As a pharmacist, young men frequently ask me what supplements are best for their vitality: building lean muscle, increasing energy, improving sleep, and enhancing libido.
Many of these gentlemen are using a variety of expensive mystery powders and capsules from their local body building shop. However, I’ve found that some of the simplest supplements are actually the best.
These basic vitamins and minerals have the most real clinical evidence for testosterone enhancement and improved vitality. For “ergogenic” purposes (enhancement of physical performance), I commonly recommend the following simple, tried-and-true supplements: magnesium, zinc, and vitamin D3.
Magnesium is involved in over 300 essential metabolic reactions in the human body. Yet, according to Health Canada, at least 40% of Canadian adults are deficient in magnesium. Magnesium glycinate is a highly absorbable magnesium salt that is one of the best supplements for general health. The best food sources of magnesium are unprocessed green, leafy vegetables and nuts. Since our modern diets are full of processed foods that have been stripped of key minerals like magnesium and potassium, I would recommend magnesium supplementation for most healthy young men. Daily doses for supplementation range from 200-400mg.
Amongst body builders, zinc is commonly believed to be the most anabolic mineral supplement. There is clinical evidence to support this as well. Multiple studies have shown that supplementation with 30mg of zinc (particularly zinc aspartate) can increase circulating testosterone and muscle mass, as well as improve sleep quality. The most popular of these products is known as ZMA (zinc-magnesium-aspartic acid), which combines zinc aspartate, magnesium aspartate, and vitamin B6. It is important not to over-supplement with zinc, however, since daily doses above 100mg have been associated with significant increase in prostate cancer risk. The recommended daily supplement dosage is 30mg, and the upper tolerable limit is approximately 50mg per day. Good food sources of zinc include oysters (by far the highest zinc quantities) and most meats.
As citizens of a northern climate with minimal sunlight for half of the year, almost all Canadians should be taking some supplemental vitamin D3. However, vitamin D3 supplementation has also been shown to be effective for increasing and regulating men’s testosterone levels in small clinical trials. Vitamin D3 is another great supplement for general health and is involved in many important biochemical pathways in the body, such as bone building, muscle and nerve function, and immune response. Recently, the “sunshine” vitamin has also shown to play an important role in regulating serotonin levels, meaning it is a useful mood-boosting supplement. I personally recommend most men supplement with 1000-2000IU per day, but some vitamin D experts recommend significantly higher doses (5000IU and higher). Good food sources of vitamin D3 include fatty fish like salmon and certain types of mushrooms.