There are countless supplements and products being marketed at us constantly, each promising to help improve our health in a myriad ways and to make us feel healthier and more energetic. Some of these products are great and are worth picking up. Others though aren’t worth the paper that the labels are printed on.
The question is how to tell these apart. And a good place to start is by knowing what the body needs and what you can do to get more of it. In this article then, we’ll examine the most valuable supplements for improving general health and well-being. These are not supplements that are necessarily aimed at athletes (though athletes can benefit from them too) but rather these are things that anyone can benefit from if they want to ensure they are getting all the nutrition they need and if they want to feel more energetic and less prone to illness.
Note that these supplements won’t all be for everyone but each is worth considering if you feel that you could do with a little more energy.
Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin which means that you can consume lots and not worry about overdosing – the body will simply expel it. Vitamin C is a very important nutrient however for strengthening the immune system and is a natural antioxidant. At the same time, vitamin C can also elevate levels of serotonin thereby boosting your mood and helping you get better sleep! This is also useful for reducing those hunger pangs, as serotonin is one signaller that the body uses to tell you it’s hungry.
More sleep, less binge eating, fewer colds and an elevated mood. Yes please!
The B complex vitamins include B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9 and B12. Many of us are already getting enough vitamin B in our diet but if you want to get a little boost for your brain function then vitamin B will do the trick by helping you to produce more neurotransmitters and giving you a bit of an energy boost.
Omega 3 Fatty Acid
Omega 3 fatty acid has a ton of great benefits. Not only can omega 3 prevent heart problems and reduce joint pain but it can also enhance brain function and alertness. It achieves the latter by increasing cell membrane permeability in the brain cells – effectively allowing them to communicate more quickly. Omega 3 is also protective against Alzheimer’s.
There are several different types of omega 3 fatty acid but for the best all-round results you should look for EPA to get the very best bang for your buck.
Vitamin D is normally produced by the body when we are exposed to sunlight. However, many of us don’t get enough sunlight either because we have office jobs or because we live in colder, darker climates.
For these reasons, a large percentage of the population is actually deficient in vitamin D and it’s highly recommended that many of us supplement with it. Vitamin D is actually quite different from other vitamins and one of its main roles is to regulate the release and the function of hormones. Vitamin D supplementation can therefore help to increase testosterone production as well as to improve the mood by increasing monoamines like dopamine, noradrenaline and serotonin. Taken at the right time of day, it might also be useful for setting the body’s internal clock and thereby improving sleep.
Creatine is a supplement that is normally taken by athletes but actually it has a large number of health benefits and is probably something that everyone can benefit from. Creatine’s main role is to increase cellular energy by allowing the body to recycle used ‘ATP’. This can help you to run that little bit further or perform an extra rep in the gym but it also has benefits on our attention, memory and sleep. Creatine also aids glucose metabolism and bone density and reduces oxidative stress.
We can get creatine from our diet in red meat but most of us won’t get very much. Supplementing might just be a great idea for everyone then!
Not everyone needs to supplement with magnesium but it can be useful for a lot of people. Estimates suggest that around 80% of the population have a deficiency in magnesium and this can lead to a number of symptoms including hypertension, liver damage, tooth cavities, muscle weakness, insomnia, mood swings, low energy, nutrient deficiencies, low energy, headaches and more (1).
Magnesium supplementation therefore may help you to feel more energetic and can again increase the production of key neurotransmitters and hormones (including testosterone). You can get it in numerous forms which are magnesium chelate (highly absorbable, naturally available), magnesium citrate (combined with citric acid, safe but may have laxative effect), magnesium chloride oil (a type that can be absorbed through the skin and dull muscle pain), magnesium glycinate (highly absorbable and useful for those with deficiencies), magnesium threonate (even more absorbable with the ability to penetrate the mitochondrial membrane – not widely available).
Magnesium overdose is rare but it is possible – so if you’re unsure, speak with your doctor.
Potassium is another substance that many people are deficient in. Too much potassium can cause hyperkalemia but this is again very rare. Actually, a very high percentage of people again are deficient in potassium and this can lead to anxiety, stress, muscle weakness and cramps. Add more potassium to your diet and you can improve your electrolyte functions and strengthen the nervous system.
Zinc is an underappreciated mineral that has a large number of important benefits. Zinc can strengthen your immune system (by increasing the production of white blood cells), encourage testosterone production, enhance mental clarity and heighten your sense of smell and taste. Zinc is involved in more enzymatic reactions than any other mineral and this can help with a large number of processes.
Again, mild zinc deficiency is common and particularly in children, the elderly and those on vegetarian diets. If you get frequent colds, then zinc deficiency is one common explanation.
You only need 40mg of zinc a day though and you can get this from red meat and poultry as well as beans, nuts, whole grains and some fortified cereals.
Only if you’re not getting zinc from those sources should you consider adding a little extra to your diet in the form of a supplement.