Eating a well-balanced diet filled with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is the only way to maintain a healthy, fit body. However, sometimes life gets in the way. People find themselves eating processed, nutrient-lacking foods, often out of convenience. It is impossible to eat a perfect diet every day, which is why supplementation is important. Supplements do not counteract a poor diet, however they can help improve an already healthy diet and fill in the gaps from a more typical imperfect one.
Proper diet and exercise is the most essential part of gaining muscle and losing fat. However, taking certain supplements may hasten the process. The vitamin aisle can definitely be overwhelming, and it is difficult to know what supplements can help and which ones are ineffective or even harmful. It is important to understand what supplements are the most beneficial to making any purchases.
Creatine is a primary source of cellular energy that is located in our muscle cells. While it can be found in red meat, eating too much of that can be unhealthy because overconsumption can cause high cholesterol, high blood pressure, clogged arteries, and obesity. Therefore, supplementing with creatine is a healthier way to increase muscle mass. Creatine is believed to improve muscular strength, decrease muscle soreness, improve blood flow during training and improve performance during high-intensity training. The recommended dosage is 5 grams per day. The most effective and cheapest form of creatine is creatine monohydrate.
Another popular and effective supplement is Beta-Alanine, which has been shown to increase carnosine levels by 60% in just four weeks. Beta-Alanine delays the buildup of hydrogen ions in the body, allowing a longer workout. It has been shown to delay fatigue during intense training, increase total training volume and power production, increase muscle training, and increase effectiveness of creatine. The recommended dosage is 4-6 grams per day. It must be taken regularly to be effective, and should be taken in small amounts throughout the day (1).
Approximately 40 to 70% of men experience sexual dysfunction in their lifetime. When it comes to sexual health, men are hesitant to go to a doctor to discuss their medical problems. Supplements may help enhance sex drive and minimize erectile dysfunction, however they are not meant to cure such conditions and it is important to consult a doctor before starting anything new.
DHEA is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands. When supplemented daily, it is believed to increase sexual function, improve libido, and decrease erectile dysfunction. Fenugreek is another supplement thought to increase sexual function. It is an herbal extract used to intensify sexual arousal and orgasms. Sixty-seven percent of men participating in a study published in the journal Phytotherapy said that the supplement enhanced their sexual recovery time and promoted overall well-being (2).
Ginseng has long been believed to be a “super power herb” and an aphrodisiac. In traditional Chinese medicine, it has been used as an overall sex enhancer and treatment for erectile dysfunction. The British Pharmacological Society published an animal study showing the favorable effect of ginseng on libido and sexual performance. Another study showed that 45 men with erectile dysfunction experienced improvement in performance and sexual satisfaction when supplementing with 900 mg Korean red ginseng three times a day for eight weeks (2).
There are almost three million cases of prostate cancer per year in the United States. It is one of the most common forms of cancer among men. It is also preventable with a healthy diet, physical activity, and by maintaining a healthy body weight. There are also some supplements that can be taken to support prostate health (3).
Pumpkin Seeds contain high amounts of zinc, which is essential to maintaining a healthy prostate. A handful of pumpkin seeds per day (or pumpkin seed oil supplements) may help maintain normal zinc levels (3).
Stinging Nettle has been used traditionally to help with symptoms of enlarged prostate such as frequent urination. It contains compounds that may inhibit the enzyme 5-alpha reductase, which converts testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a powerful hormone associated with prostate enlargement, low testosterone levels in aging men, and hair loss (3).
Mental health problems affect both men and women but their willingness to talk about it is very different. Often times, men are less likely to discuss their feelings and seek help due to societal pressures and expectations. Some men might turn to drug or alcohol abuse in order to cope (4). It is important for men to understand how they can maintain their mental health.
Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to depression. Vitamin D is essential for the nervous and immune system, and people with deficiencies should consider supplementing. Deficiencies can come from limited sun exposure, especially in the winter when people tend to spend more time indoors. It is estimated that 50% of the population is vitamin D deficient.
Doctors recommend taking magnesium at night to help with sleeping issues and muscle relaxation. Magnesium helps control hundreds of chemical reactions in the body, but 80% of the population are deficient in it. Getting adequate sleep is incredibly important for mental health, so supplementing magnesium for a better night’s sleep may help with depression. It is recommended to take it with calcium because it competes with calcium for absorption in the body. Calcium deficiency may be a risk. It can also be applied topically in sprays or oils.
It is important to check with a doctor before starting any supplements. Sometimes, there is no replacement for medication and therapy. Also, look for products carrying a seal from the United States Pharmacopeia, NSF International, Consumer Lab, or products that are made in a facility with Good Manufacturing Practices (5).
Health experts agree that supplements are not a substitute for a healthy diet. Whole foods don’t just have vitamins and minerals, but also have fiber and protein. Supplements, however, should be used to fill nutrient gaps. Supplements, such as multivitamins that contain both vitamins and minerals, can help fill these gaps. Doctors recommend looking for doses that are under 250% to 300% of the daily recommended intakes because the body can only absorb so many nutrients at a time (6). Also, make sure the vitamin contains selenium, which can have cancer protective effects and help make sperm.
Probiotics are essential to the human body. They aid with overall gut health and enhance the immune system. Probiotics are found in fermented foods such as miso, tempeh, sauerkraut, and Kombucha. Those who do not eat these foods regularly should take a probiotic supplement capsule before bed. It is recommended to look for supplements with at least 10 billion live bacteria from one or more of the Lactobacillus family (7). WF
- “What are the Best Supplements for Faster Muscle Gain?” https://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/top-5-supps-for-faster-muscle-gain.htm Accessed February 16, 2018.
- “The Best Supplements for Sex,” https://www.mensfitness.com/nutrition/supplements/best-supplements-sex Accessed February 16, 2018
- “Men’s Health Supplements” https://wholefoodsmagazine.com/columns/consumer-bulletin/mens-health-supplements/ Accessed April 20, 2018
- “Men and Mental Health” https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/men-and-mental-health/index.shtml Accessed April 20, 2018
- “5 Mental Health-Boosting Supplements That Everyone Should Take,” https://www.wellandgood.com/good-advice/supplements-to-take-for-mental-health/ Accessed February 21, 2018
- “The Best Supplements for Men” https://www.menshealth.com/health/best-supplements-men Accessed February 21, 2018
- “Supplements Every Guy Needs,” https://www.mensfitness.com/nutrition/supplements/supplements-every-guy-needs Accessed February 21, 2018
Published in WholeFoods Magazine June 2018