Having been inspired by the works of Tim Ferriss, I am seeking to apply the 80/20 rule to as many parts of my life as I can, in order to improve efficiency and cut down on some of my expenses. The 80/20 rule states that 20% of sources result in 80% of a given outcome. In this case, I believe that 20% of my supplementation results in 80% of the health benefits. I’m seeking to cut out any supplement that doesn’t fall into this 20% category.
Based on the hundreds of hours of research on health and wellness I’ve poured through in these past 4 years, here are the 5 supplements I believe every high-performing individual will benefit from.
If you are not consistently consuming high quality yogurt, kefir, kimchi, or other live, cultured foods, you must consume a quality probiotic supplement. Probiotics have been shown to increase digestion and nutrient absorption, boost immunity, lower cholesterol, prevent insulin resistance, and even reduce anxiety.
Every year, more research comes out about how important gut health is. Because of the new research on the connection between gut health and mood, the gut is now being referred to as the “second brain.” A good probiotic is relatively inexpensive (~$14) and will do wonders for your health. The PB8 brand of probiotics is a good place to start.
2) Vitamin D
If you keep up with any sort of health-related publication, you will have heard about the increasingly important role of Vitamin D in warding off cancer, keeping your immune system strong, maintaining strong bones, and much more. Additionally, Vitamin D is very cheap and most people are deficient, especially in the winter time. For more information, check out this entertaining lecture on Vitamin D. I guarantee that you will be convinced of the importance of optimizing Vitamin D levels after this lecture. Speak to your doctor about how much vitamin D you should be taking.
A multi-vitamin is a cheap insurance policy to cover you against any potential vitamin/mineral deficiencies. Realistically, it’s difficult for most people to maintain a well-rounded diet at all times. So even though your diet should be your primary source of nutrients, it’s important to have a plan B during times of stress and limited access to a variety of whole foods. If you eat a variety of healthy foods most of the time, taking your multi-vitamin every other day or every few days is a good strategy. This is what I do personally.
Because I don’t take a multi-vitamin every day, I can afford a much higher quality multi because a single bottle lasts longer. When it comes to purchases that you put in your body, NEVER settle for something low quality. Cheap vitamins are often poorly absorbed, contain excessive fillers, and can sometimes even do more harm than good. Quality over quantity is important. As far as brands go, I recommend Thorne Research, which you can buy on Vitacost.com for a fair price. I use Basic Nutrients V as my multi-vitamin.
Note: I don’t make any money from recommending Thorne Research. I simply believe Thorne to be of incredibly high quality.
4) Omega 3 fats
This one is fairly straight-forward. Omega 3 fats are incredibly important for heart health, brain function, skin quality, reducing inflammation, and a lot more. It has gotten lots of press over the past 5 years as a necessity for overall wellness.
There are two key points that need to be made about supplementing with omega 3 fats: First, lots of unsavory and dangerous chemicals are making their way into our fish supply. Organotins, PCBs, mercury, and so on. Because of this, eating enough fish to get your ideal level of omega-3 fats is very counterproductive if you wish to stay healthy. Second, plant based omega-3s, such as flax oil, aren’t as potent as animal-based omega-3s, which makes them less than ideal for people who need omega-3s most.
Note: If you are vegetarian or vegan, I would recommend algae-based DHA in addition to flax, hemp, or your chosen choice of plant-based omega-3 fats.
A good brand for a basic fish oil is Carlson’s, as they have a proven record for zero contaminants in their fish oil. They are also fairly priced. If you have some extra money to spend, I would recommend Wholemega by New Chapter, which is a clean and incredibly high quality fish oil. However, being a poor college student, I tend to stick with Carlson’s. At the moment, I am using Natural Factors, which is another quality fish oil supplement for a very reasonable cost.
Note: Again, I make absolutely nothing from recommending these brands. I just happen to use them because I’ve found them to be the best balance of fair price and high quality.
I talked about adaptogens in a recent post that became one of my most popular posts of the year. As I wrote in that post, adaptogens were discovered by Israel I. Brekhman, M.D., a Russian pharmacologist and physiologist. He coined the term “adaptogen” as a plant type with these characteristics:
- It is absolutely safe and non-toxic
- It increases the body’s nonspecific resistance to internal and external stimuli
- It brings any disfunctioning body system back into balance
In addition to helping your body adapt to mental and emotional stress, adaptogens also assist with performance under physical stress and exhibit promising cancer-preventing activity (however, more research needs to be done on the mechanisms behind such cancer prevention).
The particular adaptogen I use is astragalus because it is cheap and has given me noticeable positive benefits including: avoiding colds and flus; waking up feeling more refreshed, even on less sleep; handling stress with greater ease; and a general sense of well-being.
I purchase my astragalus here: http://www.vitacost.com/Natures-Way-Astragalus-Root
Note: If you are on any type of drug or medication, speak with your doctor first to make sure that it doesn’t interact with anything you’re taking.
Other notable adaptogens include rhodiola, cordyceps, ginseng, holy basil, ashwagandha, and reishi. I encourage you to conduct research on these herbs and speak to your doctor to see which one fits your lifestyle requirements.
If I try and remove any of these supplements for my regimen, I notice the effects within 2 days. In an ideal world, we would all get enough sunshine, eat a highly varied diet of whole foods, and eat lots of clean fish and cultured foods. However, given the high-stress lifestyle many people live (including myself) supplements are often necessary to fill the gap between our diet and an ideal diet. Happy supplementing!