Five Supplements I Can’t Live Without. Seriously, I’d Die! (Part II)

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As I noted in Part I yesterday, when it comes to supplements, I take more of a simpleton approach.  Which is to say, I’m not one of those guys that spends a mortgage payment each month buying everything on the shelf in order to get my swoleification on.

While I’m pretty lucky in the sense that I get a “goodie package” sent to me every month from Biotest, many are surprised to learn that even though that’s the case, I still don’t go out of my way to take that many supplements (relatively speaking).

Truth be told, though, I give away a lot of my stuff to co-workers, friends, and family – and, I hook my girlfriend up as well.  Which begs the question:  does she date me for my uncanny wit and charm, or my supplements?

Me:  Hey babe, how was your day?

Girlfriend:  Great!  You got a package in the mail today.

Me:  Oh, that must be my goodie package.  Say, I was thinking that later tonight I could light some candles, make us dinner, wash the dishes, rub your feet, and then afterwards take you to…..

Girlfriend:  Lets cut through BS Gentilcore – do you have my Hot Rox or what?

Me: Um, yeah, here you go.  I love you.

Girlfriend:  I love you too.  Where’s the Flame out?

Okay, all kidding aside – given all the options out there, from the hundreds (if not thousands) of supplements to pick from (most of which suck pond water), they’re really are only a handful that I feel are worthwhile to take.

Protein Powder

This one is pretty easy.   We all know that protein (or more specifically, amino acids) is the building block of muscle.  When we lift heavy things, we break muscle down, and it’s important to take in ample protein to ensure proper recovery, and in the long-term, growth, of said muscle.

Most often, eating various cute, furry animals will  easily do the job – but like everyone else, I’m busy and sometimes it’s more convenient just to pound a shake and be done with it.

While we could make an argument either way on which “type” of protein powder is more worthwhile…those who argue whey protein will say it’s absorbed quicker and is most ideal to take immediately after training.  Those who are proponents of casein will note that its absorption rate is slower and helps “preserve” muscle to a greater degree.

At the end of the day, I don’t think it really matters much, and you’re best just using a product that uses BOTH (since that’s how nature intended it anyways).

Fish Oil

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past ten years, you’ve undoubtedly heard of the many health benefits of fish oil.  Literally, you name it and fish oil probably cures it.   Except gonorrhea.

But seriously, everything from reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease, helping reduce inflammation, joint health, to improving blood/lipid profiles – fish oil has all the bases covered.

The only caveat, however, is which brand you buy – as it’s important to take into consideration the PURITY and POTENTCY of the product.

Ideally, you want to buy a fish oil supplement that’s at least 50% pure.

To do this, simply divide the amount of combined EPA and DHA (the omega 3’s) by the total amount of fat in the product. Most fish oil products you’ll find in your local grocery store contain 180mg of EPA and 120mg of DHA per one gram capsule.

180mg + 120mg = 300 mg of total omega-3’s (EPA/DHA combined)

0.3/1g (of fat per capsule)=.3 or 30%

Essentially most fish oil supplements found in local drug stores or grocery stores are 30% pure. Sure, they’re cheap, but they’re also potentially loaded with mercury, toxins, and other contaminants.

While you’ll end up forking over a little more for 50% pure fish oil products, it’s definitely worth it. As an added bonus, the purer the product is, the less likely you are to experience any fishy after taste or burps.

Vitamin D

This won’t matter as much for those who live in warmer climates, but for those us who aren’t as fortunate, vitamin D supplementation is almost a necessity (less exposure to direct sunlight).  Behind fish oil, I’d rank vitamin D as my “go to” supplement as it plays a role in alleviating/reducing things like chronic fatigue, depression (seasonal affective disorder), joint pain, osteoporosis, and uncontrollable weight gain (to name a few).

What’s more, considering that vitamin D deficiency is almost at epidemic levels (regardless of living in warmer clients or not), it stands to reason that most people reading this blog post would benefit from including more it in their daily regimen.


