February 13, 2014

YOUR SUPPLEMENT QUESTIONS ANSWERED, SORT OF. People are always writing to ask what I take — especially, for some reason, since this Thanksgiving picture — and I’ve been reluctant to post on it for two reasons: One, I’m often changing things; and two, the science on a lot of this stuff is kind of iffy, and so I’m a bit reluctant to recommend it to others, as opposed to experiment with it myself. But since people keep emailing, here are a few things I feel pretty good about:

1) Coenzyme Q10. This is the single best thing I take, I think. As I’ve mentioned before, I have more energy, fewer migraines, and just generally feel better since I started taking it. I went off it for a while, and noticed the difference. I generally take the Nature Made, though I’ve taken the Swanson too and it seemed just as good.

2) Vitamin D. The evidence that supplementation helps seems pretty good to me. I take 4000 units in the winter and 2000 in the summer. I usually take the Nature Made, but that’s mostly because I can get it either at Amazon or at the drug store. I seem to have gotten sick significantly less often since I started taking it.

3) Pycnogenol, citrulline and arginine. These are basically bodybuilding supplements. They’re supposed to improve recovery. I do seem to get less sore since I started taking them. For the pycnogenol, I usually take the Swanson but I often just pick up a bottle at Earth Fare in their house brand. For the citrulline and arginine, I like the Source Naturals brand, but I’ve taken a variety of others that were okay. (Note: If you have any form of herpes, you may want to avoid arginine, which may trigger or exacerbate an outbreak.)

4) Vitamin K2: The arguments for taking this seem pretty good, so I sometimes take a supplement from Jarrow. I also use real cream from grassfed cows in my coffee, which has the added advantage of being delicious.

5) Resveratrol: I take the Biotivia Transmax. I may rethink the resveratrol, because the evidence on it is looking more complex than it did a few years ago, but I haven’t quit yet.

6) Fish Oil: I actually just take the stuff from Earth Fare, which seems pretty good. It has about 1000 mg. of DHA and EPA combined. This, which I’ve taken in the past, is pretty similar. Also seems to help with achiness post-workout.

Do these help? I think so — I feel significantly better than I did a decade ago. That’s partly due to a better exercise routine and a better diet, of course, but I think the better exercise, at least, is partly made possible by the supplements.

It’s also possible that they’re doing nothing whatsoever, and this is entirely a placebo effect. If so, well, I can live with that, too. . . .

Things I’ve tried and didn’t like:

1) Creatine. Lots of bodybuilders take it, but when I tried it years ago, I got a series of nasty migraines that let up when I quit. I should probably repeat the experiment, since it could have been a fluke, but I haven’t.

2) Magnesium. The laxative effect, for me, is too pronounced. Doesn’t seem to make much difference what kind I took.

3) Niacin. I took the slo-niacin, but the impact on my cholesterol, etc. was minimal. And my doctor said I didn’t need it.

4) Tongkat Ali. An herbal supplement many lifters favor. The only noticeable effect was that all-out lifts felt kinda good instead of painful, but it didn’t seem to do anything else. Expensive, and, it turns out, often contaminated with mercury, so I gave it up pretty quickly.

5) Chromium picolinate. Also popular with many lifters. Used it for a while some years ago to no visible effect.

So there you go. That’s my experience for what it’s worth, which is quite possibly nothing at all.

UPDATE: Well, I don’t know what you got out of this, but in the comments there was a reference to something I had somehow completely missed on fish oil and prostate cancer. This seems significant enough that I’m going to stop taking the fish oil.