It has been a while since I’ve updated my personal supplement rundown. Over the last year and change I’ve slowly tested and adjusted my supplement intake, based on research and personal needs. Since my stack had been actively evolving, I wanted to hold out on updating until I had mostly settled on a revised supplement intake.
But now I’ve comfortably settled into a tight regimen of certain supplements, and I’ll discuss what I use and when.
Please note the obvious caveat: The use and dosage of the below is based on my body and health situation. Your needs may be different. Explore usage of any of the below items with discretion and caution for your individual situation. And of course, you’re welcome to take/use or leave/ignore any of this information.
These are listed in rough order of importance.
Rainbow Light Men’s One Daily
When: Each workday (weekdays), with meal
Dose: 1 cap (full dose 1 cap)
Why: I always placed an importance on taking a whole food based multivitamin, since just about any reasonable diet consistently lacks some volume of vital micro-nutrients.
I’ve slowly refined and cleaned up most of my diet. I still occasionally indulge in processed/junk food. But I’m much more consistent with meal quality, especially at work (lot of wild caught tuna/sardines and a lot of steam-bag peas). At home for dinner I often eat hefty cuts of chicken or beef, usually with rice, all seasoned with a bit of garlic salt.
Given this, based on meticulous tracking with Cronometer, I’m getting necessary amounts of most micro-nutrients.
Still, I’m often short of key vitamins like Vitamin C and Vitamin K. Even with some vegetables I don’t always get enough. (My diet also leaves me short of Vitamin A aka Beta Carotene, but for reasons I won’t get into now I’m not as concerned about missing that target.)
What this multi mainly does is make sure those shortfalls are met. As many will tell you, most of what you don’t use from a vitamin supplement is urinated out anyway, so I’m not worried about overdosing.
This multi also provides a blast of probiotics (dubious benefit as in pill form they’re likely stillborn or otherwise benign), and inositol, which balances production of hormones that affect mental health and function.
I’ve been taking the Rainbow Men’s One multi for years, and it’s still the best combination of just about everything I could need from one, without providing too much of what I don’t need.
However, I no longer take it everyday, though I do take it most days. I keep it at work and take it there with a meal, and then on weekends I do things differently.
Hammer Nutrition Premium Insurance Caps
When: Most weekends, in afternoons and/or evenings, after meals
Dose: 0-4 caps (full dose 4 caps)
Why: Not that I’m a fan of any variant of the “muscle confusion” theory, but I thought adding some vitamin variety between weekdays and weekends would be productive for my metabolic health. This has worked very well overall.
At first, I took a different whole food multivitamin on the weekends (Paradise Men’s Multi). But now, with my diet more nutritionally complete, I actually have days where Cronometer shows me that I don’t need many additional nutrients at all. On these days I actually won’t take a multivitamin.
Most of the time, though, I do need at least a partial multivitamin dose to cover my bases. I’ve been a loyal Hammer Nutrition customer for a while, and while their Premium Insurance multi isn’t micro-robust enough to use everyday, it is better engineered than most brands (not to mention Hammer’s supplements are engineered specifically for general needs of endurance athletes), and its multi-cap dosage makes it perfect for the partial dosages I usually want to take.
While it lacks Rainbow’s probiotics and other whole food extracts, it packs a much bigger punch with inositol: A full 4-pill dose contains 57mg of inositol compared to Rainbow’s 20 per dose. I don’t know that I need that much (Rainbow’s 20 is fine), but if I only take 1 pill then I’m still getting a good quantity of inositol.
(Hammer also has a high potency edition of this multi with a 7-pill dose. But that actually means taking more pills per dose, and for me it’s not as cost effective as the regular edition.)
Country Life Calcium Magnesium Caps
When: Each evening, after meal
Dose: 1-3 caps (full dose 3 caps)
Why: In previous years I took supplements for several other vitamins. I have since scaled back to focus mostly on calcium and magnesium, one of our crucial combinations of nutrients. Magnesium among many other valuable needs is important for proper sleep, one factor I’ve worked hard on improving over the last year.
For magnesium to work effectively it also needs calcium (which also also needs Vitamin K2 and regular Vitamin D intake to be properly used, though I typically get enough of those). Most people get calcium from dairy, and I don’t consume much dairy. Occasionally if I order takeout it’ll have cheese, but usually my diet provides no daily. I often eat bone-in wild sardines at work, and that provides a bit of calcium.
