The 10 Best Supplements For Men: What Should You Choose?
Supplements are a multibillion dollar industry. Scratch that- maybe even trillions. But do they work? While there are those that are less than above board, there are countless others which excel at what they do.
As a man, you need to take care of your health. You're strong, we know, but bearing the load of a family, work and other responsibilities will undoubtedly wear you down.
So what should you focus on? These are many. Far too many. But how about you start with some real good and universal truths? In no particular order, get your hands on some of these.
Over the past few years, vitamin D has jumped to the front of the bandwagon when it comes to micronutrients that are very important for men, and with good reason. Even though you might believe you are getting enough vitamin D from sun exposure, the fact of the matter is that most people are still deficient in this important vitamin, synthesized by our skin.
In men, vitamin D is even more important. There is evidence that it can help to reduce cardiovascular and cancer risk, support a strong immune system, and also decrease your risk of injury – very important if you are an athlete lifting heavy weight in the gym.
Not only that, but optimal vitamin D levels are also associated with improved performance and higher testosterone levels. Then, there is also the very noticeable effect it has on improving post-workout recovery(1), allowing you to exercise again sooner.
The normal recommended daily intake stands around 400 to 800 IU per day, although cases of deficiency might require higher amounts to correct. To this end, supplementation with up to 5000 units daily is generally not associated with adverse effects, and might help to address malabsorption issues some people experience.
Magnesium is considered the master mineral in many regards. This is because it is involved in so many chemical and biological reactions in the body, that deficiency has no other outcome but to affect several body systems.
One of the most important benefits of magnesium in men is enhanced testosterone levels. Magnesium helps to increase the level of circulating free testosterone, which is the form that is responsible for eliciting its effects. The bound testosterone is unable to do anything until it is converted to free testosterone.
Magnesium can help to correct slightly impaired testosterone levels in athletes and sedentary men like(2), which translates to an increased rate of lean muscle retention, better mood, sex drive and aggression.
Then there is also the fact that magnesium is involved in energy production pathways, as well as the fact that it helps optimize electrolyte balance. Magnesium acts to ensure that potassium can enter cells and offset water loss. This is why many electrolyte drinks contain magnesium and potassium to prevent muscle cramping and the development of heatstroke.
Finally, magnesium may also help improve post-workout recovery since it is generally associated with higher blood glucose levels at this time.
This, along with well-timed protein consumption, means that cells are able to rapidly recover and initiate the rebuilding process.
Aim for 300 to 500 mg of magnesium daily – higher than this might cause digestive discomfort and diarrhea.
There is a very clear association between zinc deficiency and low testosterone levels. One study published in 1996 shows that after 20 weeks of a zinc deficient diet, an average reduction in testosterone levels of 75% occurred.
There is also a strong argument that zinc supplementation can improve libido and erectile strength, being able to improve subliminal detection of female pheromones that induce arousal.
Zinc also plays an important role in male fertility, increasing sperm count and motility(3). This is why one of the first approaches to treating male infertility is still to increase supplementation of micro minerals such as zinc, vitamin D and magnesium.
Then, there is also evidence that consuming an optimal amount of zinc may support prostate health, as it was found that cancerous prostate cells contain much less zinc than healthy cells. A deficiency may also contribute to the start of the process of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), and chronic inflammation of the prostate known as prostatitis.
For best effect, aim for 25 to 50 mg of zinc daily, even though the recommended daily intake stands at about 11 to 13 mg.
The benefits of omega-3 fats are numerous, ranging from anti-inflammatory to antiaging and more. In men, it isn’t quite what you think – since large amounts of omega-3 consumption may actually be deleterious to your testosterone levels. However, the key may lie in ensuring you consume some- but not too much.
Men inherently possess a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, at least up to the point of menopause when the prevalence levels off for both genders. As such, it is important that men safeguard themselves from the myriad of associated diseases which can occur, such as heart attacks or strokes.
Omega-3 supplementation can help reduce the deposition of atherosclerotic plaques in arteries, improve blood pressure, decrease the likelihood of heart attacks and strokes occurring, subsequently decreasing the risk of sudden cardiac death(4).
And while it is true that omega-3 fatty acids can reduce oxidative load on a productive cells such as sperm, high doses can actually reduce testosterone levels. All in all, consuming 1 to 3 g of omega-3 in the form of fish oil supplements daily will not do you much harm.
Probiotics aren’t just for the ladies, as society might have you believe. In fact, there are so many benefits for men from taking probiotics, that it should easily be one of your absolute essentials.
Did you know that probiotics can improve your erections? Yes, the neurotransmitter serotonin is critically important for erectile function, with this chemical having levels enhanced via supplementation of probiotics.
Then there is the fact that probiotics can help alleviate the decrease in testosterone men experience starting from the age of 30. It does this by attenuating the impact of stress on testosterone levels.
Probiotics can decrease the secretion of cortisol, which from its action on the vagus nerve found in the stomach, decreases the stress and anxiety your brain perceives. If you’ve ever experienced a nervous stomach you can probably understand the connection between your stomach and your brain. This benefit, combined with its ability to improve serotonin does a lot for your sex drive and pleasure.
Finally, there is a growing body of research being conducted to demonstrate the link between gut bacteria and the prostate gland, showing that they may help to keep this gland healthy over the long-term.
Other benefits that might be attractive to men include healthy digestion and promoting regularity (since men are said to possess a higher risk of colon cancer), supporting a positive mood and lending itself to a healthy metabolism.
