How To Choose The Right Vitamin Supplements For Yourself (And My Latest Boxful)
When thousands of cure-all pills compete for your patronage, do you know how to choose the right vitamin supplements for yourself? Well, here’s how I did it, and how you can too.
IT’S REALLY tempting to consume every supplement in existence, at least it is for a supplement junkie like me.
For instance, each month Life Extension Foundation sends me their magazine, which is basically a supplement catalog with articles about them, and I turn page after page thinking,
“Yes, I want that get smarter supplement, and that one for the immune system, oh and that antioxidant… and who couldn’t use more energy, right B12?”
I have to resist the seduction and get really clear about what deficiency I need to improve (high LDL, for instance), or what I may want to enhance (muscle would be a noteworthy endeavor). Being selective is not only better for the budget, but also so that you don’t slip into the misguided belief that more supplements is a good strategy for more health.
Vitamin supplements can help accentuate certain aspects of health, but they do not supplant nutrition — meaning, the quality of the food and drink you consume overwhelms any supplement you can take in terms of relative importance.
That said, if you are going to supplement your diet with vitamins — and I do recommend that you do — it’s worthwhile to take the time to learn how choose the right vitamin supplements for you.
The rest of this article is about my thought process behind buying my recent box of vitamins from Pro Health and Amazon.com.
I had been on a vitamin supplement hiatus after having depleted most of my stock, so I ordered a new batch, and just received a boxful yesterday. I can now easily address the frequently asked question by readers about which ones I take, although this is a fluid situation… I add, subtract, try new ones out fairly regularly.
So, in a moment I’ll tell you why I purchased the supplements I did, with the aim of helping you choose the vitamin supplements that will be most useful to you.
But before I dive into what I bought for myself, and why, let me share the vitamin supplement insights of two smart, knowledgeable MDs, doctors Mark Hyman and Andrew Weil.
Dr. Hyman On How To Choose The Right Vitamin Supplements
Much of Dr. Hyman’s work focuses on ameliorating what he refers to as “Diabestity”, the combination of diabetes and obesity. They often go hand-in-hand, particularly with type-2 (“adult-onset”) diabesity.
Dr. Hyman does, however, make suggestions about how to choose the right vitamin supplements for yourself. He recommends four that he considers to be baseline for everyone, which are a
- High quality multivitamin/multimineral
- Vitamin D
- Omega-3 fatty acids
He even goes so far as to say that these four vitamin supplements will over time reduce your healthcare costs; that’s how valuable he sees this foundational set.
Specific brands recommended can be found in the article, Dr. Hyman: 4 Supplements That Reduce Your Healthcare Costs.
For those of you who may have a slow metabolism, Dr. Hyman makes some suggestions to rev it up here.
Dr. Weil’s Vitamin Supplement Suggestions
Dr. Weil has a web site devoted to a process whereby you can determine what supplements you may need based on a questionnaire. He calls it Vitamin Advisor. It looks like this:
If that looks interesting, you can go choose the right supplements for you right here.
My Box of Supplements
Note: The following vitamin supplements may or may not be for you. Before you decide what supplements to take, please read The Vitamin Myth -- Are Your Supplements Worthless?. Once there, check out the "7 Vitamin Myth Busters".
If you watched the video above, you’d see the box of vitamin supplements sent to me by Pro Health. I’ve used Pro Health’s products for 20 years or so. A college friend owns the company, and I’ve consulted for them numerous times over the years. I believe they offer high quality supplements.
As I tend to do from time to time, I’d been on a supplement break for about two months, mostly. So, when I sat down the other day after deciding to begin supplementing again, I asked myself what I really needed.
As Dr. Hyman advises, I wanted the insurance policy of a good multivitamin/mineral, which I would need to buy. His other three suggestions I already have in abundant supply. What then was left was to select specific supplements for specific reasons.
I’m going to list the vitamin supplements I’ll be using over the next three months, and the reasons why. You’ll see that my intention has been to choose specific supplements that address specific issues.
Unless I mention how much of the supplement I intend to take, assume it will be as suggested on the label. Note: the amount I take is always within the safe zone.
If you want to learn more about any vitamin supplement, just click on its picture, which are affiliate links.
Extinguish by Mega Food
Rich Carson, the Founder of ProHealth turned me on to the Mega Food brand several months ago. I bought the basic multivitamin/mineral product and liked it, but this time I got their Extinguish product.
