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This post has been on my “Blog Ideas” list for months … I’ve been putting it off because I wanted to create a very informative, thorough post, including everything I know about supplements, how to choose your supplements, and more.  Once I really thought about that, though, I realized that I could write for dozens of pages with my thoughts on this, so in order to not bore you all to death, I’ve decided to break off a bite-sized piece to include today. 7 supplements I currently take

Today, I’ll discuss 7 supplements that I’m currently taking.  What I won’t discuss in detail: how I decide which brands to buy (I do have a lot of thoughts on this, so if you’re curious, let me know and I’ll do a follow-up post!), whether or not I feel supplements are necessary (no, not if you’re otherwise healthy and eating a very balanced diet), how I decide what to take on any given day (some education, some whim), which supplements I’ve tried in the past (dozens!  I love self-experimentation and consider myself my own guinea pig, so I’ve tried or researched many … if you have questions on any, please feel free to ask!).

**Please consider this post informational only.  As you know, I am not a doctor and do not intend this to be medical advice.  These are all things I’ve studied or researched thoroughly, but I am trying hard to limit what I include, so it is not a full download of everything you need to know about supplements.**

7 Supplements I Currently Take

  1. vitamins 006Multivitamin.  This is probably the most controversial of them all, as many people believe that multivitamins are unnecessary, and only serve to create (for lack of a better term) “expensive urine.”  I’m the first to admit that this may be true … for those who eat a very balanced diet, have well-functioning bodies, and are in good overall health, you should not need a multivitamin.  Here is a recent CBS article that nicely sums up the buzz that multivitamins are unnecessary.  Even though I do eat what I consider a balanced diet, I personally would rather be double-covered and ensure that I’m getting the nutrients I need for any situation that may arise.  Here is a US News article that sums up my thoughts, and why taking a multivitamin is a nice insurance policy.  I generally look for multivitamins that include 100% Vitamin D, contain a little bit of digestive enzymes (making it easier to digest and absorb), and are as free from artificial ingredients as possible.
  2. vitamins 004Calcium.  Sticking on the controversial theme, calcium is another hotly debated supplement.  Again, I personally choose to take calcium to ensure bone, tooth, blood, and muscle health, even though I do eat dairy (mostly from Greek yogurt) and many vegetables that contain calcium (like leafy, green vegetables).  I choose those delicious chocolate-flavored chews, and eat them before bed with my magnesium tablet.
  3. Magnesium. I believe this is one of the most overlooked supplements, and it is incredibly important.  Did you know that your body cannot absorb calcium without magnesium?  A diet high in calcium but low in magnesium can actually contribute to osteoporosis, or indicate high risk for heart disease!  Magnesium is critical for bone health, can help those who often get muscle cramps, can help keep you “regular” by activating digestion, reduces risk of stroke, and is crucial for athletes (since we sweat a lot, which can alter our electrolyte levels).  I take magnesium right before bed – one of its other major benefits is that it helps promote sleep, so you probably don’t want to take it right in the middle of the day.
  4. vitamins 007Maca/ Vitamin B. Right now, I’m taking maca, which boosts energy (study results are mixed, but I actually do feel the boost), reduces fatigue, increases stamina, improves mood, reduces symptoms of PMS, aids in reproductive health and function, and may boost the immune system.  Sometimes, I alternate this with Vitamin B, which also has a lot of energy production benefits, as well as immune system and metabolic benefits.
  5. vitamins 003Fish oil. Another supplement that I think gets overlooked frequently, fish oil can help with everything from brain health to joint health, heart function to immune system function, and can increase skin health and balance cholesterol levels.   For athletes, it’s really great at reducing inflammation.  (Although I said I’d save how to choose your supplements for another post, I think it’s important to note that fish oil is one place where investing in higher-quality is quite important.  See this video from Ben Greenfield for more information).
  6. vitamins 005Amino acids. This is a relatively new addition to my protocol, although I had debated whether or not to include amino acids for months before I started taking them.  An amino acid supplement has been proven to speed muscle recovery and decrease the risk of injury during “periods of overreaching” for athletes (or basically, times when you are training more than usual).  Even among non-athletes, some studies show that amino acids can help muscle retention, increase mood, and even increase metabolism.
  7. vitamins 008A few other random supplements, on occasion.  When my stomach is feeling a bit “off,” or when I’ve been eating differently than usual, I will take probiotics for a short period of time to try to restore my gut flora.  I often chew 1-2 capsules of natural papaya enzymes after meals, since they help with digestion.  If I feel I need to detoxify my body a little bit from drinking too much alcohol or eating foods I’m not used to, I’ll take a CapraCleanse, to help with digestive health.  And I go through periods of taking biotin, which is healthy for the nails, hair, and skin.

