What makes you happy? Part 3: Vitamins and Supplements

We're now at Part 3 of the Happiness series and for those of you catching up, or not interested in reading my blog posts because they're "too long" or "a bit indulgent" (e.g. my wife Brooke), here's the cliff notes version of how to be happy so far:

- Be born into a happy family that carries down the happy gene.
- Stop thinking the world is going to hell in a hand basket (it's not).
- Make just enough money to consistently pay the bills and have some extra in the bank for a rainy day.
- Be like Donald Trump and surround yourself with unsuccessful people.

See? It's easy.

Okay, some of these things aren't exactly true but you'll have to read the full posts for context.

Today's topic is one that is very near and dear to my heart. In fact, my closest friends and family have made fun of me for years because I am so "super weird" about this stuff. I'm talking about vitamins and supplements (a.k.a "happy pills", the next topic in the Happiness series). 

I take a lot of pills every day. And I honestly believe it makes up a big, big part of my positive mood. How much? I have no idea. But it's worth exploring in a blog post.

But first, some background. My obsession with pills (that sounds weird) began over 4 years ago on a trip out to the South By Southwest (SxSW) Interactive Festival. I'd been to SxSW a bunch over the years and each year I always tried to come back with a few new ideas to test and implement at work or at home. This particular year (2012) I saw Ray Kurzweil give a keynote address. Long story short, Ray is known for making excellent predictions about the future - everything from robotic limbs to artificial intelligence to self-driving cars. The guy's brilliant and you can just tell he's wayyyyy ahead of the rest of us.

Anywho, during the keynote he casually mentioned that he takes over 100 pills (vitamins and supplements) each and every day as a way to stay healthy and to hopefully live a long healthy life. I sat up in my seat and thought to myself "Hmmn, I only take one pill a day (a multivitamin) and I actually forget to take it most days." A few days later, I was back in Denver and decided it was time to get weird. And boy, did I get weird. Since that trip, I've experimented with countless pills, powders and oils, loosely documenting how they did or didn't make an impact on my general health and mood. 

Here's what I've learned from more than 1,500 days of pill-popping everything from "alpha-lipoic acid to zinc". I've whittled it all down to the "best of the best" by category. I've also included my daily dosage and links to my favorite brands. Enjoy!

The MVPs (Most Valuable Pills)

Let's start with my 5 favorite supplements. If I'm going to jail for the next 20 years, these are the 5 that I bring.

Fish Oil - 2,000mg
Why take it: Improved mood, fish burps. 

My all-time favorite supplement and probably the biggest contributor to a "happier" mood. I switch between the pill form and liquid form, and I've developed a Pavlovian response where I actually smile as I start to take it. 

Fun fact: There's been lots of studies that show when prison inmates are given daily fish oil, violent outbreaks at the jail go down by 30-40%. 

Men's Multivitamin - 4 capsules
Why take it: Increased energy

A lot of bang for the buck here as it knocks out the daily recommended dosage for about 20 different vitamins and minerals. The key here is quality - there are a lot of crappy "multis" out there. I like the Garden of Life brand best due to its raw whole food supplement approach. 

Whey Protein Isolate - 50 grams
Why take it: Maintain muscle, weight loss

It depends on your diet and weight goals, but I personally try and get around 150g - 175g of protein each day. A lot of days I don't hit it with food, so I squeeze in a quick protein shake. 

Vitamin D-3 - 5,000 IUs
Why take it: Strong bones, immunity

This is my wonder drug. Since I started taking Vitamin D religiously awhile back, I simply NEVER. GET. SICK. (Okay, rarely.) While my friends, coworkers and family go down a few times each year with a bug or a cold, I'm the Energizer bunny that keeps going and going and going...thanks to my D. If you get sick a lot, or work in an office, take it.

MCT Oil/Coconut Oil - 2 tablespoons
Why take it: Mental focus

This is a super trendy supplement to take these days thanks to the paleo/ketogenic/"bulletproof" communities. I gotta say, the stuff works as advertised - super charging your metabolism and giving you a quick jolt of mental focus. I throw this in my coffee along with 1-2 tablespoons of grassfed butter a few times each week and I always, always enjoy it. Take it right before you have to knock out some creative work.

The Poop Patrolers

Imagine a world. A world, where within minutes of waking up, you have one solid bowel movement and you're "good" for the entire rest of your day. No inconvenient "turd alerts" at work. No squirming uncomfortably in traffic on your way home.

For many people, this world is nothing but a pipe dream. For me, it's a reality almost every single day.

The secret? These guys:

Probiotics - 25 billion organisms/10 strains (1-2 pills)
Why take it: Healthy intestinal flora, regular poops

First of all, "intestinal flora" might be the grossest phrase of all-time. You're welcome for that. Second, taking a daily probiotic for your gut (the long tube between your mouth and anus) not only helps in the bathroom but has been shown to significantly improve your mood as well. Your gut is your second brain, take care of it.

Greens powder - 7,000+ mg of green superfoods
Why take it: Veggie insurance

I don't eat nearly the amount of veggies that I should each day (and neither do you probably) so consider this green superfood concentrate a great daily supplement. I think the Barlean's brand tastes pretty good for the price, although if I had unlimited funds I'd take the Athletic Greens

Chlorella and spirulina - 3g (~15 tablets)
Why take it: Detox your colon

I don't take this every day, since I'm getting a good amount through the greens mix above, but once or twice a year, I'll kick it up a notch with a higher dose and go through a bag. I usually just throw a handful into the Vitamix with a smoothie. One of the few supplements where I notice an almost immediate increase in mood and general health...and it also turns your poop an interesting dark green color.

