The Only Supplements You Really Need

Arnold shopping at Walmart

I’ve wasted $20,334 on supplements.

I call it waste because I bought most of them with little or no research beforehand.

Often, I let myself get suckered in by unsubstantiated claims and overhyped marketing.

Don’t get me wrong: a few supplements are actually very important to optimizing your health.

In an ideal world, under ideal living and working conditions, we’d get every nutrient we needed from food and the environment.

Unfortunately, our situations aren’t ideal.

Many of us have too many bills, too much work, and not enough R&R.

Your boss is probably riding you for the sixth revision to that “critical” Power Point deck, a workload over your capacity keeps your stress levels chronically high, and you’re probably sitting too much. Oh, and the baby probably decided to be “up for the day” at 2 a.m.

Chances are you’re deficient in magnesium and Vitamin D, and your testosterone levels aren’t what they used to be.

Can nutritional supplements help fix these problems? If so, how can you be sure your purchase is an investment, not a gamble?

I asked myself these questions when I ran out of Zinc — and spending money — last month. It was time to reevaluate my supplementation program. This is what I learned.

Starting Over

Kelly Starrett is one of the world’s leading coaches and human movement specialists. He suggests that when we assess our health, we should operate under the assumption that our bodies are compromised.

Here’s where I’ve got some challenges:

less-of-a-man-now-then-years-ago

  • Sleep. Like most Americans, I average six-and-a-half hours of sleep a night. Between training, work, and my family, I rarely get more than that.
  • Testosterone. Average testosterone levels have been dropping by 1% annually across the board since 1987.1  That means the average 45 year-old man is less of a man today than he would have been 30 years ago! This is at least partially due to environmental factors that are not always easy to control.
  • Diet. I’m a man and I like to eat that way. While I control caloric intake and eat 70% “clean,” it’s definitely not optimal. Factor in the ground-soil depletion of vital nutrients from our food, and it’s a recipe for deficiency.


Here’s the TL;DR of the Tekton Body Supplement Protocol. For bedtime reading, the rationale behind each recommendation is farther down.

Tekton Body Supplement Protocol

Morning

  • B Complex: 1-2 capsules, depending on the brand
  • Selenium: 300 mcg
  • Vitamin C: 1,000 mg
  • Vitamin D3: 3,000 iu

Evening

  • Vitamin D3: 3,000 iu
  • ZMA: 30 mg zinc, 450 mg magnesium, 10.5 mg B6
    • 30 minutes before bed, preferably on an empty stomach

Are supplements absolutely required for you to continue functioning as a human being? Of course not. Can they help push the needle of your health a bit closer to optimal? Yes.

Get ready for the science bomb.

The Science

B Complex

The eight B vitamins – B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, and B12 – are collectively called “B complex.” As men, we’re especially interested in the benefits of several of the B’s.

Vitamin B3 (Niacin) has been shown to temporarily suppress lipolysis.2 Fat burning is usually a good thing. However, lipolysis acts as a growth hormone suppressant. We need GH after training, because growth hormone helps build muscle.3 So, take B3 after training to boost muscle repair and growth. B3 doesn’t stay in your system long enough to have an adverse impact on your overall fat burning strategy.

Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) helps reduce prolactin.4, 5 High levels of this hormone have been associated with gynecomastia, also known as “man boobs.”6 Prolactin has also been associated with low levels of testosterone.7 Another benefit of adequate B6 intake is the suppression of estrogen synthesis,8 and you don’t need me to tell you why that’s a good thing!

Vitamin B7 (biotin) deficiency has been shown to reduce testicular function in rats, while B7 consumption can reverse some side effects of low testosterone.9 B7 improves glucose utilization, thus reducing your risk of obesity.10

Researchers believe that Vitamin B9 may guard against excess homocysteine. High levels of this amino acid are correlated with increased cardiovascular disease risk.11 Make sure your B Complex includes 5-methyltetrahydrofolate, the natural form of folate, because your body can absorb it much better than folic acid. Folic acid is the the synthetic form most commonly found in supplements. Unmetabolized folic acid has been associated with an increased risk of cancer.12

The last of the B vitamins is cobalamin, or B12. Adequate levels of B12 improve sperm counts and motility.13 Score one for the little guys! B12 also works with B9 to produce red blood cells,14 which carry oxygen to your cells and remove carbon dioxide.

