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The Ultimate Science-Based Supplement Guide | 1


Americans spend more than $30 billion per year on nutritional supplements, vitamins, minerals,
and meal replacements. Reasons for supplement use vary from person-to-person; almost
half of users take them to improve overall health, about one third claim they just want to
maintain health, and less that one quarter use supplements because they were recommended
by a health care provider (NIH Survey). Whatever your reason for taking supplements, you are
probably interested in knowing: what does this specific product do, how does it work, and
how do I take it?. Sometimes these questions are difficult, if not impossible to answer! Unlike
food and medications, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not have the authority to
review dietary supplement products for safety and effectiveness before they are marketed to
the public. This leave the overwhelming task of determining the usefulness of these products
to consumers.
With hundreds of new supplements entering the market every year, who has the time to analyze
the effectiveness and risk of each product? Even if you do have time, most people dont have
the background knowledge in chemistry, pharmacology, and physiology to determine if a
specific supplement is right for them. So, who do you trust to deliver valid information? Many
consumers are becoming more reliant on sources such as websites, advertisements, friends,
and experts. This creates opportunities for the spread of misinformation and false health
claims. The best way to get accurate information is through reading peer-reviewed scientific
articles, as these must undergo a rigorous process to ensure the data is valid and reliable.
Unfortunately, these articles often require a paid subscription and can be full of jargon, making
accessibly to the general public problematic. In this book, the authors dove into this scientific
literature to make this complex information more accessible for you!
A growing body of research supports the connection between diet and performance, enticing
many people to continue trying new supplements. While this book does not include an
exhaustive list, it should be used as a starting point for those interested in learning more
about common dietary supplements, vitamins, and minerals. As you will see, several common
supplements are well understood and established while many others need further study. We
hope this book will help you, the consumer, make the best decisions possible to meet your
personal health and performance goals.

Jimmy Bagley, PhD

San Francisco, California

The Ultimate Science-Based Supplement Guide | 2


Mechanism(s): Beta-alanine combines with histidine to form carnosine, an

intracellular buffer (50).
Under continuous muscle contraction, hydrogen ions can accumulate and
ultimately hinder further contraction. Therefore, increased intramuscular
carnosine levels assist in buffering out pesky hydrogen ions, allowing for
continued work (4, 50).

Dosage: 3.2-6.4g/day (4, 50)

Directions: Beta-Alanine increases are not fully maximized in a short period and
the upper limits for saturation have not fully been discovered yet (27). However,
a month of supplementation should yield noticeable performance changes (27).
Supplementation is not time sensitive and slowly accumulates carnosine in the
muscle. Therefore, maintaining a daily, consistent regimen is the best method
to reaping the benefits of beta-alanine. There appears to be a positive linear
relationship between beta-alanine supplementation and muscle carnosine
concentrations, with 80% increased levels after 10 weeks. (14).

Notes: Most common gym-goers consume beta-alanine in pre-workout mixes.

Subsequently, they feel a tingling sensation, like ants crawling on their skin. This
is called acute paresthesia, and is an effect of beta-alanine supplementation that
is non-related to its intended function (18).
Beta-alanine is best suited for activities
that are greater than 60-90 seconds (4).
Therefore, those who perform long duration
exercise, resistance training under the context
of supersets, or rep ranges of 20+ would be
target populations of supplementation.

Recommended Brands: Optimum Nutritions

Beta-Alanine powder uses Carnosyn, a third-
party manufacturer that controls for purity
and quality.

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Mechanism(s): The most common supplemental uses for caffeine include

displacement of fatigue and fat burning. Caffeine binds to the same receptors
as adenosine, a nucleotide that leads to the sleepy feeling. Therefore,
preemptively blocking these receptors causes a lowered perception of fatigue
when adenosine cant bind instead (53).
On a subtler level, caffeine can stimulate the central nervous system to increase
levels of hormones that may increase fatty acid oxidation (38, 53).

