I am certain that the supplement shelf of any ambitious athlete might look better stocked than the drug closet of most ICUs. Because supplements are that popular among many people it is reasonable to question which ones of them are really useful?
Most supplements come for a price. That’s because behind protein powders and vitamin C capsules is a huge industry, dominated by very aggressive marketing, daring promises, and much bullshit. Yes, most marketing sounds reasonable and good, like giving you a competitive advantage towards your goals. But is that really true?
To save your money and eliminate some false promises I worked out this post. All supplements here are backed by science, tested by myself for a long time, and most importantly, I don’t want to sell you anything, unlike all big brands.1 In my opinion your nutrition should be able to supply you with most of the substances your body needs to function – nutrition comes first, always. Especially with a well-rounded animal-based diet, you get a lot of highly bioavailable nutrients while avoiding toxic plants that hinder your body from absorbing those. Nonetheless, there are a few crucial supplements for an animal-based diet, too.
First, we’ll take a look at the most important supplements for metabolic health in general, those are things many folks nowadays should learn about and consider taking. Afterward, we’ll dive into a few ancestral health supplements, before going into some favorites of mine that really depend on your situation.
4 ‘Must-Have’ Supplements for an Animal-Based Diet
Vitamin D3 – to improve a lot
Vitamin D3, also known as the sun hormone* is made by sunlight reaching your skin. Mostly the UVB radiation is responsible for letting our skin produce Vitamin D3. We can’t make it from scratch or get enough through nutrition.
That said we need to get it through exposure to sunlight or as a supplement. Most of the western world is deficient because we seldom get enough sunlight and run around naked to do so. Optimal levels are from 60-80 ng/ml, which should be achieved by most from getting around 3.000-7.000 IU of vitamin D3 per day. That’s far more than normally recommended. More importantly is that you take real 25-OH Cholecalciferol, no plant-based Ergocalciferol.
As a hormone vitamin D has many crucial functions and effect:
Calcium Absorption & Bone Health
Microbiome and Production of B-Vitamins
Your GI tract – things like stomach acidity, preventing bile stones, or acid reflux
Preventing cancer caused by sun exposure
Sleep, Metabolism and Mood
More important than that vitamin D is important for mammalian, reptiles, and fish to make the decision to either hibernate through the winter or migrate south as the days get shorter and just their metabolic rate to the scarcity coming up. It is a true multi-talent and crucial for survival. It’s a supplement very few can go wrong with in my opinion! 2
Calcium – for Strong Bones
Calcium is crucial for our bone health and one of the favorite supplements people take for it. You should get around 1.000 – 1.200 mg of calcium per day. Thing is – supplementing calcium on its own can be an issue:
Evidence found support for increased coronary plaques if taken on their own
When you take a calcium supplement your blood calcium rises. To get it out of there and deposit it you need Vitamin D3 and K2. And that’s where I think the issue lies. Most people are severely deficient in Vitamin D3 and Vitamin K2. When was the last time you ate beef liver and spend an hour close-to-naked outside in the sun? If your answer isn’t ‘last week‘ you too might be.3 That’s why getting sunlight and eating organs nose-to-tail on an animal-based diet is so crucial.
So how should you make sure you get enough calcium? Get it within your regular diet!
If you eat dairy – cheese, heavy cream, and other milk products, they will do the job
If you don’t consume dairy – bone broth, powdered bones, and eggshells will supply you with plenty elemental calcium
You might ask eggshells and bones!? Yes, powdered bones are easy to make and make a great seasoning. Eggshells truly sound odd at first, but you can powder them too or like me – just eat the eggs as a whole. Additionally, those animal sources contain far more than calcium, they also contain boron, peptides, calcium in a very bioavailable form, and glycine. Boron is linked to sexual health and glycine can improve your methionine-to-glycine ratio if you consume a lot of muscle meat.
