Supplements are only supposed to be for things you are lacking
By Sam Yang - Get similar updates here
The original goal is to be healthy. Supplements can't fix a poor diet and lifestyle. That should be the top priority. There is mounting evidence that people's obsession with vitamins and supplements are dramatically hurting their health. Many supplements in fact have a host of dangers. People believe supplements can balance out an unhealthy lifestyle and that is just not the case.
Which is why you should limit your consumption, get tested for deficiencies, and only take what is essential.
There's only one supplement I think everyone can benefit from: Fish oil
(Of course if you have an allergy or medical reason you can't take it, then this will not apply to you.)
Q: Why fish oil?
More than anything else, the greatest threat to our health is inflammation. A lot of supplements are trying to give you extra good things; fish oil on the other hand directly deals with our biggest threat and mitigates it. That's what supplements are supposed to do, not solve or cure, but to supplement and mitigate. Anti-oxidants are nice, so are vitamins. What we really need is something that will lower our inflammation because even with a healthy diet, inflammation is nearly impossible to avoid in the modern world.
Q: How do omega fats help us?
There are 3 omega fats, omega-3, 6, 9. Our bodies cannot make omega-3 and 6. Our bodies can make omega-9 fatty acids and it is the most abundant in nature, and we can use it as a substitute in our bodies for omega-3 and 6.
There is a balance between 3 and 6, a ratio we need to uphold. Omega-6 being the inflammatory fatty acids that we need and the omega-3 being the anti-inflammatory fatty acids that our body needs. The problem is we have too much omega-6 in our diet. Practically every man made food has it. The other problem being too much sugar, which is the other form of inflammation.
Out of balance, our whole immune system and the various cell-signaling components that tell the immune system what to do becomes compromised. Omega-3 begins to balance all of this out.
Omega-3 has positive metabolic effects, but more importantly improvements in brain, heart, joints, and hormone functions as well. The brain's cell wall is, in part, composed of omega-3 fatty acids and is a reason why omega-3 fat is good for the brain.
The nice thing about omega-3, especially in the form of fish oil is that, it's not like other supplements with very little data or the data is funded by the supplement makers. There's decades and decades of peer-reviewed research on the benefits of omega-3 by real academics.
A mistake many people will make is that they believe they need all the omega fatty acids and get omega-3, 6, 9 supplements. It's a huge waste of money and may cause more harm than good.
Q: If omega-3 is what we need why does it need to come from fish?
There are other sources you can get omega-3s from like grass, phytoplankton, algae, seaweed, and some seeds. We aren't particularly efficient at breaking down any of these raw materials. Omega-3s are a family of fatty acids, the parent molecule is called alpha linolenic acid (LNA or ALA). The ALA in plants are converted by animals and to greater extent fish to become the potent omega-3 anti-inflammatory EPA and DHA. The ALA itself is not anti-inflammatory and only a small percentage of it can be converted to EPA and DHA. Fish feed off the best source of ALA and do the best job converting it into the concentrated source of EPA and DHA. If not, machines or chemicals will try to break it down to its smaller refined parts which can pose more harm than good.
If we take it in the form of flax or chia or any other plant based source, our bodies have to do the conversion process, which is very energy intensive and can cause more inflammation. EPA and DHA are what we're after, and we actually want to limit too much ALA.
Q: So what kind of fish oil?
Purity is key. Your fish oil should be free of soy (including lecithin), dairy, wheat, rice, sweeteners, or artificial ingredients.
Look at the EPA and DHA serving which is far more important than total fish oil amount. It may say 1,000 mg of fish oil but a very small amount of it may be omega-3 in the forms of EPA and DHA.
Mercury shouldn't be an issue if the fish oil was harvested from small fish. Most high quality fish oil are tested to ensure that any mercury or other metals are below detectable levels. Herring, anchovies, sardines are the best. Look for wild caught fish, not farmed.
Natural fish oil absorbs better than purified. The more natural the structure of the fish oil the better it absorbs.