Once again, I am certainly not recommending that you go out and buy every single one of these now, or suggesting that what works for me will work for everyone.  I’m happy to answer your questions, and/ or do some follow-up posts if you’re interested!

Spill It Sundays Spill-it-Sunday-option-2-1

I know … the post is already long!  Sunday “7 Things” posts tend to do that to me.  But this week’s Spill It Sundays topic just couldn’t be skipped!  This week, Arman asked us what career we thought we wanted as a child.  I am 100% honest when I say that I went through a period of my life where I told people I wanted to be “part-time President of the United States, part-time Olympic gymnast, and part-time teacher.”  I guess I was over-ambitious at an early age!  And on that note, stay tuned for some big news in tomorrow’s post!

So tell me in the comments … do you take any supplements?  Anything else you’re curious about?  What did you think you wanted to be as a child?

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40 Comments

  1. Jill @ Fitness, Health and Happiness on January 5, 2014 at 7:52 am

    We take a few of the same supplements. I try to get as many nutrients as possible from the food I eat but some of the supplements I never skip. Like you said. Insurance.
    Jill @ Fitness, Health and Happiness recently posted…12 Gluten Free Restaurant MenusMy Profile

    • Megan Lyons on January 6, 2014 at 10:45 pm

      Yep, nothing wrong with a little insurance in my book, Jill! Have a great week!

  2. Sara @ LovingOnTheRun on January 5, 2014 at 8:05 am

    Great post Megan! These are pretty close to why I try to take on a daily basis! 🙂 Love that you are taking Glutamine now – Do you notice a difference? Enjoy the rest of your weekend!
    Sara @ LovingOnTheRun recently posted…Tracking my Training with TrainingPeaksMy Profile

    • Megan Lyons on January 6, 2014 at 10:46 pm

      Thanks, Sara! I started by taking an amino acid complex for the first bottle, and have just switched to Glutamine in the past 2 weeks or so. I THINK I do notice a difference in terms of muscle recovery. It’s hard to tell for sure since there are so many variables (training differences, how much I’m stretching/ cross-training/ sleeping/ eating), but it is certainly not making anything worse, so I’m going to keep it up!

  3. Robert on January 5, 2014 at 9:32 am

    I was going to comment on the supplement controversy, but you have that well covered.

    I agree with you about magnesium being sorely overlooked. One benefit you didn’t mention that is huge, is heart health. Magnesium helps prevent arrythmia–we often give magnesium in the ICU when a patient has an overly excitable heart rhythm. It also helps with blood pressure–high doses are often given to pregnant women with dangerously high blood pressure.

    I take B vitamins because I also take a couple of medications that are rough on the liver. B vitamins are essential components of enzymes in the liver. I also take extra on days that I have a beer.

    The others…well…I take a multi inconsistently, but I honestly don’t feel a difference either way. My wife takes fish oil and it has helped her skin tremendously.

    Happy Sunday!

    • Megan Lyons on January 6, 2014 at 10:48 pm

      Thank you so much for your educated opinion, Robert! I appreciate you adding in the heart health benefit of magnesium – I had ventricular tachycardia and had a catheter ablation in high school (I am sure 99% of people reading this don’t know what that means, and I don’t totally understand it either, but I’m sure you do!). I also didn’t know that B vitamins were so helpful for detoxifying – good to know! I do think that I have more energy overall when I take my multi, but I also realize it could be the placebo effect. Like I said, I’m willing to do it to be “double-covered,” even if it might be unnecessary.

  4. Nicole @ FruitnFitness on January 5, 2014 at 9:35 am

    This post is really interesting. I don’t currently take any supplements, I go on and off with a few but have a hard time remembering to take them. I take aminos in a powder form after I workout and try to remember calcium but I usually don’t. I’m impressed you can remember to take these all!
    Nicole @ FruitnFitness recently posted…Spill It Sunday- Childhood DreamsMy Profile

    • Megan Lyons on January 6, 2014 at 10:51 pm

      Hey Nicole – here’s what I do to remember. When I used to travel every day for work, I had a ziploc full of my vitamins and supplements that I would put in my work bag. When I’m at home, I have a big Tupperware container with all the bottles, and it’s right by all my breakfast stuff. So, regardless, it’s a habit that I take everything whenever I’m having (or packing) breakfast. The calcium and magnesium I never remembered at night, which is why I switched over to the yummy calcium chews – I never forget chocolate at night :), and I know that my magnesium goes along with it. Hope it helps!

