The 5 Best Supplements for Feeling Good

Boost Your Mood, Fight Cognitive Decline

Certain nutritional deficiencies can cause or exacerbate mood and mental health issues. Here are the best supplements to stave them off.


Many common mental health issues can be caused or exacerbated by nutritional deficiencies. Just as we can optimize our bodies with the right supplementation, so too can we help optimize our minds with the right supplements. Here are the best supplements to consider.

1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids – Not-Fishy Fish Oil

Do a massive meta-study of all the fish oil research and you’ll notice a trend regarding mental health: fish oils help on various fronts, from depression to cognitive decline.

Progressive mental health professionals are even “prescribing” diets high in fish or fish oil supplements to their patients, either as an adjunct to prescription meds or as a pre-drug intervention. While we can’t say fish oil is the “cure” for anything, we can certainly say it helps minimize existing symptoms and perhaps prevent future problems.

A recent study also looked at omega-3s and the effects of stress. Stress and the associated inflammation and cortisol spike it causes are obviously not good for physical or mental health. In the study, those taking 2.5 grams of omega-3s were able to suppress the damage caused by a stressful event, decreasing cortisol and a certain pro-inflammatory protein by 19% and 33%, respectively. We can’t stop stress from happening, but fish oil does seem to reduce the negative effects of that stress.

Besides the anti-inflammatory benefits, omega-3 fatty acids may help with cognitive disorders by increasing cell permeability. That’s good news because this permeability allows serotonin – the “feel good” chemical that carries messages around your brain – to more easily pass through brain cell membranes.

Finally, low-T is associated with depressive symptoms, and omega-3 fatty acids can help optimize your testosterone levels.

What to Take

Most benefits are seen with a relatively hefty dose of omega-3s, so you need a highly concentrated fish oil supplement. One serving per day (4 softgels) of Flameout (on Amazon) takes care of it. Personally, I take all four softgels at night to tamp down any surplus cortisol before bed.

2. Creatine – Not Just for Muscles, Bro

Not only has science recently discovered how beneficial it is for heart health (even if you don’t work out), creatine monohydrate may also be helpful for mood. It might even help deter Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.

New studies show that creatine seems to help with depression or “depressed mood.” While most studies have been done on those with major depressive disorders and even meth addiction (people with altered brain bioenergetics), it’s not a leap to say that regular creatine usage could play a role in improving or preserving brain health.

Creatine supplementation even increases mental sharpness and brain efficiency when performing strenuous mental tasks, at least in people who initially had low levels of creatine, like vegans and other meat-deniers.

What to Take

Most studies are using 3 to 10 grams of creatine per day, but 5 grams does the trick for most people. Just be sure to use an ultra-pure, micronized formula.

3. Micellar Curcumin – The Kind You Absorb

Recent research found that curcumin may help with depression, both mild depression and major depressive disorder (MDD). How does it do that? Well, chronic inflammation is unequivocally linked to depression and other mental issues. In fancy PhD-speak, inflammation is a critical mediatory in the pathophysiology of mood disorders. Curcumin helps keep excess inflammation at bay by scavenging the free radicals that create it.

Other research is looking into treating schizophrenia with curcumin. And curcumin even improves your working memory.

What to Take

You can’t eat enough turmeric from spicy Indian food to get all the varied benefits of curcumin (dammit). In fact, even most curcumin supplements have terrible bioavailability issues. We improved that a little by adding piperine, but now there’s something better: solid lipid curcumin particles (on Amazon).

The result? A 95-times increase in free-curcumin blood concentration, along with a much longer activity. All you need is a single 400-mg capsule daily. It keeps working for 24 hours. Biotest’s Micellar Curcumin is the top choice. Honestly, if you’re not taking solid lipid curcumin particles, you’re really not taking curcumin.

MC-on-Amazon

4. Sex-Enhancing Formulas – Do It All For The Nookie

This one may seem like a stretch, but the relationship between sex and emotional well-being is pretty clear. Lack of sex or the inability to perform causes anxiety, stress, depressive symptoms, insecurity, and the desire to post nasty Instagram replies.

Male sexual performance is hampered by prostate issues and blood flow problems (think: puny erections). A formulation that promotes a healthy prostate size and function – and better blood flow to the penis – helps prevent those issues.

What to Take

The cheekily named P-Well (on Amazon) supplement is packed with all the potent natural substances a man needs to pump up his vascular sexual health.

PWellAmazon

On the flip, sexual health and desire is also affected by testosterone production, as you’d expect. Eurycoma longifolia, aka tongkat ali, helps direct the testes to crank out more testosterone. But there’s a less obvious benefit: it inhibits rho kinases, which leads to bigger, firmer boners. (Here’s all the sexy science.)

A supplement like Alpha Male contains everything needed to naturally pump up T levels and pump up… other things. Take 1-2 capsules in the morning on an empty stomach and repeat in the evening.

