I went out this morning and had breakfast at the Coffee Cup in Boulder City, the first restaurant breakfast I’ve had since the lockdowns began in March. I got coffee and ran a few errands on the way back.
One of those errands included picking up a new bottle of the cal/mag citrate supplement I had run out of last night. I also picked up some L-theanine capsules to start supplementing with daily. I’m not one to add a new supplement to my current rotation unless there’s a very good reason to do so, so this was kind of a big deal.
I don’t take a ton of supplements, but I definitely take more than just a multivitamin, and I have good reasons for taking everything I do take. I’m going to spill a few blocks of text to talk about those supplements I do take.
Rainbow Light Vibrance Men’s One A Day.
This is an algae-based whole food once daily men’s multivitamin. Of all the multi’s I could take, this one has the most amount of bioavailable vitamins and nutrients: The key to a successful supplement is not just what nutrients it provides, but how bioavailable those nutrients are:
Some supplements are not well absorbed in the gut and are basically useless. Two common examples are Magnesium Oxide and Calcium Carbonate. Both varieties are so poorly absorbed you are basically ingesting sand capsules. And sadly most varieties of vitamins sold provide you with just these varieties of calcium and magnesium.
Citrates are certainly better, and the most affordable variety that is at least reasonably bioavailable. The biggest criticism of citrates is that the gut sometimes doesn’t react well to them, and much like foods with allergens the gut may face limits in how much it can absorb while it’s also battling what’s basically a histamine reaction to the supplement.
That doesn’t mean citrates are allergens, of course. Not everyone reacts badly to them, and many who do don’t always react badly to them. It can depend on a variety of factors beyond the scope of this post.
It’s akin to straining a porous food like quinoa in a coriander: You still get a good deal of benefit from the end result, but sometimes you lose some of the benefit. The end result is decent.
An ideal form of magnesium is magnesium glycinate. Glycinates are very well absorbed by the body. It’s also not an easy or cheap variety to find in abundance.
The best I can do is…
365 Brand’s Cal-Mag Citrate with Vitamin D3
This is a relatively affordable bioavailable variety of calcium and magnesium. Yes, it also has Vitamin D, but for reasons I’ll get into later that’s not as important.
I take calcium because I don’t consume much of any dairy, and while I get some I don’t consume a ton of vegetables. Thus I want to make sure I get some quantity of calcium.
The Vitamin D3 (10mcg, about 50% of RDA) is certainly of some value. But I already get plenty of Vitamin D everyday: I live in a desert, the sun is out in abundance, and I go outside for a good deal of time everyday… often in shorts, often time shirtless. I’m getting plenty of vitamin D, and don’t need to worry about getting much in my diet. Still, the D3 in this is nice.
I take magnesium because, among its many other benefits, magnesium is important to getting quality sleep. Many are magnesium deficient, and it’s little surprise there’s almost a 1 to 1 relationship between magensium deprived people and sleep deprived people who struggle with insomnia. People fuss over melatonin and blue light exposure when they should be fussing over whether or not they’re getting enough magnesium. The RDA is 400mg a day and most don’t come close. But, as I do, I digress….
This variety of calcium is 80% calcium citrate, which I’m looking for, and 20% calcium carbonate, which I’m not. I assume that 20% carbonate is a punt (maybe a minor overnight street-sweep of my gut), and just focus on the 80% citrate I am getting.
3 pills equals 500mg of calcium, but I only take 2 of these pills a day (for many reasons I won’t get into). So I’m only getting 333mg of calcium, and 80% of that (about 267mg) is getting absorbed… contingent on a supplement I’ll address later.
This is well below the RDA for calcium, but that RDA is based on intake of typically poorly absorbed sources. If you take in mostly bioavailable calcium, you really only need far less than the RDA.
This variety of magnesium is 50% magnesium glycinate, the motherlode variety I mentioned earlier, and 50% magnesium citrate, which as mentioned is still decent. A full serving is 250mg of magnesium, and again because I’m only taking 2 pills I’m getting 2/3 of that serving (~167 mg).