  5. Presh on January 5, 2014 at 9:42 am

    I want to look into calcium and magnesium supplements! I take a multivitamin high in B12 because I feel I need to extra energy and also fish oil. I also took amines at one point but didn’t buy more ! I think you have good reasonings behind all your supplements!
    Presh recently posted…Wii Fit U Challenge!My Profile

    • Megan Lyons on January 6, 2014 at 10:52 pm

      Thanks for sharing, Presh! Sounds like we’re on the same page with B vitamins and fish oil!

  6. Brooke on January 5, 2014 at 9:54 am

    Excellent post, Megan! I know you said you could do a whole second post about how to pick supplements, but I’m curious about the amino acids in particular. I’ve had people tell me I should take it as a vegetarian endurance athlete, but had no idea where to start. Any advice or insight about your choice or what to look for would be really helpful!

    • Megan Lyons on January 6, 2014 at 11:18 pm

      Hi Brooke! So great to hear from you. I think amino acid supplements are a great idea for vegetarian endurance athletes. Like I mentioned, amino acids are critical for muscle recovery and repair (and even for preventing muscle cannibalization, reducing soreness, and several other non-sports-related functions). Some people have an adequate supply of amino acids from their diet, but most can definitely benefit from supplementation (especially vegetarians, as a safeguard). In terms of how to choose, I would probably recommend an amino acid complex, which contains several amino acids in a combination your body can easily absorb. It will usually show you the percentages of some of the components, and I would look for one containing leucine and/ or glutamine. If you really want to focus on specific ones, some of the more popular ones are Glutamine (primarily for muscle recovery), Leucine (also for muscle recovery and repair), Tyrosine (for appetite control), or Arginine (for blood flow and weight management). This is not a comprehensive list, just some that I know of. Once you go to pick the brand, you’ll want to be sure it’s vegetarian (assuming you care, as many are made with animal products), and just look at the ingredients label to make sure there aren’t a ton of filler ingredients (the ingredients label should only include the amino acids, and maybe a few things that serve as binders). If I were to choose one brand that I have heard most highly recommended, it is Master Amino Pattern. I have never tried this myself, because frankly it’s more expensive, but I just ordered a bottle recently and it will be the next one I switch to. http://pacificfit.net/items/map/ Hope that helps a little – let me know if you notice any difference!

  7. Chrissy on January 5, 2014 at 10:16 am

    Happy Sunday!

    I take a few, though admittedly I prefer to not take any. I’m on the fish oil/magnesium train, though considering my current state of injury, I’m wondering if I should try some AAs.

    As for when I was a kid, I wanted to be a doctor. Always. Until I started taking all of those horrible science classes in college. I graduated pre-med, but now…I’m a lawyer 🙂
    Chrissy recently posted…Foodie Fridays: Pork with Roasted Grape SauceMy Profile

    • Megan Lyons on January 6, 2014 at 11:19 pm

      Thanks for sharing, Chrissy! Amino acids do work in smaller time periods (so even if you just wanted to take them for a month or two while you recover, you may see some benefit). Hope it helps, but seems like your recovery is coming along well given that you went to yoga! Fingers crossed for you!

  8. Tonya@Healthy, Fit, and Frugal on January 5, 2014 at 10:52 am

    I take very similar supplements actually. I took take Vitamin B12 for energy. I also take passion flower because it keeps me calm. My job is making me very anxious these days. 🙁 I wanted to be an actress growing up…or something creative. Not very practical. 🙂

    • Megan Lyons on January 6, 2014 at 11:20 pm

      I’ve never looked into passion flower – very interesting! Thanks for sharing. Sorry your job is making you so anxious – I really hope it gets better quickly.

  9. Christine @ Gotta Eat Green on January 5, 2014 at 12:50 pm

    Vitamin talk always intrigues me because I don’t know what I should be taking. As a vegan, I know I should be taking something.. but my doc keeps telling me there is no need (if I am eating enough protein, etc.). But I still wonder. Thanks for your thoughts on maca.. that was one that I was on the fence about, but I think I am going to start.
    Christine @ Gotta Eat Green recently posted…Almond Oat BitesMy Profile

    • Megan Lyons on January 6, 2014 at 11:23 pm

      Thanks for your thoughts, Christine! Maca is relatively cheap as far as supplements go, so I’d give it a try and see if you feel any different. Another common one for vegans is B12 … it is definitely possible to get it from a vegan diet as your doctor says, but you have to be careful – it is very rare in vegan foods. Nutritional yeast is a naturally-occuring form of B12, and lots of fortified products like soy milk or cereals also can contain it. I’m certainly not trying to talk over your doctor, though, just giving my opinion!

