August 9, 2022
I'm often asked questions such as, “Do I need supplements?”, “Why should I take supplements?”, and “What supplements should I take?”. After all, if you, like me, are leading a healthy lifestyle, I'll wager that you probably eat plenty of plants, prioritize sleep, hydrate with filtered (or, dare I say, at the risk of wearing my tinfoil hat, structured) water, and expose yourself to the sun as much as possible.
In other words, you, like me, are probably what I call a “healthy, woo-woo geek.” You are an intelligent, well-informed person who embraces your softer side of spirituality and prides yourself on being passionate about health, nutrition, science, and fitness.
So why would you need to take supplements for health, fitness, and longevity? Doesn't nutrient-dense food, good water, and relatively clean living give you enough crucial vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants?
I get the question: life is already complicated, there is a dizzying array of supplements to choose from, and the expense can add up fast, as can the clutter and confusion from eight billion bottles of capsules, tinctures, powders, oils, tablets and packets in your pantry. Things can get complex fast, and no one—including me—wants to spend their precious time counting and swallowing pills. I've certainly been overwhelmed by the physical space supplements can occupy (in fridges and travel suitcases) and the time and monetary expenses of tracking and ordering new bottles.
Moreover, supplements can be dangerous. I've dedicated podcasts to exposing the deceptive tactics that some supplement companies employ and explored controversial fringe supplements.
So in this article, I'm going to present you with some pretty compelling information (all research-based, mind you) to support the notion that supplements can indeed amplify the benefits of your healthy, woo-woo geek lifestyle, especially if you're a hard-charging, high-achiever like I profess to be. I'll provide scientifically-validated reasons that supplements help optimize health, performance, and longevity. Then I will outline the exact supplements I take (which I also recommend to my family and friends) and give you a handy-dandy guide for proper dosing and timing.
The Science Behind Why You Need Supplements (Even If You're Doing Everything Right)
Let's begin with this: your modern, post-industrial, polluted, toxin-laden lifestyle demands more nutrients than food can provide.
That's right: the chronic stressors of modern life—whether it’s the iPhone screen interfering with your circadian rhythms and chronobiology, or the never-ending work deadlines, increase your nutrient needs.
Every day, you face hundreds of toxins—pollutants in the air, degraded plastic byproducts in drinking water, chemicals in cleaning products, and pesticides in your food—which further increase your body’s need for vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. These nutrients are necessary to help shuttle toxins through natural detox pathways and prevent the formation of DNA-damaging free radicals. Even exercise is a stressor that increases your body’s need for nutrients.
Furthermore, if you're a hard-charging, high-performing exercise enthusiast (like many people reading this), your nutrient requirements far exceed the recommendations for the general, sedentary population.
To make matters worse, you're likely not getting the full array of nutrients from the food that prior generations enjoyed. Due to modern farming techniques and fertilizers, most soil is depleted of nutrients, which decreases the beneficial vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in conventionally-grown crops.
So perhaps eating organic is the ultimate solution? While some studies suggest that organically-grown foods contain more nutrients than non-organic, other studies conclude that there are no significant differences. Furthermore, for most of human history (and prehistory), your ancestors ate now nearly-extinct, dense cell-rich carbohydrates in the form of foods such as wild tubers, which provided essential prebiotics that helped probiotic bacteria flourish (in contrast to the refined “acellular” grains and white rice that comprise modern carbohydrates).
Along the same lines, the abundance of refined carbohydrates and processed foods create significant blood sugar swings and glycemic variability your ancestors also didn't deal with to as great an extent. A glance at a coffee shop display case or hotel breakfast bar laden with bagels, muffins, and sugary cereals explains why many people need a snack a couple of hours later just to make it through the inevitable mid-morning blood sugar crash. Blood sugar imbalances lead to chronic inflammation and may be responsible for up to 80% of modern diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease (nicknamed “type 3 diabetes”), obesity, depression, and cancer.
Similarly, the meat, eggs, and dairy products commonly found in grocery stores deliver fewer anti-inflammatory nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids, than wild or pastured animals. Speaking of omega-3 fatty acids, most Western diet munchers consume an imbalanced ratio of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3 fatty acids, further predisposing us to rampant chronic inflammation.
