Supplements: The Performance Stack
Note: I am not a medical doctor and do not advertise that I am a physician of any kind. Please ask your medical provider before starting any nutritional, health, fitness, or supplement protocol. As an accredited health coach, I receive a modest portion of any sales made from these general recommendations.
My History as a Health Coach
In 2018 I completed my certification to become a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner. Heavy on the science and interpretation, the FDN course taught me how to coach clients through extensive self-healing protocols.
Through FDN, I learned to implement the D.R.E.S.S. Protocol – guiding clients through self-healing based on diet, rest, exercise, stress reduction, and supplementation. My clients’ programs usually last a minimum of 90 days, but are sometimes longer based on their unique circumstances.
After detailed questionnaires, I have a conversation with my client where we would decide if lab testing can help them in uncovering healing opportunities. I order labs for the client, the client collects their specimen, then we wait for the results.
Once the labs send us the test results, I get to work. Looking at optimal ranges, I prioritize our methods of self-healing. Oftentimes this looks like tackling gut bugs, then moving on to balancing dysbiotic bacteria, or reseeding the gut with good strains of keystone probiotics.
Although collecting a stool specimen for a GI Map is about as fun as it sounds, the self-healing is quite rewarding. My clients typically notice improved digestive capacity and less bloating within the first couple of weeks. Ultimately, this helps the client buy in on the necessity of the lifestyle intervention.
If I were to run a comprehensive hormone panel like the DUTCH Test, the client would simply urinate on 4 test strips throughout a 24 hour period. After receiving the DUTCH Test results from the lab, the values might show abnormalities in the client’s circadian rhythm or cortisol levels. It also addresses hormonal issues (usually low testosterone or estrogen dominance) and Organic Acids that show heightened or lowered levels of neurotransmitters.
Healing Through Supplementation
Although I am a proponent of therapeutic supplementation, I educate my clients that their healing is the sum of all 5 pillars of health under DRESS. Consistency in healthful lifestyle practices is the goal.
In my experience, herbal formulas that help tackle “bad” gut bugs are a fantastic alternative to overly-prescribed antibiotics. Similarly, simple formulas like CBD have tremendous benefit to my clients with anxiety or sleep-related issues.
In large part, therapeutic supplements can have a tremendous affect on improving digestion, hormonal, detox pathway, and energy levels. However, this article and the recommendations listed here are for those who engage in high-level strength training and other fitness pursuits.
Supplements: Do We Need Them?
With the amount of legwork I do for each client, I have become a de-facto expert in supplementation. Years of powerlifting and bodybuilding piqued my interest in testing performance supplements to help me with my overall strength and recovery.
I believe that supplements are a crucial component in maintaining holistic health. It’s said that the soil quality that our grandparents once enjoyed has become depleted. This has left our food with lesser amounts of nutrients that all humans need for health and longevity. As such, supplements can help fill in the gaps for the nutrients our bodies need to function at an optimized level.
In my experience, we have clients that love taking supplements as they believe them to be generally helpful. We also have a camp of individuals that believe they are getting enough nutrients through their healthful diet. In my opinion, most people are not eating enough quality and organic foods to fill their nutritional needs. Supplements ensure that we are getting what the modern world has left out.
For the naysayers, I get it. The bodybuilding industry of the 1990’s and early 2000’s hawked protein powders, BCAAs, and other pro-testosterone supplements as a claim to their massive physiques. These supplements were often filled in fluorescent bottles that looked more gimmick than effective.
For these reasons, I only use pharmaceutical grade supplements from companies like Thorne Research, Microbiome Labs, and Vital Proteins that have strict standards for their formulas. The supplements I recommend my clients are the real deal.
The Performance Stack
Above, we discussed how self-healing is enhanced by taking therapeutic supplements. For the purposes of this article, I am recommending performance supplements meant for fitness and strength enthusiasts. I have taken these supplements for the past 3 years and qualify them by their ability to:
- Enhance Strength and Endurance
- Enhance Recovery Potential
- Peace of Mind in Filling in Nutritional Gaps
- Ancestral Supplements MOFO
- Thorne Research Creatine
- Thorne Research Aminos
- Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides
- Microbiome Labs MyoMax
- Thorne Research Beta Alanine SR
- Thorne Research Magnesium Bysglycinate
I consider the ingestion of beef organs as my daily multivitamin. Once I started eating raw liver in 2019, I felt an immediate buzz of energy. This is likely because my lab testing had shown I was deficient in B6 and B12 due to certain genetic SNPs (single nucelotide polymorphisms).
Over time, I stopped eating raw liver, and instead relied on 6 daily capsules of beef organs. I’ll switch the formula between Ancestral Supplements MOFO and Ancestral Supplements Beef Organs every other month. I find the months that I’m taking MOFO, my muscle-building capacity is enhanced. My libido is also quite a bit higher 😉
Serving Size: 6 capsules
Ancestral Supplements MOFO contains:
- Grass Fed Beef Testicle – 1260mg
- Grass Fed Prostate – 300mg
- Grass Fed Heart – 300mg
- Grass Fed Liver – 300mg
- Grass Fed Bone Marrow – 300mg
Creatine is one of the most heavily researched sports supplements in history. In my anecdotal experience, creatine vastly increases strength, lean-body mass, and shortens the recovery window. I have read that creatine can contribute to higher levels of DHT (dihydrotestosterone), which is about ~ 5x stronger than normal testosterone. This alone makes creatine a worthy supplement for fitness enthusiasts and athletes.