5. Magnesium – Big Pharm Hates It

Storytime! Once upon a time, 126 people diagnosed with mild to moderate depression were each given a bottle of pills. They were told to take one tablet per day as a depression treatment.

Two weeks later, half of those people reported feeling a little better. Four weeks after that, those same people reported feeling significantly better. The symptoms of their depression had lessened. Anxiety had decreased too. The other half of the group? No improvements at all.

So what’s going on here? Well, these folks were part of a study looking at the role magnesium plays in depression. Half of them took cheap magnesium and the other half, the control group, took a placebo. The magnesium users felt a whole lot better.

So is depression a magnesium deficiency? Well, it’s not as simple as “magnesium cures depression” – although some medical professionals have been making that claim since at least 1967 – but it’s pretty clear that a magnesium deficiency at least exacerbates the problem.

We’ve known for a while that magnesium deficiency is linked to depression, anxiety, and inflammation. But this is the first randomized clinical trial to really test out magnesium’s ability to reduce or control the symptoms of depression.

Perhaps not coincidentally, most people these days are at least a little deficient in magnesium, and it’s estimated that 15 million American adults suffer from depression. That’s almost 7% of the population. Is this simply the result of widespread magnesium deficiency? For now, we can at least say that the two are related.

Ironically, prescription antidepressants can be terribly depressing, with side effects like sexual problems, emotional numbness, and suicidal thoughts being reported by about half of all users. If those with mild symptoms can get off the prescription meds, and if those with moderate symptoms could reduce the amount they use (or avoid the need for a second med), that would be a very good thing. For the rest of us, magnesium supplementation could at least be a hedge against developing a case of the sads.

What to Take

This study used magnesium chloride at 248 mg per day. But for best results, choose fully chelated magnesium (glyceniate chelate) for better absorption. Those who train hard might want to use a slightly higher serving size, about 400 mg.

If you’re already using a product like Elitepro (on Amazon)) for its other benefits, you’re covered.

The Obligatory Note

Mental health issues are complex and varied. Obviously, seek counsel and treatment from qualified mental health professionals.

They’ll likely ignore the role of nutrition and quickly prescribe drugs that may or may not help – and may or may not cause other problems that require more drugs – all while Big Pharm turns you into a drooling lifetime customer. But, yeah, you should definitely consult with them. Trust the experts.

MD-Buy-on-Amazon

References

References

  1. Burhani MD et al. **Fish oil and depression: The skinny on fats.**J Integr Neurosci. 2017;16(s1):S115-S124. PubMed.
  2. Madison AA et al. **Omega-3 supplementation and stress reactivity of cellular aging biomarkers: an ancillary substudy of a randomized, controlled trial in midlife adults.**Mol Psychiatry. 2021 Jul;26(7):3034–3042. PMC.
  3. Jensen TK et al. Associations of Fish Oil Supplement Use With Testicular Function in Young Men. JAMA Netw Open. 2020 Jan 3;3(1):e1919462. PubMed.
  4. Spira AP et al. Impact of sleep on the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2014 Nov;27(6):478–483. PMC.
  5. Kious BM et al. Creatine for the Treatment of Depression. Biomolecules. 2019 Sep;9(9):406. PMC.
  6. Ng QX et al. Clinical Use of Curcumin in Depression: A Meta-Analysis. J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2017 Jun 1;18(6):503-508. PubMed.
  7. Tarleton EK et al. Role of magnesium supplementation in the treatment of depression: A randomized clinical trial. PLoS One. 2017 Jun 27;12(6):e0180067. PubMed.
6 Likes

It’s wild how all of these things can add up!

I’d like to give a shout out to Power Drive, as well. It has consitently helped to elevate my mood.

Power Drive could’ve been included, for sure. Thibaudeau calls it the “happy powder” in The Mood Booster For Lifters and Athletes. I like it but, admittedly, I use it rarely.

When deciding what to use for this purpose, the most important thing is taking care of any deficiency. That’s the foundation. So, magnesium for just about everyone, creatine too but especially for meat-phobics, and one of the supps for managing inflammation, like fish oil or Micellar Curcumin.

And most pre-menopausal women need an iron supplement. The list of problems caused by iron deficiency in females is remarkably similar to that of mild/moderate depression.

1 Like

Would add in Vitamin D3 and K2. While it will not help you feel better, it will keep your immune system robust and help to starve off colds and other health issues.

1 Like

If we have learned anything from Twitter in the past 3 years it is the “scientific fact” that zinc, magnesium, vitamin D, vitamin C, plus a healthy lifestyle can boost your immune system is nothing more than a kook theory drummed up by right wing fascists to spread deadly misinformation. Perhaps this is said because these supplements are not money makers for big pharma? (I hope Canada doesn’t freeze my bank account or disappear me for posting this!) I pray Pfizer buys up all of these supplement manufacturers and makes vitamins less available therefore cost prohibitive for us plebes.