To make it even more complicated, modern harvesting, shipping, processing, and storage techniques degrade the nutrient content of food. Plants grown with modern fertilizer can contain only 25% of the micronutrients of those grown using more traditional farming methods, and nutrients degrade as they are shipped and sit on store shelves. A fresh-picked apple is more nutritious than the apple you buy at the supermarket in winter, which was likely treated with 1-methylcyclopropene and could be up to 10 months old (according to an FDA spokesperson). And the very preservatives used to maintain “freshness” could impede the bioavailability of the food’s nutrients—and increase your body’s need for nutrients to process these synthetic additives. Similarly, many common medications for acid reflux and hypertension also inhibit nutrient absorption.
Then there are precious fat-soluble vitamins such as Vitamin D. Though the recommendations for sufficient Vitamin D levels are controversial, it’s safe to say that many Americans do not get enough of it. Even if you're doing your best to get sun exposure—whether it’s a morning walk or going outside for lunch—it’s rare to get as much sunlight (and Vitamin D) as your outdoor-dwelling ancestors did.
Last but not least, your ability to absorb nutrients from food decreases as you age. Given the scientifically-demonstrated longevity benefits of caloric restriction, it seems silly to argue that one could ignore calories and simply eat more food to obtain nutrients. This is another crucial area where supplements come in—a helpful boost if you want to live longer using strategies such as intermittent fasting, alternate-day fasting, or caloric restriction.
But Wait…My Ancestors Didn't Take Supplements, So Why Should I?
I love to use ancestral wisdom to optimize my life, but I also believe in a healthy dose of “better living through science”—the ultimate marriage of ancestral wisdom and modern science.
In this case, the assumption that previous generations didn’t take supplements is simply not true. Ancient supplements included root, stem, and leaf teas targeted for specific symptoms, medicinal powders ground by mortar and pestles, and highly concentrated oil extracts. Just because those dietary add-ons don’t look like the capsules and ridiculously-oversized tubs of today's powders, doesn’t mean that they weren’t supplements.
Additionally, your ancestors consumed dirt, which is now known to contain a wide range of beneficial probiotics. Perhaps even more compelling is the notion that animals, ranging from insects to chimps, self-medicate and supplement by consuming specific plants. Furthermore, the methods used today to gather, cook, and consume food drastically differ from those in ancestral times, leading to different nutrient availability and absorption degrees.
For example, most of the time, people only eat animal muscle and discard the collagen-rich connective tissues. Previous generations—as recent as your grandparents'—simmered animal carcasses for hours, liberating collagen, gelatin, and fat-soluble vitamins from connective tissues. In a way, the soups your ancestors consumed are equivalent to the glucosamine/chondroitin joint supplements that line the shelves of GNC and the now-trendy bone broth found at high-end restaurants. To learn more about ancestral nutrition, the Weston A. Price Foundation provides useful guidelines on finding and preparing nutrient-dense foods in ways that your grandparents would recognize.
OK, I'm Convinced…So What Supplements Should I Take, And Where Do I Start?
I’ve translated the knowledge gained from years of reading, researching, and experimenting to co-found my very own supplement company, Kion. All the Kion supplements satisfy my strict standards for quality and “scratch my own itch” as products I use, endorse, and take daily.
The goal in creating the Kion supplement line—for both the existing products and some extremely unique formulations that are currently being developed using some of the best raw ingredients on the face of the planet—was to merge the best that modern science and ancient wisdom have to offer to enable you to optimize your body and brain.
For the Kion supplements that you are specifically about to discover, Kion team members and I personally sourced each ingredient, designed optimal ratios, and controlled the manufacturing processes to ensure the highest purity, potency, and value. Several specialized non-Kion products on here are also part of my daily supplement arsenal.
So, without further ado, here is a list of the top thirteen supplements my family and I take daily, along with their benefits.
1. Kion Aminos
Kion Aminos is a unique blend of nine essential amino acids that can naturally boost energy, build lean muscle, and enhance athletic recovery, in very precise ratios that we have, over the years at Kion, dialed in to be exactly what your muscles need (unlike any other amino acid blend out there).
I first began using essential amino acids when I was racing the Ironman triathlon and needed a fast energy source that I could take any time, any place, for energy, muscle, recovery, and a host of additional functions. For the last two decades, aminos have been a staple supplement of mine.