Salt – we are contained Oceans on Legs
Salt is in a pretty bad light nowadays and everybody thinks it is responsible for heart disease and high blood pressure. I would state it the other way round, based on the terrific work of James DiNicolantonio in his Salt Fix*. There is a lot of benefit to salt and those clearly outweigh the small possibility of high blood pressure. Salt is very important for your body, so important that there were fought wars historically about salt.4 Salt helps with:
Lowers Heart Rate
Is crucial for neural function
Sugar Cravings and Overall Mood
Improves Sex Drive and Reproductional Function
Even more convincing is – that we came out of the sea. Our tears are salty, our blood is salty, and many of our ancestors eat loads of salt by consuming fish, salt licks, or blood. The recommendations for salt are at a maximum of 2.000 mg per day, but I’d say we need 3.000 – 4.000 mg of elemental sodium per day, which equals 6.000 – 8.000 mg of salt, sodium chloride. Eating more can be beneficial for you, too. I found out that I work the best around 10g of salt per day. Remember, if you consume too much your kidney will simply execrate it. There is a whole system dedicated to it – the aldosterone mechanism.
You might ask – what salt? I’d recommend iodized salt or rock salt.* Sea salt can be contaminated with heavy metals, rock salt not because it was deposited millions of years ago. The thing is when you solely consume rock salt you need to think about your iodine consumption and where you get that from.
Mineral Water – much more than H20!
Mineral water as a supplement? Yes! It can be – the choice of your mineral water is important.
Choose a spring high in magnesium and selenium like Gerolsteiner and Fiji, but often your local springs are better. Finding a great one takes a bit of research. Selenium and Magnesium are substances we as humans likely got from water, as they’re hardly found in animals and plants, but rich in natural water. That’s why getting your daily intake of those 2 from mineral water is a great investment. Moreover – you don’t want to drink tap water! Tap water is full of heavy metals, medication residues, hormones, and the like. Nothing you want to consume 3l of per day. Let’s get first into magnesium:
Magnesium is an important cofactor over 300 enzymes are dependent on.5 That’s why it’s tightly linked to energy production, sleep, neuronal function, and gene expression. By drinking a water high in magnesium you’ll get plenty of it in a highly bioavailable form. If you can’t find a water high in magnesium, great supplements are magnesium bisglycinate or magnesium threonate:
Magnesium threonate* tends to have more neural effects and aid calmness and sleep. Take 2.000 – 4.000 mg an hour before sleep.
Selenium on the other hand acts as an antioxidant, is crucial for your thyroid, and helps to prevent certain cancers. You find plenty of selenium in water – you should aim for 200mg – 400mg per day. If you can’t find a water high in selenium*, supplementing it is a simple option, too.6
5 ‘Nice-to-Have’ Ancestral Health Supplements
Ground Organs – Nature’s only Superfood
Organs are nature’s true superfoods – packed with highly bioavailable nutrients and peptides they truly support your health and should be together with muscle meat the cornerstone of everyone’s animal-based diet, generally everyone’s diet.
Ground desiccated organ powder can help:
To get started with organs when you aren’t accustomed to the taste yet
To make sure you can consume organs while traveling and they’re harder to buy
To get exposure to organ meats that are hard to get in your area – like spleen, testicles, thymus, and co
Organs as a supplement might sound awkward, but it isn’t so far-fetched. Humans used specific organs for specific issues for a long time – a great example of that would be supplementing with sheep or pig thyroids if you experience issues with those. Or the famous supplementation of testicles for athletes and men that might experience problems with their best piece.
Plus, most of them are available and start picking up – means they’re also getting cheaper. Some producers sell blends of many organs, others sell a mix to aid with a specific condition, or even one single organ like liver made into powder. One thing to watch out though are the dosages. Make sure to get enough of a dose – 1g of an organ powder should roughly be 30g/1oz of the organ itself. Only eating 40mg or so of an organ per day is too little. That’s why many producers recommend 6 pills per day of their product to make sure you get enough dosage to come to numbers that would resemble a realistic and beneficial dosage.
Normally you should get plenty of protein on an animal-based diet from the best sources available – animal meats and organs. So why do I list protein powders as nice to have?
A protein shake can be a ritual and simplify nutrition depending on your lifestyle. I found a shake very satisfying after each done workout. If this ritual gives you something – go for it and keep it. Is it necessary? No, by no means if you get overall enough protein and aren’t a competitive sportsman. As with all added proteins, try to not consume more than 1.2g per lb of bodyweight – excess protein gets converted to glucose and raises, therefore, blood glucose. Simply said, more isn’t better but rather a waste of money.
