The Bulletproof Guide to Supplements
By: Bulletproof Staff
January 7, 2020
Take a stroll down the supplements aisle and you’ll see everything from colorful multivitamins to superfood powders. You want to take care of your health. But with so many options, how are you supposed to find what you need?
In this article, we’ll break down the facts about supplements, including different types and common uses.
What are supplements?
“Supplements” is one word for a large category of vitamins, minerals and micro- and macronutrients. Your body needs small quantities of nutrients to keep you at your best. For example, vitamin D (a vitamin) supports strong bones. Zinc (a mineral) supports energy production. Omega-3s (fatty acids) support brain health.
Generally, you want to get the majority of your nutrients from food. Use supplements to fill in the nutritional gaps. Your specific needs and goals will determine how many, or how few, supplements you need each day.
If you’re already eating a nutrient-dense diet that emphasizes whole foods and minimizes processed junk, you’re doing a great job. Certain supplements can help you fill in the gaps in your diet, combat stress, get to sleep faster and even help you manage your weight.
Who needs supplements and why?
It’s possible to get all the nutrients you need from a balanced diet. But sometimes, it’s hard to eat enough of the right foods to feel your absolute best. Plus, your supplement needs can vary. A lot depends on your lifestyle, diet, age, stress levels and other factors.
Here are some situations when supplements come in handy:
- Growing older: Nutrient absorption declines with age. Your supplement needs may change as you grow older.
- Working out: Exercise increases your need for certain nutrients, like protein and joint support.
- Extra stress: Stress can drain certain nutrients, like glutathione, your body’s master antioxidant.
- Travel: Changing time zones (or even changing your routine) can interfere with your sleep quality.
What happens when you’re nutrient-deficient? It depends on the nutrient. Vitamin D and magnesium have important jobs throughout your entire body. That means deficiencies can cause a range of symptoms. The only way to know for sure is to ask your doctor. Usually, it starts with a blood test.
In other situations, supplements can take you from good to great. For instance, if you’re going hard at the gym, you might want to try workout supplements like collagen protein, creatine and whey protein. Are you traveling a lot and feeling stressed? Try adaptogenic (stress-relieving) supplements and drug-free options for sleep support.
Let’s take a look at five types of supplements and what roles they play in your health and wellness.
5 types of supplements
1. Mineral and vitamin supplements
Nutrient deficiencies can happen due to diet, exercise or illness. Mineral and vitamin supplements help fill in the gaps so your body performs at its peak. For example, zinc helps maintain immune function, and vitamin B-12 supports healthy brain cells.
2. Herbal supplements
Sometimes called botanicals, herbal supplements use plant-based ingredients for medicinal purposes. Herbal supplements can support your health or help address a nutrient deficiency. You might drink lavender tea to help you fall asleep, or use lion’s mane capsules for anxiety and calming. Curcumin, the active compound in turmeric, supports a healthy inflammation response.
3. Macronutrient supplements
Macronutrients, also called macros, are the carbohydrates, fat and protein that make up food and help you create energy. Macronutrient supplements are useful for people with digestive disorders. They’re also helpful for people who use medication that limits the body’s ability to absorb nutrients.
Macro supplements are popular in sports nutrition (think bodybuilders and pro athletes). Exercise increases your need for certain macros, like protein and carbs, which play a vital role in muscle growth and repair. Brain Octane MCT oil promotes fat burning and ketone energy, and it can help people hit their nutritional goals for quality fats. BCAAs (aka branched-chain amino acids) increase protein synthesis. That process helps your body repair muscles after an intense workout.
4. Advanced nutrient supplements
These supplements are more advanced than everyday multivitamins.
- Prebiotic and probiotic fiber: Fiber keeps you regular and feeds good gut bacteria. You get fiber from foods like leafy green vegetables and grains. Prebiotic supplements and probiotics can help support healthy digestion. Learn more about prebiotics.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: EPA, DHA and GLA are necessary fatty acids for wellness, brain health and heart function. You can get omega-3s in foods like wild-caught fatty fish and grass-fed butter. You can also take an omega-3 supplement.
- CoQ10 (coenzyme-Q10): This potent antioxidant helps generate energy in your cells. It also neutralizes damaging free radicals.
- Glucosamine: A natural compound found in cartilage. In supplement form, it can support your joints and may reduce inflammation. Learn more about joint supplements.
Antioxidants combat the damage caused by free radicals. What are free radicals? They’re the unstable atoms produced by stress, toxins and everyday living. You can get antioxidants from colorful fruits, vegetables and even coffee and tea. Antioxidant supplements ensure you’re getting enough of the good stuff to keep your cells strong.
Common uses for dietary supplements
You can take supplements like multivitamins and antioxidants for general health benefits. Or you can use them for a specific purpose, like promoting better sleep or boosting energy. Before you try a new supplement, talk to your doctor.
Supplements for anxiety
Some people use natural treatment options in addition to or in place of pharmaceutical drugs. Here are a few common supplements for anxiety:
Supplements for weight loss
While there’s no magic pill yet, studies have shown that some supplements for weight management have promise. Here are a few examples:
- Caffeine: Found in sources like coffee, tea and dark chocolate. Caffeine may boost your metabolism and reduce your appetite. 
- CLA (conjugated linoleic acid): May aid in fat metabolism, support a healthy immune response and curb inflammation.   
- Green tea extract: Green tea may support fat burning and combat inflammation. 
You’ll still get older, but these supplements help reduce the physiological effects of aging. This group contains supplements for arthritis and supplements for joint pain. It also includes supplements for memory and cognitive function. Examples:
- Collagen Protein: The most abundant protein in your body, and the glue that holds your body together. Collagen supports glowing skin, strong bones and flexible joints.
- Ginseng: May support brain function, memory and mood. 
- Ginkgo biloba: Supports circulation and mental function. 
Supplements for inflammation
- Boswellia gum
- Ginger root
- Stephania root
Heads up: Find these supplements in clinically-backed doses in Bulletproof Curcumin Max.
Supplements for energy
Life is hectic. There’s not always time to get enough sleep, eat a balanced diet or manage stress. That may explain why energy supplements and drinks are a thriving market. Some energy supplements may do more harm than good because they’re loaded with sugar and caffeine. Other supplements can help you feel energized and alert, without the crash.
- Natural caffeine sources: Coffee and tea, minus the sugar and dairy. We’re big fans of the ultra-energizing Bulletproof Coffee recipe.
- Vitamin B12: This vitamin plays a big role in energy production in your entire body. Look for Methyl-B12, which is more bioavailable than methyl-cobalamin, and B2. Vitamin B2, aka riboflavin, helps fights oxidative stress.
- Creatine and citrulline: Increase energy production and reduce fatigue from intense exercise.  
Supplements for sleep
Quality sleep is the most important thing you can do to take care of your health. But sometimes, life gets in the way. Stress, travel and your environment can all interfere with your shut-eye. When you get a good night’s sleep, you’ll have more energy and be better prepared to cope with the stress of daily life. These sleep supplements may help.
- Valerian root: May promote tranquility and help you sleep better. 
- Melatonin: A natural hormone that promotes sleep. Try the plant-sourced melatonin in Bulletproof Sleep Mode.
- Lavender: The aroma of lavender may improve sleep quality. 
- Magnesium: May promote better sleep by regulating melatonin.
Want better sleep? Check out these science-backed sleep tips.
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