The 5 Best Supplements We Don't Make

by Chris Shugart

Health Supplements You Probably Need to Take

T Nation Biotest makes a lot of awesome supplements, but we don't make ALL of the awesome supplements. Here's what we use from other brands.

It’s always amusing when some keyboard warrior, high on righteous indignation and faux outrage, prances onto one of our social media pages and says, “I found out that you guys sell Biotest supplements. That’s why you recommend them! I got you!”

Then he tries to high-five his girlfriend but remembers he doesn’t have one because he has the personality equivalent of OFF! mosquito repellant.

Well, guy, you’re wrong. We don’t just sell Biotest supplements in our online store; we own Biotest and have since 1998. It’s not exactly a secret. In fact, we’re proud of it. We make the stuff we want to use ourselves, so it’s a pretty sweet deal.

But we don’t make ALL the good supplements out there. Some companies are already doing a great job with certain products. If we can’t improve upon what they’re already doing or come out with something new and cutting edge, we usually just buy their stuff. Like all the stuff below.

Many of these are single-ingredient supplements in the health-improvement category. Others are “use as needed” supps. Here’s the list and why we like them.

Pine Bark

1. French Maritime Pine Bark Extract (Pycnogenol)

Pine bark extract seems like one of those too-good-to-be-true supplements because there are a lot of wide-ranging claims made about it. I’ll get to those, but let’s get to the important benefit: it helps you achieve and maintain a raging erection.

It does this primarily by promoting healthy blood circulation and supporting vascular function. Erections are, of course, all about blood flow. It also promotes nitric oxide production, and nitric oxide is another boner-helper-outer.

“But Chris, I don’t have erectile dysfunction!” Well, neither do I. We also don’t need to be carrying around a lot of extra muscle to function, but it sure is fun.

Pine bark was indeed studied for its effects on ED, and it worked quite well. But it also seems to help keep blood pressure in check, aids in prostate health (an enlarged prostate is a boner-blocker), controls glucose levels, reduces DHT, improves skin elasticity, and makes your squat-squashed joints feel better).

If you’re looking to add extra bark to your woody, you could take 120 mg (two 60 mg servings per day) as the participants did in one study. Other studies have shown that as little as two daily 40 mg doses are effective.

I use this bulk powdered version (Buy at Amazon) and just scoop out a tiny amount that covers the tip of a standard cereal spoon. (Measuring is for nerds.) Taken with just water, it tastes like, well, pine bark, so I add it to shakes or oatmeal.

Pair it with P-Well (Buy at Amazon) for a healthy sex life and other benefits.

Psyllium-Husk

2. Psyllium Husk Powder or Metamucil

We use Metamucil or its main ingredient, psyllium husk, as a performance-enhancing substance when we compete in the annual Colorado’s Biggest Pooper competition. One of our editors – I won’t say which one – is a three-time grand champion.

No, I’m kidding.

Psyllium husk fiber is a water-loving, non-digestible carbohydrate. Not counting the power-pooping thing, it has some cool benefits:

  • Psyllium curbs your appetite. It increases the viscosity of the intestinal tract, which delays intestinal transit time. Basically, it makes you feel full. “Feeling full” is my favorite diet.
  • Psyllium controls the release of ghrelin and Peptide YY. Psyllium enhances the effects of these hunger-controlling peptides.
  • Psyllium helps your body manage blood sugar, insulin, and HbA1c. Psyllium manages fasting blood sugar and, consequently, insulin levels.
  • Psyllium helps with fat loss. Several studies involving diabetics or obese people have found that psyllium (5-10 grams daily) decreases body mass index (BMI).
  • Psyllium prevents a few calories from being absorbed by the intestines. It forms a gel in your stomach that traps nutrients inside it. This gel protects these nutrients from the actions of digestive enzymes and makes them less likely to be absorbed. So, taking it before a carb-heavy meal can prevent some calories from being absorbed.
  • Psyllium lowers cholesterol. Just as psyllium traps certain nutrients, it also traps cholesterol. Using this fiber lowers serum and liver cholesterol levels while possibly raising HDL cholesterol levels. (Cholesterol is a tricky bastard, though, so be sure to check this out.)
  • Psyllium helps out the immune system. Psyllium provides a substrate for certain microbiota in the large intestine, which leads to the production of short-chain fatty acids that impact the expression of several genes, including those that affect your immune system.
  • Psyllium may decrease blood pressure and systemic inflammation or at least help a bit.

You can use good ol’ sugar-free Metamucil or, if you’re the crunchy type, toss some plain organic psyllium husk (Buy at Amazon) into your Amazon cart.