Finally, your B Complex should include choline. This is one I learned about from Laura Schoenfeld. Choline was initially referred to as B4, but was subsequently downgraded from vitamin status. However, it’s still extremely important, playing a critical role in a healthy methylation cycle.15 Methylation is the process your body uses to remove toxins, fight infections, generate healthy cells, and balance your mood.

If you have an egg allergy, be doubly sure that you’re supplementing with choline, because egg yolks are one of nature’s primary sources of choline.

Vitamin C

You already know that Vitamin C helps prevent the common cold. This little vitamin also reduces cortisol after training.16, 17 Cortisol is a great hormonal friend during training, as it improves fat burning. However, you want to get rid of it as quickly as possible afterwards because it’s also catabolic, and that’s bad for muscle growth.

Research into higher doses of vitamin C has demonstrated increased sperm count and motility in infertile men.18

D3

The benefits of Vitamin D3 are well-known, including healthy teeth and bones, disease prevention, and mood enhancement. For men, there’s an added bonus: vitamin D3 reduces sex hormone-binding globulin.19, 20 There’s an inverse correlation between SHBG and total and free testosterone. In other words: the lower your SHBG, the higher your test!

Magnesium

Ah, magnesium. What a stud!

Here are just a few things I love about magnesium:

  • In one study, supplementation of 10 mg of magnesium for every kg of body weight increased free testosterone levels in men by 20% and total testosterone by 6%.21
  • There is a “highly significant” relationship between magnesium and total testosterone in older men.22
  • Research has confirmed that magnesium has a positive influence on testosterone and other anabolic hormones.23
  • Magnesium is a critical mineral for the production of serotonin, the “happiness molecule.” Chronically low levels of serotonin can result in depression.24, 25
  • Adequate magnesium intake is associated with serum insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) and GH,26 which aids muscle growth.
  • Magnesium deficiency can lead to insulin resistance, one of the primary causes of diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure).27, 28
  • Magnesium is critical for the utilization of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that inhibits anxiety, reduces stress, and helps with sleep.29, 30

Selenium

brazil-nuts-seleniumSelenium is an essential part of several selenoproteins that aid in reproduction, control of protein degradation,31 and may even help prevent prostate cancer.32 Selenium has also been linked to increased testosterone production and improvement in sperm parameters (e.g., count and motility).33,34

Brazil nuts are the best source of selenium, which is something I learned from Tim Ferriss. As with most vitamins and minerals, too much selenium can be toxic. The upper limit seems to be 400 mcg, which you can get by eating about three Brazil nuts.

Zinc

Last but not least is zinc. As with most of the other vitamins in our protocol, Zinc aids in testosterone production. Several studies have demonstrated that zinc supplementation increases testosterone in athletes, average men who exercise, men with kidney disease, and even men suffering from infertility.35,36,37,38

Zinc also boosts immunity, balances insulin (and thus reduces the risk of diabetes), and acts as an antioxidant.

Knowledge is Power

As with all health and wellness advice, review the research and decide what to start with first. You may decide to add one vitamin and monitor your results, possibly through blood testing. Personally, I’ve reduced my supplement intake and adhere to this plan. Since I train in a fasted state, I also supplement with BCAAs. The only other supplements I take are protein powder and beef liver tabs, to ensure that I have an adequate protein intake.

Are you taking any of these now? What other supplements have benefited you, and how?