You're likely aware of the benefits of a protein-rich diet, especially for athletes, since muscle cells are built from protein. Essential amino acids (definitely not to be confused with their inferior cousins branched-chain amino acids), which include only three of the nine essential amino acids your body needs, are, in the simplest terms, the components of protein that your body uses to build muscle. While essential amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, they also perform many other important physiologic functions. For example, essential amino acids regulate genetic expression, including genes related to oxidative stress and immunity.
The amount of essential amino acids you need for optimal function is heavily influenced by your stress levels and workout intensity. While some amino acids can be synthesized by your body, other amino acids, specifically these essential amino acids (EAAs) I'm talking about, must come from food—and that’s why you eat complete protein sources such as, say, steak or eggs. I've been putting on about a half pound of muscle per week this summer by doing two ARX workouts weekly, along with 20g of aminos three times a day, plus a chunk of my aminos/collagen jello (and you can find that awesome recipe here). I talk in-depth about the science behind my reasons for upping my dose in this recent podcast episode with Angelo Keely, my co-founder and the CEO of Kion.
Because there is so much information (and misinformation) out there about amino acids, including the BCAAs vs. EAAs debate, I also recently published a comprehensive article covering the latest research and outlining detailed recommendations for the consumption of aminos. You can read that article here, or if you're already convinced of their superpowers, you can find Kion Aminos available in a capsule form (with no binders, fillers, stearates, coating, or dyes) or a dissolvable powder with refreshing natural Cool Lime, Mixed Berry, Watermelon, or Mango flavors.
2. Kion Flex
In my research and travels, I've discovered remedies from across the planet that are efficacious for bouncing back faster from injury, recovering from a workout, fighting inflammation, and making you want to leap out of bed in the morning feeling fired up every day.
Then I took all of those ingredients and added them to Kion Flex.
With Kion Flex, I wanted to create a veritable “shotgun” of nutrients I could mainline into my body when overextended or sore from exercise without using three to ten different bottles. This formula contains everything you need for mobility, recovery, healing, flexibility, and beyond.
Those ingredients include:
- Turmacin®. Turmacin® is the first water-soluble extract of turmeric to contain turmerosaccharides, which support a balanced inflammatory response to physical activity and have unique benefits for joints.
- AyuFlex®. AyuFlex® is a non-GMO, organic extract of the ayurvedic superfruit haritaki. It supports whole-body joint function and can help you move more freely.
- Serrapeptase, Serrazimes®, and ProHydrolase®. These are proteolytic enzymes, meaning they're biological catalysts that speed up chemical reactions in the body. Certain blends of enzymes can help you recover faster and bounce back to your favorite daily activities.
I typically like to take three Kion Flex on an empty stomach (this is important because otherwise, it will digest the protein/food in your gut rather than breaking down inflammatory products in the blood). I do this in the evening on hard workout days or days I'm especially sore or injured. Kion Flex is a veritable powerhouse if you're active.
3. Kion Lean
With my genetically tested propensity for type II diabetes and my desire to not eliminate carbohydrates from my diet (what can I say—I dig Italian food, dark chocolate, and red wine), I wanted something that would immediately lower my blood sugar after a meal.
Kion Lean is a formula that combines the benefits of wild bitter melon (Momordica charantia) fruit extract (as Glycostat®), astragalus membranaceus root extract, and panax notoginseng root extract (as InnoSlim®). Panax notoginseng and Astragalus membranaceus have been proven to decrease glucose absorption and circulating blood glucose. That means fewer blood sugar spikes for you. InnoSlim® may also reduce fat accumulation by helping correct the metabolic issues that lead to weight gain.
In laboratory studies, wild bitter melon extract has been demonstrated to reduce inflammation in macrophages,protect against fatty liver disease, activate signaling pathways that support fat loss and longevity, and regulate blood glucose and blood pressure. I've tested my blood sugar after a carbohydrate-rich meal, for which I've popped two of these beforehand. It gives me a night and day difference in my blood sugar levels, allowing me to return to ketosis quickly after a carbohydrate refeed.
And because of that, this supplement is good not only for your waistline but also for anti-aging. Kion Lean enhances longevity by regulating the blood glucose and insulin responses, leading to healthy liver function and healthy body fat levels.
