As a nutritionist, it’s my firm belief that whole foods are the primary foundation for any effective health-building program. However, I’ve always been intrigued by the therapeutic use of cutting-edge nutritional supplements that can enable each of us to achieve personal health and performance levels just not possible through food alone.
The nutritional supplement industry has made evolutionary leaps and bounds since the pioneering days of hole-in-the-wall health food stores, where shelves were often stocked with little more than chalky protein powders, cheap multivitamins, desiccated liver tablets and brewer’s yeast.
Today, science and technology have combined to offer up an endless array of efficacious supplements backed by solid scientific research. Unfortunately, one of the perils of unlimited choice can often times be confusion as to which supplements best address your health needs.
Once you reach the age of 40, it becomes imperative that you adhere to dietary practices that cultivate optimal cellular function and genetic expression. This will not only improve your quality of life, but it will also help to increase your longevity through the prevention of disease. Nutritional supplements can play a specialized role in this process, if they are used at the right time and in the correct dosages targeted for specific physiological functions.
So without further ado, here are my top five supplement recommendations with proven health and performance benefits for men.
1. Acetyl-L-Carnitine – An Amazing Amino Acid
Carnitine is an important amino acid and is found throughout your body and in foods such as milk and meat. Carnitine has a beneficial effect on energy metabolism by aiding production of ATP in the “power plants” of your body’s cells known as the mitochondria.
As you age, your capacity to generate energy in the form of ATP In the mitochondria diminishes significantly. This creates a cellular energy deficit resulting in the symptoms of fatigue and lethargy, as well as mood disorders such as depression.
Nowhere is this age-related energy deficit more pronounced than in the brain. At any given time, your brain consumes 20 to 25 percent of your body’s total energy output in order to maintain its functional capacity.
Reduced energy production in the brain can lead to symptoms such as lack of mental focus and memory loss. It has also been linked to neurological diseases such as dementia, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s.
Taking straight L-carnitine does little to increase cellular energy production in the brain because it cannot cross the blood brain barrier. This is where the fat-soluble form of this amino acid called acetyl-L-carnitine comes into play.
Acetyl-L-carnitine is readily absorbed through the blood brain barrier, where it helps to maintain your brain’s energy stores and protect against cell death from lipid peroxidation.
Research from Italy confirmed the brain protective effects of acetyl-L-carnitine supplementation in seniors with mild senility. 500 patients were given 1500 mg of acetyl-L-carnitine over a 90-day period. The results showed significant improvements in intellect, memory retention, mood and emotional well-being.
Other research has shown that acetyl-L-carnitine supplementation can prevent retinal damage and vision loss in diabetics, as well as reduce age-related hearing loss in otherwise healthy individuals.
The key to effective acetyl-L-carnitine supplementation is to begin as early as possible in order to preserve the maximum number of brain cells. In other words, don’t wait until your senile.
Recommended supplementation: Take 500 – 2000 mg of acetyl-L-carnitine first thing in the morning on an empty stomach.
2. Co-Enzyme Q10 (CoQ10) – The Cellular Energizer
Coenzyme Q10 (otherwise known as ubiquinone) is a powerful antioxidant that enables production of energy in the “power plants” of your body cells known as the mitochondria. Your body can produce its own CoQ10, but as you age, internal production of this nutrient can decline by as much as 50 percent.
CoQ10 has an affinity for tissues in the body that have high-energy demands, such as the brain, liver, kidneys and heart. Acting as an antioxidant, it helps to protect these vital organs from free radical damage caused by oxidative stress that accumulates over time.
New research – in both animal and human models – is demonstrating that oral supplementation of CoQ10 can help to mitigate the onset and the progression of several serious health conditions.
Some of the conditions that supplemental CoQ10 may benefit include:
• Heart disease
• Migraine headaches
• Alzheimer’s disease
• High blood pressure
• Periodontal disease
• Parkinson’s disease
• Chronic fatigue syndrome
• Peyronie’s disease
Age related decline is not the only cause of low CoQ10 levels in the body. Prescription medications in the statins category (cholesterol-lowering drugs) have been shown to reduce blood levels of CoQ10 by as much as 40 percent.
This may account for some of the disconcerting side effects many people experience while taking statin drugs, such as cognitive impairment, congestive heart failure and muscle pain.
Recent research has shown that statin drugs can impair the diastolic phase of the heart pump and that supplementing with CoQ10 for 8 weeks at 300 mg/day strengthened the heart muscle by enhancing mitochondrial and endothelial function. This is the very reason that more progressive physicians have begun recommending CoQ10 supplementation to their patients who are taking statin medications.
Recommended supplementation: Take 100 – 300 mg/day of Coenzyme Q10 (ubiquinone) with a meal containing healthy fats for enhanced absorption.
3. Vitamin D – The Sunshine Vitamin
Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin because it is formed in the body out of dehydrocholesterol in the skin as a reaction to the ultraviolet B rays from sunlight.
In order to manufacture adequate levels of vitamin D from sunlight, we need on average 30 minutes of full body exposure to the sun three times per week – something that’s not always possible in northern climates year-round.
Until the recent deluge of press on vitamin D, most people were unaware that it is technically a pro-hormone that has wide reaching effects throughout the entire body.