But some portion has to be supplemented, and when I supplement calcium I like to take it as a combo with some magnesium, killing two birds with one stone.
Over the last year I’ve discovered that most hard pills are manufactured using magnesium stearate, an emulsifier and binder whose main use is to hold the pill together. Sponsored research has dodged the subject, but there’s growing concern that mag stearate isn’t good for you.
Among other concerns, mag stearate inhibits absorption (plus the magnesium therein can’t actually be utilized itself), it can interfere with cellular function when absorbed, and to a lesser extent it can occasionally cause diarrhea (though I can’t recall having that problem from offending pills).
Given the concern with magnesium stearate, I decided to switch many supplements and avoid hard pills when possible. I still take the Rainbow multi, whose bottle doesn’t reference the use of mag stearate but likely uses it or similar. Any other supplement I take is food or gelatin-caplet based, most of which contain no stearates.
(I’m more forgiving towards caps containing stearic acid, whose concerns are a bit more dubious than mag stearate. One supplement I’ll mention later is made with stearic acid, and stearic acid occurs naturally in a lot of our whole food.)
I supplement other magnesium aside from this, as a full dose provides 250mg and I often like to orally supplement up to 350mg (the max recommended daily oral dose). If I take a full 3-cap dose of this supplement, and my diet’s provided enough other magnesium, this alone might be enough. But usually I take a partial dose of this (2 caps, sometimes 1), and a partial dose of some other magnesium source.
While the magnesium RDA is 400mg, I aim for an intake between 700-1000mg. Again, you shouldn’t get more than 350mg from supplements, with the rest coming from your diet or other sources.
Country Life Chelated Magnesium Glycinate
When: Each evening, after dinner
Dose: 1 cap (full dose 3 caps)
Why: Of the various types of magnesium supplements, magnesium glycinate is arguably the best absorbed and in turn the most effective.
Magnesium glycinate is formed from magnesium and from glycine, the latter an essential amino acid that among other benefits provides an important precursor to effective sleep (which, again, is a priority of mine, and a key reason I’m fixated on getting enough magnesium).
I like to stack my cal-mag cap mentioned above with a partial dose of this mag glycinate supplement, which Country Life makes without the use of the aforementioned magnesium stearate (though they do use the less-concerning stearic acid). They’re among the only magnesium glycinate providers that avoids mag stearate.
Respecting the 350mg supplemental limit, I’ll avoid dosing this if I take a full dose of the cal-mag supplement above. But otherwise, I’ll take one pill equaling 133mg before bed (the full dose is 3 pills for 400mg). I don’t ever take more than one per day. The idea is it will digest and break down during sleep and help maintain sleep through the night.
Wild fish oil based Omega 3 caps
When: Mostly evenings, sometimes during day on weekends, always with meal
Dose: 1000mg (full dose 1000mg)
Why: I’ve gone back and forth on the usefulness of Omega 3 in reducing inflammation and moderating triglycerides.
Because I’ve shifted in recent years towards a lower-carb diet and emphasizing fat utilization in endurance training, I’m less worried about triglyceride levels since fat adapted endurance training better utilize triglycerides as fuel. Most people don’t endurance train, and many who do train too hard too often to become highly fat adapted, and so they don’t use their triglycerides. This is how they end up with high triglyceride levels in the bloodstream to begin with.
Given this, not only am I not concerned about keeping my triglyceride levels down, I’m concerned about anything that will remove too much of something my body needs as a fuel source! I don’t want to take something that will inhibit my body’s access to running fuel.
Omega 3’s effects on cholesterol levels are also dubious. Not to mention, cholesterol’s main role is as a hormonal precursor for key hormones like testosterone. A key reason many have bad cholesterol levels is because they’re so inactive their body has no reason to produce these key hormones. So, like triglycerides, the cholesterol just backlogs in the blood, clogging things up.
Given this, I’m not concerned about my cholesterol levels either, let alone if Omega 3 can reduce them, though I am concerned if it will blunt them to the point of inhibiting this hormone production. I actually have a use for those hormones!