I describe my use of creatine as giving me an additional 20% strength. I do not exaggerate. I find that at age 36, I am as strong as ever and feel like my power production is that of my 25 year old self. I typically take my 5g of daily creatine in the morning as apart of my pre-breakfast supplement routine, but it can be take pre or post-workout as needed.
Although there is talk that creatine makes the athlete look puffy, I have found that proper nutrition and hydration ultimately leads to lean body tissue when that is the goal. The effect of having intracellular water will still allow a “ripped’ look. However, poor nutrition means more body fat and that will make the athlete look “puffy.”
As an aside, I have read research looking at creatine as an important cognitive tool. With Alzheimer’s and dementia in my family, I take it prophylactically as a cognitive therapeutic.
Servings Size: 1 Scoop
Thorne Research Creatine Contains:
- Creatine Monohydrate – 5g
For whatever reason, I scroll memes daily on Instagram that excuse BCAAs (branched chain amino acids consisting of leucine, isoleucine, and valine) as a waste of money. For years I had experienced the opposite effect when taking BCAAs: I felt 10-15% better strength and endurance during training and shortened and improved recovery: go figure.
The reason I converted from BCAAs to EAAs is that I had learned my fasting glucose was higher that it should be. I performed a blood test that put me at 103mg/dL instead of a more optimal sub 90mg/dL. I had known that my genetic SNPs had shown that I have higher levels of circulating BCAAs in the blood, so I wanted to tackle this issue before it started.
I researched essential amino acids as an alternative to BCAAs that wouldn’t spike my blood sugar. I was a bit skeptical that they could offer me the same effects, but was pleasantly surprised when I felt improved recovery from my training sessions.
EAAs offer both BCAAs but also the other 9 essential amino acids. They are formulated for those looking to gain lean muscle mass by assisting recovery and providing intra-workout endurance. I pair my EAA shake with Vital Proteins Collagen protein. Individually, the formulas do not contain the proper amino acid amounts to make a complete protein. However, together, they form a complete protein.
Serving Size: 1 Scoop
Thorne Research Essential Amino Acids Contains:
- L-Cystine 150mg
- L-Histidine 150mg
- L-Isoleucine 625mg
- L-Leucine 1.25g
- L-Lysine (Chloride) 650mg
- L-Methionine 50mg
- L-Phenylalanine 100mg
- L-Threonine 350mg
- L-Tryptophan 20mg
- L-Tyrosine 30mg
- L-Valine 625mg
I’ve been interested in nutrition since attending the University of California San Diego. Back then, life was simple: train, eat, study (sometimes), repeat. In 2015, I remember collagen protein powders really coming onto the scene. Prior to that, I would drink a daily cup of Kettle and Fire Bone Broth for my collagen needs.
I was also very interested in collagen for getting more glycine in my diet. Glycine is an amino acid that helps to balance the mTor activation of methionine, an amino acid found in muscle meat. I also learned that eating offal (organs) would provide adequate levels of glycine in my diet, but, again, eating too many organs has its limits.
I am severely reactive to cow’s milk. A younger me drank a whey protein shake daily only to discover that they were the source of my chronic bloating, gas, and skin issues. Although I prefer my clients to eat real food instead of relying on shakes, I have found that ingesting Vital Proteins Collagen with EAAs serves a similar effect to a protein shake.
As noted above, the combination of collagen + EAAs contains the right amounts of amino acids to count the shake toward your daily protein needs. I studied this quite a bit and was able to find this video by Christ Masterjohn on why collagen alone shouldn’t count toward one’s daily protein goals.
Collagen protein is the base of my protein shakes that I will add my creatine and EAAs to. I typically have this shake before breakfast as a way to manage the often-queasy feeling that taking capsuled supplements can have. I love this daily shake. I find it improves my skin quality, adds some important calories to my day, and helps to fill my often hungry tummy.
Serving Size: 2 Scoops
Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides Contain:
- Alanine – 1462mg
- Arginine – 1517mg
- Aspartic Acid – 1192mg
- Glutamic Acid – 2239mg
- Glycine – 3719mg
- Histidine – 144mg
- Hydroxylysine – 217mg
- Hydroxyproline – 2058mg
- Isoleucine – 271mg
- Leucine – 524mg
- Lysine – 614mg
- Methionine – 108mg
- Phenylalanine – 379mg
- Proline – 2076mg
- Serine – 614mg
- Threonine – 343mg
- Tryptophan – 0mg
- Tyrosine – 90mg
- Valine – 433mg
My good friend Brenden, known as The Holistic Savage, has been a huge influence on my functional health education. A fellow meathead, he is my go-to mentor for all things supplement related. When he told me how MyoMax was a “crazy cardio” supplement, I knew I needed to try it.