So here's the deal: I take two of these before any meal with significant carbs—I'm talking 50g+—or alcohol. I've compared it to every blood glucose stabilizer out there, like berberine, apple cider vinegar, Ceylon cinnamon, etc., and I'm telling you, nothing beats Kion Lean‘s formula. The only thing that works better for glycemic variability stabilization would be a 2-5 minute extremely cold soak or hard strength training session (and hey, feel free to do that too).
4. Kion Colostrum
I first began using colostrum when I wanted to protect my gut from the rigors of racing triathlons and endurance competitions in hot and stressful environments, especially when competing in events such as Ironman Hawaii.
But it turns out that colostrum is good for far more than simply sealing up the lining of a leaky gut or helping your stomach feel impervious to the stressors of hard physical exercise.
As a matter of fact, this goat milk-derived colostrum in the form of Kion Colostrum is one of my favorite supplements since it contains a huge variety of macro- and micronutrients, including growth factors, growth-promoting hormones, lactoferrin (a protein that helps with iron absorption), and immune-modulating molecules such as cytokines and immunoglobulins. Additionally, a broad spectrum of enzymes, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals are in colostrum. Together, these compounds can effectively rebuild your gut, decrease intestinal permeability brought on by strenuous exercise, increase your VO2max, strengthen your immune system, and help build lean muscle mass.
My favorite way to get my colostrum in lately is blending vanilla Kion Clean Protein with frozen blueberries, goat milk yogurt, Kion Colostrum, vanilla stevia, 5g of Kion Creatine, ice, and then top it with coconut flakes, cacao nibs, or a chopped up frozen Kion energy bar. This is a seriously delicious way to start the day.
And if you're looking to enhance your growth hormone levels without fringe injections or hormone replacement therapy, colostrum is, bar none, your best bet to get that done naturally.
5. Kion Omega Fish Oil
I've always said, “taking bad fish oil is worse than taking no fish oil at all.”
So I'm constantly on the hunt for a joint-protecting, brain-enhancing, vision-assisting fish oil that isn't rancid, is sustainably sourced, and contains a powerhouse of antioxidants to keep the oil stable, such as astaxanthin and antioxidant vitamins.
Enter Kion Omega, a premium fish oil supplement that offers 1,000mg of EPA and DHA (530mg of EPA and 435mg of DHA). The fatty acids are also in triglyceride form rather than ethyl ester, which boosts absorption even more.
Made from sustainably-sourced cold-water anchovies to minimize mercury content, Kion Omega is naturally preserved with the antioxidants astaxanthin and rosemary leaf extract (which have benefits for skin, athletic endurance, and cognitive function).
Kion Omega is also GOED (Global Organization of EPA and DHA Omega-3s)-compliant and processed in a GMP-certified facility. (Basically, this means that Kion has demonstrated a strong regulatory commitment and compliance to international good manufacturing practices.)
You just pop two Kion Omega soft gels daily, preferably with food, for over 200% of your daily omega-3 recommendation. Due to my desire for a slightly higher dose omega-3 fatty acids, I usually take 4-6 caps of Omega daily on any days I don't eat a serving of cold-water fatty fish, and 1-2 caps on other days. When I do eat fish, I stick to the SMASH list, which stands for salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, and herring. These are the fish varieties that are the safest and healthiest to eat because they're nutrient-rich, high in omega-3s, and low in mercury.
6. Kion Clean Protein
You probably already know that protein is generally good for you.
The thing is, because protein is used for just about every bodily process, it’s constantly being broken down and must be replaced with adequate amounts from your diet. However, the answer to how much protein you need is not that straightforward. In this article, I give general guidelines for protein intake based on your activity levels, goals, and age. (And I cover pretty much everything else you need to know about protein, too, in that article…which is why I called it the “Ultimate Guide.”:)
If you are looking to up your protein intake—whether it's because you want to put on muscle, you're getting older (aren't we all), or you want to improve your recovery—there is no cleaner, healthier, higher-quality protein out there than Kion Clean Protein. There are many research-backed reasons why Kion's protein rises to the top, including that it is sourced exclusively from grass-fed cows, contains a whopping 20g of complete protein, is thoroughly tested for toxins, and is virtually free of toxins. Finally, and importantly, it's hands-down the best-tasting protein I've ever tasted (and I've tasted a lot). Somehow the Kion team accomplished this using absolutely zero added sugar: just organic natural flavors, Himalayan sea salt, and stevia. Plus, it comes in chocolate, vanilla, and unflavored—so yes, there’s something for everyone.