So what are great sources on an animal-based diet?
Beef Protein Powder* is probably the best choice – no autoimmunity issues, great amino acid makeup, but it comes for a price. It’s a great choice for those who want to avoid dairy in their nutrition.
Egg Protein Powder* is another dairy-free choice. Like all animal-based proteins, the makeup is great. But be aware that eggs also can cause autoimmunity issues, especially egg whites.
Casein Protein Powder* – the slowly digestible one. This one is great in combination with whey/beef after a workout to sustain amino acid availability for a long period, or overnight to get the same job done
Whey Protein Powder* – the classic for good reasons. It’s super-fast and has a great amino acid makeup. Watch out for autoimmunity reactions though if you consume a lot of dairy or are susceptible to it.
Collagenhydrolysate – Healthy Tissues
Collagen* is the substance the scaffolding of your tissues is made of. It is a very important molecule we often get too little of. So where do we find collagen naturally?
In animals, collagen is found in those tissues – bones, cartilage, tendons, skin, and gnarly bits. Parts of an animal we seldom eat nowadays, right? Everybody wants skinless, boneless cuts, without gnarly bits, that are super soft when cooked.
Option numero uno to get more collagen is simply to buy powdered collagen hydrolysate*. You can simply add it into a shake, coffee, or drink. Unlike gelatin, it doesn’t clump and taste like anything. Even gelatin powder* is a way to get more access to those types of tissues, albeit the overall collagen content is lower. The second option is bone broth!
Cook your own Bone Broth
A great food that can help here is bone broth – by cooking bones and tissues you’d normally throw away you can get nutrients out of those or even eat these tissues. A real superfood to use this tag team-abused buzzword. By doing so you get access to:
Bioavailable and cheap collagen
The priorly stored micronutrients such as Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, Boron, and many more!
The amino acid Methionine, that many people miss out on to balance out the glycine amount in muscle meats
Reduced overall waste and costs – which shows respect towards a killed animal
Cooking your own bone broth is really a game-changer, cheap, easy to do, and helped me even get off caffeine. Never thought that would happen.7 To do so, I’d suggest you get a slow cooker/instant pot and start buying bone-in cuts. That’ll save you a lot of waste and rougher cuts also save a lot of money. Don’t throw the trimmings away, just pack them in a box into your freezer. Additionally, you can buy soup bones, bone marrow, trachea, and other rougher cuts to chug in there. Often local butchers even give those out for free. There’s no right or wrong here!
Vitamin K2 – The Third for Bones!
The trifecta for calcium is complete with Vitamin K2. The other 2, Calcium itself and Vitamin D3, are all crucial to move calcium with ease throughout your body. To take it up, store it in bones, release it, and listen to what the governing structure tells them – which is in this case the parathyroid and hypothalamus.
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It is insane how little Vitamin K2 people nowadays get – mostly it’s found in animal organs, most abundant in beef liver. If you eat ~500g beef liver a week you are well saturated with many micronutrients – it is incredibly packed with so many of those. That’s why I’d highly recommend to you eating beef liver around 250-500g per week. This will cover many B-vitamins, zinc, manganese, vitamin k2, iron, copper, vitamin A, and many more! It’s a real superfood. If you miss out on liver eat liver. No supplement needed.
And get rid of vitamin K1 supplements. Vitamin K1 is the plant variant of the animal K2. It is simply another substance and our bodies have trouble converting it. It is the same issue with ALA to EPA/DHA for example. Plants speak another language – let’s say Sumerian Cuneiform, we speak English. To understand one sentence it takes a highly specialized academic a fuckton of time. Same goes for our body. Therefore, eat your organs.
Exposure to Microbes
To keep your gut health and microbiome balanced, exposure to micros is of crucial importance. We are a product of nature and as such coexist with many other forms of life – in fact in us lives more bacteria than there are stars in the universe. If that’s not amazing, I don’t know what is!
Depending on your food, environment, and lifestyle this microcosm is in constant flux. There are certain bacteria that tend to be beneficial and some clearly harmful. You want a stable balance of those little guys, that handle well what you eat, take those foods and transform them into substances you need – such as B-Vitamins or short-chain fatty acids like Butyrate.
