as sublingual deliver is the most effective means of absorption.
- Adrenal Support
The small glands that sit adjacent to the kidneys, known as the adrenals, have gained a lot of attention in recent years and for a good reason. As we know, the adrenals take on the burden of our everyday lives and chronic stress, causing them to work on overdrive to pump out adrenal hormones.
This can lead to adrenal fatigue and a host of other issues, so we’ve got to make sure that we’re proactively supporting our adrenals, as they are literally the inception of ALL metabolic problems.
Most people are unaware, but research has shown that adrenal dysfunction is directly related to thyroid conditions like hyperthyroid. Obviously, it’s impossible to avoid stress completely, so the best thing we can do is make sure we take the necessary steps to protect and support our adrenals.
If your adrenals aren’t working properly, your fat loss potential is going to be severely hindered – if not rendered completely futile.
Hippocrates believed that all health and disease begins in the gut, and we could not agree more.
Your gut is not only responsible for digesting foods, but it produces neurotransmitters like serotonin, hormones, immune cells, and so much more.
Most people don’t know this, but a whopping 70% of your immune cells are located in the gut. Holy smokes!
This means that if your gut health is compromised, you will not only have difficulty digesting and absorbing nutrients from food, but your immune system can become compromised, your hormones can get out of whack, and you may have reduced neurotransmitter function that can lead to things like inability to focus, anxiety, depression, etc.
So if you’ve been feeling tired, anxious, bloated, depressed, experienced unexplainable weight gain, have acne/lackluster skin, and/or have issues sleeping, it may be time for a literal gut check.
Your gut is home to trillions of bacteria, both “good” and “bad” microbes, and both of which you need. In fact, your gut contains more bacteria than your body does cells… Talk about a party!
Most people think they need to eliminate “bad” bacteria altogether, but they actually play a crucial role in the gut micro biome, so the key is to create an optimal balance between the two that allows your gut to live in harmony.
So what is a probiotic? Probiotics are live microorganisms that live in your gut and when consumed in a supplement or in food, can help to restore the gut flora.
I always recommend taking a probiotic that has been refrigerated in a dark bottle to prevent breakdown from heat and light. Also remember that you get what you pay for, especially when it comes to probiotics.
- Digestive Enzymes
Building upon our theme of gut health, digestive enzymes are another game changer when it comes to priming your gut for weight loss and metabolic health.
As discussed above, chronic stress, alcohol, pharmaceuticals, aspirin, NSAIDS, processed foods, undiagnosed food sensitivities, and environmental toxins can all lead to impaired digestion, and as we learned, this leads to poor nutrient absorption and assimilation… Which in turn creates nutrient deficiencies and metabolic catastrophes.
Your gut is also lined with a single layer of mucosal cells and when bombarded with substances like those mentioned above, the tight cellular integration in the GI lining becomes more and more permeable, allowing substances to leak into the blood stream and create systemic inflammation. This is where the common term “leaky gut” is derived from, which is believed to be one of the root causes of many autoimmune conditions.
One of the first steps in fixing the gut lining and improving nutrient status is to improve digestion. Digestive enzymes are naturally produced and secreted from the moment you even see, smell, or taste food, and help to breakdown macro and micronutrients for absorption and utilization within the body.
The 3 groups of digestive enzymes to be concerned with are amylase, protease, and lipase. Amylase helps to digest carbohydrates, protease to digest proteins, and lipase to digest fats. Choosing a quality digestive enzyme supplement that contains sufficient amounts of each of these classes of enzymes is crucial. Ideal products also contain other compounds like papain, ox bile, betaine HCL, etc.
Most people (especially women) are grossly under eating protein.
Did you know that as we age, we go through physiological changes that make it harder to build and retain muscle? This is called anabolic resistance, which is a contributing factor to why women have a difficult time keeping weight off as they age.
I highly recommend aiming to get anywhere from 0.7-1g protein per pound of body weight per day, or at least 30g, 3 times/day. This will not only keep you in an anabolic (muscle building/fat burning state), it will make you feel fuller longer, help balance your hormones, and eliminate late night hunger and cravings.
Supplementing with a high quality protein powder can be a great way to increase protein intake without tons of food or effort. My all time favorite is Goliath NutriPower’s All-Natural Grass-Fed Whey. It’s free of artificial ingredients, cold processed, and tastes delicious!!
Remember that while a high quality whole foods diet is king, supplementation is queen when it comes to building a solid foundation for metabolic health.
And a friendly reminder that this information is not intended to diagnose, cure, or treat any disease, and always consult your physician before starting any new supplementation protocol.
Comment below if you have questions on which supplements would be best for you and to share which supplements you include in your everyday protocol!