  10. Davida @ The Healthy Maven on January 5, 2014 at 1:43 pm

    I take magnesium every night to help with leg cramps! I also take iron and b12. I used to take a lot more but I found cutting down actually made me feel better. I need to start taking fish oil though!
    Davida @ The Healthy Maven recently posted…Slow-Cooker Coconut Basil TofuMy Profile

    • Megan Lyons on January 6, 2014 at 11:25 pm

      Good to know magnesium actually does help with cramping! (Knock on wood) I’ve never actually experienced night cramping, but it sounds awful! When you say you cut down on supplements and felt better … I think that’s the reason I switch things up so much on myself. For one, I think that too many supplements may interfere with each other (I try to research this before taking them). I also don’t want to “turn off” my body’s natural mechanisms for a lot of this stuff, so I’ll try out new ones every so often and see how I feel.

  11. Lisa @ Running out of Wine on January 5, 2014 at 3:10 pm

    This is really interesting! I wish I had a better understanding of supplements, and I really want to start researching them. I currently take a multi-vitamin and fish oils. My biggest concern is the cost- I want to buy good quality supplements, but also don’t want to spend a ton of money on them!
    Lisa @ Running out of Wine recently posted…Raleigh Marathon Training- Week 2My Profile

    • Megan Lyons on January 6, 2014 at 11:28 pm

      I totally hear you, Lisa. In the case of a multi-vitamin, I personally don’t think that a lower quality will harm you, as long as there aren’t too many filler ingredients (again, it may be “expensive urine,” but I’m just talking harm). Fish oil is one, though, that you may be better off avoiding if you can’t get a fairly high-quality supplement. I know it’s frustrating that all of this stuff is expensive – if you are a regular fish eater, you may be just fine anyway!

  12. Arman @ thebigmansworld on January 5, 2014 at 5:51 pm

    As usual, learning things every time I come on here! I do take a calcium supplement but not magnesium…That is big news that they complement each other- definitely going to purchase a bottle this week from the Chemist.

    You could still become an Olympic gymnast…let’s give Gabby Douglas a call! 😉
    Arman @ thebigmansworld recently posted…Spill it, Sundays #6- Childhood dreams VS RealityMy Profile

    • Megan Lyons on January 6, 2014 at 11:29 pm

      Glad I could help with the calcium/ magnesium! Be sure to take magnesium at night so you don’t fall asleep in the middle of the day (it’s not actually that dramatic at all, but may make you a bit groggy).

  13. Rachel on January 5, 2014 at 10:00 pm

    My sister and I literally just got back from Costco and were debating whether or not to get supplements (I vetoed and said they were unnecessary but thought they do serve to encourage / promote a healthier lifestyle) so this post is so timely! I would love to hear how you decide which brands to use and what other supplements you’ve tried! I am definitely thinking about reintroducing them to my diet …

    • Megan Lyons on January 6, 2014 at 11:32 pm

      That’s so funny, Rachel! I’ll do a follow-up post on how to decide on brands, but the top priority is just looking at the ingredient label to make sure there aren’t a million things that are unrelated to the purpose of the supplement and ingredients that I don’t recognize. I put a few thoughts on amino acid choices in my response to Brooke’s comment on this page that also might help. I definitely owe you an email – I had a HUGE smile on my face when I read yours, knowing how similar our situations are lately!

  14. Julie on January 5, 2014 at 11:38 pm

    I don’t take as many but mostly calcium, magnesium, biotin, and probiotics.

    • Megan Lyons on January 6, 2014 at 11:32 pm

      Thanks for sharing, Julie! Looks like our supplements overlap a bit!

  15. Heather @ Better With Veggies on January 6, 2014 at 11:12 pm

    Love these peek into the cabinet posts! I have been debating sharing my latest supplements too – I think you may have inspired me. 🙂
    Heather @ Better With Veggies recently posted…The Return of Meatless Mondays from A-Z!My Profile

    • Megan Lyons on January 7, 2014 at 11:01 pm

      I hope you do a post like this, Heather! I love getting new ideas from others who are into this stuff, too!

  16. Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table on January 7, 2014 at 11:18 pm

    I love seeing posts like these! I take all of those except the maca an the omegas. I have maca powder and I feel like I eat enough salmon to grow an omega tree out my head. 😉

    One I take is B-6. It aids in processing protein.
    Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table recently posted…Coconut Curried Chicken + WIAWMy Profile

    • Megan Lyons on January 7, 2014 at 11:21 pm

      So interesting about B-6. I don’t think I knew that, so thanks for sharing. I’m going to look into whether or not it was included in my B complex, but I imagine it would be. Yes, you DO eat a ton of salmon … one of my favorites, I need to add more into my routine!