As for inflammation reduction, there’s countless confounding factors in what can cause or reduce inflammation. I’ve been on the fence about whether Omega 3 makes things better or not.
Given all this… why do I need Fish Oil and Omega 3? Should I take it at all? I’ve been asking this off and on for a couple years.
I finally decided it was a good idea for another reason: No matter how I feel about Omega 3, I am taking in a steady dose of Omega 6 oils, which themselves have various benefits and downsides. Without Omega 3 available in a proper ratio to balance it (most agree that Omega-6/3 ratio is 4 to 1 or less), Omega 6 oils can be inflammatory and otherwise harmful.
Given this, I decided Omega 3 oils, for any of my above concerns, were valuable as long as I either:
- Took Omega 3 in naturally, aka salmon, sardines, eggs, or other fish.
- Took fish oil with a big meal that likely has a lot of Omega 6 oils.
- Generally took fish oil closer to the end of the day, with training concluded and the need for readily available triglycerides not being as important.
Sometimes I eat sockeye salmon and that’s often 2000mg+ of Omega 3 per serving. I do eat sardines at work, which provides 1500mg in a typical serving. However, I frequently eat chicken and beef and this provides a ton of Omega 6 in a day, so sometimes I need a fish oil cap with dinner to help re-balance the ratio below 4-1.
Because of mercury and inflammation concerns, I always take Omega 3 derived from wild caught fish. (Flax-seed in particular can cause inflammation problems)
I didn’t specify a brand here as I rotate between whatever is most readily, affordably available. Wiley’s Finest Wild Alaskan Fish Oil is a good reliable Omega 3 source, though sometimes other providers can offer a 1000mg dose from wild fish for a better price, so I’ll try their version.
(May 2023 Edit: I incidentally started using and found good results with Aqua Biome’s Max Strength Omega 3 Fish Oil, a more affordable per cap version that gives you a full gram per cap of high quality triglyceride form O3, taken from anchovies, mackerel and sardines which are the best sources thereof. I still think Wiley’s is a good brand but I’ve now switched to Aqua Biome for the time being.)
Mahler Aggressive Strength Testosterone Booster
When: Quarterly, every morning for ~60 days, on an empty stomach.
Dose: 1 cap (full dose 2 caps)
Why: First, the important info: This is not actual testosterone, nor any other anabolic substance. Barring unforeseen contraband in distribution, there are no steroids or banned substances in this supplement.
ASTB is a collection of potent ayurvedic herbs (ashwagandha, bulbine natalensis, stinging nettle root, mucuna pruriens) that boost a multitude of hormones, which in turn lead to improved testosterone production. Testosterone of course is associated with manliness and strength, but mainly serves to improve athletic performance and overall health.
Most herbal testosterone supplements(such as tongkat ali or tribulus) are useless. ASTB however, in most experts’ and my own experience, is the only such supplement that produces a significant noticeable benefit in performance and health. From when I initially tried it a year ago, I’ve noticed and felt a clear if not immediate improvement in how I felt within a couple weeks of use. There’s no crazy drug-like spike in energy or performance: I just felt better and more confident, an organic improvement in the above. Plus, whenever I stop using it, there’s no clear drop in any of the above.
Aside from the usual markers associated with testosterone (strength and performance, sex drive), I generally notice that I feel better and more overall energetic when I take ASTB. I notice my running and strength training isn’t as much of a struggle (even though of course training is still challenging!). The best way to describe the feeling is I feel better equipped to handle the challenge.
Though it’s not an anabolic, you do have to cycle ASTB. This means you take it daily for 2-3 months, and then stop taking it for at least 4 weeks before using it again.
This has nothing to do with anabolic anything: You have to cycle because your body gets desensitized to ashwagandha and the other herbs after 2-3 months of regular use. (People actually don’t realize that about ashwagandha, though a lot of people use it!)
Your body desensitizes to these herbs and they eventually lose effectiveness, but your body should re-sensitize after 4 weeks and respond to them again upon re-use.
Also, though Mahler recommends taking 2-3 caps a day, I usually only take one cap a day. Sometimes if I can I’ll take a 2nd cap in the afternoon. I’m big on partial doses of non-essential supplements. Plus, you have to take it on an empty stomach, which limits when I can take it.