There are many different strains of probiotics found in supplements. Two of the most promising to men may include bifidobacterium or Lactobacillus strains. In addition to the actual strain it contains, is the number of organisms or CFU (colony forming units) it possesses. This number should be in the billions for to be considered a decent choice
Fiber is important for many functions, ranging from decreasing transit time of waste material through the digestive tract, to acting as nourishment for the probiotic bacteria which reside in your gut. And yet, most people (male and female) do not consume enough fiber daily.
Current recommendations stand at around 25 g daily, which should come from primarily vegetables, and some fruit. Fiber can also have an impact on lipids, helping to remove bile acids from circulation and increasing the utilization of cholesterol. This is good, but in abundance, fiber can inadvertently affect your testosterone levels too.
Fiber will also promote the excretion of estrogen from the body, which is generally desirable in the male body to an extent, but too much can increase the levels of sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG), and cause a drop in circulating free testosterone.
It appears that to get the best of both worlds, you need to exercise moderation. Consume enough from foods, or supplemental forms, but not in excess so that it has an adverse effect on your hormones.
When it comes to supplements, there is often only a very limited amount of research that goes into them. As a result, many of the purported benefits are just that – not concrete enough to be a 100% sure thing.
Creatine, however, is one of the most well studied supplements in history, including side effect profile and in a range of demographics. Of course, the applications of creatine are most noteworthy if you are actively involved in exercise, but even if you aren’t, there might be a benefit or two that creatine can still bring to the table.
Among the most noteworthy benefits of creatine is its ability to dramatically increase strength and muscle mass. A lot of this fast effect might be attributed to the volumizing effect on muscle cells, as it rapidly increases the amount of water in these cells. This alone can amount to up to 4 pounds added to the scale in the first week alone.
That added water allows you to overload joints with a greater degree of safety, which in turn will translate to greater increases in strength and muscle mass.
That aside, creatine is exceptional at increasing your muscle output and energy generation for a short period of time. This allows you to train muscles for longer – imagine being able to get eight reps at a resistance you have been stagnating at for several weeks.
To maintain performance, it is recommended to consume between 5 and 10 g of creatine daily, after an optional loading dose(5) of 20 g over the course of 10 days. Keep in mind that creatine works best for short duration exercise, although over the long-term it benefits any sort of physical activity.
Citrulline is extremely beneficial to your body’s circulatory system, helping to initiate nitric oxide synthesis and subsequent vasodilation. This has several benefits to men. For one, enhanced blood flow means stronger erections.
Then there is a fact that nutrients and oxygen delivery is enhanced while exercising, along with removal of waste material that bring about muscle failure. This “pump”, as it’s referred to in bodybuilding, can increase work capacity and lay the groundwork for hypertrophy.
Citrulline in the form of citrulline maleate might possess a slight advantage over plain L-citrulline, since the malic acid component helps to support hydration and may help shield cells from oxidative damage.
The recommended daily intake of citrulline for active men is 6 g daily. L-citrulline can be obtained from watermelon juice at the rate of 2.5 g/L, but this might be impractical so opting for a powder or capsule might be the better option.
Ashwagandha is well known in Ayurvedic medicine, but has only caught on in the Western world a little over a decade. But boy, what were we ever missing!
Ashwagandha can help reduce cortisol levels and anxiety, which typically leads to an increase in testosterone. Not only that, but it can also increase semen volume, motility and libido, helping men classified as infertile to conceive.
Being classified as an adaptogen, Ashwagandha is stronger than ginseng in helping to ameliorate the effect of stress on the male body, and can help reduce inflammatory load on cells.
Fenugreek is a mixed bag, but the fact that it is included in many testosterone boosting supplements indicates that it has promise.
For one, isolated studies have shown that fenugreek supplementation can increase testosterone and libido, while other studies disprove this. It appears to reduce DHT, but still is able to increase libido possibly by some other mechanism.
It’s insulin and blood glucose controlling properties might also be useful to men trying to lose some weight, which in itself supports androgen optimization.
Other important supplements that should be high on the agenda for the high-performing man include a multivitamin/ multimineral preferably sourced from whole foods, and a superfood blend.
These help to ensure that you come closer to your nutritional requirements and get the best of the many phytocompounds plants offer.
Try some of the recommendations above; you will be glad you did looking back a few years from now.
(1)Barker T, Henriksen VT, Martins TB, et al. Higher serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations associate with a faster recovery of skeletal muscle strength after muscular injury. Nutrients. 2013;5(4):1253-1275. Published 2013 Apr 17. doi:10.3390/nu5041253
(2)Cinar V, Polat Y, Baltaci AK, Mogulkoc R. Effects of magnesium supplementation on testosterone levels of athletes and sedentary subjects at rest and after exhaustion. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2011;140(1):18-23. doi:10.1007/s12011-010-8676-3
(3)Fallah A, Mohammad-Hasani A, Colagar AH. Zinc is an Essential Element for Male Fertility: A Review of Zn Roles in Men's Health, Germination, Sperm Quality, and Fertilization. J Reprod Infertil. 2018;19(2):69-81.
(4)Stone NJ. Fish consumption, fish oil, lipids, and coronary heart disease. Circulation. 1996;94(9):2337-2340. doi:10.1161/01.cir.94.9.2337
(5)Law YL, Ong WS, GillianYap TL, Lim SC, Von Chia E. Effects of two and five days of creatine loading on muscular strength and anaerobic power in trained athletes. J Strength Cond Res. 2009;23(3):906-914. doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181a06c59