My current favorite flavor is vanilla, and as I mentioned above, I've been making a delicious smoothie daily with the Clean Protein and Kion Creatine. Honestly, it's kind of like having dessert for breakfast, which is not a bad way to supplement if you ask me.
7. Kion Energy Bars
I used to have a love-hate relationship with energy bars.
On one hand, they’re a convenient, on-the-go snack that can prevent hangry breakdowns. But they can also taste like cardboard, be loaded with sugar, and end up in a pile of goo in your backpack.
The Kion Energy Bar is different.
The reason why sugar is abundant in most bars is to try to make them more appetizing. What they were able to do at Kion was put together a formula in which the ingredients that contribute to the delicious taste are also packed with nutrition. The chocolatey flavor and nutty texture are thanks to ingredients including cocoa nibs (rich in minerals and antioxidants), coconut flakes (contain natural medium-chain fatty acids for energy), almonds (source of plant-based protein), and cocoa powder (high in magnesium).
Additionally, the bars contain 11g of satiating protein from a combination of gut-friendly, vegan rice protein, and pea protein, which completes the amino acid profile.
I've been using the bars to mix in with other recipes of mine, such as smoothies (which you'll find described right here in this very article). They've gotten rave reviews as one of the best-tasting bars on the market, so if you're looking to stock your gym bag with the right kind of healthy convenience, Kion Energy Bars are the way to go.
8. Kion Creatine
Why? Frankly, it's one of the most researched and safe performance and cognition-enhancing molecules on the face of the planet.
Creatine plays a crucial role in cellular energy production by making ATP, a molecule needed by all cells in your body. An organic acid naturally produced in the body from other amino acids, creatine is found in foods such as meats, eggs, and fish and is commonly deficient in heavily exercising individuals, the elderly, and people who eat a primarily plant-based diet. With increases in exercise or as a result of muscle damage, your physiological need for creatine increases.
Creatine supplementation has been shown to support increased muscle work capacity and power output while promoting physical endurance and lean body mass gains. Outside of the athletic population, creatine has also been shown to lessen muscle breakdown and support cognitive function, especially in aging populations. Because creatine stores high-energy phosphate groups as phosphocreatine, it releases energy to aid cellular function during stress. This effect causes strength increases after creatine supplementation and can also benefit the brain, bones, muscles, and liver. Another less well-known benefit of creatine is its sleep-optimizing properties, which you can read more about here.
I currently only use Kion Creatine. The creatine in Kion Creatine is derived from Creapure, a micronized form of creatine monohydrate that’s colorless and odorless. This form of creatine has highly enhanced solubility, so it mixes well with water, juice, smoothies, or just about anything you toss it into. Whatever your health needs, creatine is worth the pantry space.
9. Kion Sleep
Approximately 70% of US adults experience at least one bad night of sleep every month, and one-third report getting less than seven hours of sleep each night.
That's quite a bit.
Sleep latency (how long it takes you to fall asleep), duration (the length of time you’re asleep throughout the night), and restfulness (the quality of your sleep) are the three most important factors that contribute to a good night’s sleep. And each of these factors is affected by two key neurotransmitters: GABA and serotonin.
Kion Sleep naturally supports your GABA and serotonin function with three amino acids that—when taken together—work with your body’s own sleep system to promote a deep, restful slumber:
- Gamma-aminobutyric Acid (as PharmaGABA) reduces stress, promotes relaxation, and improves the quality of your sleep.
- L-theanine elevates levels of the neurotransmitters GABA, serotonin, and dopamine. Increasing levels of these calming brain chemicals promotes relaxation and can help with sleep.
- L-tryptophan is converted to the sleep-regulating neurotransmitter 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), which then works to increase levels of the calming neurotransmitter serotonin, as well as the sleep-signaling hormone melatonin.