As my colleague, Brian St. Pierre, has noted on numerous occasions, gut health is kind of an important thing.  Consider the following:

  • The gastrointestinal system comprises 75% of the body’s immune system.
  • There are more neurons in the small intestine than in the entire spinal cord.
  • It is the only system in the body that has its own, independently operating nervous system, called the enteric nervous system.
  • If you stretched out the gastrointestinal system in its entirety, it would have the surface area of a regulation sized singles tennis court.
  • There are over 400 species of microbes living in your gut, totaling over 15 pounds of mass and containing more bacteria than there are known stars in the sky.

To that end, even though I include things like Greek yogurt in my diet, I still feel that supplementing with an additional probiotic is important.

While I tend to lean more towards The Pearl, it’s important to vary the types of strands you take on a month by month basis.


Pigging back on the above, bromelain is another supplement that plays a huge role in gut health/digestion, as well as speeding wound healing and helping to reduce inflammation.  Up until a few months ago, I had never really given it the time of day, until the Mountaindog himself, John Meadows, introduced it to me.

Almost within weeks, I noticed my knees feeling better.  And, as an added bonus, I wasn’t nearly as “gassy.”  Win win!

Interestingly enough, while many people are quick to point to pineapple as the best source of bromelain – it’s actually the stem where the good stuff is.  Hence, if you’re going to try it, supplementation is almost a neccesity.

BONUS – Athletic Greens

Note: I originally wrote this article a few years ago, and since then Athletic Greens has entered my life.

Ingesting a high-quality greens product daily is just about one of the the best “cover your bases” healthy habits you can implement (outside of the Dan John staples of flossing and wearing your seatbelt).

Real food is going to trump any supplement, but at least here you ensure you ingest a cornucopia of good ingredients for your body in a convenient, quick-n-easy manner. And the best part is that this greens product doesn’t taste like seaweed blasted out of a whale’s rectum.

It actually, you know, tastes good as a stand alone thing.

Nevertheless, it’s something I take daily – as does my wife – and it’s also something I recommend to all my athletes and clients.

For more information you can go HERE.

And there you have it – my supplements I can’t live without.  Yes, there are a few others that I take (creatine, Superfood, vitamin awesome), but the ones listed above are the ones I tend to place the most emphasis on, if for nothing else the health benefits alone.

What’s on your list?

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Comments for This Entry

  • Scott

    Mine is fairly similar: Multi-Vitamin, Vit D, Fish Oil, Protein powder(could live without it, but I really like it post workout), and Magnesium. I've read several articles about the benefits of Mg+ for athletes or people who work out on a consistent basis, and I noticed a significant difference in my recovery when I began to incorporate it. As with anything, the more potent sources such as Mg+ Citrate will give you more bang for your buck, and topical is apparently better, though more expensive. Like Tony, I incorporate yogurt for the probiotics and overall "yumminess".

    April 8, 2011 at 10:18 am | Reply to this comment

  • Christian

    My diet is always geared towards supplements with anti-inflammatory properties so I could not live without: Ginger Turmeric Fish Oil Quercetin Bromelain I did not know about the Fish Oil that I am taking which is only at 28% potency! What brand would you recommend for maximum potency?

    April 8, 2011 at 10:22 am | Reply to this comment

  • Mike Arone

    Awesome Post Tony---- It's funny how all of the supplements I have tried and WASTED a shit-ton (which is a little bit more than a shit-load in case you were wondering)--a solid multi V, fish oil, protein/BCAAs (whey/casein--which I sometimes mix together on my own), D, chromium, enzymes have been a staple in my cabinet for years. Granted---creatine is a great addition as well as some others. I also find that rotation of supplementation works well too. Change the brands or types of fish oils, etc. It may possibly be in my head, but I find it effective. Good stuff as usually my man! -MA

    April 8, 2011 at 11:42 am | Reply to this comment

  • Emerson

    Whey Protein (mixed with grassfed RAW wholemilk!) Nordic Naturals or Carlson's Fish Oil. Everything else I try and get through food and outdoor play!

    April 8, 2011 at 12:56 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Blossom

    And for women, any changes or additions to this list? What about a standard multivitamin?

    April 8, 2011 at 2:09 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Tony Gentilcore

    @ Blossom: I can't think of anything offhand that I'd particularly recommend for women. Possibly an iron supplement, actually. When buying a multi- just make sure it includes iron. Conversely, for dudes, they should buy a multi that DOESN'T include iron. @ Mike: thanks for chiming in my man! Solid list!