  17. Michael Anderson on January 8, 2014 at 12:19 pm

    I appreciate the (as always) thoughtful and informative article – no clue how I missed it!

    I have some very mixed feelings about supplements, so I will just blurt them out 🙂
    – I cannot find the link anymore, but one (math based) report tried to estimate the value of the supplement market and came out saying that something like 75% or more of the supplements sold end up unabsorbed in the toilet. In other words, to a vast and overwhelming extend, supplements ARE unnecessary.
    – The biggest pushers of supplements are those making the most money – when I was young it was 3000mg of Vitamin C, later found to be dangerous. Then more acceptable levels were pushed as ‘necessary for health’, and when THAT was proven untrue, the marketing changed to … ‘better safe than sorry’. Maybe true, maybe not. So long as we don’t see a Vitamin C repeat, I am OK with people wasting their money however they want.
    – False hope – Americans are NOTORIOUS for looking for the ‘Jesus pill’ (no religious offense to anyone intended, it was actually my priest in high school who introduced me to the term). In other words, they want to do whatever they want and have their diet & exercise sins washed away by a pill. Again back to Bloom County – how about eat right and exercise?
    – Chemicals are chemicals – and any chemical we introduce into our body has the chance of side-effects. I have talked about my wife’s food allergies, and more and more we are learning that often things like gas or indigestion are actually signs of intolerance for certain molecules. Many of the studies of supplements show potentially harmful side-effects or increased risk for OTHER diseases!
    – My wife has problems with Calcium absorption, and needs to take significant (i.e. more than multivitamin) supplements of Calcium and Vitamin D (magnesium levels in multi are adequate). She has a clear medical need for supplements – as do many people.
    – When my thyroid died, as my meds re-established my levels, my Potassium remained low for a while, and I needed to add a banana to my diet on top of everything else. As I stabilized that went away. What that makes me wonder – do people get re-checked after taking supplements or is it just blind pill-popping?

    The reality as you say is that not a lot of people eat well in general, and fewer still eat a properly balanced diet. While the obvious right answer is to eat better and get a full medical screen to determine your needs … but I think in general supplements are a low-risk way to try to round out your nutritional balance.
    Michael Anderson recently posted…My ‘Polar Vortex’ Running Clothes Challenge!My Profile

    • Megan Lyons on January 10, 2014 at 6:45 pm

      Thank you for these thorough thoughts, Michael! The one that most resonated with me is the ‘Jesus pill’ or the search for a magic bullet … so many people still hope there is something quick, easy, and pain-free that will make them happy, healthy, skinny, and beautiful, and I think loading up on supplements is some people’s way to approach that. And, like I said, I do think I eat a fairly balanced diet, and am aware that most of my supplements are probably “wasted,” but yet I’m still taking them! It’s a fine line between hypocritical and taking low-risk precautions, which is why the conversation is so interesting!

  18. Caitlin on January 10, 2014 at 2:07 pm

    i don’t take supplements so i have nothing to comment on for that but OH MY GOSH. i TOO had a multi-faceted career dream as a child! i wanted to be a teacher on weekdays, a dentist on saturdays, and an artist on sundays. clearly i would make more money just being a dentist than doing all of that combined! funny enough i’m doing NONE of those things.
    Caitlin recently posted…Fashion Friday: Nancy Rose Performance Giveaway!My Profile

    • Megan Lyons on January 12, 2014 at 12:30 pm

      Oh I love this comment, Caitlin. I’m so glad to see that I wasn’t the only kid who had multi-faceted career dreams :). Your teacher/ dentist/ artist combination cracks me up!

  19. […] Two follow ups on the benefits of magnesium (my initial post on supplements is here), a follow-up with even more health benefits of coffee, a follow-up on cravings (and what cravings […]

  20. […] including a load of great info at links from Megan’s first ’7 links’ post and her post specifically on what she takes, so I won’t tread on those, but over at Candies and Crunches I came across a huge infographic […]

  21. […] oil is often mislabeled.  I hate to say I told you so … but this post shows that about 1/3 of the tested fish oil supplements were mislabeled in […]

  22. […] week, many of you have continued to ask about the follow-up post I promised when I wrote my “7 Supplements I Currently Take” post.  Since supplements are regulated as food by the FDA (fun fact!), I thought I could […]

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