Dosage: Effective doses ranging from 3-9mg/kg body weight (equivalent to 1.5-
3.5 cups of coffee) produce a significant performance improvement (4).

Directions: For athletic purposes, consuming around 160-260mg of caffeine 45

to 60 minutes before exercise may improve performance (38).

Notes: Caffeine can be found in many sources, ranging from coffee, to energy
drinks, and even chocolate (4).
Furthermore, caffeine should be
noted for its side effects. Even in
the context of intelligent dosing,
caffeine may still produce a diuretic
effect. Also, daily, chronic use may
result in an increased tolerance
and dependency (4).

Recommended Brands: Common

supplemental forms of caffeine
are in the various existing pre-
workout formulas, caffeine pills
(typically 100mg), and in coffee
(16oz contains 250-300mg) (38).
For a quality pre-workout
supplement, consider Citadel
Nutritions Tier 1 (100mg caffeine)
/ Tier 1+ (200mg caffeine).

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Mechanism(s): The most common supplemental uses for caffeine include

displacement of fatigue and fat burning. Caffeine binds to the same receptors
as adenosine, a nucleotide that leads to the sleepy feeling. Therefore,
preemptively blocking these receptors causes a lowered perception of fatigue
when adenosine cant bind instead (53).
On a subtler level, caffeine can stimulate the central nervous system to increase
levels of hormones that may increase fatty acid oxidation (38, 53).

Dosage: 6000-8000mg citrulline malate before exercise (42, 51).

Directions: Citrulline Malate is sour in powdered form, therefore it may help if it

is taken with food. My anecdotal recommendation would be to mix it with other
supplements in a shake, or simply add it to an already sour drink.

Notes: Citrulline Malate has shown effective in increasing cellular energy

efficiency (7), however there is not substantial evidence to support it as an
athletic supplement currently for resistance training or aerobic endurance
exercise (26, 42).

Recommended Brands: Primaforce Citrulline Malate

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Mechanism(s): Creatine is found in all cells of the body, with the highest
concentration in the muscle (~95%) (43). Creatine has the cellular function
of maintaining stable energy status in the cell. Ultimately, it recycles ATP, our
biological energy currency (11).
Creatine is one of the most scientifically founded supplements, with a plethora
of evidence to back its efficacy in athletic endeavors (11).
More recent research has investigated creatine as a cognitive supplement with
promising results (6, 36, 37, 41, 54).

Dosage: Loading Phase: 4x5g (20g total split evenly throughout the day)/ 7
days (31)
Maintenance Phase: 3-5g/daily (31)

Directions: If planning on intermittently using creatine for an athletic event or

time specific goal, a loading phase should be implemented. For long term use
without a time restraint, a maintenance dose over a 30-day span is equally as
effective as the loading dose (11, 31).
While time of supplementation is irrelevant, there is some data to show that post
workout ingestion may yield slightly greater benefits (2).
Co-ingestion with carbohydrate and/or protein may also facilitate muscle
creatine saturation in the loading phase (13, 48).

Notes: Creatine primarily benefits high intensity/short duration sports such as

sprinting, heavy resistance training, and perhaps the explosive aspects of sports
like mixed martial arts.
Many individuals are concerned with water retention in creatine supplementation,
however water is distributed evenly throughout the body (45). Other concerns,
such as kidney dysfunction, are a non-issue if the individual has healthy kidney
function (11).

The Ultimate Science-Based Supplement Guide | 6

Recommended Brands: Optimum Nutritions Micronized Creatine Monohydrate
or any supplier that uses Creapure brand creatine.
Creapure is a third-party company that controls quality and purity of their
creatine monohydrate.

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Mechanism(s): Fish oil supplementation commonly targets two essential

Omega-3 fatty acids: EPA & DHA. These cannot be synthesized in human bodies,
therefore we must get them from our diets.
Fish oil supplementation assists in a plethora of beneficial effects, including
increased HDL (good cholesterol, reduced triglycerides, and lowered LDL
(bad cholesterol. Also, EPA and DHA play a role in the production of anti-
inflammatory markers, such as prostaglandins and leukotrienes (15, 20, 21).