Extinguish contains ingredients to reduce systemic inflammation, something that my most recent blood tests suggests I have, and – by the way – is a very common issue for people. Given that my diet is very nutritious, I thought that instead of the “multi” variety, I’d go with the one focused on inflammation.
My selection of Extinguish is representative of a focus tuned to getting supplements targeted to enhance specific weakness, this one for inflammation.
This supplement targets one of the theories of aging, Tissue Glycation (the list of 19 more is here.)
Many studies indicate that carnosine rejuvenates cells as they approach senescence (near death, essentially non-functional, but still alive). The studies showed that cells cultured with carnosine lived longer and retained their youthful appearance and growth patterns. (Source)
R-lipoic Acid and Acetyl L-Carnitine (ALC)
I’ve been taking Alpha-lipoic Acid together with ALC for many years, and was gratified to learn several years back that a UC Berkeley scientist started a company to offer this potent combo to the public.
“Juveon” is the name of the company, and you can read the research behind it here. Suffice to say, they believe that Alpha-lipoic Acid combined with ALC helps support mitochondrial function. The decay of the mitochondria – the organelles within the cell that convert amino acids, fatty acids and sugars into energy – is another prominent theory of aging.
So why am I using “R-lipoic” rather than “Alpha-lipoic”? Simply because the “R” form is more potent given that it’s more easily absorbed and deemed more effective that other forms of lipoic acid.
ImmunPlex Whey Protein
I do a fair bit of resistance training and high intensity interval training, and therefore need more protein than would someone that is not breaking down muscle tissue. For various reasons, I don’t enjoy eating meat, so I liberally use high quality protein supplements, such as Raw Protein (sprouts), Hemp Protein (hemp seeds) and Whey (milk derivative).
If you are not lactose intolerant, whey is the best protein to feed depleted muscles after a work out because whey is more quickly assimilated than most other protein powders.
There is also one big additional benefit to whey: Glutathione, the mother of all antioxidants, as Dr. Hyman here writes. As it relates to whey, the bottom line is expressed by Dr. Hyman:
[Whey] is great source of cysteine and the amino acid building blocks for glutathione synthesis.
I take way more whey (ha!) than the single serving size suggested on the label. My post-exercise consumption is about 30 grams, or three servings.
This is another long-time supplement I’ve been using. ZMA is a combination of zinc, magnesium and vitamin B6. It’s designed to enhance muscle strength, endurance, and recovery from exercise, which is the primary reason I use it.
Noteworthy to insomniacs — ZMA helps promote deep, restful sleep, so the right time to take it is before bed.
The label suggests three capsules each night, but I only take them if I’ve exercised that day; otherwise I figure I get plenty of zinc, magnesium and the B vitamins from my food and juicing.
It’s been a few years since I’ve supplemented with Vitamin C. Each morning, I squeeze a lemon into a warm glass of pure water, and eat many high Vitamin C vegetables like broccoli, spinach and sweet potatoes; thus I presumed I didn’t really need it. And maybe I don’t, but I’m on a mission to improve my LDL cholesterol and Vitamin C may be able to help.
Pro Health offers a buffered Vitamin C supplement with calcium for increased assimilation (as much as 400% faster absorption) and retention (remains in the body three times longer). If you’re sometimes constipated, a little known factoid about Vitamin C is that it helps you “go”. Just gradually increase the dosage till the flood gates open.
Given that the primary reason for using Vitamin C right now is to help reduce LDL, I’ll be taking three 1,000 mg capsules per day (one three times per day), instead of the one capsule suggested on the label.
Yes, Resveratrol is another one of those live-forever supplements. Many studies indicate that if you pump rats with enough of the stuff, they live longer, are leaner and more energetic than their no-resveratrol counterparts.
- Resveratrol is an excellent anti-oxidant; and
- It may protect against the cellular damage to blood vessels caused by high production of glucose in diabetes.
As I embarrassingly reported in My Blood Sugar Numbers Dumbfound Me, my fasting blood glucose (sugar) measurement is high, nearly prediabetic. The good news is that my post-meal blood glucose numbers (which are thought to be more important than the fasting ones) are excellent, but I’m still concerned.[If you wish to read about my detective work behind this, read The Poor Performing Hormone That May Be Behind Your Health Problems.]
Year in, year out, I typically am swallowing Resveratrol capsules, and continue to do so. What varies is the amount, based on what selection of other antioxidants I’m taking. My intention is to take twice the amount suggested on the label, which is 800 mg, 400 in the morning (one capsule) and 400 in the evening.