    April 8, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Anna Goncharova

    So the fact that Bromelain is basically a bunch of proteins and therefor couldn't possibly get absorbed into the bloodstream doesn't bother you? Oh well, everyone has the right for placebo occasionally.

    April 8, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Reply to this comment

  • JMJ

    Vitamin D, fish oil, protein shake or sometimes Choc milk, creatine every now and then....these are my staples

    April 8, 2011 at 8:02 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Juliet

    While I take an embarrassingly long list of supplements in my contest season, there are a few that I will certainly carry into my off season: protein powder, BCAA's, creatine, fish oil, calcium + vit D, and green tea extract. I may keep a few others that I have yet to decide on. Speaking of probiotics: I actually work as a technician in a laboratory that specializes in intestinal health. I recently spoke with the PhD at the head of our microbio group about his thoughts on them. Very interesting!

    April 9, 2011 at 3:39 am | Reply to this comment

  • Tony Gentilcore

    @ Juliet: care to elaborate what he said about probiotics?

    April 9, 2011 at 4:02 am | Reply to this comment

  • Juliet

    Sure! He spoke very quickly at me for about 20 minutes but the gist I got was this: From the scientific standpoint, there is (currently) no way to physically measure whether or not probiotic supplementation helps and he doesn't take them. He also pointed out that probiotics taken orally have some difficulty surviving stomach acidity, etc. before they get to the intestines. That being said, he knows people who absolutely swear by them and insist they've changed their lives. So, if you want to take them, you take them because you believe they work and they can't hurt. He ran back into the lab about 10 minutes later to tell me about a strain of probiotic that can help break down/prevent kidney stones too but I don't remember what it was called. He's an interesting person... hah!

    April 9, 2011 at 4:58 am | Reply to this comment

  • Tony Gentilcore

    @ Juliet: thanks for sharing. I totally understand the whole "stomach acidity thing," which is why (I believe, I could be wrong) the bran I take (The Pearl) are a shade better since they're enteric coated - which, presumably, helps bypass the stomach. Maybe not completely, but it helps.

    April 9, 2011 at 8:21 am | Reply to this comment

  • Senk

    Tony, Do you recommend cycling creatine or taking it all the time. If you do recommend cycling it, what intervals do you recommend. Thanks.

    April 9, 2011 at 12:26 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Tony Gentilcore

    @ Senk: I've never really concerned myself with cycling creatine. Speaking from a personal standpoint, there are days here and there that I may skip (either due to forgetfulness or the fact that I didn't train that day and didn't feel the need to take it), but all in all, I just take 5 grams per day and continue on with my life. I tend to put a scoop in one of my shakes for the day, or I'll just throw it in my oatmeal (if it happens to be an off day). Doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things when (or how) you take it.

    April 9, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Reply to this comment

  • JMJ

    I also like to mix in Maca every now and then. Great for T levels, got the tip from my man Ferruggia.

    April 9, 2011 at 3:34 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Mark Young

    I figured I should just copy this: Bwahahaha! Just kidding. Charles is a pioneer in this industry, but is with the supplement pushing?

    April 10, 2011 at 10:05 am | Reply to this comment

  • Blossom

    @Mark. I have to agree. Love the guy but I'd be so healthy and sooooo broke if I shoved all this stuff down my gullet. Bare necessities, man. I don't know that I really want to live forever.

    April 10, 2011 at 12:26 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Jeff Turner

    Great List! I would definitely add Magnesium in there as i think most people are deficient in it and its such an important mineral for the body. Also, unless you are eating a lot of wild grass fed meat i would say K2 would be important. There is D3/K2 supplements. Last i think a good quality multi vitamin would be beneficial especially to help people get a bit more Vitamin A and B.

    April 11, 2011 at 7:05 am | Reply to this comment

  • YYW

    -fish oil/flax seed oil -some kind of strong anti-oxidant (I personally like pine bark extract a lot.) -magnesium oil (topical application. It's great stuff.) -pure whey protein + cocoa powder -probiotics As for vit D during winter: how about going to a tanning studio, or being near a window (non UV coated) in short sleeve for 20-30 min? (I can't be sure, I'm just suggestin'.)

    April 13, 2011 at 11:02 am | Reply to this comment

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