These Are the 10 Best Supplements for Males
Remember when we were kids and the only supplements we heard about were either Flintstones chewables or Centrum Silver? Times have certainly changed, and nowadays, depending on your lifestyle and fitness goals, 10 minutes on Instagram could expose you to 10 different health supplements—from protein to creatine to adaptogen powders.
Another thing that’s survived from that Flintstones chewables era is the kind of peer pressure that sees many male-identifying individuals blindly adding any number of supplements to their daily routines—because that guy at the gym with the hot arms said it’s good, or perhaps their best friend saw some influencer swearing by it, without questioning their own needs and requirements.
And as most supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA, the clever companies behind them can make some pretty wild claims that end up convincing us we’re better off if we take them. This “gotta have it/the more, the merrier” way of thinking has led to the supplements industry becoming worth a hefty $36 billion, as well as a staggering number of confused people wondering which ones, if any, are right for them.
On the other hand, when taken correctly, certain supplements can be enormously helpful. So in order to help us navigate the wide world of supplements, we’ve put together a panel of physicians and experts to weigh in on today’s mad rush toward the pills and powders that fuel our health-obsessed culture. To get the truth about what works, what doesn’t, and what to avoid, we talked to board-certified internist Jacob Teitelbaum, MD; Jamie Gabel PA-C, physician’s assistant and director of metabolic aesthetics at Shafer Clinic Fifth Avenue; and Frances Largeman-Roth, nutrition expert, author, and the RDN for nurish by Nature Made to find out the best supplements for male-identifying individuals.
“Nutritional deficiencies are widespread,” Teitelbaum explains. “The average American diet gets 18% of its calories from white flour, another 18% from added sugar, and with the rest of the food processing, the American diet has lost half its vitamins and minerals while keeping all the calories. This is why we are seeing people who are both malnourished and obese at the same time, for the first time in human history. Because of this, it is fair to presume that most people are simply not getting optimal levels of a wide array of nutrients.”
The answer: a multivitamin formulated especially for men. Gabel points out that while men and women both have the same vitamin requirements, the precise amounts and combinations depend on a variety of internal and external factors including age, lifestyle, stress levels, and diet.
02) Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a must for proper calcium absorption, which is important for strong bones but also essential to the proper function of the nervous system, immune system, and muscle tissue.1 Gabel also explains how certain studies have linked vitamin D deficiency to type 1 diabetes, certain cancers (including prostate cancer in men), and increased risk of heart attack, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
There are three ways to get vitamin D, including exposure to sunlight, diet, and supplements. And because sun exposure is rarely consistent and our diets don’t always measure up to our needs, Gabel suggests that vitamin D supplementation may be the most reliable way of ensuring we get enough of the nutrient. It’s most commonly sold as vitamin D3.
03) Vitamin C
Beyond its immune-boosting abilities, vitamin C also plays a key role in the biosynthesis of collagen and connective tissues, which helps with wound healing as well as L-carnitine and neurotransmitters. As a super antioxidant that many studies suggest could prevent or delay the development of certain cancers, vitamin C also has a knock-on effect of helping to regenerate other antioxidants present in the body, such as vitamin E. In other words, vitamin C is a big deal, and because humans can’t synthesize their own, it’s become a crucial component of a balanced diet.2
Largeman-Roth points out that most of us get the recommended daily value of vitamin C from our diet, but pollution and stress can increase our need for this potent antioxidant, making the case for adding this supplement to your diet.
