Since Sex was such a popular column, I thought perhaps drugs may be appealing too.
There was a time in my life when I had to recognize that food was not enough for me. I’m not the best cook, nutritionist or dietitian in the world, or probably even on my block, but I would like to say I that I have some basic idea of how to get food into me. But never enough of the right stuff, it seems. And when that included juggling medications and two hours before or one hour after and with food or only with water became a real hassle, I thought, perhaps more drugs might be the answer. And thus an interest in supplements began. Though just a neophyte, I started looking into them and explored what worked and didn’t for me.
My dealer is a black muscle man named Ty at the health nutrition store. He’s much nicer and friendlier than previous dealers from days gone by. With help from naturopaths, colleagues, weight training friends (I love you Chris!) and others in the fitness industry, I found some additional assistance that not only benefits me and the lifestyle I live, but what I hope can benefit you the reader, and other Poz friends (and non-Poz friends) in having a better life too.
Supplements, to me, are much more reminiscent of the spell enhancements my Lvl 50 Half-Elf Paladin would get before the heat of battle on one of my old video game systems. They are a means to stay in better shape, and access vitamins and minerals in higher doses that I can get from the regular foods I eat. With eating, daily morning yoga practice, working out, and the physical exertion on my body through teaching yoga, and many of those in a heated room, the addition of extra bio-chemical assistance is greatly welcomed.
Since a friend of mine called me the King of Supplements, (I think I’m more of a duke), here are my favourite supplements and the reasons why I take them. I tried to rank them in order of my personal importance. My reasoning in the ranking was overall general health and the supplement’s ability to tackle its specific function and role that it plays in my overall health goals. I also tried to factor in how I think it can benefit you, the reader. The list may be different for you ,so please adapt.
Also please note that before taking anything new into your body, check with your doctor. OK, hang on! Many of us don’t do that. So at the very least, check with your pharmacist. They can let you know if any of the supplements you may consider taking affect or interact with your medications and/or allergies. Everything that I take I have checked with my own pharmacist. I am also not a healthcare professional. I’m just a crazy yogi who loves his health drugs and acid! I take about 20 and narrowing it down to 10 was too hard to do. So here are my top 15 favourites!
15. CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid)
Reason it’s on list – fat loss – specifically belly fat
It comes in a large liquid pill form and it’s a fatty acid that helps burn fat. It assists in losing weight whether you are working out or not. It’s this little bit of bonus that helped it make the list. The dark side is if you are really overweight, this may have the potential to cause diabetes.
Reason for rank - other weight-reducing supplements on the list that I believe perform better.
Reason it’s on list – Overall health and well-being
Greens+ is one of my newer supplements but they have been around for a couple decades (more info found here). They claim to help a broadband of conditions. I use the Greens+ Original Powder. I started one teaspoon a day in one of my shake or drink concoctions for the first week then upped it to two. My body disliked three teaspoons a day and so I have kept it at two.
Reason for rank - Since I have only been using it for a few months I don’t have enough experience with it to see if it’s been helpful enough. Also, in the ingredients list there is Green Tea extract and I am leery of any additional caffeine into my system.
Reason it’s on list – Digestive Health
Years of poor eating and chemotherapy (yes, our HIV pills are a form of chemotherapy) have brought me to this point. It helps re-align digestive distress whether it goes to either extreme. I personally find a teaspoon of fiber added to a protein shake handy once a day. You may want to start with only half a teaspoon if you are unfamiliar with fiber powders. They don’t always blend well in water so a juice may be more efficient if you don’t protein shake. I find it works better taken during the day or early afternoon. The kind I use has high amounts of Psyllium and flax seed.
Reason for rank – Belly-bloated feeling sometimes. Out of all the supplements I take, I seem to forget this one quite often. But some of you may be in more stellar digestive health than I, which makes this a moot point.
12. Probiotic – Acidophilus & Bifidus
Reason it’s on list – Digestive Health
These days there are so many ways to access this than in years previously. Yogurt is a simple way. For a few years I drank Bio K+ as these tiny shots but they tasted awful and were hugely expensive. Now I have gone pill form. They are hugely potent - way more than you’d get from a yogurt, contrary to popular belief. My suggestion would be to ask your pharmacist or health care professional for a quality brand of these you can buy. I keep mine refrigerated to keep the probiotic at its strongest. I take either one or two pills a day. If I am taking two, I split them up at different times.