A great way to get that exposure is to supplement with natural water and dirt. Nature’s probiotic! Wash your hands less, eat with dirty fingers, drink from a fresh stream or lake, work in the garden without gloves, or even put a scoop of dirt onto food. Get dirty! Sounds crazy? Indeed, this is for the radical, but being human is a lot more than our whole modern hygiene-madness. That’s why kids need to get dirt and in contact with germs – but it doesn’t end at a certain age.
Fresh Water from a Stream
As a disclaimer – drinking water from a stream or eating dirt might be beneficial but also reaps risks. If there is a farm upstream, a factory, or another contamination spot, you could ingest harmful bacteria and get sick. A lot of that reaction depends on your gut health – often your stomach acid takes care of those, if not a healthy microbiome tends to not leave ground to flourish for those.
That said – I never experienced issues so far and try to drink from a stream whenever hiking. Other good sources are rainwater and yes, I even drank from a muddy puddle. I’m still alive without any effects. Best start with water from a clear river or stream in nature. Proceed on your own risk though.
Other than most water-based bacteria, soil-based organisms tend to be encapsulated and make it through your stomach acid without too many troubles. This can be good or bad depending on your microbiome. A healthy microbiome should leave no ground for the bad, often gram-negative bacteria to flourish. Plus, you got a huge arsenal of immune cells down in your bowels. The ulterior goal is to get the good bacteria in to grow, while the bad die off naturally. If your gut is in bad condition though this could give harmful bacteria plenty of room to grow.
That’s why both of these activities are rather radical and for the healthy that look to further improve their microbiome and gut health in a natural and easy way. Bacterial exposure is great and healthy – but also comes with its risks for us western folks, brought up in hygienic safe spaces.
Another option to the cheap eat-dirt-one would be a supplement – there are capsules* around with some of the good bacteria that you can safely ingest.8
4 Additional Ancestral Health Supplements – The ‘It-Depends’
B50 Treatment – Improve your Sleep & Microbiome
The B50 treatment is a period of 90 days in which you supplement a B50 complex. I first came across this treatment by listening to Dr. Stasha Gominak on the High Intensity Health Podcast by Dr. Mike Mutzel.9 Long story short, I tried it out myself and felt many benefits. So what’s the catch?
It’s a method to bring your vitamin D3, your microbiome, sleep quality, and B-Vitamins all into check. All of those are tightly connected and there is a lot of complexity going on. By taking vitamin D3* and sleeping well you aid your microbiome, the B-Vitamins are to bridge that time until your friendly bugs regenerate. It’s a great treatment for people with sleep issues, poor vitamin D3 levels, and low B-vitamins. For more information please read into Dr. Stasha Gominak’s works. She has a lot of free information on her site about this topic!
Citrulline & L-Arginine – Enhanced Pump
Citrulline and L-Arginine are both well-known ‘pump supplements’. They can drastically expand your blood vessels and make sure that more blood enters a working muscle. They do so by manipulating the nitric oxide levels within your body – both through slightly different mechanisms.
Do you need them? Probably not. Are they fun? Indeed! Can they aid muscle building? It seems so, presuming you’ve already optimized the major factors. Before we talk about both – as with any supplement, educate yourself about it before popping pills and mixing powders. Playing around with your cardiovascular system might not be beneficial for all out there. Check examine.com for more information!
Citrulline* is the precursor of L-arginine within your body. Paradoxically it is the more powerful one to increase nitric oxide, rather than directly taking l-arginine. That’s why I’d recommend taking citrulline solo is probably the best option unless you want to max out your pump. As a preworkout 6-8g of citrulline malate should do the trick – to enhance your best pieces function or general circulatory health 3x a day of 2g would be the best choice.
L-Arginine* isn’t as effective as Citrulline to promote high nitric oxide levels. That’s why I wouldn’t waste money on it unless you need to get it all out of your pump. I’m not here to judge anyone. Then take the normal dose of Citrulline alongside 3-6g of L-Arginine. 10
Caffeine and L-Theanine – Increased Performance
Caffeine* is a bloody battleground in the animal-based community. Normally it isn’t consistent with ancestral, evolutionary principles and comes with some negatives, like acrylamide, mycotoxins, and raised blood pressure. But folks love their coffee!