References

1. Travison, T., Araujo, A., O’Donnell, A., Varant, K., McKinlay, J. (2007). A Population-Level Decline in Serum Testosterone Levels in American Men. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 92(1), 196-202. [URL]
2. Stokes, K.A., Tyler, C., Gilbert, K.L. (2008). The growth hormone response to repeated bouts of sprint exercise with and without suppression of lipolysis in men. Journal of Applied Physiology, 104(3), 724-728. [URL]
3. Quabbe, H.J., Luyckx, A.S., L’age M., Schwarz, C. (1983). Growth hormone, cortisol, and glucagon concentrations during plasma free fatty acid depression: different effects of nicotinic acid and an adenosine derivative. J. Clin Endocrinol Metab, 57(2), 410-414. [URL]
4. Reiter, E.O., Root, A.W. (1978). Effect of pyridoxine on pituitary release of growth hormone and prolactin in childhood and adolescence. J Clin Encocrinol Metab, 47(3), 689-690. [URL]
5. Delitala, G., Masala, A., Alagna, S. (1977). Suppression of pimozide-induced prolactin secretion by piridoxine (vitamin B6). Biomedicine, 27(5), 191-192. [URL]
6. Cuhaci, N., Polat, S., Evranos, B., Ersoy, R., Cakir, B. (2014). Gynecomastia: Clinical evaluation and management. Indian J Endocrinol Metab, 18(2), 150-158. [URL]
7. Symes, E.K., Bender, D.A., Bowden, J.F., Coulson, W.F. (1984). Increased target tissue uptake of, and sensitivity to, testosterone in the vitamin B6 deficient rat. J Steroid Bichem, 20(5), 1089-1093. [URL]
8. Biskind, M., Biskind, G. (1942). Effect of Vitamin B complex deficiency on inactivation of estrone in the liver. Endocrinology, 31(1), 109-114. [URL]
9. Paulose, C.S., Thliveris, J.A., Viswanathan, M., Dakshinamurti, K. (1989). Testicular function in biotin-deficient adult rats. Horm Metab Res, 21(12), 661-665. [URL]
10. Rurukawa, Y. (1999). Enhancement of glucose-induced insulin secretion and modification of glucose metabolism by biotin. Nihon Rinsho, 57(10), 2261-2269. [URL]
11. Bønaa, K.H., Njølstad, I., Ueland, P.M., Schirmer, H., Tverdal, A., Steigen, T., Wang, H., Nordrehaug, J.E., Arnesen, E., Rasmussen, K. (2006). Homocysteine Lowering and Cardiovascular Events after Acute Myocardial Infarction. The New England Journal of Medicine, 354, 1578-1588. [URL]
12. Scaglione, F., Panzavolta, G. (2014). Folate, folic acid and 5-methyltetrahydrofolate are not the same thing. Xenobiotica, 44(5), 480-488. [URL]
13. Isoyama, R., Kawai, S., Shimizu, Y., Harada, H., Takihara, H., Baba, Y., Sakatoku, J. (1984) Clinical experience with methylcobalamin (CH3-B12) for male infertility. Hinyokika Kiyo, 30(4), 581-586.  [URL]
14. Koury, M.J., Ponka, P. (2004). New insights into erythropoiesis: the roles of folate, vitamin B12, and iron. Annu Rev Nutr, (24), 105-131. [URL]
15. Niculescu, M.D., Zeisel, S.H. (2002). Diet, methyl donors and DNA methylation: interactions between dietary folate, methionine and choline. J Nutr, 132(8), 2333S-2335S. [URL]
16. Davison, G., Gleeson, M. (2005). Influence of acute vitamin C and/or carbohydrate ingestion on hormonal, cytokine, and immune responses to prolonged exercise. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab, 5(5), 465-479. [URL]
17. Marsit, J., Conley, M.S., Stone, M., Johnson, R.L. (1998). Effects of ascorbic acid on serum cortisol and the testosterone: Cortisol ratio in junior elite weightlifters. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 12(3), 179-184. [URL]
18. Akmal, M., Qadri, J.Q., Al-Waili, N., Thangal, S., Haq, A., Saloom, K. (2006). Improvement in Human Semen Quality After Oral Supplementation of Vitamin C. Journal of Medicinal Food, 9(3), 440-442. [URL]
19. Pilz, S., Frisch, S., Koertke, H., Kuhn, J., Dreier, J., Obermayer-Pietsch, B., Wehr, E., Zittermann, A. (2011). Effect of vitamin D supplementation on testosterone levels in men. Horm Metab Res, 43(3), 223-225. [URL]
20. Wehr, E., Pilz, S., Boehm, B.O., März, W., Obermayer-Pietsch, B. (2010). Association of vitamin D status with serum androgen levels in men. Clin Endocrinol (Oxf), 73(2), 243-248. [URL]
