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6 Key Supplements Everyone Should Be Taking

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Although 90% of supplements lack evidence and are basically of little value, there are some key supplements that everyone should be taking.

Without knowing whether or not your supplement actually works, chances are you’re spending a lot of money for a nicely labeled bottle and a supplement that doesn’t have any real effect.

Luckily, I’ve got you covered.

In this article, I’ll present the 6 key supplements that everyone should be taking, backed by hundreds of research studies.

Whey Protein Builds Muscle

Whey protein is one of the most commonly consumed sports supplements on the planet for good reason.

Whey protein is a part of milk protein that is separated from casein when the milk is coagulated. For some time, whey protein was simply tossed out as a bi-product of the cheese-making process, until it was revealed that it had some serious health and muscle building properties.

Currently, the leading theory behind muscle hypertrophy is the stimulation and fulfillment of Muscle Protein Synthesis (MPS) after a training session. Fortunately, consuming whey protein enables both the stimulation and maintenance of this protein synthesis to allow for muscle growth and repair.

Whey protein is also unique because it is considered a complete protein source, meaning it has all of the necessary amino acids to build protein.

Further, whey protein is very high in the branched chain amino acid, leucine which is considered to be the amino acid responsible for stimulating this muscle building process called MPS.

In fact, multiple studies have shown that consumption of whey protein does in fact increase muscle protein synthesis, allowing for optimal muscle growth following a workout (1, 2, 3).

Additionally, studies have revealed that consumption of whey may decrease appetite and even reduce body fat as a result (4, 5, 6).

While high protein whole food should still be a key part of your diet, whey protein supplementation is a close second and easily (and cheaply) allows you to increase your total daily protein intake. I recommend taking 1-3 scoops per day to ensure adequate daily protein intake. This can be taken before/after the workout and as a snack or with a lower protein meal.

Beta-Alanine Improves Performance

Beta-alanine is actually a slightly different form of the amino acid, alanine.

When ingested, beta-alanine acts as a precursor to the molecule carnosine, which acts as an acid buffer similar to sodium bicarbonate. This helps offset hydrogen build up during exercise which makes our muscular environment very acidic.

If you’ve ever experienced ‘the burn’, this is hydrogen ion build up. In short, beta-alanine reduces this build up, allowing for increased performance and the reduction of fatigue.

Long-term studies have supported this, showing that beta-alanine is effective for improving muscular endurance and short-term high-intensity exercise performance (7, 8).

Additionally, consumption of beta-alanine has even been implicated in increased lean mass, which is likely because it enables training more intensely and for longer durations (8).

Similar to other supplements like creatine, beta-alanine does not seem to have an acute effect, meaning that it requires regular supplementation on a daily basis and does not need to be taken immediately prior to working out.

I suggest taking around 3 grams per day pre-workout or 3x 1 gram servings if you suffer from the famous paresthesia (tingling/itching) that beta-alanine can provide.

key supplements

Creatine Builds Muscle & Replenishes ATP Energy 

Creatine is another one of the most consumed sports supplements, second only to whey. It has a whopping 500+ studies proving it to be highly effective and safe.

Creatine monohydrate is a supplement that acts somewhat similar to beta-alanine in that it allows you to train a bit longer and harder at a higher intensity.

Creatine stores must be increased within the muscle in the form of creatine phosphate for it to work effectively.

It works by increasing ATP energy production, the key energy currency for the human body that is responsible for life in general and specifically, muscle contractions or high intensity exercise.

Time and time again, studies have revealed that supplementation leads to improvements in areas such as power output, running capacity and even added lean muscle mass, along with marked reductions in areas such as fatigue and muscle damage (9, 10, 11, 12, 13).

All of these benefits equate to higher intensity, longer durations and higher frequencies of training, which can lead to improved growth. Some studies have even seen double the muscle growth compared to training alone, which is really unheard of in the supplement world!

As mentioned, muscle must be saturated with creatine in order for it to be effective which is why people take creatine daily for months and years (which has also been shown to be completely safe).

To quickly increase muscle stores, take 5g grams 4x per day. This is called the loading phase. After that, you can switch to a maintenance dose of around 3-5g per day for the long term.

Fish Oil / Omega 3 For Heart & Brain Health

Omega-3 fish oil supplements are a very popular health supplement with ample research backing up their claims.

Fish oil is a term used to generalize supplements that contain the Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, both of which have been linked with many different health benefits such as improved cardiovascular and brain health.

The most common use of fish oil is to combat inflammation. This is primarily in order to offset the high amount of the inflammatory Omega-6 fatty acids that we typically consume.