Dosage: The American Heart Association recommends 1g of total EPA/DHA daily

(21), however a 1.8g dose spread out over the course of a day may contribute to
reduced soreness (52).

Directions: Fish oil can be found in both

capsules and liquids. Avoid rancidity
through controlling temperature and
light exposure. Store fish oil in a cool,
dark room to avoid rancidity. Commonly,
antioxidants such as Vitamin E are added
to prevent oxidation and preserve the oil

Notes: Omega 3 fatty acids and Omega

6 fatty acids are both essential fatty
acids. Our bodies need both to mediate
inflammation and anti-inflammation (21).
Therefore, it is important not to throw the
baby out with the bathwater, ensuring
that you moderate both in your diet.

Recommended Brands: Nordic Naturals

or Carlsons Fish Oil.

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Mechanism(s): Green Powder based supplements commonly place many

compounds into a proprietary blend that have a wide range of proposed benefits.
While these green superfood powders are common, they are not homogenous
and the ingredients wildly vary. Rather, here are some of the scientifically backed
compounds to look for if you choose to buy such products.
Garlic Apart from tasting great on bread, garlic plays a role in improving blood
circulation and as an antioxidant (3, 40, 46).
Spirulina- This compound is an anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant. As an
ergogenic aid, spirulina can improve muscular endurance and potentially assist
in power production (1, 34)!
Curcumin An active component of turmeric, a commonly used cooking spice.
Amongst many benefits, curcumin can relieve joint pain and symptoms of
osteoarthritis (19, 33).

Dosage: Garlic should be supplemented between 300-1500mg (3, 46).

For athletic performance, ranges of 2-8g of spirulina have proven effective (1,
Curcumin is better absorbed when paired with other compounds, such as black
pepper extract. However, you can commonly find curcumin with Meriva, which
also enhances transit into the blood. With a co-ingested enhancer, a 500mg
dose is sufficient (35).

Directions: Garlic can be purchased in supplemental form; however, you can also
reap the benefits through food.
The evidence on Spirulina is still relatively new, therefore overconsumption may
not be wise above the recommended daily dose. Also, since ingestion frequency
hasnt been fully parsed out, it would be pragmatic to start on the lower end
before increasing daily dosage.

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Notes: A huge issue surrounding powder supplements is proprietary blending.
The company will take several compounds and group them up together into one
superfood blend with one lump sum of the constituents weight. The problem
is that you cant know how much of each individual ingredient there is that makes
up a blend. Therefore, it would be practical to find the compounds that work,
and individually supplement with them.

Recommended Brands: Now Garlic 5000: Odor Controlled

Now Organic Spirulina Powder

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Mechanism(s): Carnitine is an amino acid responsible for the transfer of fatty

acids into the mitochondrial matrix, where they can be oxidized for fuel (21).
Most commonly, L-Carnitine will be part of a fat burning proprietary blend,
targeting those who are seeking a fat burner. Unfortunately, current evidence
does not support L-Carnitine for increased fat metabolism (4).
There is some research that indicates L-Carnitine supplementation may enhance
recovery and reduce muscle soreness (29, 30, 47).

Dosage: Up to 2-3g of L-Carnitine daily appear to be safe and effective (4, 28,

Directions: L-Carnitine should be supplemented daily in the form of L-Carnitine

L-Tartrate capsules, the form commonly used in physical performance based
trials (47).
Supplementation is commonly split into a
morning and lunch-time dose, with a 2-3g
total (28, 47).

Notes: The existing evidence for L-Carnitine

supplementation is weak in healthy
populations. Ultimately, unless your daily
protein intake is low, chances are that
you are not deficient in carnitine and
supplementation will not result in increased
energy yield from fat (4).

Recommended Brands: EverPure

L-Carnitine Tartrate

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Mechanism(s): Tyrosine is a precursor amino acid that is metabolized into

products such as dopamine, adrenaline, and norepinephrine. These chemical
messengers are important for dealing with acute stressors in the environment
Supplementing with L-Tyrosine may provide protection against mental fatigue
due to physical exertion and a subsequent decline in norepinephrine (5, 17).

