What Supplements Should I Take?

As a trainer I’m constantly asked about what supplements are the best…  particularly for fat loss.  Now I’m always a little leery of products with terms like “shredd”…”thermoboost”…”lipozene”…etc. The reality is that many supplement companies do an effective job at marketing their product as the miracle breakthrough to monumental fat loss…the holy grail if you will.  While some of these products may be effective and produce some results, you can never be sure they will.  Why?  Well first, the supplement industry is not regulated in the U.S.  The FDA has the following statement on their website:

“The FDA does not analyze supplement products before they are sold to consumers.  The manufacturer is responsible for ensuring that the ingredient list is accurate and the ingredients are safe.  They are also required to make sure that the content matches the amount declared on the label.  FDA does not have adequate resources to analyze dietary products sent by consumers who want to know their content.  Instead, consumers may contact the manufacturer or commercial laboratory.”

In other words, there is no guarantee the product has the purity and potency as advertised.  In fact,  consumerlab states that only around 30% of supplements on the market actually do meet the criteria.

Regardless of the stats, a “fat burner” isn’t necessarily the right solution in most cases.  Where most people fall short is with their nutrition in general.  With that being said, “supplementing” where we are lacking makes more sense.  That’s not to say that we shouldn’t strive to improve our eating, but rather include supplements on the days were our nutrition is less than ideal.

Now with that being said, here are the five supplements that I recommend to consider for regular consumption.


Food Equivalent: Varied Diet

As many of us are marginally deficient in several micro-nutrients, multivitamins should be taken everyday.  Especially if you are eating at a caloric deficit to lose body fat (increase nutrients without calories).  Take with meals, daily, or on days where dietary intake is lacking.

Fish Oil Supplement*

Food Equivalent: Fatty fish such as salmon

Traditionally Omega 3s were taken primarily to help improve cardiovascular health, but recent research has shown that the benefits go well beyond improving heart function.  Omega 3 supplementation has been shown to:

  • Improve nervous system and boost immune health
  • Increase fat metabolism and improve weight loss
  • Decrease risk of diabetes and certain cancers
  • Improve blood pressure
  • Improve function for those with inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia
  • Aid in workout recovery
  • Improve mood and decrease symptoms of depression.
  • Improve airway dilation

Much of the available whole-food fish supply contains environmental pollutants.  As a result, fish oil supplements should likely be taken every day while reducing fish intake to “occasional.”

Take with meals, daily.  High Omega 3 content; should contain at least 30% EPA and DHA.  Generally recommended dose is 2000-3000 mg.  Though according to consumerlab as high as 9 g per day can be recommended in some cases.  Consult with your health care professional to determine which is the optimal dose for you.

Greens Supplement*: Green food blend high in antioxidants, strongly alkaline and vitamin/mineral rich

Food Equivalent: Vegetables, Fruits

Use in circumstances when vegetable and fruits are inaccessible.  Frequency depends on fruit and vegetable intake: If vegetable and fruit intake is high (up to 10 servings/day), supplement use will be infrequent.  If fruit intake is low, supplement use should be daily or more frequent.

Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)*: are naturally occurring molecules (leucine, isoleucine, and valine) that the body uses to build proteins. The term “branched chain” refers to the molecular structure of these particular amino acids.  Muscles have a particularly high content of BCAAs.

Food Source: Any protein-rich food

BCAAs are thought to aid in improving muscle recovery and minimizing muscle delayed onset muscle soreness, though research has yielded mixed results.  However, during high-intensity exercise sessions when fat loss and muscle preservation is desired, supplemented is warranted and recommended.

Green Tea*: contains high levels of substances called catechin polyphenols, known to possess strong antioxidant, anticarcinogenic, antitumorigenic, and even antibiotic properties.  Based on these findings, as well as observational studies green tea has become popular as a daily drink for preventing cancer and heart disease.

Green tea is often thought to boost metabolism as well.  While there are some studies that support this claim, other reviews have been mixed.

Recommended dosage is around 1-3 cups per day.  However, green tea does contain caffeine and may conflict with certain medications.  Consult with your health care professional prior to consumption.


Berardi J & Andrews R.  The Essentials of Sport and Exercise Nutrition 2nd Edition 2012


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