Fish oil supplementation’s many documented different health benefits include:

  • Reductions in triglycerides, blood pressure, cholesterol
  • Decreasing whole body inflammation and depression and anxiety
  • And even increasing fat oxidation (fat burning) (14, 15, 16).

You can obtain omega 3 from a few food sources such oily fish; however, you would need to eat 3+ portions per day to obtain the recommended dose, which is not sustainable or realistic for most people!

For that reason, many experts suggest taking 3 to 5 grams per day of an omega 3 supplement that is high in EPA/DHA, the two key fatty acids. As a guideline to ensure quality and effective dosing, for every 1g or 1000mg of omega 3, at least 600mg of that should be EPA/DHA.

You can learn more about Fish Oil Supplement here.

Vitamin D Optimizes Health

Vitamin D is a micronutrient that is synthesized when the skin is exposed to the sun. When sunlight hits skin, it causes a conversion of something called 7-dehydrocholesterol into cholecalciferol, otherwise known as Vitamin D3.

While sunlight is the most natural source, few people see enough sunlight on a daily basis to get their daily intake. Depending on where you live and your lifestyle/job, there’s a good chance your Vitamin D levels are low, especially if you perform regular high intensity exercise. For that reason, Vitamin D is often consumed in supplemental form via Vitamin D3 supplement.

Returning your body to optimal Vitamin D levels has been shown to have a number of different benefits ranging from reducing depression, improvement in testosterone, increased fat loss, improved insulin sensitivity all the way to a reduced risk of multiple sclerosis (17, 18, 19).

I suggest taking 2000-5000 IU or in the range of 20-80 IU per kilogram of bodyweight, daily with food to maximize absorption.

Probiotics Optimize Gut Health & General Health

Probiotics are one of the newest and most popular supplements on the market.

Research is continually revealing that our gut microbiome or gut bacteria health is so large that it plays an integral role in many different processes ranging from how we eat, how we digest food and even how we develop illnesses and disease.

Recent research has revealed that using a probiotic supplement may lead to improvements in hormone function, reduced risk of obesity and also reduced inflammation, making it an attractive supplement for a wide range of different ailments (20, 21, 22).

Probiotics are interesting since they are actually bacteria, which are alive and provide new healthy gut bacteria for our body.

While many companies offer probiotics, ensure that you are consuming a quality probiotic rich in Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium lactis, as those are the strains with the most research. The research shows around 15-30 billion bacteria per day is the efficacious dose.

Learn more about Probiotics here.

6 Key Supplements Everyone Should be Taking

The health and fitness industry is saturated with many different types of supplements including many that have no evidence to support their claims.

By understanding that some supplements simply don’t work while others have an abundance of research behind them, you can ensure that your money is going towards those that will actually get you the results you desire.

While many other supplements don’t have much research revealing their efficacy, using the supplements described above will ensure that your body changes according to your goals both effectively and efficiently.

Learn more about supplements that actually work here.


1. Pennings, B., Groen, B., de Lange, A., Gijsen, A. P., Zorenc, A. H., Senden, J. M., & van Loon, L. J. (2012). Amino acid absorption and subsequent muscle protein accretion following graded intakes of whey protein in elderly men. American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism, 302(8), E992-E999.

2. Tipton, K. D., Elliott, T. A., Cree, M. G., Wolf, S. E., Sanford, A. P., & Wolfe, R. R. (2004). Ingestion of casein and whey proteins result in muscle anabolism after resistance exercise. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 36, 2073-2081.

3. Reitelseder, S., Agergaard, J., Doessing, S., Helmark, I. C., Lund, P., Kristensen, N. B., … & Kjaer, M. (2011). Whey and casein labeled with L-[1-13C] leucine and muscle protein synthesis: effect of resistance exercise and protein ingestion. American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism, 300(1), E231-E242.

4. Halton, T. L., & Hu, F. B. (2004). The effects of high protein diets on thermogenesis, satiety and weight loss: a critical review. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 23(5), 373-385.

5. Mojtahedi, M. C., Thorpe, M. P., Karampinos, D. C., Johnson, C. L., Layman, D. K., Georgiadis, J. G., & Evans, E. M. (2011). The effects of a higher protein intake during energy restriction on changes in body composition and physical function in older women. The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, glr120.

6. Lorenzen, J., Frederiksen, R., Hoppe, C., Hvid, R., & Astrup, A. (2012). The effect of milk proteins on appetite regulation and diet-induced thermogenesis. European journal of clinical nutrition, 66(5), 622-627.