Dosage: 100mg/kg bodyweight (~7g for an 150lb individual) 60 minutes before

acute stress, i.e. exercise (17)

Directions: The recommended dose should be taken 60 minutes before an acute

stressor. This could be any combination of exercise, heat exposure, and/or cold
exposure (5, 17, 55).

Notes: Existing research does not heavily support the use of L-Tyrosine
supplementation for increased production of adrenaline, norepinephrine, nor
dopamine. However, it can act as a buffer in times of acute, high stress situations,
where norepinephrine may be depleted (55).

Recommended Brands: LiveLong Nutritions L-Tyrosine

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Mechanism(s): Multivitamin is a blanket term to refer to a supplement that

contains multiple vitamins and or minerals. Also, a multivitamin may contain
other bioactive compounds, such as antioxidants.



Vitamin B1 (Thiamin): Serves as a component of coenzymes for metabolism

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin): Serves as a component of coenzymes for metabolism
and vital for the transfer of electrons during energy metabolism
Vitamin B3 (Niacin): Vital for the transfer of electrons during energy metabolism
Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid): Important as a component of cellular nutrient
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine): Serves to aid in cellular enzyme function
Vitamin B12 (Cyanocobalamin): Important to ensure proper metabolism of
homocysteine, a toxic compound associated negatively with cardiovascular
health. Also serves a role in the synthesis of compounds necessary for the
creation of end products such as fatty acids.
Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid): Vital for production of collagen, carnitine, and
norepinephrine, as well as serving as an antioxidant. Commonly known for its
role to enhance the immune system
Folic Acid: Important to ensure proper metabolism of homocysteine, a toxic
compound associated negatively with cardiovascular health
Biotin: Serves to aid in cellular enzyme function


Vitamin A: Responsible for compounds necessary for healthy vision, as well as

being involved in growth, cell differentiation, bone development, and immune
Vitamin K: Activates blood clotting factors and facilitates bone health
Vitamin D: (see section Vitamin D below)

The Ultimate Science-Based Supplement Guide | 14

Vitamin E: Serves as an antioxidant and potentially in the prevention of eye


Calcium: Maintains bone homeostasis and is a tightly regulated mineral for
cellular function
Magnesium: Maintains bone homeostasis, has a role in nerve impulse transmission,
and serves as a cofactor for cellular reactions
Phosphorous: Maintains bone homeostasis, plays a role in DNA/RNA structure,
and is important for energy storage and transfer
Zinc: Plays a role in enzyme function, nutrient metabolism, collagen formation,
cell replication and growth
Iron: Facilitates oxygen transport and use, serve an antioxidant function, and
assists in the synthesis of carnitine, collagen, and thyroid hormone
Selenium: Serves as an antioxidant
Chromium: May play a role in insulin signaling
Sodium: Regulates water, pH, and electrolytes. Also assists in nerve transmission
and muscle contraction
Potassium: Regulates water, pH, and electrolytes. Also assists in nerve
transmission and muscle contraction
Chloride: Maintains pH balance, assists with enzyme activation, and serves as a
component of gastric acid for digestion.
Iodine: Plays a large role in thyroid hormone synthesis
Copper: Used in iron metabolism, serves as an antioxidant, and facilitates
collagen synthesis
The primary rationale to supplement with a multivitamin would be as a
prophylactic against deficiency disease.
Those who are on specific diets, low calorie diets, or do not have access to
nutrient dense foods may need to supplement with the appropriate vitamins
and/or minerals. Examples include vegans who may lack iron, pregnant women
who have higher requirements of folic acid, and very low income areas that do
not have easy access to fresh produce (21).

Dosage: Ranges depending on content.

Multivitamins come in various forms and dosages. Some target specific
demographics (i.e. men, women, pregnant mothers, the elderly, etc.)

