The greatest moment in the history of supplements came on September 1, 1998. That’s when a sportswriter challenged Sammy Sosa on how he could compete with the androstenedione-assisted Mark McGwire. In reply, Sosa uncorked a shocker: He owed it all—wink—to Flintstones vitamins. Coincidence or not, after Sosa bunny-hopped and blew a kiss to the pill makers, the market soared, with $17 billion in sales in 2000.
So that you spend your share wisely, we asked shrewd judges of vitamin talent to name a supplement all-star team for men. Judge your strengths and weaknesses, and pencil in a lineup that will work for you.
Here are our picks for the 10 best supplements for men.
1. Fish Oil
Omega-3 fatty acids keep blood pressure and triglyceride levels low and the heart beating regularly. “It’s been shown to help with decrease inflammation, cardiovascular disease, joint pain, metabolic syndrome and more,” says Jessica Crandall Snyder, RDN, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
How much? For healthy guys, 1,000 mg a day. Those with heart problems may need 2,000 to 4,000 mg. But check with your doctor about the proper dose for you.
Tip: It’s not just fish that are packed with omega-3s—it’s also found in in flaxseeds, chia seeds, kale, fortified orange juice and bread.
“Calcium helps support teeth and bone health, nerve and muscular contractions, cardiovascular function and neurosignaling,” says Crandall Snyder. “One cup of dairy has about 300 mg. If you don’t eat dairy, look for dairy alternatives that have been fortified with calcium and vitamin D.”
How much? Aim for 1,200 mg.
Tip: Not getting enough calcium can lead to osteopenia, the start of osteoperosis.
3. Vitamin D
“Vitamin D and calcium work cohesively to build strong bones—one is not beneficial without the other,” says Crandall Snyder. Vitamin D is one of the most commonly deficient nutrients in America, with one study finding nearly 40% of Americans are deficient.
How much? 400-800 IUs, depending on your age.
Tip: You don’t have to chug milk to get your fill of vitamin D.
“Fiber helps decrease cardiovacular disease—it’s like a Roto-rooter that clears out cholesterol and plaque build-up in the artery walls,” says Crandall Snyder. “It also helps digestion and has been found to decrease the risk of colon cancer.”
How much? Try to get between 25-35 grams a day.
Tip: You can sprinkle a fiber supplement into food or drink—but if you want to try to do it the natural way, add nuts, whole grains, beans, fruit and veggies. Crandall Snyder’s favorite: chia seeds.
5. Coenzyme Q10
Your body produces coenzyme Q10; it helps cells manage your body’s energy supply. But as you get older, production decreases. The only way to get back up to youthful levels is by taking a supplement. Recent studies suggest that coenzyme Q10 may fight cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and Huntington’s disease, and may thin the blood to help prevent heart disease. Q10 is also packed with free-radical-fighting antioxidants, which can slow the signs of aging.
How much? 100 mg a day.
Tip: If you’re taking statins, which can reduce Q10, consider upping your intake to 200 mg.
“Magnesium is awesome for your muscles and muscle relaxation—it keeps them smooth and flacid, preventing cramps and spasms,” says Crandall Snyder. “It also has been found to help control and lower blood pressure.”
How much? 1.7-2.6 mg per day.
7. Folic Acid (vitamin B-9)
Folic acid helps prevent clogged arteries and improves blood flow to the brain by keeping down levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that increases your risk of blood clots. It’s also essential for your body’s basic function—from physical to mental health—including DNA synthesis, cell division and hormone balance.
How much? 400 mcg a day. Some food sources include citrus fruit, beans, and fortified breads and cereals.
Tip: Certain heartburn medications, such as Tagamet, can deplete levels of folic acid.
“No other single nutrient appears to prevent cancer more effectively than selenium,” says Gerald F. Combs, Ph.D., director of the USDA’s Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center. It basically forces cancer cells to self-destruct. Combs’s studies have linked increased selenium consumption to a decreased risk of cancers of the prostate, colon, and lungs, among others.
How much? 200 mcg a day.
Tip: Nature’s selenium supplement is the Brazil nut, which measures 100 mcg per nut. Shrimp are also an excellent source.
9. Whey Protein
“Whey protein is a very bioavailable protein source, and is a complete protein that contains all of the essential amino acids needed for building muscle,” says Crandall Snyder.
How much? Men’s Health recommends 6 to 8 palm-sized portions of protein-rich foods every day, which works to about 30g at each meal. If you’re not meeting that, it might be time to supplement.
Creatine, an amino acid naturally occuring in the muscle cells, is used as a supplement to increase the body’s ability to produce energy rapidly—which can increase muscle gains and strength. It’s found most in red meat and seafood, and has also been shown to benefit cognitive health. (Here are 6 other things you need to know about creatine.)
How much? 5 grams (g) a day. Try mixing it with whey in a protein shake for maximum benefit.
Tip: Some men don’t respond to creatine by itself. Mixing it with sugar—try fruit juice—can help turn non-responders into responders, because the sugar in the juice raises insulin levels, which helps increase creatine uptake into the muscle.