Most men associate supplements with improved health. But supplements are just that—a means to supplement your diet. They aren’t going to make a significant impact on your health and fitness unless there are known deficiencies or you’re not meeting your needs through your diet. So before adding a slew of supplements to your regimen, think about if you’re consuming a balanced and varied diet first, then consider where supplements might be able to help. When deciding what to take, note what your goals are, or what you’re trying to achieve. Here, we outline the best supplements for men who work out to bolster their overall health and fitness.
Before we get started, note that most companies provide lofty claims that aren’t backed by science or research. And therein lies the real danger with the supplement industry: It’s not tightly regulated by the FDA and there are a lot of dangerous supplements out there that can have detrimental effects on your health versus actually helping you.
I categorize supplements into two main categories: foundational and ergogenic supplements. Foundational supplements (like the ones on this list) are ones that can be beneficial from a maintenance and preventative health perspective. Ergogenic supplements are substances or supplements that may enhance energy production, use, or recovery and provide athletes or active individuals with a claimed competitive advantage.
When evaluating the best supplements for men who work out, look to four main criteria: method of action, available research, adverse effects, and legality. I also suggest looking for supplements that are independently verified and tested for quality and accuracy of ingredients like NSF Certification and Informed Choice.
Emerging science and technologies are making customized and individualized healthcare more readily available and affordable for most. Blind supplementation will become a thing of the past with companies like Rootine and Sun Genomics. Rootine optimizes your daily performance with precision nutrition. More than a standard multivitamin, it’s a comprehensive system designed to help you achieve your best health, featuring the first precision-crafted micronutrient formula informed by your individual lifestyle and health data (DNA and blood levels). The company provides a unique formulation that’s specific to you and your needs. This allows you to nourish your cells to build a more efficient, focused, and higher-performing version of yourself. Your microbiome is also unique and has a huge impact on your overall health. Sun Genomics uses DNA sequencing within your gut microbiome to customize a unique probiotic based on your goals and symptoms. Its custom formulation can help with digestion, increase energy, and reduce bloating while ultimately helping you perform at your best.
Below, we’ve highlighted the top supplements for men who work out, why they’re good for you, and how much to take. Talk to your healthcare provider before adding anything to your daily diet.
Jordan Mazur, MS, RD, is the director of nutrition and team dietitian for the San Francisco 49ers
10 Best Supplements for Men Who Work Out
1. Vitamin D
Why it’s good for you: Vitamin D is a key factor in a number of functions in the human body. More studies need to be conducted, but current research suggests vitamin D supplementation might increase testosterone levels in men suffering from low amounts. It’s also been suggested to support heart and bone health, which is particularly important for older men. Vitamin D can also be synthesized through the skin via sun exposure, so getting 15 to 20 minutes of sun exposure a day can help synthesize vitamin D, however, oftentimes this is limited depending on where you live geographically and seasonally.
How much to take: The RDA for men 19 to 50 years old is 600 IU/day in the D3 form, but recent research suggests higher amounts (1500 to 2000 IU/Day) might be more appropriate, but depends largely on your current vitamin D status. Ask your doctor to get an accurate vitamin D level from your blood and base your supplementation off that.
Best brand to try: Klean Athlete Klean-D 1000
Why it’s good for you: Magnesium is a mineral crucial to overall wellness and has a number of functions in the human body including nerve function, blood glucose control, protein synthesis, regulating circadian rhythms, and more. Magnesium helps your body absorb certain nutrients, such as calcium, and is thought to have a calming effect on the body. According to the USDA, about half the U.S. adult population may have insufficient magnesium intakes to support nutritional adequacy.
How much to take: The RDA for men 19 to 30 is 400 mg per day and men 31 to 50 is 420 mg per day
Best brand to try: Thorne Magnesium
3. Omega-3 Fish Oil (EPA/DHA)
Why it’s good for you: Omega-3 fatty acids are a classification of polyunsaturated fatty acids. Within this family there are three main types that are important: DHA, EPA, and ALA. EPA and DHA are important to consume in your diet because your body can synthesize them. The main food source is fish, but if you don’t eat fish two to three times per week, this is where supplementation can help. Fish oils are well-known to have a number of researched benefits including boosting heart health by improving risk factors for heart disease like high cholesterol, triglyceride levels, and blood pressure. They can help fight long-term inflammation, and promote proper inflammatory responses and recovery. They can also help joint health by helping to improve range of motion and reduce morning stiffness.