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Directions: Most vitamins indicate on the label an intended dosage. Also, most
should be taken with food and/or liquid for improved absorption (21).

Notes: Certain vitamins and minerals are common deficiencies among the
American population. These include Vitamin D, Magnesium, Iron, Folic Acid, etc.
It may be more pragmatic to individually supplement with these, as opposed to
taking a singular umbrella pill.
There is some weaker evidence that excess vitamin and mineral consumption
could be detrimental (39, 49), however the consensus is that they are benign at
worst (25, 32).
When possible, nutrients should be consumed through whole, minimally
processed foods. While there are exceptions, absorption of many vitamins and
minerals are aided by the context of the food they are in. The various bioactive
components work synergistically to impart greater health benefit (21).

Recommended Brands: Citadel Nutritions Athlete Vitamin (contains Vitamin D,

Vitamin K, Zinc, Calcium, and Magnesium).

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Ebook Title | 17

Mechanism(s): Vitamin D is responsible for many functions, including action

as a regulator of bone mineral metabolism, bone calcium maintenance, cell
differentiation, proliferation, and growth (21).
Sufficient Vitamin D status in athletes also provides protection against stress
fractures and illness (22).
Vitamin D is also the only vitamin that can be obtained through exposure to
sunlight (21).
It should also be noted that men who are deficient in vitamin D may have lowered
testosterone, and can potentially benefit from supplementation (44).

Dosage: The RDA recommends 600 IU of Vitamin D (21), however more current
research suggests that a more optimal dose of 800IU/day, and up to even
5000IU/day for fast metabolizers (8, 23).

Directions: Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, therefore

transport and absorption are facilitated through a
small amount of fat. It may be pragmatic to consume
your Vitamin D with a daily fish oil supplement, killing
two birds with one stone (16).
The optimal supplementation form of Vitamin D is D3,
or cholecalciferol (21).

Notes: While supplementation of Vitamin D is

practical for the American population, getting it
through natural sources should be prioritized.
Apart from sunlight exposure, one can find Vitamin
D in the diet through fatty fish, fortified orange juice,
and even small amounts in eggs (21).

Recommended Brands: Nature Made (3rd party

verified) Vitamin D3 1000 IU soft gels are a good

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Mechanism(s): Whey protein is one of the constituents of milk, along with casein.
Whey is a high biological value protein, containing all essential amino acids. It
also has a high amount of the branched-chain amino acids, of which leucine, in
particular, is measured as a proxy for muscle protein synthesis (9).
Ultimately, whey protein is supplemented to augment recovery and enhance
muscle growth after training (38).

Dosage: 20-30g, depending on total protein content relative to proprietary add-

ins, form, etc. (38).

Directions: The media would have you slamming a protein shake before, during,
and within two nanoseconds of your training period. The evidence base is much
less definitive (24).
Without too much context, a general guideline would be to consume your whey
protein within relative proximity of your training bout. The closeness in timing of
the post-workout shake becomes more important if your training session spans
over two hours, if you did not have a small amount of protein in your pre-workout
meal, or a combination of the two factors (24).
A key characteristic of quality protein supplements is the presence or availability
of an amino acid list. Companies that do not list their individual amino acid totals
per serving may be hiding shady practices, in which cheap, low quality amino
acids are added to the powder to boost total protein content.

Notes: There are as many options for purchasing whey protein as there are
choices for picking an outfit of the day.
Three primary forms of whey protein exist on the market. Whey protein isolate is
standard 90% protein, while concentrate is between 35-80% protein by weight
(12). Whey protein hydrolysate refers to a process that refines the particles into
even smaller fragments, eliciting a faster rate of absorption and even a greater
capacity to reduce soreness (10). These benefits will be most desirable to those
who train multiple times per day. Keep in mind, however, that hydrolysate has a
steeper price tag.

The Ultimate Science-Based Supplement Guide | 19

Recommended Brands: Optimum Nutritions Gold Standard 100% Whey

The Ultimate Science-Based Supplement Guide | 20


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