Collagen|

3. Horbaach Multi Collagen

Here’s a little behind-the-scenes secret: we’ve thought about making our own collagen supplement for lifters under the Biotest banner. And maybe we will someday. Or maybe not. Until then, a few of us use Horbaach Multi Collagen (Buy at Amazon), a blend of five different types of collagen.

What’s collagen good for? Mainly…

  • Restoring lost collagen in ligaments, tendons, cartilage, and skin.
  • Reducing joint pain.
  • Potentially helping to heal damaged digestive tracts and leaky guts.
  • Some other stuff.

In a nutshell, it’s a good supplement for middle-aged meatheads.

ENDUR-ACIN|

4. ENDUR-ACIN Niacin

Recently, TC Luoma scared the bejeebers out of us with his article, High Lipoprotein (a): The Killer of Healthy Men.

To unfairly summarize it: Lipoprotein (a) is a little-known blood factor that affects 25% of people, maybe more. It’s known as “sticky cholesterol” because it promotes (over-promotes?) blood clotting.

Having high levels of lipoprotein (a) increases your chances of coronary heart disease, thickening of the aortic valves, stroke, and even heart failure. It’s an inflammatory, plaque-depositing S.O.B. and I’m scared of it because it can end your life even if you’re a clean-eating, gym-going health nut who’s also super handsome like me.

We may get a drug to fix the problem someday, but right now, our best bet is to take niacin. I hate the skin-reddening flush that comes along with standard niacin. It feels like cockroaches having a BDSM orgy under your skin.

Sustained-release niacin stops the flush, but it’s been implicated in liver damage. So if you’re bugging out about Lipoprotein (a), use extended-release niacin (not sustained). Start with 500 mg. twice a day and slowly increase the dose until you reach 3,000 mg. a day.

I’ve used Endur-Acin Niacin (Buy at Amazon) ever since reading TC’s gloomy article and I’m not dead yet. Science!

Vitamin K

5. Vitamin K

If you’re a health-conscious dude, you want to avoid two big things: cardiovascular problems like atherosclerosis and prostate issues like benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH).

According to TC again in Vitamin K for the Two Biggest Men’s Health Problems, Vitamin K may help prevent both:

  • BPH may not be initiated by a hormonal imbalance but by a simple vitamin K insufficiency.
  • The vascular calcification that causes a lot of coronary heart disease might be thwarted by taking supplemental vitamin K.

It’s tough to absorb the vitamin K we get from whole foods, so it’s best to go the supplement route. We use Super K (Buy at Amazon), made by the folks at Life Extension.

Bonus Supplements We Don’t Make Either

CoQ10

Coenzyme Q10 – Consider taking 90 to 200 mg. a day to reduce plaque in the arteries and to feed mitochondria. We use this one (Buy at Amazon).

Atrantil

AtrantilAtrantil’s (Buy at Amazon) ingredients work simultaneously as prebiotics and postbiotics in your gut. If you have bloating, abdominal discomfort, or a change in bowel movements (either direction) and nothing else seems to work, Atrantil will probably do the trick.

Organic Cacao

Organic Cacao – Call this one a food used as a supplement. Non-dutched cocoa or cacao, when added to coffee, boosts coffee’s ability to increase concentration. Seems to be a mild fat burner, too. I sometimes add a spoonful to my Metabolic Drive (Buy at Amazon) shake. I use this stuff (Buy at Amazon).

MD-Buy-on-Amazon

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It is critical that every successful business focuses on their core competencies. No company can be all things to all people. It seems clear to me that Biotest focuses on supplements that build muscle. Building muscle is their core competency. They are good at it.

I don’t expect Biotest to be my one stop shopping for health food supplements. Many the above mentioned products I purchase elsewhere. The last thing I would want them to do is to lose focus on muscle building.

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“High performance muscle” is definitely a core idea: Surge Workout Fuel, Plazma, Mag-10, Metabolic Drive, etc. I also really appreciate what I call the “Hardcore Health” category: Flameout, Micellar Curcumin, Superfood, and all the rest.

These also fit into what TC Luoma calls “health span” supplements – it’s not just about increasing life span but making sure those years in your long life are healthy, active, generally “feel good”, and not chained to a host of prescription drugs and their side effects. I appreciate those just as much as the bigger-stronger-leaner stuff these days.

Thanks for your feedback!

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Does

Does this mean that we wouldn’t want to take our expensive vitamins or supplements at the same time as Psyllium?

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I’ve always adhered to this premise and taken it between meals. I believe TC has also advocated for taking it ahead of meals and not with meals.

I think another really important angle that should be discussed is supplement timing, grouping and dosing. Which supplements do you take in the AM, midday, or PM and when specifically (i.e. ZMA 45 min before bed)?

Also useful to discuss which supplements can (or even should) be taken together (i.e. Vit D or I-Well and vitamin K), and which should not (psyllium husk with other supplements, avoid ZMA and calcium if possible).