Reason for rank – Similar to the fiber, I seem to forget this one the most. It’s kept in the fridge away from the other drugs and supplements and since it doesn’t fit into the crazy pill caddy container I have, I have to remember on my own which is challenging when you’re juggling about 40-50 pills a day.
11. Fish Oil and/or Flax Oil
Reason it’s on list – Health and Well Being
Fish Oils contains Omega 3 Fatty Acids which are critical for optimum health. They help in many areas with heart health and cholesterol. I take mine in pill form. Four pills broken out in three doses (1 am, 2 midday, 1 evening) Since many of my medications call for food, this isn’t a problem for me to take them together. Flax Seed oil essentially does the same thing. I am still unsure why I take both but there ya go! This is easier to access as you can buy it at the grocery store. It would be in a refrigerated section sometimes near the organic foods or speciality foods, and sometimes near cheeses. I take 1-2 tsps a day in a protein shake. It needs to be kept in the fridge and has an expiry date.
Reason for rank – Fish Oils can be a bit pricy and you go through so many. Also for the first month or so, you may have a fishy aftertaste (there’s a reason they come in Lemon and lime flavours!). Flax seed Oil is a little less expensive, but since it must be cold and can’t be used in cooking, and doesn’t like to be blended, you have to mix it into whatever you’re drinking manually. It’s kinda like having a nice refreshing beverage covered in grease.
Reason it’s on list – Hydration and Balance
I sweat a lot every day. To replace those minerals quickly, I found it best to add that to water. Even if you aren’t moving around too much but drinking the night away guess what? That morning after hangover is the body cringing from dehydration and an electrolyte imbalance. So even if you don’t workout or move – it’s got a great use! Gatorade is an alternative that seems to be popular and accessible. It doesn’t have the necessary ones in a high enough dose. Most hot yogis would cringe though if you drank one in class. There are many types out there. The most popular are Emergen-C, Ultima, which is “sweetened” with Stevia, and my personal favourite, Vega Sport Electrolyte Hydrator. Vega is a newer company that uses only natural plant-based components (More about Vega can be found here: http://myvega.com/)
Reason for rank – The product is great, wonderful and helpful if one is active, moving and sweating a lot. If you aren’t sweating so much, may not be as useful. Suggestion: Sweat more! ;-)
Reason it’s on the list – Energy
Yup! More acid! Taurine (2-Aminoethylsufonic Acid) is an amino acid that is found within the body. It is one of the first ingredients listed in popular energy drinks (I love you, Sugar-Free Rockstar!) Taurine has been known to be used by the body during exercise and in times of stress. I buy mine as a powder and add ¾ of a tsp to a protein shake. There has been huge debate on its benefits, so over a year ago I tested it out. At the time I drank little to no caffeine each day so it would be a good way to see if I felt a rush from it being there or not. I would have to say that there was a shift in energy and endurance when using it about 30min before activity. Not the same as from a caffeinated drink but enough that it was noticeable. And in times when you’re tired and you need that little bit extra, it was nice to have. It mixes half-decently in a glass of water too.
Reason for rank – It’s controversial. Many people go one way or the other with it. My advice is to research for yourself and make a choice that works for you where you are today.
8. DAA – D-Aspartic Acid
Reason it’s on the list – Testosterone Enhancer
Yup. It’s another acid! This one is a natural boost to one’s own system. It’s replaced Tribullus as the popular booster. Do I need me to actually spell out how extra testosterone can be handy? J I take this as a cycle so as not to lose its effect. During that cycle I try to get to the gym more than normal and really demo more chatturangas in class. Now some of my students may know why I can dolphin plank for so long!
Reason for rank – Not everyone may want to boost their testosterone for everyday life. Hence it’s right in the middle of the list!
Reason it’s on list – Energy & Feel Goodiness
Oh yes. You want to feel happy? Have more life and energy? A spring in your step? This may help. Having low levels of B12 can make one feel depressed, fatigued and forgetful. That and there are so many things in our life that deplete it within our bodies so it’s a great enhancement and there’s little effect to taking too much of it. It doesn’t do well as a swallowed pill form so save your money and don’t buy pills. It does work well as sublingual (under the tongue). My preference, however, is by injection. It has the best rate of absorption and you don’t have to sit there with something in your mouth you can’t swallow... not that I have a problem with that sort of thing. I would suggest having a family doctor or medical profession administer it. You can buy them at the drug store from a pharmacist and have your doctor’s offices hold it for you for your visits. If you wanted to do it yourself, then you would need to purchase Intramuscular needles as well. All other form of needles wouldn’t get it deep enough into the muscular tissue and it would only bubble up on the surface and not absorb enough. There are several YouTube videos on how to do the rest of the work if you are interested.