Actually a Vitamin K2 formula, I learned that MyoMax helps the body to produce more mitochondria – the powerhouse of the cell. For my purposes of strength training and frequent hiking in the mountains, more mitochondria means a bigger engine. A bigger engine means more effective training while mitigating fatigue.
After having taken MyoMax for 4 days, I did in fact notice an improvement in my cardio: my recovery between kettlebell sets had improved, and my heart rate stayed in zone 2 during my training hikes around San Diego. What I loved about MyoMax was that it seemed to also quell lactic acid formation – perfect for my anti-glycolytic training.
Less lactic acid means less “burn.” Less burn means that an athlete can train longer. This has been one of my favorite supplements to have taken over the past two years and it comes with a high recommendation.
Serving Size: 2 Capsules
Microbiome Labs MyoMax Contains:
- Vitamin K2 – 300mcg
- Pyruvate – 100mg
Just to forewarn you, beta alanine sometimes produced a “pins and needles” sensation to users. However, I have never experienced the skin buzzing. A popular ingredient in pre-workout formulas, I prefer to use beta alanine as a standalone supplement for enhanced endurance.
Matt Fraser spoke on Joe Rogan about his love for beta alanine. I was laughing and wholeheartedly agree that beta alanine is the real deal. Along with MyoMax, I stack beta alanine for improved recovery between strength training sets and for improved lactic acid buffering during hiking.
Anecdotally, I can say with full confidence that beta alanine is effective in improving conditioning and I plan on continue using it in its pure form.
Serving Size: 2 Tablets
Thorne Research Beta Alanine SR Contains:
- Beta Alanine – 1.6g
I adamantly studied the work of Charles Poliquin early in my career (RIP). Charles was big on supplementation for athletes, especially that of magnesium. Due to athletes’ work ethic and constant sweating, replacing electrolytes and magnesium in particular are essential for anyone interested in strength training or other fitness pursuits.
But also knowing that most people are deficient in magnesium, this is an easy go-to supplement to promote health building. For my purposes, I like Thorne Research’s Magnesium Bisglycinate. Here’s why: I spent my entire life suffering from IBS and have had to be careful when introducing supplements.
Magnesium is a supplement that can be taken to levels of about 500mg. However, one must back off as soon as they get… disaster pants. Yes! Magnesium will make you shit your pants! So, approach taking magnesium with caution.
This formula works well for me with 1 scoop (2 scoops was too much). I take this supplement prior to bed for it’s helpful “chill-out” effects. Although I can’t tell you I feel anything in particular from this supplement, I do trust it’s working.
Serving Size: 1 Scoop
Thorne Research Magnesium Bisglycinate Contains:
- Magnesium – 200mg
Although this list is not exhaustive, I hope it serves its purpose in better educating you on performance supplements. Although there were a few supplements I left off the list, this is my ideal stack that I take every day.
I do believe in cycling supplements. I find it purposeful to take 1 week off per month of all supplements to get a baseline of your natural energy cycle. However, I do not aim for a specific week. Instead, my frequent seminars, camping trips, and other travels are my cycling-off weeks.
Sequencing and Titrating the Supplements
For most people, I recommend taking the supplements as listed on the bottle. However, if you know you are sensitive to supplementations or often get nausea when taking capsules or powders, here are my recommendations.
When beginning to take a stack, start with one supplement per day. If we were to start with Beef Organs and the recommended serving is 6 caps per day, start with 1 capsule at breakfast and 1 capsule at dinner.
If no negative side effects are felt, take 2 capsules at breakfast and 2 at dinner on the following day. Repeat the same protocol on day 3 if no negative side effects are felt. You would then be up to the full dosage.
If you felt negative side effects having take 2 capsules at breakfast and 2 capsules at dinner, you might need to go back a day, and call it good at 1 capsule at breakfast and 1 capsule at dinner for a total of 2 capsules per day. This is 1/3rd of the recommended dose, but it’s worth it to take caution for comfort.
Let’s say creatine is our next supplement being introduced. Hypothetically, we determined that we could tolerate only 2 capsules of beef organs on day 2. On day 3, we will continue taking the beef organs, and also introduce creatine.
Mix 5g of creatine in a glass of water and note any negative side effects. If none are felt, on day 4 you would introduce the amino acids and follow the same procedure until all the supplements are introduced. Always be diligent in this process, or you will not know which supplement caused the negative side effects.
With the listed supplements in this article, I highly doubt that anyone would have a severe reaction like they might with more anti-bacterial/viral supplements I use with my gut health clients.
How I Take My Supplements
In truth, I typically get all of my supplements out of the way in the morning:
- Mix collagen with creatine and essential amino acids in a blender bottle
- Take all of my daily capsules out of their bottles and line them up on the countertop
- Shoot them back with the shake.
Boom. Done with the day’s supplements. The only exception would be magnesium, which I take before dinner for a relaxing effect. If a supplement has a large daily dosage (like beef organs), I will take 3 at breakfast and 3 at dinner.
Any questions? Let me know!
September 18, 2021