Again, I’ve still seen improvement despite not doing the full dose, and that’s weighing 175-180 lbs (right around where he suggests people increase the dosage due to body size).
After running out of ASTB last year, I left it behind for a while. But I happened to get a discount on a big batch when I went to buy another bottle a few months ago. So I decided to cycle it for the next long while until it runs out again.
Of course, for the curious it’s important to make this clear: It’s a male supplement. Women who try to take it probably won’t grow anything they shouldn’t, but the results could be weird if not dangerous. It probably messes far too much with women’s natural estrogen levels to be safe for their consumption.
Also, if you’re a younger man or a boy (younger than 25 years of age), your test levels should already be naturally high. You shouldn’t need ASTB, and taking it might dangerously spike and mess with your hormone levels long term. Just eat right and hit the gym. Just about any natural diet/exercise will work wonders when you’re that young.
Mahler Aggressive Strength Recovery Oil
When: Every evening, occasional mornings
Dose: 10 sprays on legs and upper arms (full dose is variable, 10-15 sprays)
Why: Unlike ASTB, this isn’t herbal nor hormone-centered. This is simply a magnesium/zinc spray applied topically to your body for general recovery and health.
While magnesium oil is a common topical product (in fact Epsom salts are simply a solid form of magnesium sulfate!), this version’s potency plus the inclusion of zinc and MSM (methylsulfonylmethane, bioavailable sulfur) sets it apart.
I started using the Recovery Oil more recently, and while confounding factors could be at play I noticed after use that I slept better and wasn’t as sore after tougher workouts or high training volume. So I kept using it before bed every night, plus some mornings after long runs and races. Because it has magnesium, I imagine it has a positive influence on my sleep as well, highlighting my emphasis on doing it before bed.
(It’s also worth noting that the general 350mg limit on daily magnesium supplementation is for digestive reasons. So whatever amount of magnesium is topically applied doesn’t count against that!)
For this product I follow the recommended dose of 10 sprays. Mahler recommends spraying it on your arms, legs, and lower back. I spray once and rub in on each calf, each hamstring, each quad, each bicep and each deltoid. Because I do it before bed, I don’t wash it off as Mahler advises you optionally can after 20 minutes. I’ve never found it irritating, I shower in the morning anyway, and it’s never been a problem.
There’s the confounding factor that I’ve become more careful and measured with my training load. But I don’t get sore much at all since using this. I may occasionally still get sore after harder training, plus some body parts do understandably hurt every now and again.
But I also recover more quickly, and any soreness isn’t as pronounced nor hangs around as intensely. Before, I could be sore for days after a long run or hard strength training. Sometimes when not training I may forego using it on a given night, but usually I apply it every night before bed.
Sprouts or Vital Proteins Marine Collagen Peptides
When: Some point during day at work (weekdays), usually with meals or other protein
Dose: 6-12g powder in water (full dose 12g)
Why: I can’t remember exactly when I got turned onto the joint/tendon healing properties of collagen peptides. FYI collagen peptides are a good general supplement to take for all sorts of reasons I won’t get into, regardless of what you do for exercise. But at some point last year I started drinking a 1/2 serving (6g, a small scoop) mixed in hot water at work, and have made a habit of it since.
See, at work I like to drink a lot of hot water. We have a spring-water cooler/heater there. While I enjoy drinking hot liquid, I cap my coffee intake at 12-16 oz, and there’s only so much herbal tea I can stand. I noticed I enjoyed drinking hot water just as much, so I’ve done that regularly.
I’ve put collagen in my coffee, as many like to do. That’s okay if not cumbersome when you buy coffee and then put it in. Dropping and stirring it into my hot water at work, however, is not at all cumbersome. Other than a slight flavor I don’t notice any difference. So I keep a jar of collagen at my desk and drop it in about once a day. (May 2023 Edit: Nowadays I make coffee at work instead of going out, so now it’s easier to add collagen to that coffee. So I drink it with the coffee.)
I’ve talked vaguely before about mTOR pathways and how you need to take enough of the amino acid leucine (or do hard exercise right before consumption) to open them up. So if I don’t take it in the morning following my workout, I like to make sure I have collagen when I eat something with protein, so that protein gets properly utilized for rebuilding. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t and the peptides just get burned into fuel, but it’s kind of a waste given collagen’s main role is rebuilding.