However, pretty much all of that magnesium is bioavailable. Plus, I do eat foods that contain magnesium such as almonds and many meats. Plus, my multi-vitamin contains an additional 50mg of marine magnesium extract, which is not abundant but very bioavailable. I’m probably getting enough magnesium between all those sources.
Also, magnesium absorption is also contingent on another supplement I now take:
Whole Foods L-Theanine (which I just started taking today)
This is mostly sold as Suntheanine, a concentrated and well-absorbed form of theanine, and you can take your pick as to which brand you get. This time around, I just got the generic Whole Foods brand. In fact, several brands sold 60 pills to a bottle for the exact same $11.99 price at my store. Maybe I get some other brand after this bottle’s used up. Who knows.
I’ll probably take this midday, as it’s the one supplement I have meant to be taken between meals, rather than with or after a meal. The reason is simple: Suntheanine is very competitive for your digestive tract’s absorption capabilities, and could interfere with the absorption of other supplements and nutrients. So you want to take suntheanine by itself, between meals, where nothing else will be lost in the process.
L-Theanine is actually a key amino acid to your body utilizing magnesium. And it’s not a typically easy to find nutrient. Your body does produce some L-theanine, but it’s a rudimentary amount and without additional supplementation you’re limited in how well you utilize your ingested magnesium. Plus like many amino acids it’s serving a variety of other purposes aside from utilizing magensium. You magnesium usage gets lost on L-theanine’s biological to-do list.
Many supplement with L-theanine to relieve hormonal reactions to stress, but I’m taking it to indirectly help my sleep by better utilizing my ingested magensium.
There are two common foods for L-theanine, and that’s basically about it. There’s a handful of varieties of edible (non-hallucinogenic) mushrooms abundant with it. The much more commonly available source of it is green tea.
I had been drinking green tea recently on many afternoons, certainly not for a caffeine boost or its antioxidants, but specifically to ingest more L-theanine. I noticed that my sleep had improved some over recent weeks since I started.
But, while I don’t hate green tea, I don’t particularly care for it. Green tea tastes like hippie bong water to me. And I don’t want to season it with any cream or sugar. Plus, having to go out of my way to drink it instead of coffee or hot water doesn’t appeal to me.
A $12 bottle of once daily L-theanine capsules is far easier for me to stomach.
Jarrow Formulas Vitamin K2 (as MK-7).
I take one of these everyday after dinner before bed. Vitamin K is an underrated and necessary vitamin. Your body will not effectively utilize calcium for your bones and other tissues without Vitamin K.
Without it, any calcium you do absorb will only end up hardening your arteries… exactly the opposite effect you hope for from calcium!
On top of that, again, I’m not taking in a ton of calcium, so I want to make sure the amount I’m taking in counts.
Vitamin K is a more complicated vitamin, in that only certain fundamental varieties are effectively utilized. Many erroneously presume the Vitamin K in vegetables is all you need. But that variety is Vitamin K1, which while somewhat useful is also poorly absorbed by the body. This unfortunately is due to the double edged source of vegetables mostly being insoluble fiber.
Insoluble fiber is great for cleaning up your digestive tract, but that’s because it’s not so well absorbed by your body. A lot of your Vitamin K1 is trapped in that insoluble fiber. It’s much like the aforementioned calcium carbonate and magnesium oxide: You have a use for it, but you body won’t really absorb it.
It’s Vitamin K2 that is typically much better absorbed. You can actually get a good quantity from many fatty meats. Dark meat chicken is actually an excellent source. But I don’t always eat that kind of meat, especially nowadays. And the other rich source, fermented foods, are not my bag for a variety of reasons I will share someday.
Taking a K2 supplement ensures I consistently have K2 available in my digestive tract and bloodstream with which to properly utilize my calcium.