The main benefit of vitamin D is to regulate calcification and mineralization of the bones, but new research is being released – almost on a daily basis – showing just how crucial vitamin D is for overall health.
Low blood levels of vitamin D have been linked to conditions such as depression, fatigue, muscle weakness, immune dysfunction, osteoporosis and low testosterone levels.
A recent study out of Harvard University of 1500 health professionals showed that men with the highest blood levels of vitamin D also had the highest levels of testosterone. It was also discovered that vitamin D has a similar chemical structure to steroid molecules like testosterone, leading researchers to speculate that vitamin D may play a vital role in muscle growth and sexual function.
Other research on the link between men’s health and vitamin D demonstrates that individuals with the highest vitamin D levels had the lowest levels of sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG), a protein that binds to free testosterone making it unavailable to the body.
Higher vitamin D levels were also shown to reduce the aromatase enzyme responsible for the conversion of testosterone into estrogen.
You can have your vitamin D levels checked by asking your physician to order a 25 hydroxy-vitamin D test. Healthy blood levels should fall within the range of 40-60 ng/mL.
Recommended supplementation: Take 2000 – 4000 IU/day of vitamin D3. For increased absorption it’s recommended that you take supplemental vitamin D3 along with vitamin K2, as they act synergistically.
4. Vitamin E – The Fat Friendly Antioxidant
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that has the unique ability to prevent the oxidization of fat and LDL cholesterol in the blood, as well as protecting the membrane of every cell in your body from the harmful effects of free radicals. This makes vitamin E an essential nutrient when it comes to maintaining cardiovascular health and immune function.
Several well-publicized studies have been critical of vitamin E supplementation, stating that it did not decrease mortality in adults, and in fact high dose supplementation may slightly increase it.
However, these studies all used the synthetic form of supplemental vitamin E called dl-alpha tocopherol and not the natural form d-alpha tocopherol containing the complete complex of Gamma, Alpha, Beta and Delta isomers found in food.
One large-scale study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition on November 10, 2006 reported that over a 19-year period, men with the highest blood levels of d-alpha tocopherol showed a significant reduction in diseases that included:
• Lung cancer (21%)
• Prostate cancer (32%)
• Hemorrhagic stroke (35%)
• Ischemic stroke (37%)
• Respiratory illness (42%)
Sadly, the media chose to ignore these findings that clearly demonstrate the positive health benefits of vitamin E supplementation.
Because vitamin E is stored in fat tissue – including subcutaneous fat – supplementing with it can protect your skin from the wrinkle inducing effects of UV rays from the sun when taken orally, as well as when applied topically. This makes it an important therapeutic component of any anti-aging protocol.
The best dietary sources of vitamin E include wheat germ oil, soybean oil, sunflower, and safflower oil. Unfortunately these oils are highly unstable and rapidly oxidize (turn rancid) when exposed to light, oxygen and high heat from cooking. This results in the destruction of the naturally occurring vitamin E and will greatly increase the free radical production in your body when ingested – making supplemental vitamin E a necessity.
Recommended supplementation: Take 400 – 800 IU/day of vitamin E w/mixed tocoperols with a meal containing healthy fats for enhanced absorption.
5. Zinc – The Manly Mineral
Zinc plays a critical role in men’s health, because it is involved in hundreds of enzymatic reactions in the human body. It is concentrated throughout the body in the bones, skin, muscles, kidneys, pancreas, eyes, liver, prostate and testes.
Some of the main functions that zinc plays a role in are immune function, insulin management, wound healing, testosterone and thyroid hormone production.
Zinc works synergistically with vitamin A to produce the hormones testosterone and growth hormone in the body.
Zinc is also required for the proper function of androgen receptors – sites where testosterone attaches to cells and exerts its anabolic properties. Healthy sperm motility is also dependent on adequate zinc levels.
Studies have shown that men placed on a zinc-restricted diet had a 74% average decline of testosterone levels after just 20 weeks.
Another study showed that older men who were given zinc supplements after testing positive for marginal zinc deficiency, had an average 93% increase of testosterone levels after a six-month period.
These studies highlight the importance of adequate zinc levels for maintaining anabolic drive and sexual function as you age.
A simple method for evaluating your zinc status is placing 10 ml of liquid zinc sulfate in your mouth. A lack of taste or a delayed taste perception suggests a possible zinc deficiency. An immediate pronounced taste suggests that your zinc status is sufficient.
Recommended supplementation: Take 30 mg/day of zinc (picolinate, L-monomethionine or citrate) with food. Make sure to choose a zinc supplement that is balanced with 2 mg of copper, as excess zinc can deplete copper levels in the body.
In today’s fast paced society, supplements can play an important role in helping to ensure that you meet your daily nutritional requirements.
With the inclusion of Acetyl-L-Carnitine, Coenzyme Q10, Vitamin D, Vitamin E and Zinc into your daily diet, you can not only help to prevent any number of diseases, but also boost your overall performance to levels just not possible through food alone!
Have you tried any of these supplements? Share your results in the comment box below!
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Disclaimer: The information contained on this website is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease. Persons with any health-related issues should consult a qualified healthcare provider.