Although traditionally touted for its immune-boosting benefits, zinc also plays many vital roles in cellular metabolism as well as cell division, formation of DNA, protein synthesis, and wound healing. Largeman-Roth breaks it down for us: “Zinc is a gatekeeper of immune function and is essential for the cells that protect us, including neutrophils, a type of white blood cell, and macrophages, a type of cell that kills bacteria.” And according to the National Institutes of Health, since the body lacks the ability to store zinc, it’s important to ensure you’re getting enough each day.3
05) Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids
Largeman-Roth explains that omega-3 is a type of fatty acid that provides numerous benefits, from fighting inflammation to protecting your heart. This special fat also plays a role in maintaining brain health. “Omega-3 is an essential fat, which means your body can’t make it, so our diet becomes the main source, primarily in seafood, nuts, and seeds,” she says. However, she points out that if seafood, nuts, and seeds don’t happen to make their way onto your plate very often, it’s likely that you’ll need another source. There are a variety of omega-3 supplements on the market. However, Gabel personally recommends chia seeds, which are super rich in these essential fatty acids.
Short for dehydroepiandrosterone, DHEA is a naturally produced hormone that assists with the production of other hormones, including testosterone and estrogen. DHEA is often researched for its role in potentially slowing the aging process, as well as suggested benefits for depression and osteoporosis.4 Gabel explains how DHEA supplements may benefit male-identifying individuals by maintaining testosterone levels, as DHEA levels tend to peak around the age of 20. By the time we hit our 40s to 60s, our bodies may produce only 20% of the hormone’s peak value. Gabel also recommends consulting your physician before taking DHEA supplements, as it may interact with certain medications. Athletes, take note: DHEA is considered a banned substance by the NCAA and WADA.
Gabel says L-Carnosine is one of his favorites, but that it’s often neglected. He explains how this dipeptide has a number of suggested benefits for the muscles and the brain, as well as purported anti-aging benefits thanks to its ability to protect against reactive oxygen species (ROS) and prevent the shortening of telomeres in cells. “Without getting too technical, it reduces the formation of substances that can cause degenerating conditions such as diabetes, atherosclerosis, chronic kidney failure, and Alzheimer’s disease,” he says. “While oxygen is good, oxygen free radicals can be destructive to normal tissues and L-Carnosine helps maintain a safe environment at the molecular level.”
Supplements that are so trendy they deserve an article of their own, probiotics function by helping to maintain healthy microorganisms in your digestive system. This gut bacteria forms the backbone of our immune system, and can be disrupted by an unhealthy diet or a course of antibiotics that, in terminating the bad bacteria, do so at the expense of the good bacteria.5 A great way to supplement this gut bacteria is by eating fermented foods such as yogurt, kimchi, and raw sauerkraut, but if fermented isn’t your thing, a probiotic supplement may be in order.
So often the talk of gym bunnies, Largeman-Roth explains how creatine gets converted in the body to creatine phosphate. This helps make adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which supports muscle contractions. As a result, some studies have shown that creatine may be helpful for high-intensity athletic activities. While a primary source of creatine is in animal protein like chicken, fish, and beef, those looking to boost their athletic performance—especially vegans and vegetarians—may want to consider creatine supplements. Before splurging on a giant tub of creatine powder, however, Largeman-Roth strongly recommends talking to your doctor first.
10) Saw Palmetto
An extract taken from the berries of the American dwarf palm, saw palmetto has been widely studied for its potential effects on benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), a lower urinary tract condition experienced by many male-identifying individuals later in life.6 This, Gabel explains, can make it an important supplement for men over 40 who suffer from an enlarged prostate gland. But before choosing a saw palmetto supplement, Gabel warns that it’s important to talk to your doctor first and to do your homework, as quality and purity can make a huge difference in your supplement’s efficacy.
The Bottom Line
Be smart about deciding whether or not a supplement is right for you. The pressure is real nowadays to better ourselves by using a certain product or taking a specific supplement, but as Largeman-Roth puts it, “The person taking 15 supplements isn’t necessarily healthier than the person taking two.”
One last thing: Every expert we talked to stressed the importance of speaking to your doctor before settling on any supplement to determine if it’s right for you and to make sure you are taking the correct dosage. Also, because supplements aren’t subject to FDA approval, Gabel and Teitelbaum recommend inspecting potential buys for a seal of approval from a trusted third-party agency such as USP or NSF, or products endorsed by testing companies like Labdoor.