21. Cinar, V., Polat, Y., Baltaci, A.K., Mogulkoc, R. (2011). Effects of magnesium supplementation on testosterone levels of athletes and sedentary subjects at rest and after exhaustion. Biol Trace Elem Res, 40(1), 18-23.  [URL]
22. Maggio, M., Ceda, G.P., Lauretani, F., Cattabiani, C., Avantaggiato, E., Morganti, S., Ablondi, F., Bandinelli, S., Dominguez, L.J., Barbagallo, M., Paolisso, G., Semba, R.D., Ferrucci, L.. (2011). Magnesium and anabolic hormones in older men. Int J Androl, 34(6 Pt 2), e594-600. [URL]
23. Maggio, M., De Vita, F., Lauretani, F., Nouvenne, A., Meschi, T., Ticinesi, A., Dominguez, L., Barbagallo, M., Dall’Aglio, E., Paolo Ceda, G. (2014). The Interplay between Magnesium and Testosterone in Modulating Physical Function in Men. Int J Endocrinol, 2014(9). [URL]
24. Eby, G., Eby, K. (2010). Magnesium for treatment-resistant depression: a review and hypothesis. Medical hypotheses, (2010), 649-660. [URL]
25. Rasmussen, H.H., Mortensen, P., Jensen, I.W. (1990). Depression and magnesium deficiency. The International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine, 19(1), 57-63. [URL]
26. Dørup, Inge, et al. (1991). Role of insulin-like growth factor-1 and growth hormone in growth inhibition induced by magnesium and zinc deficiencies. British Journal of Nutrition, 66(3), 505-521. [URL]
27. Larsson, S.C., Wolk, A. (2007). Magnesium intake and risk of type 2 diabetes: a meta-analysis. J Intern Med, 262, 208-214. [URL]
28. Rodriguez-Moran, M., Simental Mendia, L.E., Zambrano, G., Guerrero-Romero, F. (2011). The role of magnesium in type 2 diabetes: a brief based-clinical review. Magnes Res, 24, 156-162. [URL]
29. Chollet, D., et al (2000). Blood and brain magnesium in inbred mice and their correlation with sleep quality. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol, 279(6), R2173-R2178, 2000. [URL]
30. Poleszak, E., et al. (2008). Benzodiazepine/GABA(A) receptors are involved in magnesium-induced anxiolytic-like behavior in mice. Pharmacol Rep. 60(4), 483-489. [URL]
31. Ross, A.C., Caballero, B., Cousins, R.J., Tucker, K.L., Ziegler, T.R. (2012). Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease, 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
32. Brozmanová, J., Mániková, D., Vičková, V., Chovanec, M. (2010). Selenium: a double-edged sword for defense and offence in cancer. Arch Toxicol, 84(12), 919-938. [URL]
33. Oluboyo, A.O., Adijeh, R.U., Onyenekwe, C.C., Oluboyo, B.O., Mbaeri, T.C., Odiegwu, C.N., Chukwuma, G.O., Onwuasoanya, U.F. (2012). Relationship between serum levels of testosterone, zinc and selenium in infertile males attending fertility clinic in Nnewi, south east Nigeria. Afr J Med Med Sci, 41, 51-54. [URL]
34. Safarinejad, M.R., Safarinejad, S. (2009). Efficacy of Selenium and/or N-Acetyl-Cysteine for Improving Semen Parameters in Infertile Men: A Double-Blind, Placebo Controlled, Randomized Study. J Urol, 181, 741-751. [URL]
35. Kilic, M., Baltaci, A.K., Gunay, M, Gökbel, H., Okudan, N., Cicioglu, I. (2006). The effect of exhaustion exercise on thyroid hormones and testosterone levels of elite athletes receiving oral zinc. Neuro Endocrinol Lett, 27(1-2), 247-252. [URL]
36. Kilic, M. (2007). Effect of fatiguing bicycle exercise on thyroid hormone and testosterone levels in sedentary males supplemented with oral zinc. Neuro Endocrinol Lett, 28(5), 681-684. [URL]
37. Jalali, G.R., Roozbeh, J., Mohammadzadeh, A., Sharifian, M., Sagheb, M.M., Hamidian Jahromi, A., Shabani, S., Ghaffarpasand, F., Afshariani, R. (2010). Impact of oral zinc therapy on the level of sex hormones in male patients on hemodialysis. Ren Fail, 32(4), 417-419. [URL]
38. Netter, A., Hartoma, R., Nahoul, K. (1981). Effect of zinc administration on plasma testosterone, dihydrotestosterone, and sperm count. Arch Androl, 7(1), 69-73. [URL]

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