As already said, I’m the last one who will talk you in at least this section out of your coffee. Just make sure to put some thought into taking it:
Limit your overall intake to a reasonable amount – don’t be a junk
Drink caffeine only in the morning and avoid it 8h before bedtime
Go through a few caffeine detox periods throughout the year
Use it pre-workout with L-Theanine* to get into a more focused state of mind and rid of the jittery feeling
These are the most important points, you can read much more about how I’d use caffeine from an animal-based, performance-oriented point of view in this post – if you use it. The best would be of course to avoid it entirely. What really helped me with that was bone broth, to keep up with the habit of drinking something warm in the morning. It is possible if I could do it!
Melatonin – A good Helper?
Melatonin* is another true ‘It-Depends‘ Ancestral Health Supplement. It is used to help people sleep, but I see a few problems coming with that. First off, yes it works, and compared to other substances the use on rough days seems to be harmless.
What is problematic is that after taking a pill of Melatonin your blood levels will surge above levels your body could ever achieve. Are those supraphysiological levels problematic? Nobody can answer for now. But with many other hormones we know that it definitely isn’t. Why should melatonin be the outlier? Plus, sleep isn’t the only function of melatonin. You might be fiddling around with a complex system especially if you use it regularly.
What I find melatonin useful is to help you sleep when jetlagged or coming from a nightshift.Sleeping on these chosen days, sparely used throughout the year, is better than no sleep at all or plaguing yourself around with a messed up circadian rhythm. You can read a lot more about circadian health and melatonin over here.
What is the most important Supplement of All? Nutrition!
Supplements are exactly what the name tells. They support your nutrition and are only as good as such. No supplements will ever outwork your nutrition. Plus, in my opinion, the first thing to address should be your nutrition. You’re missing out on magnesium? Rather think about where you could get more from than popping pills – mineral water in that case would be a great investment compared to simply popping magnesium bisglycinate.
Sometimes it’s not as simple as that – for example with certain organs, or getting sun in the winter. That’s when supplements come handy!
Fortunately for us animal-based folks, with animal meats and organs as the cornerstone of our health and nutrition, we ran into very little issues and generally are bathed with vitamins and micronutrients of all sorts. You should see the supplements a raw vegan, or even a vegetarian would need to take to get everything covered. Solely by cutting out meat they miss:
Additionally, most molecules are bound to the plants, plants protect them, or are in the wrong form. Sounds like a great thing to live #plantbased, right? Malnutrition in a nutshell. I’m not here to condemn this choice – but I think everyone doing so should know about the sacrifice he or she is doing. It is exactly that. And often not even truly an ethical one, if you look at the quality of your animal products. Alright, rant over!
Approach new Supplements with Caution!
Each new supplement you take is like a new medication – some have comparable effects. Berberine works mostly the same as Metformin. Likewise, every new substance is a potent new drug and should be handled as such by yours.
Educate yourself about new substances – a great place for that is Examine.com. And with educating I mean not listening to bro-science, but rather digging into the real science. Ask questions – Is it useful for me? Truly? How often, how much, how long, which form?
All those how queries will help you to evaluate if that supplement works for you and is truly needed. Especially in nowadays world of harsh marketing and everyone trying to short-sell each other. Don’t trust brands, influencers and gurus. What helps is either finding someone whom you really trust and knows these things, or doing the research yourself. Choosing supplements can be a tough decision. What often helps is to:
Take stock of the supplements you already take.
Why do you take them? Has the supplement a scientifically-proven effect?
Where can you find those naturally? Do you find them in sufficient and bioavailable amounts?
Could you replace them through nutrition or habits?
Long story short – supplementation looks for most of us different. Nonetheless, there are ancestral health supplements that make sense for most of us in the western world, like vitamin D3. Running around half-naked isn’t feasible most of the time either for social or weather reasons. With a clever constructed animal-based diet you already do a lot better than most of the people out there – if you’re not there yet read more about that topic here.
Otherwise, as always thanks for staying with me down here buddy!
Stay out, be individual and have a great day,
For something these science nerds must be useful! Besides that – some brands do a great job, too, despite their will to sell something, informing the customer about well-researched supplements. But most suck at this point and just want to sell the rubbish trending at a given moment…