Menaquinone-7 (MK-7) is much more highly absorbed and utilized form of vitamin K2 than the other common variety menaquinone-4 (MK-4). Research has shown that MK-4 supplementation doesn’t improve K2 levels in the bloodstream whereas MK-7 does improve them a great deal. MK-7 is the way to go.
(In case anyone asks, there’s also Vitamin K3 aka Menadione, which is purely synthetic. Yes, I’m aware it’s had some studied benefits on leukemia patients. But I prefer to stick to whole-food-derived bioavailable varieties of vitamins unless there’s a specific reason to diverge.)
Wiley’s Finest Wild Alaskan Fish Oil.
There’s a legion of evidence on the value of Omega 3 fatty acids and supplementation of fish oil in your diet to get it. You’re likely well aware of it by now. But the main benefit to me aside from general heart health benefits is its marked effect on the reduction of bodily inflammation. I find when I don’t get Omega 3 that I feel sore more often or at greater intensity (In fact, I don’t get lingering soreness much at all, even when I’m training much more than I am now). I’ll even take it midday on rare occasions I have a headache, in lieu of painkillers (which are typically not good for you if taken more than once in a while).
Obviously, salmon is far and away the best source of Omega 3, and on days I eat salmon I don’t take this. Other varieties of fish have a little bit, but I still take this when I eat those.
Some will vouch for Flaxseed Oil, but I’ve found my body doesn’t react as well to it. Plus that variety of Omega 3 is not as anti-inflammatory as fish-based varieties.
You can take up to 3 of these a day but I only take 1 after dinner before bed. On rare occasions I’ll take 2 in a day, one in midday and another after dinner before bed.
What about that multi-vitamin you take? Isn’t that supposed to give you all the vitamins you need?
That multi does give me most of what I need… which is why I’m not taking a supplement for those other vitamins! So before you ask about Zinc or Vitamin E or B12… this multi gives me an abundance of those vitamins, so I’m good there.
As you could probably guess, I’m taking these listed supplements because the multi I’m taking doesn’t provide sufficient amounts or bioavailability of those vitamins and nutrients.
Magnesium: I mentioned this multi has 50mg of marine extract magnesium, which is about 12% of the RDA. Obviously, that would not be anywhere close to enough on its own.
Calcium: This multi provides 25mg of marine rich red algae calcium. While very bioavailable, that is only a paltry 2% of the RDA. Even though I mentioned the RDA is inflated due to most people having poor calcium sources… 25mg is not anywhere close to enough calcium.
Vitamin K: As I mentioned with other vegetable sources, this multi’s phytonadione Vitamin K is the K1 variety, which again is not all that bioavailable. The 120 mcg provided would be 100% of the RDA, but again the body can’t use very much of it to process calcium.
Vitamin D: Incidentally, while I mentioned I get more than enough Vitamin D from the sun, this multi provides 50 mcg, 250% of the RDA, via cholecalciferol. Again, that’s nice it’s there, but I don’t really need it. And Vitamin D is a pretty hard vitamin to overdose on (though obviously you can overdose on the sun!). In fact, most people are deficient in Vitamin D even if they supplement!
The only vitamin the multi doesn’t provide that some could argue I might need is Phosphorus. But your body’s bones and other tissues are full of this mineral, many common foods provide some bioavialable amount, and your body typically reabsorbs what’s in the bloodstream if you happen to be short. A deficiency is very rare. So I’m probably good there as well.
I’m not big of taking a load of supplements. There are probably others you could vouch for me taking. I actually think this collection is quite a bit to take in one day, and it’s more than I’ve taken in previous years. This is a list I’m not particularly anxious to add to, even though I clearly just added one new item today.
But I have very specific, beneficial reasons for taking these supplements, and thus I take them. Given a firm, compelling reason to add another to this deck (as I did today with the L-theanine), I’m open to adding others.
But given my health to date, it’s pretty clear this combination along with my prevailing diet has worked just fine.