Source Naturals Rejuvenzyme
When: Early mornings, on empty stomach
Dose: 2 caps (full dose 2 caps)
Why: Systemic enzymes are an underrated nutrient. When we think of enzymes we’re usually thinking of digestive enzymes, of which we typically get plenty in our food and other supplements (most of Hammer Nutrition’s supplements build in key digestive enzymes for better absorption). However, effectively ingested systemic enzymes help rebuild the body’s fascia and regulate/reduce overall inflammation.
For a better primer on why systemic enzymes are important, there’s a great book worth reading by Ming Chew called The Permanent Pain Cure. It’s about improving how our body’s fascia works, how important our fascia is to our health, and the book is built around using stretching and improving diet/lifestyle to improve that function and reduce pain/inflammation/illness. You can read and apply Chew’s stretching techniques if desired, but the book’s primer on enzymes, fascia and other aspects of health make the book worth a read either way.
In any case, there are certain hard to find systemic enzymes like serrapeptase and chymotrypsin. Rejuvenzyme is the only single source of all the key systemic enzymes as well as those hard-to-find two.
Again, there can be confounding factors, but since starting them over a year ago I have noticed feeling generally better overall. I’ve tried other enzyme blends, but have always come back to this one: The others didn’t settle as well or I didn’t feel as well with them. Plus, this one is easier to find and to buy.
You have to take systemic enzymes on an empty stomach with enough water (at least an 8 oz cup, downed as quickly as reasonably possible) for them to pass straight through the stomach into your intestines, where they can be properly absorbed undigested. Without enough water, or if taken with food, they are effectively wasted as digestive enzymes, which you already have and get elsewhere.
I either take them first thing in the morning (I don’t drink coffee or eat until later in the day), or during the morning at work when I know I haven’t had anything in a couple hours.
Those are the regular supplements. The following are ones I take occasionally:
Hammer Nutrition Mito Caps
When: During training, on most days in morning or evening, with food or during run
Dose: 1 cap if not running, 2-3 caps on key runs (full dose 3 caps).
Why: Mito Caps are supposed to aid your body, after and between endurance workouts, with effectively building and maintaining mitochondria, which power endurance exercise and are obviously important to better distance running. Key ingredients include L-Carnitine, R-Alpha Lipoic Acid, DMAE, PABA and assorted vitamins (E, B6). (A lot of likely unknown nutrients here and they all have complex purposes, which is why I linked reputable explanations of them all!)
Obviously, if I’m not seriously training, taking this is not as important. So I mainly take it when training seriously (such as for a goal race). Again, I only take one cap instead of the full dose, supporting my recovery rather than relying on it.
It’s a bit cumbersome because not only must it be taken with food, but you also have to keep it refrigerated or it’ll degrade quickly. I have to keep it at home, and can only take it at home with meals, so usually I take it at night after dinner. On weekends I’ll have it with lunch after a workout, if I remember.
Hammer Nutrition Race Caps Supreme
When: Many mornings before workouts or busy days
Dose: 1 cap, but if running 2-3 caps spaced out during run
Why: While the Mito Caps aid in recovery and super-compensation, the Race Caps aid in training and racing performance. In fact, while Hammer won’t fully claim it’s a stimulant, they tell you not to take it late in the day while implying that it’s basically a stimulant (though apparently it does not contain any known stimulants).
Obviously I don’t take it with dinner. I can only really take it in the morning, and before/during long runs, races, and similar workouts.
Key ingredients include the heart friendly Co-Enzyme Q10, its synthetic friend Idebenone, betaine and inosine, PQQ, Vitamin E and a host of other random (maybe) micro-nutrients with their own respective roles.
There’s a lot of synthetic compounds in here, so even if it wasn’t a (maybe-)stimulant, I’d probably be wary about using it often. Like the mito caps I only use it during training cycles, and before/during races. I haven’t noticed any eye-popping results, and again, confounding factors. But I have generally noticed positive-feeling runs and results while using it.
Hammer Nutrition Phytolean
When: Occasionally, with starch-heavy meals
Dose: 1 cap (full dose 2-3 caps)
Why: This is definitely one of those “cheat” supplements. Basically, it blocks any starch in the stomach when taken from being digested and utilized thanks to a kidney bean extract. It basically turns that starch into glorified insoluble fiber.