Look for a Certificate of Analysis (COA) or see if the manufacturer provides one. If not be suspicious. It is the standard for purity. It's done by an independent third party. There are many supplements, not just fish oil that show you lab studies, the problem is the studies have been done by their own labs. There are a whole host of problems when it's not done independently. The COA is a sign that they were willing to put their goods to the scrutiny of a third party.
Omega-3 fatty acids are susceptible to damage. Meaning it can become rancid easily. Break open a capsule, see if it smells fishy. It should smell like the ocean not like rotten fish.
Don't freeze your pill, turning cloudy proves nothing about if it's rancid or not. All fish oil turn cloudy.
Natural triglyceride form has highest absorption rate. It is the closest thing to eating the fish oil in its natural form. Being wild caught and sourced from a clean area is very important.
Most fish oil found in stores are in a ethyl ester form, which has poor bio-availability (ability for your body to absorb it), made from farmed fish or larger fish, not fresh/wild caught or from polluted waters, has low EPA and DHA, has impurities, has harmful additives, and already rancid.
The whole point is to lower inflammation and a lot of the omega-3 products out there including fish oil, can cause more problems with inflammation than it can resolve.
Fish oil is best absorbed with a meal, preferably a very fatty meal (good fats of course).
Q: Why not krill oil?
Krill oil is also becoming a popular option and its phospholipid structure appears to have better absorption than fish oil. Our cell membranes are also made of phospholipids so it takes to it easier.
Most of the data collected on krill oil though has been sponsored by the manufacturers whereas fish oil as mentioned previously has decades of research. Each krill oil pill has far less omega fat than a comparable fish oil pill. Even with the higher absorption rate, fish oil has higher volume of omega-3. You get more concentrated omega-3 fatty acids with fish oil in your system per pill than you would with several pills of krill oil.
There are also issues of sustainably harvesting krill, which is something to consider.
What are my recommendations?
(I favor Nordic Naturals because they're of the highest quality and efficacy. I asked them for a certificate of analysis and they sent me one. When you're taking things in a concentrated form, purity is mandatory, it's too dangerous otherwise.)
1. Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega
Triglyceride form. Comes from sardines and anchovies. Wild caught. More potency, so you get more omega-3 per pill than cheaper brands. No gluten, milk, artificial flavors, or colors. Exceeds IFOS, CRN, GOED, WHO, Prop 65 and EP standards and provide a COA upon request. Their fish comes off the coast of Peru, from clean waters. Many store brands will never reveal where their fish was sourced. Nordic Naturals is also regarded as the highest quality in supplements and fish oil. More expensive but my favorite and best potency per pill. If you're only taking one supplement and that's it, you don't need to skimp. Take the money you would have spent on all the other supplements and get a better fish oil.
2. Omega Joint Xtra
Collagen is what our joints, cartilage, and skin are made of. This formula includes an undenatured type II collagen along with omega-3, shellfish-free glucosamine sulfate, and vitamin D3 to accelerate benefits and effectiveness. Undenatured type II Collagen is the primary form of collagen found in cartilage. Whereas many other available forms of type II collagen are hydrolyzed, which alters the molecular configuration and renders it biologically inactive, the type II collagen in this formula is undenatured to preserve its native form and efficacy. Targeted and accelerated support for joint mobility, flexibility, and comfort. Promotes the repair and rebuilding of connective tissue and healthy joints. Supports the body’s anti-inflammatory healing response.
3. Ultimate Omega-D3 Sport
Natural version of omega-3 fish oil like the regular Ultimate Omega but blended with natural vitamin D3. Supports a healthy heart, joint mobility, recovery, muscle activity, and hormone balance. This product is certified for sport by the National Science Foundation. Great for athletes or people who need a boost.
4. Nutrigold Vitamin D3
Natural and the most bio-available form of vitamin D. The US always ranks high in vitamin D deficiency. Low vitamin D is a cause of a host of health issues. Be sure to get your blood screened to see if you're deficient.
Sam Yang from an early age has been obsessed with connecting the dots between martial arts and efficiency, health, mindset, business, science, and habits to improve optimal well-being. For more info, join his newsletter. You can also connect to All Out Effort on Facebook and Twitter.