7. Chung, W., Shaw, G., Anderson, M. E., Pyne, D. B., Saunders, P. U., Bishop, D. J., & Burke, L. M. (2012). Effect of 10 week beta-alanine supplementation on competition and training performance in elite swimmers. Nutrients, 4(10), 1441-1453.

8. Kern, B. D., & Robinson, T. L. (2011). Effects of β-alanine supplementation on performance and body composition in collegiate wrestlers and football players. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 25(7), 1804-1815.

9. Rahimi, R. (2011). Creatine supplementation decreases oxidative DNA damage and lipid peroxidation induced by a single bout of resistance exercise. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 25(12), 3448-3455.

10. Fukuda, D. H., Smith, A. E., Kendall, K. L., Dwyer, T. R., Kerksick, C. M., Beck, T. W., … & Stout, J. R. (2010). The effects of creatine loading and gender on anaerobic running capacity. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 24(7), 1826-1833.

11. Del Favero, S., Roschel, H., Artioli, G., Ugrinowitsch, C., Tricoli, V., Costa, A., … & Lancha-Junior, A. H. (2012). Creatine but not betaine supplementation increases muscle phosphorylcreatine content and strength performance. Amino Acids, 42(6), 2299-2305.

12. Del Favero, S., Roschel, H., Artioli, G., Ugrinowitsch, C., Tricoli, V., Costa, A., … & Lancha-Junior, A. H. (2012). Creatine but not betaine supplementation increases muscle phosphorylcreatine content and strength performance. Amino Acids, 42(6), 2299-2305.

13. Bassit, R. A., da Justa Pinheiro, C. H., Vitzel, K. F., Sproesser, A. J., Silveira, L. R., & Curi, R. (2010). Effect of short-term creatine supplementation on markers of skeletal muscle damage after strenuous contractile activity. European journal of applied physiology, 108(5), 945-955.

14. Cazzola, R., Russo-Volpe, S., Miles, E. A., Rees, D., Banerjee, T., Roynette, C. E., … & Cestaro, B. (2007). Age-and dose-dependent effects of an eicosapentaenoic acid-rich oil on cardiovascular risk factors in healthy male subjects. Atherosclerosis, 193(1), 159-167.

15. Ciubotaru, I., Lee, Y. S., & Wander, R. C. (2003). Dietary fish oil decreases C-reactive protein, interleukin-6, and triacylglycerol to HDL-cholesterol ratio in postmenopausal women on HRT. The Journal of nutritional biochemistry, 14(9), 513-521.

16. Martins, J. G. (2009). EPA but not DHA appears to be responsible for the efficacy of omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation in depression: evidence from a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 28(5), 525-542.

17. Munger, K. L., Zhang, S. M., O’reilly, E., Hernan, M. A., Olek, M. J., Willett, W. C., & Ascherio, A. (2004). Vitamin D intake and incidence of multiple sclerosis. Neurology, 62(1), 60-65.

18. Pilz, S., Frisch, S., Koertke, H., Kuhn, J., Dreier, J., Obermayer-Pietsch, B., … & Zittermann, A. (2011). Effect of vitamin D supplementation on testosterone levels in men. Hormone and Metabolic Research, 43(03), 223-225.

19. Salehpour, A., Hosseinpanah, F., Shidfar, F., Vafa, M., Razaghi, M., Dehghani, S., … & Gohari, M. (2012). A 12-week double-blind randomized clinical trial of vitamin D 3 supplementation on body fat mass in healthy overweight and obese women. Nutrition journal, 11(1), 78.

20. Sudo, N. (2014). Microbiome, HPA axis and production of endocrine hormones in the gut. In Microbial Endocrinology: The Microbiota-Gut-Brain Axis in Health and Disease (pp. 177-194). Springer New York.

21. Lescheid, D. W. (2014). Probiotics as regulators of inflammation: A review. Functional Foods in Health and Disease, 4(7), 299-311.

22. Dinan, T. G., & Quigley, E. M. (2011). Probiotics in the treatment of depression: science or science fiction?. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 45(12), 1023-1025.

About the author


Rudy Mawer, MSc, CISSN

Rudy has a 1st class BSc in Exercise, Nutrition & Health and a Masters in Exercise & Nutrition Science from the University of Tampa. Rudy currently works as a Human Performance Researcher, Sports Nutritionist and Physique Coach. Over 7 years he has helped over 500 people around the world achieve long last physique transformations.

He now works closely with a variety of professional athletes and teams, including the NBA, USA Athletics, World Triathlon Gold Medalists, Hollywood Celebrities and IFBB Pro Bodybuilders. If you would like to get in contact or work with Rudy please contact him on social media.

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