Phytolean also contains exogenous ketones, which your body can freely use once absorbed, and provides a metabolic hint-hint to your body to try and extract ketones from your triglycerides and fat (though it’s not nearly as effective at that as dieting keto and going full ketosis).
You take it if you want to minimize carb intake in a given meal, without having to eat Paleo or keto. You take it to moderate overall food intake without having to outright starve yourself, or again eat paleo or keto. It’s advertised as “weight management” but more specifically it’s just to keep your body from storing a bunch of otherwise unused starchy carbs as fat.
I take this situationally. Right now, seriously training, I actually need the glycogen so I don’t have much of a need for Phytolean. Some days, if I haven’t trained at all but I do eat rice or similar, I’ll take it with that meal.
When I was training less, I would frequently take it with dinner, after eating rice, bread, or similar. I didn’t have it with me outside of home, so if I ate starchy food at work or out and about, I just let that digest.
Since using it, my weight’s been mostly even, though what is to say that my weight wouldn’t have ballooned had I not taken it? I had been rather inactive throughout much of this time.
Hammer recommends you take 2-3 caps, and that each cap can basically render inert up to 150g of starch. Not eating nearly that much carbohydrate at my carb-richest, I often just take one. For me it’s just there to moderate absorption rather than eliminate it.
And again, sometimes I do want those carbs! Not just for energy, but (for example) in the case of potatoes they have potassium and other nutrients I really want, and blocking absorption denies that. So, I only take Phytolean occasionally here or there.
Superior Source Vitamin K2 MK4
When: Occasional weekend days, with a meal
Dose: 1 cap (full dose 1 cap)
Why: Vitamin K works with calcium to ensure it’s used to rebuild bones rather than harden your arteries, among many other important functions.
I used to take Vitamin K2 religiously, whether MK7 or MK4 (both are beneficial, though MK7 is made with soy). Once I started regularly taking the Rainbow multi and regularly eating vegetables like Brussels sprouts and peas (both of which are rich in Vitamin K), I didn’t have a need to do that anymore.
Still, there are days where I don’t take the Rainbow multi and where I don’t get any vegetables. This is where the high-dose Superior Source MK4 at home comes in handy. The dose is well over the RDA (which is safe) and taking one with calcium ensures I don’t turn my arteries into pipes. I don’t have to do this more than once in a while when needed.
Supplements I stopped taking:
Citrate based Calcium/Magnesium supplements
Why: I mentioned above wanting to avoid magnesium stearate, and pretty much all of these supplements are in pill form and formed using magnesium stearate.
Vitamin D3 supplements
Why: I won’t go as far as to share Garrett Smith’s opinion that because Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) was literally used as rat poison that any ingested dietary form of Vitamin D is toxic. But it’s not a nutrient I need to go out of my way to ingest. The fish and eggs I eat actually provide enough themselves. Plus, I go out in the sun a lot, and therefore my body produces quite a bit of vitamin D.
Mahler Real Energy Dominator (RED)
Why: RED was actually the original reason I found Mahler, well before trying ASTB. This is also an herbal supplement though it’s more general purpose, intended to naturally balance your hormones and improve your overall energy. RED also has ashwagandha, as well as maca, shilajit and rhodiola rosea. Like ASTB I noticed a positive effect from using it, without any sort of withdrawal once I stopped.
However, it looks like Mahler discontinued it earlier in 2023. Once I used up the last of it, then it was gone for good. Either way, I probably would have phased it out, as in the last few months of refining my diet and training my energy on average has improved anyway.
There’s all the supplements I take, whether regularly or occasionally.
This stack has been refined over the last couple years, and works well for me. Some of these could drop off in the long term, especially (though I’m in no hurry to do this) if I eventually cut down on running and focus on general fitness.
Overall, I’ve placed importance on getting as much of my needed nutrients naturally through diet. And I do a much better job of that today than even two years ago, let alone 10-20. In the long run I’d like to improve it even further.
But as long as there’s a need for them, I’ll rely on supplements to help fill in the gaps.
[…] supplements though was a bigger step. As I recently discussed, I take a fairly loaded stack. I didn’t expect crazy withdrawal symptoms, but I was curious […]