Reason for rank - Since this may involve a little more planning it isn’t always user-friendly. It is however worth it.
6. Protein Powder
Reason it’s on list – Diet and Nutrition
It takes an incredible amount of protein to sustain an average human body that does an ordinary amount of activity. For an active life and working out, even for regular day-to-day life, it’s tough to get all that protein in. I have found shakes to be a godsend. You can get larger doses of required building block with less effort. Even if you aren’t working out just think. If you are skipping breakfast often, just add a quick shake each morning before you leave for work and see what happens. The result speaks for itself and isn’t a lot of effort. They come in so many kinds now – including vegan (See Vega link above). Since you’re mixing the protein shake already, perhaps throw in a few of the other “ingredients” on this list while you’re at it. Get them all done in one shot!
Reason for rank – They save less time cooking and take up much less time to breakdown and digest. Buying high quantities of powders all the time can be costly.
5. Raspberry Ketones
Reason it’s on list – Fat loss
Raspberry Ketones are the next big thing in weight-loss this year since they were mentioned on the Dr. Oz show. They can explain it better than I. The prices have gone up since the rise in popularity and are $15-25 a bottle.
Reason for rank – Although it will help you lose weight, that may not be something you wish to do.
Reason it’s on list – Strength and Men’s Health
ZMA is a combination of Zinc, Magnesium and Vitamin B6. They help enhance muscle strength and endurance. Zinc and Magnesium play a major role in sperm production and libido. Do I need to say more? I take mine about 30min before bed. It’s best not to take with milk as that block zinc absorption.
Reason for rank – It’s awesome. Take it for 2 weeks and let me know how it goes. Better yet, let someone you enjoy the company of know how it goes.
Reason it’s on list – Overall Health and Well-being
Doctors have been saying it for years. There are just some things in our regular diet, that for whatever reason, we don’t get enough of. Instead find a good multi-vitamin to help compensate. For many it may turn your urine an ever-so-lovely shade of neon yellow. However, it is my experience that when you are more deficient in your diet, or have been working out and sweating more than normal, the body uses those extra vitamins and minerals and urine colour remains normal. It all depends. I would suggest one with some great multi-minerals such as Magnesium, Zinc, Copper, Manganese, Chromium and Selenium. Reason for rank – Ask almost any doctor: this would be the one Supplement we all must have.
Reason it's on list – Digestive Health, Muscle Growth and Weight Loss.
I love Glutamine. It is, again, another acid. I originally started taking it as a naturopathic prescription for enhancing digestive health and strength. Glutamine is used throughout the body to help repair tissue and many athletes and weightlifters use it to enhance strength. It’s an anti-catabolic agent, in that it has a way of protecting the muscles from being used as fuel for the body. And along with its ability to enhance stomach lining, it also enhances muscle cell volume. It also helps the body heal, repair and recover from surgeries, injuries and illnesses. Yes. Illnesses. I would suggest buying it in powder form and starting with 1tsp a day in a glass of water or protein shake (or after a workout). It sort of has a salty taste to it. The dosage can go higher to two or three tsps a day, but to be perfectly honest, I take about four to six tsps a day.
Reason for rank – In one natural acid you have the ability to add to your body something that aids it in all levels. If you want to enhance your muscle growth, slim down and get a stronger gut and heal faster, take some.
Reason it’s on list – General health and well-being, mood, fat loss, diet and nutrition, energy,
Yes. You probably wouldn’t have guessed it. Water. H2O. It is, in a way, a supplement. In western culture it is not always our number one choice in a beverage and thus not really part of our diet. And I’m not taking about juice, or cola, or flavoured water – just pure filtered water. When lacking it our mood, behaviour and balance can be thrown out of whack. We cannot live without it and yet many of us don’t get enough of it. I drink about 3L of water a day. More than most. My suggestion on getting more of it into your system is perhaps filling a jug or a large canteen, metal bottle, or recycled bottle with water at the start of the day (of the evening before and chill in the fridge) and take it with you as you go and make it a goal to drink the entire container before the end of the day. If you have it on you and it becomes a part of your habits, it becomes easier to remember to drink it.
Reason for rank - Our bodies are about 70-85% made of it. Do yourself a favour and replenish your supply. Have a drink of water right now!