Do I Need to Take Supplements and Which are Best for Me?
Here at Momentous, we get a lot of customer questions about supplementation. The most common is definitely, “What supplements do I need?” Everyone’s nutritional needs are different and more context is needed to give a clear, personalized answer. That being said, there are some lines of best fit that can help you determine whether you need to take supplements and if so, which might be right for you. Let’s look at several scenarios in which supplementation can help you improve your performance, recovery, sleep, and overall well being.
1) Do you eat well and clean most of the time?
Supplementation can be an important piece of your nutritional puzzle, but it shouldn’t be a substitute for eating well. First, make sure you are meeting most of your macronutrient needs by getting adequate amounts of carbs, fat, and protein. If you need help with determining these, a nutritionist or registered dietician may be able to help, as can an experienced coach in your sport.
From there, you can help ensure that you’re getting enough vitamins and minerals by eating plenty of fruit and vegetables. Certain other foods can also help with specific nutrients, such as grass-fed beef providing iron and B vitamins, nuts and seeds packing a magnesium punch, and dairy likely giving you all the calcium you’ll need (there are some caveats here – see the answer to question 2 below). Try to choose organic, non-GMO, and locally-sourced options when possible and reduce the amount of processed foods, added sugar, and hydrogenated oils you consume.
If you’ve said yes to the areas above by covering your bases with food first, then it’s time to look at supplements with pure, high-quality ingredients that are proven to be free of contaminants and banned substances by a third party like Informed Sport or NSF as needed. Adding Essential Proteins are a great place to start to improve your overall protein intake, support your immune system, and build and repair muscle.
2) Have you had blood work done recently that shows a deficiency?
While eating well and clean 90 percent of the time should set you in good nutritional stead, there are instances when it isn’t enough. The most obvious food issue is a severe allergy to wheat, tree nuts, or peanuts, which would preclude you from eating certain things. But many more people are intolerant to foods, leading to indigestion, bloating, cramping, and a host of other issues.
Blood testing can help you identify such issues, exclude problem foods from your diet, and replace them with alternatives that make up for the lost calories and nutrients. The kind of comprehensive test panel that Momentous Performance Engineer Sam Kavarsky uses with his athletes can also highlight a micronutrient deficiency. It could be that you’re not intaking enough of a certain vitamin or mineral. Or perhaps due to genetic or environmental factors, your body just has a hard time absorbing them. In either case, micronutrient deficiencies can often be solved through supplementation.
One of the most common deficiencies seen in athletes is magnesium – a study published in Nutrition Reviews estimated that 50 percent of American adults are deficient in it, and athletes are more susceptible because you lose magnesium while you sweat. Both our Strength Recovery and Endurance Recovery proteins include magnesium in an effort to combat this, while our Elite Sleep formula includes the only form of magnesium proven to pass through the blood-brain barrier.
3) Are you training hard more than 3 times per week?
If you’re a power athlete who’s doing a lot of plyometrics, sprinting, or Olympic lifting, you’re likely eating up your phosphate stores. As a result, you might not have enough creatine in reserve to call upon, leading to a decline in power and a faster onset of fatigue during your most demanding training sessions. If you’re an endurance athlete, you’re not off the hook, as your sport likely involves some quick bursts of speed and so can similarly deplete your phosphate pool.
In either scenario, if you’re training hard three times a week or more, you could probably benefit from taking a supplement such as Momentous Performance Creatine. This provides a rich source of creatine monohydrate, which a study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise concluded improves performance in repeat sprint intervals, maximal muscular contraction, and power output.1
4) Are you sleep compromised?
In an ideal world, we’d all be getting seven to nine hours of high quality, uninterrupted sleep every single night. But life has a habit of getting in the way. Whether you have a newborn in the house, train or play a lot at night, or are facing work deadlines, your sleep might be compromised. Same goes for those times when you’re struggling with anxiety, are getting used to a seasonal time change, or have to work the late shift. As a result, your sports performance and recovery inevitably suffer, your risk of injury increases, and your immune system is compromised.
Rather than resorting to prescription pills or alcohol (which can actually exacerbate the problem), you might do well to take an all-natural sleep supplement. Momentous Elite Sleep combines wild-harvested jujube seeds and melatonin with Magtein®, the only form of magnesium proven to cross the blood brain barrier. A team of German researchers found that melatonin improves restorative REM sleep, while a study published in the journal Phytomedicine concluded that jujube increases levels of slumber-boosting GABA and serotonin.2
5) Are you an aging athlete?
Back when you were in high school, it probably felt like you could run forever and lift weights all day without any ill effects. But eventually, our bodies say, “Enough is enough,” as wear and tear takes its toll and the bill for all those miles and reps comes due. It’s a common misconception that you don’t need to even think about your joint health until old age. In fact, studies show that your body’s ability to produce collagen starts to decline in your mid-20s.
While this shouldn’t be cause for alarm, it does indicate that if you’re an older athlete (or even a younger one who wants to preserve their joint function), you might want to consider taking a supplement like Momentous Collagen Peptides. This combines the two most potent forms of collagen – FORTIGEL® and PEPTIPLUS®. A study conducted by the Australian Institute of Sport found that taking collagen before jumping rope doubles collagen synthesis, so mix a scoop in water 45-60 minutes before you train. Your joints will thank you.3
6) Have you set an aggressive physical goal for yourself?
Do you want to run a 5K or marathon under a certain time? Are you targeting a new deadlift or squat PR? In either case, your body is likely channeling most of its resources to helping you hit the performance milestones you need to make it to this big goal, and on the back end, recovering in between training sessions. In which case, you’ll want to make sure that you’re checking all of the big boxes that will help you achieve your aim, including smart programming, adequate sleep, and restorative nutrition. With regard to the latter, it might be difficult for you to get everything you need from your diet alone, so you should cover your bases with supplementation.
One of the biggest mistakes that athletes make in this area is not getting sufficient protein. This not only prevents hypertrophy (aka muscle growth) but can also blunt training adaptations, slow recovery, and adversely affect performance in your next training session or race. A study published in the journal Nutrients found that among athletes who were already getting a lot of protein from food, consuming 25 grams of whey protein after morning exercise increased whole body net protein balance, and an evening protein shake after training later increased this level overnight. As a result, participants recovered more fully and performed better in their next session.4
1 – M Izquierdo et al, “Effects of Creatine Supplementation on Muscle Power, Endurance, and Sprint Performance,” Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, February 2002, available online at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11828245.
2 – Dieter Kunz et al, ”Melatonin in Patients with Reduced REM Sleep Duration: Two Randomized Controlled Trials,” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, January 2004, available online at https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14715839/; Johannah Linda Shergis et al, ”Ziziphus Spinosa Seeds for Insomnia: A Review of Chemistry and Psychopharmacology,” Phytomedicine, October 2017, available online at https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28899507/.
3 – Gregory Shaw et al, “Vitamin C–Enriched Gelatin Supplementation Before Intermittent Activity Augments Collagen Synthesis,” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, January 2017, available online at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5183725/.
4 – Daniel W.D. West et al, “Whey Protein Supplementation Enhances Whole Body Protein Metabolism and Performance Recovery after Resistance Exercise: A Double-Blind Crossover Study,” Nutrients, July 2017, available online at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5537849/.