Minimalism Part 4: Supplements

Like every teen who first gets into strength training and has no clue about anything, I was obsessed with supplements. I couldn’t wait to try the latest and greatest miracle pill that was going to help me pack on 30 pounds overnight and finally turn me into Lee Haney.

So I wasted every dime I had and tried every single bodybuilding supplement that came out over the course of about a 10-15 year stretch. At 300 bucks a month that comes to $3,600 a year and somewhere between $36,000 and $54,000 in total!

Of course, none of the bodybuilding supplements ever did a single thing for me and there are still days when I sit around thinking about all the cool vacations I could be taking with that money right now. But the past is the past.

Since 1988 I’ve tested every supplement you can imagine on myself and an army of clients. Recently I’ve discovered some off-the-radar supplements that actually do make a difference. You never hear about them, though, because they aren’t really bodybuilding supplements. They’re more geared toward optimizing your health.

We’ll go through my supplement pyramid another day but for now I want to stick with the minimalist approach and discuss the only few supplements that anyone really needs.

Greens Supplement-

I used to include multivitamins at the top of the list but I find that if you take a good greens supplement and eat a well balanced diet with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables you really don’t need the multi. I think the greens supplement is a better choice, actually. The one I use and prefer is called Athletic Greens.

Fish Oil-

At this point I think everyone has heard about the benefits of fish oil a thousand times over…
•    Lower bodyfat
•    Improved cardiovascular health
•    Better skin
•    Improved brain function
•    Higher sex drive
•    Better recovery
•    Less inflammation

And about a hundred others. It’s definitely a must supplement. The one mistake most people make when taking fish oil, however, is they don’t take enough. All of the benefits can be derived from around six grams per day. That means that with most high quality brands you will need to take 12-24 capsules per day. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true. And it’s worth it. If you’re only going to take one or two grams per day it’s really not worth it. Three would be the absolute bare minimum.

I use and recommend Omega 3 by Human Performance.

Protein Powder-

This is not an essential supplement by any stretch of the imagination. If you can eat your required amount of protein per day by simply consuming real food then that’s the way to go. This is more of a convenience supplement for those on the road or those who are simply too busy to chew 200 grams of protein per day. Heck, some people just can’t eat solid food that often. So protein powders make it easier for you to hit your daily requirements.

Just as everyone has heard about the benefits of fish oil ad infinitum by now I think the same can be said for the negatives of commercially manufactured, pasteurized, grain fed, non organic, dairy. It causes inflammation, wreaks havoc on your digestive system, causes excess mucous production and respiratory problems and takes a pretty good toll on your immune system. In other words, it’s bad news. And 99% of the protein powders on the market are made from that poison.

That’s why you have to stick with high quality, organic, grass fed whey or Sun Warrior Brown Rice Protein if you’re vegan or allergic to dairy.

Vitamin C-

This is one supplement that certainly isn’t sexy or exciting, but it gets the job done. When you train hard your immune system can take a beating. Vitamin C helps keep your immune system functioning optimally so that you can stay healthy and in the gym. You can make gains if you’re too sick to train. Vitamin C is also critical in combating adrenal fatigue, which, in this day and age, most people seem to suffer from. I recommend a minimum of three grams of Vitamin C per day and six grams for most hard training athletes. I consider this an essential supplement.

Workout/ Hydration Drink-

There are a million and one products on the market designed to be taken during your workout. Yet the minimalist approach to this leads us to the cheapest and most effective solution… coconut water. Its natures sports drink (without all the disease causing chemicals and dyes).

Coconut water is especially effective when you are sweating a lot such as during basketball practice, a hard conditioning session or during football training camp in the hot summer sun.

This 100% natural drink, which actually has several health benefits and can…

  • Boost immune system function
  • Improve digestion
  • Help regulate intestinal function
  • Detoxify the body
  • Cleanse the digestive tract
  • Treat kidney and urethral stones
  • Improve circulation
  • Help maintain a high level of performance during intense training as effectively as just about any other fancy, high tech drink out there.

The list of benefits goes on and on but I’m sure you’re convinced already. There may be other fancier, more expensive supplements out there filled with artificial sweeteners and dyes and ingredients you can’t pronounce or find in the dictionary but nothing beats all natural coconut water. As far as I’m concerned, if you’re looking to stay hydrated and enhance your performance during training it’s coconut water for the win.

Get coconut water HERE.

I’ll be back in a day or two with the final installment of the Minimalism series. Until then let me hear your thoughts below and let me know if you have anything to add or any questions you need answered.



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39 Responses to Minimalism Part 4: Supplements

  1. Joe Meglio November 10, 2010 at 8:00 am #

    Great post Jason. I couldn’t agree with you more. I recently started to eliminate dairy from my diet. I plan on ordering the 3 value pack on sun warrior protein to replace my current whey isolate. Thanks again!! Looking forward to Part 5

  2. Seth Pritikin November 10, 2010 at 8:34 am #

    This is a fantastic post – I really am glad to have read it, and can’t thank you enough for giving guidance in this area. There’s really no good place to find useful information about supplements, but this information feels right: natural ingredients + demonstrated health benefits are just a great way to go! Thank you!

  3. Louis November 10, 2010 at 9:52 am #

    I think mainstream media has brainwashed people into believing that unless they are taking a lot of protein shakes, vitamins, fat loss pills, etc that they will not get results. Since reading your site and doing a little more research on dairy I have been cutting it out of my diet also.
    Thanks for all the advice Jason.


    • Jason Ferruggia November 18, 2010 at 6:32 am #

      @Louis: That’s definitely true. Cutting dairy makes a huge difference.