Kion Sleep has been my-go since we developed the formula, so I usually do three capsules or one scoop of the new honey lavender powder. With Kion Sleep, you can “rest assured” that you're getting only the best, natural, high-quality sleep. (And for much, much more on sleep, check out my article “The Last Resource On Sleep You’ll Ever Need: Ben Greenfield’s Ultimate Guide To Napping, Jet Lag, Sleep Cycles, Insomnia, Sleep Food, Sleep Supplements, Exercise Before Bed & Much, Much More!”).
10. Element Health CBD
My friend Adam Wenguer is the founder of Element Health, a company in Florida that makes an ultra-concentrated, full spectrum CBD extract dissolved in organic, raw, cold-pressed hemp seed oil.
Adam was my guest on the wildly popular show “The Official CBD FAQ: Everything You’ve Always Wanted To Know About CBD, Combining Psychedelics With Cannabinoids, Smokeable Ayahuasca, Microdosing With Plant Medicine & Much More!” and then returned to answer your questions about CBD in the article “CBD & Hormones, CBD Dosage, Combining Workouts With CBD, Effects Of Caffeine On CBD & More: Your Top 7 CBD Questions Answered.”
Element Health's products include full-spectrum oils, soft gels, gummies, topical salves, and pre-roll CBD flower—everything you need to reduce stress and improve the quality of your sleep and recovery. I've been using their maximum strength, full-spectrum CBD (I get their 60 ml bottle with a whopping 4,800 mg of CO2-extracted CBD), and holy hell: this stuff is potent. My go-to dose is usually 80-100 mg for eight hours of sleep and 10-20 mg for a power nap. This formula works like magic. Now, if you're not used to CBD, my personal dose of this stuff could kick you onto your ass for a while (so start slow). Since I started using Kion Sleep, I don't use CBD as often, but on a very stressful day or during travel, it definitely comes in quite handy.
I swear by this stuff for a good night of rest with through-the-roof deep sleep scores. Element Health's CBD oil (use BEN15 to save 15%) can also help alleviate stress and anxiety, and their high-potency products will simultaneously optimize your immune system, cardiovascular health, and overall brain function.
11. Magnesium Breakthrough
Magnesium is probably the single most studied mineral in existence.
It powers over 300 critical, life-saving reactions in your body. To date, thousands of studies have proven magnesium beneficial for the heart, energy, metabolism, immunity, sleep, pain, and more. The only two-time Nobel Prize winner in history, Linus Pauling, recommended daily supplementation of magnesium of at least 350mg per day.
But, despite knowing its importance, most people still have a big magnesium deficiency problem.
Food and supplement industries have tried to put a bandaid on the problem by fortifying foods with synthetic (chemical-made), low-grade magnesium that the body can't absorb. Plus, most supplements only contain one to three forms of magnesium (at best). So, chances are, unless you supplement with all seven forms of magnesium, you're likely still “magnesium deficient” and not functioning at your peak.
Each of the seven different forms of magnesium below plays a critical role in different functions in your body, and the magic happens when you get all of them.
- Magnesium chelate is especially important for muscle building, recovery, and health.
- Magnesium citrate helps with the effects of obesity. In fact, one study found that this form helped arterial stiffness in healthy overweight individuals.
- Magnesium bisglycinate is used to treat symptoms of excess stomach acid, such as stomach upset, heartburn, and acid indigestion.
- Magnesium malate may be the most bioavailable form of magnesium. It’s found naturally in fruits, giving them a tart taste. Magnesium malate can help with migraines, chronic pain, and depression.
- Magnesium sucrosomial improves the effectiveness of energy production. It also supports the immune system and is critical for bone health and skeletal development.
- Magnesium taurate is the best form of magnesium for your heart. One study noted: “The complex magnesium taurate may thus have considerable potential as a vascular-protective nutritional supplement.”
- Magnesium orotate is also helpful for the heart and is believed to be the best form for metabolic improvements. This makes it a favorite for athletes seeking enhanced recovery, energy, and performance.
With all seven forms of magnesium in their natural form and at optimal dosages, Magnesium Breakthrough can help reduce cortisol, provide deep relaxation, reduce stress, and lead to deeper sleep. That's why it's become a crucial part of my sleep routine, especially in getting to sleep and staying asleep so I can wake up well rested the next day. I typically take 6-8 capsules before bed for deep, restorative sleep and a very nice bowel movement the next morning.
12. Feel Free
Feel Free is one of my absolute favorite natural energy shot.