5 Likes

powerslave do a little research…Vitamin D and the immune system - PubMed

1 Like

I was being sarcastic. I know these vitamins are great for the immune system , My doctors always remind me to get enough of them in my diet during cold/flu season. Thanks for the reminder.

1 Like

Ummm… the CDC as well as others agreed that D3 deficiency was associated with a significant increase in death and hospitalization from COVID – and these organizations tend to lean left. The truth of the matter is there’s no money to be made off of diet and supplements, therefore morally bankrupt big pharma companies will go to great lengths to minimize such findings to maximize their profits at all costs.

Ergo, it seems that yooooou are the one who is the misinformation spreader (said in my best Jason Mewes voice from Jay and Silent Bob Strikes Back Moobie scene)!

But don’t believe me, check the sources. “Patients with vitamin D deficiency (<20 ng/mL) were 14 times more likely to have severe or critical disease than patients with 25(OH)D ≥40 ng/mL (odds ratio [OR], 14; 95% confidence interval [CI], 4 to 51; p < 0.001).”

1 Like

Nevermind, your reply just showed up. Sheesh man, gotta give an indicator of sarcasm on the Internets! :grinning:

2 Likes

Can you take them all? :wink:

You forgot the correct font for that. The first half of your comment was too spot on. We should have figured it out by the second half though.

BTW, I’ve been a proponent of high-dose vitamin D3 for a long time. Way back to 2008 at least:

Excerpt:

  • Low D may contribute to chronic fatigue, depression, and seasonal affective disorder.
  • Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s sufferers have been found to have lower levels of D.

So it definitely plays a role in the theme of this article: mental health, staying sharp, etc. But I figured everyone kinda knew that by now so I left it out. Anywho, take your iWell, too (5000 iu microencapsulated D3).
:wink:

2 Likes

I take most of them daily, minus Alpha Male (I’m on TRT) and ZMA (only because I take ElitePro Minerals, which basically has ZMA in it already).

2 Likes

I do appreciate some good sarcasm and satire.

2 Likes

TC recently got me on the vitamin K bandwagon: https://forums.t-nation.com/t/vitamin-k-for-the-two-biggest-mens-health-problems/

1 Like

Great stuff. Just got my order of P-Well and Curcumin to add in to the Flameout and ZMA I use daily. looking forward to the results.

1 Like

There is provocative research supporting the things mentioned in the article. Some studies show benefits, sometimes modest or minimal and sometimes impressive, and recent research showing the importance of nutrition in health, disease prevention, longevity and brain function is a subject of much interest to me. It will be years before medicine really understands newer developments, such as the gut microbiome and the neural role of nutrition.

However, it was hardly necessary to take a stereotypical cheap shot at the health professionals who actually deal with the epidemic numbers of those anxious, depressed or with other issues. It is true nutrition is important. It is also true nutrition, though helpful, is not a complete solution or will solve every problem or issue. Medical professionals are hardly the only ones who, in the past, have given too much credit to treatments which turned out to be less helpful than they assumed.

I greatly enjoy the articles on nutrition posted here on T Nation.

1 Like

And then came the Covid vaccines…

I get what you’re saying. But when it comes to mood and mental health issues, I think incentivization and overprescribing meds is on the uptick. One report found 1 in 10 women between the ages of 18-39 use antidepressants,1 in 5 in the 40-59 age group, and 1 in 4 over the age of 60.

I don’t buy it. Exercise, correcting for certain nutritional deficiencies, tamping down inflammation, and maybe a little talk therapy would “cure” most of them probably. But meds are quick, easy, and profitable. The downside: emotionally muted, sexless zombies. Hey, can we at least try 20 cents of magnesium first? Test their iron?

It’s like when my doctor whipped out his prescription pad to give me a statin for elevated blood pressure. I fixed it with blueberries and an inexpensive supplement, and avoided the 7 known, crappy side effects of the popular drug.

3 Likes

Of course it makes sense to start with exercise and good nutrition. That isn’t going to cure every ailment or undo all the stigmata of psychological abuse. But it probably has fewer side effects than steroids or ephedra. It is easier to cure existential ennui than schizophrenia. Thirty percent, maybe more if they were diligent, of people with high cholesterol respond well to changes in diet, but some people just have livers that make too much cholesterol.

Some people do better with medication than others, some medications have embarrassingly high NNTs (numbers needed to treat to see benefit), some research on vitamins shows benefit and some doesn’t (heart doctors routinely recommended vitamin E before the HOPE trial). No one fully yet understands what it means for people when selected mice live a little longer after being fed quercetin or kaempferol or green tea with pomegranates; longevity trials are expensive and take decades. Many health professionals do follow this new research as it becomes available, as do you. More of them should.

The fact many women are on antidepressants by itself does not mean they are overprescribed. Perhaps they are, but depression in the elderly is often not recognized or treated. Of course, exercise is particularly helpful in this cohort to reduce sarcopenia and improve mobility.

1 Like

Interesting about the rho kinase inhibitors. They also work to treat diabetic retinopathy. I guess that will help you see what you’re hitting.