Have you ever been the person who stands in GNC or the supplement aisle of Whole Foods and just stares at all the products, clearly ignorant of what all those bottles are supposed to do for your body?

Trust me, you are not alone! I bet at some point you stood there wondering if vitamins and minerals are helpful or harmful; a waste of money or worth the investment; are there really health benefits or is it all just a big scam? Most of us probably walked away from the aisle confused and empty handed – am I right?

There were some fundamental questions we needed answered that those pill bottles didn’t offer. First, do you even need supplements (vitamins and minerals, aka micronutrients)? Second, if I do need supplements, which ones are critical for me to take?

Let’s tackle the first question: Do I even need supplements?

Definitively, the answer is YES! Everyone has a macronutrient deficiency of one form or another. In 2006, the World Health Organization published a document called Guidelines for Food Fortification with Micronutrients, and introduced the publication in this way:

In addition to the more obvious clinical manifestations, micronutrient malnutrition is responsible for a wide range of non-specific physiological impairments, leading to reduced resistance to infections, metabolic disorders, and delayed or impaired physical and psychomotor development. The public health implications of micronutrient malnutrition are potentially huge… (TH Tulchinsky. Micronutrient deficiency conditions: global health issues. Public Health Reviews 2010;32:243-255.)

Sadly the majority of American’s are literally starving for micronutrients. Now, if you workout at ITF and eat according to the Paleo Diet standards, or just follow the paleo diet on your own, you are not as deficient as individuals who follow the Standard American Diet.


However, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to get all the micronutrients your body needs just from foods. A few reasons this is difficult:

  1. First, the soil most of our food is grown in is largely nutrient deprived – meaning a carrot may not contain as many micronutrients today that carrots 50 years ago did.
  2. Second, cooking destroys not only harmful pathogens, but it also destroys a good amount of the micronutrients found in foods.
  3. Third, stress depletes our bodies of micronutrients and the 21st century adult is no stranger to stress (can I get an amen).
  4. Finally, if we have any digestive impairment then we will have trouble even absorbing micronutrients into our bodies.

We all definitely need to be taking supplements!

Before I started working for Iron Tribe Fitness, I had the privilege of working for Madison Drugs – a Compounding Pharmacy in North Alabama. We not only sold prescription-compounded medications, but we sold pharmaceutical grade supplements.

It was there that I learned that the majority of supplement products on the market are a big waste of money (bet you didn’t see that coming). Unfortunately, a lot of supplements companies are out there to turn the highest profit they can (shocker) so their products are cheaply made with lots of fillers, low quality, and non-absorbable nutrients. So buyer beware!

It was also at Madison Drugs that I learned that everyone needs to take a foundational 6 supplements. We all need:

  1. A high-quality multi-vitamin
  2. Vitamin D3 (5,000 i.u. 5 days a week)
  3. Vitamin C (1,000 mg per day)
  4. A high potency, broad spectrum probiotic
  5. Pharmaceutical grade fish oil
  6. Magnesium (300-400 mg per day)

If you take these foundational 6 supplements, you will have satisfied your bodies basic needs for micronutrients! Now, these levels are much higher than the RDA (Really Dumb Advice) advises – but there is significant research which shows the RDA are well below our bodies even basic needs for micronutrients.

So now you know WHAT you need, but WHO do you buy them from – who is making a good supplement that is easy for your body to absorb and not filled with a bunch of junk? Here are a few of my favorite companies:

You won’t find most of those brands in Whole Foods or GNC, but you can find them online. However, if you aren’t interested in doing all that leg work, the vitamin packs sold by Isagenix are a great product that will get you well on your way to meeting your micronutrient needs (you will still need a good probiotic)!

So remember, when you are scared and alone in the vitamin aisle, micronutrients are essential to your health and to start with your foundational 6 supplements!