Their Wellness Tonic is made with a combination of kava and kratom, which together basically mimic the euphoric effects of alcohol—without, of course, destroying your liver or leaving you with a head-pounding hangover the next day.
I'll pop one of these in the afternoon before a workout for a stable energy boost or before a social event or party as a mood-boosting alcohol alternative. My friend Brian Sanders and I even recorded a “drunken” podcast while sipping on some Feel Free (and I must say, things got a little silly). I also had Feel Free founder JW Ross on the podcast to dive into what makes the Feel Free formula uniquely effective for improving mood and performance.
The story behind the founding of Feel Free is pretty interesting. After inpatient treatment for alcohol dependency, JW Ross was looking for a way to feel more relaxed in social situations. Then he learned more about kava and kratom while living in Vietnam. Kava is a plant that's native to the Pacific Islands and is used to promote relaxation. Kratom, which has been used as herbal medicine since at least the nineteenth century, is a tropical evergreen tree in the coffee family native to Southeast Asia. The leaves have traditionally been chewed to relieve musculoskeletal pain, improve mood, and increase energy, appetite, and sexual desire. JW was the first to combine the two ingredients for his formula, which has a five to one ratio of kava to kratom.
With Feel Free, I usually down a bottle most days mid-morning. It's worth noting that I take other nootropics, so before diving into these botanical energy shots, you may want to check out my recent nootropic/smart drug guide. And, quick warning: more than one bottle a day can cause many folks gastric discomfort and/or a slight “dependency” so I don't personally recommend more than one a day.
13. Niacinamide Powder (for NAD)
NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) keeps you alive.
Yes, I know that may sound a little dramatic, but it's true. If you didn't have NAD in your body, you'd be dead in less than thirty seconds.
NAD (also known as vitamin B3) is critical because it is involved in two major bodily functions:
- Energy production. NAD is required for the process that converts the energy in the food you eat into ATP, which is the form of energy currency that your cells can use to function and survive.
- Proper cell function. NAD acts to alert your body that cells need maintenance or repair and then enables your cells to react appropriately to restore balance and function.
When you're younger, your body can productively recycle NAD. Unfortunately, as you age, NAD levels dramatically decline and can be depleted, contributing to the premature effects of aging and chronic disease. To prevent NAD depletion, you need to correct the decline in the NAD salvage pathway, which is a short sequence of enzyme-catalyzed reactions necessary for NAD maintenance. Supplemental NAD through niacinamide powder increases the enzymes in that pathway, allowing your body to continue to recycle NAD and fact is, your body can do it without super expensive NAD/NMN/NR supplements (although admittedly, some such supplements combine the NAD or NAD precursors with other compounds that help to repair DNA or fight aging, such as resveratrol, other sirtuins, chlorella, etc.).
In addition to increasing your NAD levels, niacinamide powder also has some other pretty great anti-aging benefits specifically for your skin. Those benefits include helping to build keratin (the protein that keeps your skin firm and healthy), minimizing redness and blotchiness, sun damage protection, and acne treatment.
So five mornings of the week (I typically take a couple days of the week off NAD), I put an extremely small amount (about 1/30th of a teaspoon) of 100% niacinamide powder into a giant mason glass jar of water with two hydrogen tabs from Water & Wellness, one Quinton packet or one packet of Protekt electrolytes, two scoops of Jigsaw Health adrenal cocktail, and one teaspoon of baking soda. This is the exact protocol outlined in this article by Dr. Joseph Mercola (who has also been a guest on my podcast for this episode and this episode).
This is a fantastic and inexpensive way to supplement NAD to increase those levels, among other awesome benefits.
Supplement Dosing and Timing Guide
Now that I've covered which supplements I take for optimized health, performance, and longevity, there are still more questions to answer to ensure that you're getting maximal benefit from supplements.
When should you take which supplement? Which supplements should be combined or with a meal? And what's the proper dosage?
The timing and combinations of your supplement protocol can significantly affect how well your body absorbs and uses nutrients. I designed my supplement routine based on data from the latest studies, including advice from resources such as Nutrition Expert from Healthspan, the Examine Research Digest, Suppversity, Alan Aragon's Research Review and my own master's degree in exercise physiology, biomechanics, and human nutrition, to help you maximize your health and value from supplements.