You know that calcium is important, but there’s much written about how well its absorbed. Vitamin K is a key factor in regulating calcium in the body, ensuring better bone and arterial health, supporting calcium metabolism in vascular structures, promoting normal blood clotting, and providing important bone health benefits.
Vitamin K is also inexpensive, so I thought, why not.
- A natural testosterone booster formulated by Mike Mahler called Aggressive Strength Testosterone Booster (affiliate link) that I cycle in and out of; and
- Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCCA) a powder consisting primarily of the amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine, which has been long used by strength-training and endurance athletes alike to activate muscle synthesis and reduce muscle breakdown caused by intense training.
What Creatine Monohydrate does is to help the body recover spent ATP (“adenosine triphosphate“), thereby increasing the energy reactions in a cell’s mitochondria. This lets you perform physical activity, including housework, gardening and exercise with greater energy.
People can tend to abuse muscle-building supplements, and although safe, Creatine can be over-consumed. I tend to take less than what’s suggested on the label, although that amount is very safe.
I’ve never used PQQ before, but am intrigued by what I’ve read about it. One article that stands out because it was brief and well-referenced was a summary of studies described in the December 2013 issue of The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.
You can read all about it here, but suffice to say that PQQ reduces inflammation, improves mitochondrial-related metabolism in humans, two things I want to achieve.
As mentioned, this will be my first time using PQQ, so it’ll be interesting if I can discern any benefits from using it.
This is the full-flush niacin; meaning, when you take some your blood capillaries get engorged with blood, you turn red, begin to itch, and if you took too much, feel really uncomfortable.
Most people take the no-flush variety, but if you’re consuming Niacin for some detoxification, such as described by Drs. Yu and Mercola here, or to help reduce LDL cholesterol (my current aim), then it’s full-flush, baby!
The dosage is an experimental thing. I’m 6’4″ and weigh in at around 210, but when it comes to Niacin, I’m like a girl. I mean, 25o milligrams is all I want to experience.
Given that I could only find 500 mg capsules, I’m pulling them apart (easy to do) and adding half into a smoothie or even sprinkled on lentils or whatever twice each day. This way, I don’t have to deal with the “flush”. Gradually, I’ll increase the dose till I can comfortably use 500 mg.
- healthy immune function
- healthy cardiovascular system
- healthy skin
- increased energy levels
- anti-aging through cellular health
I’ve been taking it for a few years now, and agree with the 200+ people on Amazon that give it a 5-star. (Click the bottle and read the customer reviews.)
Although it’s typically not mentioned as a primary reason for using it, I do think that Astaxathin has improved my vision, as in what I can see, both close up and afar.
You may read about Astaxathin’s history and benefits here.
Yeah, it may sound yucky, but Serrapeptase has been used as a nutritional supplement in Europe and Asia for nearly three decades for good reasons. Consistent use of Serrapeptase may help prevent strokes, but I use it because it dissolves scar tissue throughout the body, including muscle adhesions.
All you need do is take a quick look at the list of injuries I’ve had in “About Joe Garma” to know that muscle adhesions are something that I’ve had to deal with. It’s only a matter of time before most athletic types have injuries and Serrapeptase can help.
Note: this brand, Doctor’s Best Serrapeptase, is quantified in “Serratiopeptidase units,” which refers to the enzyme activity level. Enzymes like Serrapeptase are not measured in “milligrams” (mg), but in an unassociated measure of “units”.
I began with one 120,000 unit capsule a day on an empty stomach, as recommended on the label, but may increase the dosage by one capsule over time.
One other thing. If you have a muscle adhesion/joint mobility issue, one other supplement that may be useful is Hydrolyzed Collagen Peptides. I use this intermittently, a product called Doctor’s Best Collagen.
You can easily get confused and overwhelmed by all the vitamin supplements on the market that compete for your patronage by suggesting they can solve all your ills.
When this happens, how to choose the right vitamin supplements for yourself is just a matter of doing this:
- Really hone in and identify your specific health issues.
- Read about what vitamin supplements have the best chance of improving your issue.
- Buy the best quality you can afford.
- Make sure your nutrition is dialed in to support your heath quest, such as a low glycemic diet if you have high blood sugar, or an anti-inflammatory diet if you have inflammation.
- When considering dosage, make sure you account for the amounts of the same vitamin (say Calcium or Vitamin C) that may be present in another supplement you’re taking at the same time.
- Don’t forget to take your vitamin supplements regularly.
OK, that’s it.. ciao for now.