There’s so many supplements out there to spend your hard earned cash on, trust me I’ve spent thousands of pounds over the years and to be honest, most are either unnecessary or have very little impact.
When it comes to supplements these days I always ask myself “Is the juice worth the squeeze” and am I going to see a return on my investment with regards health impact, physical gains and enjoyment of consumption, because some super foods etc I actually really enjoy having in the cupboards and they make cooking creative and add much needed nutrients, textures and flavours to food.
Below I have listed my personal recommendations, super foods and supplements that I take and why.
The super foods that I recommend using in food and smoothies to help with increased nutrient density are the following:
- Cacao – nibs and powder – High in magnesium, fibre, iron and antioxidants. Also add great texture and crunch to smoothies or desserts.
- Baobab – High in vitamin C, which helps iron absorption. Adds a slight citrus tang to a smoothie, great combined with Pumpkin Seeds (high in Iron and Zinc)
- Maca –Great for hormonal balance, energy, mood and has a broad spectrum of amino acids, many vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Add into post workout smoothies to help rebalance the body post training.
- Spirulina – Detoxes heavy metals, improves gut bacteria, contains amino acids, iron and antioxidants. Great to drink during training for amino acids supply and or in post workout smoothie to help alkaline the digestive system.
- Chia, Hemp and Flax seeds – Great source of fiber, omega 3 fats, high in anti-oxidants, amino acids, vitamins and minerals. These power house seeds add protein, essential fats, and awesome textures to smoothies, porridge, salads, nut roasts and much more.
Top Tip: Use Chia and Flaxseeds as a binding agent in nut roasts and energy balls etc
- Goji – High in vitamin C, antioxidants and many vitamins and minerals. Great topping on porridge, chia puddings and for making home made kefir!
I recommend Seven Hills Super Foods available on Amazon here…
To avoid the much hyped potential deficiencies on a plant based diet there are a few supplements that it is worth you getting hold off just to avoid deficiencies but it is always worth getting tested to see whether you are deficient.
B12 – Essential – Must be supplemented or taken through fortified foods.
B12 is primarily responsible for healthy red blood cell formation and plays an important role in the health of nerve tissue and brain function. Usually when people are deficient in B12 they are fatigued and experience a very weakened immune system, meaning they are susceptible to colds, flus and other symptoms.
Bacteria are responsible for producing vitamin B12. Animals get their vitamin B12 from eating foods that are contaminated with vitamin B12 from the soil etc and then the animal becomes a source of vitamin B12. Plant foods do not contain vitamin B12 except when they are contaminated by microorganisms.
On a vegan diet the best ways to obtain an adequate supply of vitamin B12 is to eat foods fortified with it or to supplement directly with it.
Nutritional yeast flakes and yeast extract are good vegan sources of B12 to have in your diet and can be added to meals and recipes very easily, I add yeast flakes to many of my meals as a topping and can also be used to make a great vegan parmesan for pasta using cashews and yeast flakes.
Just look for plant milks, yoghurts, breakfast cereals, spreads, yeast extracts and nutritional yeast products that are fortified with vitamin B12 or buy a good quality vegan B12 supplement.
DHA – Must be supplemented or taken through fortified foods.
EPA and DHA are essential fatty acids (omega 3’s) mostly widely obtained from fish oils.
Now while we can get a good fatty acid profile from many superfoods such as hemp, flax and chia seeds we lack in the DHA department due to the inefficient conversion process that needs to happen when converting the plant based ALA form to EPA and DHA which is needed by the body.
But we can bypass this by supplementing with good quality Micro Algae Oil supplements and removing the middle men! (Fish)
Vitamin D3 – Sunlight is the main source so worthwhile supplementing during Winter.
Primarily obtained from sunlight and then unfortunately secondary from animal products, this is an essential vitamin to ensure you have during the winter months, I’ve had trouble with dry skin in the past couple of winters but having found good supplements that really help.
Make sure you get a vegan D3 supplement as normal D3 supplements are obtained through a process involving sheep lanolin a waxy substance found in sheep’s skin.
Vegan D3 sources come from ‘Lichen’ a unique type of plant that has a symbiotic relationship between fungus and algae.
Iron – Check for deficiency first can be obtained through a well planned diet.
The major function of iron is to combine with protein and copper in making haemoglobin. Iron provides numerous beneficial roles in maintaining wellbeing including enhancing the immune system, energy production, growth in children and resistance to stress and disease.
Iron is another tricky one to look out for in your plant powered diet and although it is super high in many green leafy vegetables it is a kind of iron called ‘non-heme iron’, which is not absorbed as well by the body as the iron derived from animal sources called ‘heme iron’.
Good plant sources of iron include dried fruits, whole grains (including wholemeal bread), nuts, green leafy vegetables, potatoes, seeds and pulses. Other foods rich in iron but which are usually eaten in smaller amounts include soya, some flours, parsley, watercress, dark chocolate, black molasses and edible seaweeds.
To increase the absorption of Iron, then combine it with foods or supplements that are high in vitamin C, such as Citrus Fruits or Baobab (super food)
I buy all my micronutrients from https://www.togetherhealth.co.uk as their supplements are derived from whole food sources and do not contain any nasties such as fillers, they have better absorption which means you need less.
Note: At the moment their D3 product is not strictly vegan but they will be launching one in early 2018.
I’ve trained for many years and tried many different supplements and I can honestly say that most of the time, the juice is not worth the squeeze, and you can end up blowing a lot of cash on a product that won’t really give you the edge.
On saying that there are probably 3 supplements that I take to support intensive training cycles:
Protein Powder – Gone are the days when I used to just drink a protein powder on it’s own, one because it’s nutritionally inferior, it contains no fiber which will mean you’ll be very hungry soon after drinking it and two because it’s boring to drink. These days I always use it as part of a nutrient dense smoothie, along with combinations of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, so that I not only get my protein intake but all my other essential macro and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), to help support my health, growth and recovery.
Creatine – This has been a game changer for me since going vegan, as we are unable to obtain creatine from plant sources, so it must be synthesized to make it vegan certified. Creatine is formed in the human body and thus also in animal protein, it is used for energy production, specifically for muscular strength, speed and power. I usually add 10 grams of this to an intra (during) workout drink and my post workout smoothie.
BCAA’s – refers to three amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. For people with low dietary protein intake, BCAA supplementation can promote muscle protein synthesis and increase muscle growth over time.
I use a powdered drink of BCAA’s along with my creatine to have during training, this supports energy production and prevents muscle breakdown whilst training. If I am looking for a more natural source then I would use a super food such as spirulina and a natural sweetener to drink during training, this works just as well.
If you’d like to work with me as your online coach designing a nutrition and training program to suit your body type then email me at [email protected]