How much to take: 1,000 to 3,000 mg of combined Omega-3 EPA/DHA daily
Best brand to try: Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega 2X
Why it’s good for you: In the most basic sense, probiotics are living microorganisms intended to have beneficial health effects when consumed. Collectively there are billions of living bacteria in the human body that make up what we call the microbiome. There are good and bad bacteria in the human body that have a number of functions and outcomes on our health. The microbiome is ever-changing and is completely unique to each individual based on environmental interactions, medication use, autoimmune disease, and many other factors. With having such an impact on health, consuming them regularly is important for maintaining your microbiome.
How much to take: Depends on the product, but consume probiotics daily
Best brand to try: Flore by Sungenomics are completely customized probiotics for you based on a Complete Gut Microflora Test, formulated based on your needs, and shipped straight to you.
Why it’s good for you: Curcumin is the most potent, naturally occurring, anti-inflammatory ingredient found in turmeric. Short term inflammation increases in your body as a healing measure, but chronic inflammation can be disruptive to healthy cellular processes. This can help combat the latter.
How much to take: 1,500 mg to 2,000 mg of curcumin with 15-20 mg of piperine per day. Or, try supplementing with Meriva, a patented and highly absorbed form of curcumin; take 400 to 1,000 mg per day.
Best brand to try: Thorne Meriva-SF
Why it’s good for you: Electrolytes are simply a group of minerals in the human body that have an electric charge. They have many functions to maintain homeostasis. Two of these are regulating fluid balance and muscle contractions, which is why these are among the best supplements for men who work out. Our kidneys do most of the work to maintain fluid balance and, if consuming a healthy diet, electrolyte supplements might not be needed. However, everyone’s sweat concentration is different (this is where you lose a lot of your electrolytes). In this case, some men might need an electrolyte boost especially if you’re a heavy sweater, salty sweater, or do a lot of work in hot, humid climates. Sodium is the main electrolyte lost followed by chloride and to some extent potassium and magnesium. It’s important to know your personal sweat rate to know if an electrolyte supplement is right for you.
How much to take: It depends, but make sure your electrolyte supplement contains sodium, chloride, potassium, and magnesium. However, be careful of over-supplementation of electrolytes, especially calcium and sodium. Check out the NIH database for the RDA and Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (UL) for each mineral to make sure your intake falls within the recommended ranges.
Best brands to try: LMNT Elemental Labs Electrolyte Mix and Liquid IV
Why it’s good for you: Zinc is an essential mineral. For men, when zinc levels are low, testosterone and insulin sensitivity can dip. Zinc can also play a role in reducing the duration of the common cold. It’s lost through sweat, so it’s important to get an adequate intake.
How much to take: There are two standard dosages, but the low dose at 5 to 10 mg per day works well from a preventative standpoint.
Best brand to try: Pure Encapsulations Zinc 15
Why it’s good for you: Dietary fiber is essential for a healthy diet and regularity. Fiber can be found in the foods we eat—fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. But let’s be honest, not everyone is consistent with getting those foods in regularity. There are two main types of fiber, soluble and insoluble fiber, and both are needed to normalize bowel movements, lower cholesterol levels, control blood sugar, and achieve a healthy weight. If you lack foods that are highest in fiber in your daily diet, consider taking a fiber supplement in a capsule or powder form.
How much to take: Adult men 50 and younger should consume 38 grams per day and men over the age of 50 should consume 30 grams according to the Institute of Medicine.
Best brand to try: Thorne FiberMend or Metamucil 3-in-1 Fiber Supplement
Why it’s good for you: Creatine is a molecule found in the human body that can be produced from amino acids. It stores high energy phosphate groups, which are used to convert to ATP, or energy. Creatine might be one of the most studied supplements on this list with the most efficacy for use to improve strength and power output in strength training. There’s some minor evidence to suggest it may help with anaerobic running capacity as well. Many of the raised concerns about creatine being unsafe are unfounded and not supported by research. Creatine is considered very safe to consume, and creatine monohydrate appears to be the most cost-effective form for men compared to other forms of creatine. If you’re training, this is among the best supplements for men who work out.
How much to take: 5 grams per day during training phases
Best brand to try: Klean Athlete Creatine
10. Protein Powder (Whey or Plant Based)
Why it’s good for you: Protein is one of the most popular supplements, and there are hundreds of brands out there. Protein powders, whether it’s whey, casein, pea protein, or more, are a great and convenient way to get the amino acids needed throughout the day or as a meal replacement. Although they aren’t necessary, they’re a great option around your meals to make sure you’re getting your protein requirements throughout the day, especially around your workouts.
How much to take: 20 to 40 grams post-workout or throughout the day
Best brand to try: Gainful customizes a blend based on your individual goals and preferences, matching you with a whey, plant-based, or keto protein powder blend.
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