The Boudoir Pills

If you thought all the poop talk above was uncomfortable, well buckle up because we're about to cover boners. 

Guys. Real talk for a sec. Once you hit 30, the old testosterone starts dropping by a few percentage points each year. It's a fun ride down, but still. Here are some (natural) pills you can take to get it back and hang on to your manhood a bit longer.  Starting with my favorite:

Zinc - 50 mg
Why take it: Increased testosterone levels

I added this pill into the rotation just a few months ago and saw an immediate difference in the frequency of something that uhhh...happens to men when they wake up in the morning and ummm...can be a good sign of increased testosterone and....anyway, just take it.

Fun fact: Oysters have the highest zinc concentration of any food you can eat on Earth. And you thought the whole oysters/libido thing was a myth.

Magnesium - 500 mg
Why take it: Stress relief

Magnesium is primarily known as a great nighttime pill, as it promotes stress relief and relaxation and helps you sleep better. Totally agree and that's been my experience too. I take it about 30 minutes before bed each night. Another benefit is that lower stress = higher testosterone, so bros make sure you're taking some mag each day.

Garlic (Odor Free High Allicin)  - 500 mg
Why take it: Increased immunity, metabolism

I originally started taking garlic for the metabolism benefits, but as I read more about it, garlic seems to be a big hit with weightlifters for its testosterone boost as well. While I can't put my finger on it, I feel like it's doing something for me. So it's become a pretty good staple in the pill diet.

Brazilian Nuts/Fermented Cod Liver Oil: 6 nuts and 4 capsules/day
Why take it: Enhanced libido

Infamously documented in Tim Ferriss's The Four Hour Body, this is one of the testosterone "hacks" that Tim uncovered through his research. The Brazilian nuts contain selenium (which is found in Brazilian soil and gives a big T boost) while the cod liver oil provides a nice fat complement for better absorption. I've tried it a few times and it works. It really, really works. 

Side note: I'm not currently on this. I'm pretty sure that if my super pregnant wife Brooke saw yet another bag of Brazilian nuts show up in an Amazon box, she'd probably toss them straight in the trash. She's onto me :(

The  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Pills

These are some pills I still take because I've heard so many amazing things about them, but from what I can tell they've done nothing to change my mood, health or temperament. I have no idea if they work or not, so I'll have to trust the scientists on these.

Turmeric - a powerful anti-inflammatory pill and maybe helps you cut down on farts?
Alpha-lipoic acid - an antioxidant that also increases insulin sensitivity
Flax seed oil - for heart health, great to throw into smoothies
Krill oil - a substitute for fish oil and maybe more potent, but I can't tell any difference

The Gym Pills (and Powders)

These are the supplements I take as part of my workout routine. Only consider if you frequently exercise/lift weights.

BCAAs - the lifeblood of my workout supplement regimen. Great for recovery.
Creatine - supports muscle growth. I take about 5g/day.
Pre/Post Workouts - The pre wakes you up, the post gives you some good carbs for replenishment.
Glucosamine/Chondroitin - joint juice. These pills are okay and do the trick, but if you have REALLY bad joints that make a lot of noise when you walk, try taking Animal Flex. I loved it and it completely silenced all my creaking ankles and knees, it's just a little pricey.

Honorable mention:
Deer antler - I noticed a big difference in recovery when taking this, but it was probably just a placebo effect. Still, though! 

By the way, shout out to all my workout partners who have graciously shared their expertise with me in this area over the past year or so. I used to just bring a bottle of water to CrossFit each morning (no bueno) and I've noticed a huge difference since upping my game. Also, shout out to the Nutrition Company in Westminster, CO for providing all my workout supplement needs at amazing prices.

Parting Words of Wisdom and Disclaimers:

1. Quality matters.
The supplement market is a HUGE billion dollar market, so there are a ton bad actors out there and you could really end up wasting your money. The best site to check out before buying any supplement is labdoor.com. I use this site religiously and love how they break everything down by quality/value. (You'll notice a lot of the pills I take are from NOW Brands, who do a great job at quality AND value.)

2. Be smart.
If this blog post has inspired you to add more supplements and vitamins into your daily regimen, awesome! That's kinda why I wrote it. But I'd encourage you to add them in slowly and just 1 or 2 at a time. Take them for a few weeks and if you feel better, keep taking it. If not, try some others (there are plenty out there). If you want to get super ninja, start out by taking a micronutrient blood test to see exactly where you're deficient.

3. I am not a doctor.
I'm not even close to being a doctor. I have no idea how all this stuff impacts women. I have no idea how all this stuff interacts with prescription medication (and it certainly does). In fact, if you're on prescription meds you should probably talk to your doc before taking anything.

4. The best way to get your vitamins and minerals is through food.
Duh. Eating nutrient-dense whole foods is the best way to start feeling better and happier today. No PhD is required to remind you of that :)

Until next time friends...

What I'm listening to:

If I could have any accent, I think it'd be South African.