Furthermore, I think it’s also important to discuss which supplements can/should be divided into doses and which should not. A clearly demonstrable example is pulsing protein - it’s far better to consume 30-50 grams over several doses than one 120-150 gram dose. ZMA on the other hand is likely much less effective if all three capsules are not taken together roughly 45-60 min before bedtime (does and timing dependent). Perhaps for something like Superfood it doesn’t matter (i.e. one scoop in the AM, one in the PM).

TC has specifically alluded to the veracity of several studies (aspirin and others) for which the results may have been significantly impacted by the above variables - so much so in fact that it’s potentially the difference between diametrically opposed study outcomes.

I’m sure the science is not settled on every supplement - but I think it would be great to have an evolving and growing list to keep track of these variables. For many of us, especially as we age and are more focused on health and longevity, it becomes harder and harder keep track of such things. Many times, it’s just a matter of more easily organizing an already busy day and dividing things into manageable blocks of time.

It’s possible that this approach is overthinking things, but we know from previous studies that supplement efficacy can be elusive due to a number of factors. We can easily write it off and say, meh, just take stuff whenever, but unfortunately chemistry and our bodies don’t always work that way.

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I think it’s possible there’s some “absorption” issues. But honestly, I don’t sweat it myself. It may be like the “coffee dehydrates you” idea. It may cause a slight loss of water on paper, but not nearly as much as you’re ingesting to drink the coffee itself. It’s a net win. If someone does sweat it, just use the between-meals approach. Here’s how I use it: Chris's Random Thoughts & Rants (B)Log - #18 by Chris_Shugart

Good points, and I generally try to stick to the known guidelines for most efficient usage: ZMA or ElitePro Minerals before bed, Indigo-3G before workout nutrition or the biggest meal of the day, etc. I also take all of my Flameout capsules before bed because of the apparent cortisol and stress-lowering effects. Helps ensure quality sleep. More info on that here:

That said, I do think we could drive ourselves nuts if we overthink the issue. That could lead to a compliance problem. For example, years ago I worked with a high school coach who could “never take creatine right.” He’d start loading, miss one of the four daily doses, and quit taking it out of frustration. If he had just been consistent with a single daily dose he would’ve gotten the same eventual effects he was after.

But even then, there’s probably a “best” time to take creatine:

But if that time doesn’t fit your schedule, it’s not like the creatine won’t work.

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For what it’s worth, I think an article on the timing of some supplements would be really helpful.

TC covered the fat-soluble vitamin part of that here:

https://forums.t-nation.com/t/fat-soluble-vitamins-ensuring-absorption-conversion/

Nice article, reminded me of that scene in “Miracle on 34th Street” where the Macy’s (real) Santa sends a mom to Gimbels for a pair of skates.

Frankly, someone/thing has to underwrite good, useful knowledge and frankly, it doesn’t bother me at all that BioTest is underwriting it all–you get what you pay for.

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I’m 71. From my experience, niacin, 1500 mg per day, divided, works for me for blood lipid control. Niacinamide doesn’t. Niacin flush is very real and you’d better be ready for it. Endur-acin, for me, nearly eliminated niacin flush. My doctor is incredulous. Don’t take this as a recommendation,or as medical advice - just telling you my experience.

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Thanks for the feedback. I know some of our older articles say to take regular niacin and suck it up, but man, the flush is painful for me even with a low dose and taken with food or after a meal. Maybe I’m more sensitive to it, but I’ve had to delay leaving the house because I looked like I’d been given 40 lashes. Endur-Acin works great though.

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i read in a book on bone health that cacao/cocoa actually has some of the highest levels of phytates/phytic acid anti-nutrients that could block the absorption of other vitamins and minerals. the authors recommended switching to a fermented cacao product (nibs/powder) where the phytate content was greatly reduced.

By that logic, we’d have eliminate half the foods on the planet: whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, etc. My guess is that this is only the problem if 100% of your diet is cacao. An overall healthy diet tends to balance itself out. In short, there are much bigger fish to fry.

Thanks for your response. I would say a good strategy would be to take initiative on the top foods that are highest in phytates. And the best way we know to do that is to consume those foods in either a fermented or a sprouted form in the case of legumes like you said. They’re actually not that hard to find. I would also add that for example, if you are consuming this food around the same time that you take your supplements, and it would probably be wise to consider the anti-nutrients within due to absorption issues.

Tip: do not take your fish oil and supplements at the same time you take your fiber; I say wait at least an hour or so before and after you take your fiber.

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That one makes sense. Morning-ish vs. night for me.

Interesting article. You know, at one time Biotest made a supplement that contained CoQ10. I miss Receptormax.

I’d almost forgotten about that. Good supp.