So here’s a handy timing guide that considers each of the supplements' solubility and mechanisms of action. This is what a typical day looks like for me in terms of supplements:
Morning, empty stomach
- Kion Colostrum: 2 scoops. I take up to 4 scoops during periods of heavy exercise. I am not too brand specific on probiotics and “rotate” the probiotics I take. But I always stack probiotics with my colostrum, especially if I'm traveling and don't have access to a wide variety of fermented foods.
- Kion Flex: 4-6 capsules, depending on how beat up my body is. If I'm injured, I take another six capsules at night before bed, so my body can recover optimally during sleep. For this supplement to work best, take it on an empty stomach in the morning or evening.
- Kion Creatine: 5 grams every morning.
- 100% niacinamide powder: Giant mason glass jar of water with two hydrogen tabs from Water & Wellness, one Quinton packet or one packet of Protekt electrolytes, two scoops of Jigsaw Health adrenal cocktail, and one teaspoon of baking soda.
- In the morning, I’ll add 10 drops of oil of oregano to a glass of water if I’ve been traveling, have been around sick people, or need an energy boost. Honestly, my timing of oil of oregano intake varies widely – e.g., before I hop on an airplane, after I've been around a kid with a cold, before a book signing, or extensive handshaking at a conference, etc.
- Kion Omega: 4-6 caps on any days I don't eat a serving of cold-water fatty fish, and 1-2 caps on other days. To enhance absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A and D, fish oil should be taken with a large meal, especially meals that contain dietary fat. Breakfast is usually the perfect time for fish oil, unless you have a hard workout or race immediately following, in which case you don't want many oils in your stomach. In that case, take your fish oil with dinner.
- Kion Aminos: My first 20g of the day. This supplement works best 30 minutes before a workout to go in with high blood levels of amino acids. For long workouts, repeat the dose once every one hour of exercise. To avoid competition with other amino acids, avoid taking it with much other protein. This one also works well before bed to support sleep or any time during the day if you are fasting. It can also be used for post-workout recovery. The sky's the limit on aminos!
- Kion Clean Protein: 1 scoop contains a whopping 20g of complete protein. I've been making a delicious smoothie daily with the Clean Protein and Kion Creatine, usually for breakfast.
Mid-afternoon, pre- or post-workout
- Kion Aminos: My second 20g of the day.
- Feel Free: 1 bottle.
- Kion Energy Bar: 1 bar (great for an afternoon snack or breakfast).
- Kion Lean: 2 capsules. Take this supplement before or after your largest (or highest carbohydrate-containing) meal of the day to regulate the blood sugar response. For me, this meal is usually dinner, but adjust accordingly if you like to get your carbs at a different time of day.
- Kion Aminos: My third 20g of the day.
- Kion Flex: If my body needs recovery or is excessively sore, I take three Kion Flex on an empty stomach in the evening.
- Magnesium Breakthrough: 6-8 capsules before bed.
- 80-100 mg of Element Health full-spectrum CBD oil 30 minutes before bed (10-20 mg for a power nap earlier in the day) – only if stress/anxious.
- Kion Sleep: 3 capsules or one scoop of the honey lavender formula 30 minutes before bed. If traveling across multiple time zones or “rebooting” my circadian rhythm, I will also add in a melatonin suppository Sandman from my friend Dr. John Lieurance.
So that's it! I trust this guide gave you ideas on enhancing your health, performance, and recovery without needing to pop a dizzying array of pills.
I also get many inquiries about other supplements like greens powders, l-carnitine, high-dose Vitamin B, beta-alanine, sleep supplements, etc. This list, for many, is by no means complete, or could be different than what your own unique body needs for your health, activity levels, genes, goals and the like. So I highly recommend tailoring your supplement protocol to meet your specific goals and using the comments section below to ask me your other questions. Ideally, you should choose supplements that address your genetic results or blood biomarkers. To learn more about personalized nutrition and supplements for your genetics, listen to my podcast with Dr. Ben Lynch, author of Dirty Genes, or read my article about customizing your diet.
So what do you think? Which supplements have you found to be personally useful? Do you still think supplements are a waste of time and money? Do you have questions about other supplements folks have recommended to you? Leave your questions, comments, and feedback in the comments section below!