  4. Heather November 10, 2010 at 10:24 am #

    Thanks for addressing the dosage with fish oils. I’ve been taking about 12 capsules a day for 3 years and people look at me like i’m crazy. I’ve seen many of the benefits to this dosing…

  5. Chris November 10, 2010 at 10:41 am #

    Jason – When you say 6 to 9 grams a day, do you mean just considering the EPA+DHA or the total grams of fish oil? I like what you’re doing with this series…

    • Jason Ferruggia November 18, 2010 at 6:41 am #

      @Chris: I personally go for total grams of fish oil. That’s still a lot of capsules

  6. Jimmy November 10, 2010 at 11:24 am #

    Nice Article Jason. I have enjoyed the vita coco drinks and have felt properly hydrated. You can’t argue with nature’s recovery drink.

  7. chris November 10, 2010 at 11:28 am #

    Recently looking online for the latest research on Creatine, I tried to find your views on this; I’m sure you have a few, but couldn’t find any. I love your minimalist approach to supplementation, but can you say something about what is arguably the most highly touted supplement on the market, next to whey??

  8. Jocko November 10, 2010 at 11:30 am #

    What about pre and post work out? Do you still recommend drinking protein + dextrose and maltodextrin, or have you discovered better options?

    • Jason Ferruggia November 18, 2010 at 6:46 am #

      @Jocko: I don’t really like dextrose and malto. I prefer Swedish oat starch or potato starch or powdered sweet potatoes. If you need to get lean or have trouble staying lean just have a shake and eat the sweet potato.

      @Hussman- Check out vPure. That’s what I recommend.

      @Summer- Almost everyone I have put Sun Warrior on likes it. I can’t make any promises, though. And if you are used to whey it may take some getting used to.

      @Greg- Not a fan of CLA. Krill oil’s not bad.

      @Nick- Thanks!

      @Ryan- That’s awesome to hear.

  9. Hussman November 10, 2010 at 11:38 am #


    You should really look into what the best alternative is for those allergic to fish. I was hoping to try fish oil, and went in to get allergy tested, and I’m still VERY allergic to fish (but not shellfish, save shrimp), so fish oil is pretty much out for me, although Krill oil might still be okay.

    I’m experimenting with hemp seed oil, which has the best Omega 3/Omega 6 ratio, but I just started so I’m not going to sit here and sing any praises yet, but for those with fish allergies, it looks like a promising alternative.

  10. Summer November 10, 2010 at 11:49 am #

    We use nano-digested (fermented) vitamins and supplements – All of the Premier Nutrition Labs vitamins are great. For Omegas, I use Chia Seeds because we don’t eat shell fish. Great amounts of omegas and protein. For the Sun Warrior – how does it taste? I wish they would make individual packets like Jay Robb has — unless I can convince Whole Foods to open one for sampling. ;)

  11. Greg November 10, 2010 at 12:16 pm #


    Man, you are nailin it with this series. What do you think about CLA or Krill Oil as replacements for the fish oil supplements?

    Going to have to try the greens.


  12. Nick Heuring November 10, 2010 at 12:17 pm #

    awesome! couldn’t agree more. one of my favorite articles i’ve seen from you!!

  13. Ryan McKane November 10, 2010 at 12:32 pm #

    I’ve been following Jason and Craig Ballantyne’s approach to fitness and nutrition for the past few years and I can safely say not only do I feel better and recover more quickly from my workouts but I am almost never sick, which working in a public gym in southern california with a wide range of clients that is pretty impressive. Keep up the great work Jay!

  14. Anna November 10, 2010 at 1:23 pm #

    What do you recommend for vegans who don’t eat fish oil?

  15. JB November 10, 2010 at 4:49 pm #


    I’m a bit perplexed by the no dairy thing. Tom Venuto says in his latest book that low fat milk is one of the best things you can put in your body. I’ve been drinking the stuff almost like water since I was a kid and it hasn’t done me any harm at all. I understand the reservations about non organic dairy but things like milk and cheese are good for you, not bad. In fact,milk is the best thing you can take before bed as it has both whey and casein protein.Not to mention a fantastic night’s sleep, another vital ingredient in the pursuit of muscle.

    • Jason Ferruggia November 18, 2010 at 6:49 am #

      @JB: Milk and cheese aren’t good for you. Raw milk, perhaps. Not commercial dairy.

      @Max- Exactly. But maca is good stuff.

      @Anna- Try the vPure. It’s good stuff.

  16. Grant November 10, 2010 at 4:50 pm #

    Nice Jason – the only one on that list I’m missing out on is Coconut water. Apart from that I also have only been taking greens, fishoil and sun warrior.


  17. Asger November 11, 2010 at 5:45 am #

    The Coconut water is absolutaly amazing. I used it during the Copenhagen Marathon in Denmark 2010. I could have kept on running on that stuff. One month later i packed my back and went 125km on my bicycle in 5 1/2 hours drinking nothing but that stuff. You just feel it hydrate you on the spot. If you havent tried it. Do it. Drink it after a sweaty workout and watch how you feel. Bad thing about it here in EU 330ml is costing you 4$ or more. Thing with supplements is that you gotta try it out for yourself. Just like Jason i spent lots of money on garbage, but i found some few essentials as well. Just like Jason my number one is Greens. (always make sure it says from from juice powder and juicepowder only). I could advice sproutmans wheatgrass.

  18. Kirpal November 11, 2010 at 6:48 am #


    Have you ever read the China Study?

    • Paul November 11, 2010 at 2:11 pm #

      I’ve just started reading the china study – I’ve stopped all dairy this week except for my whey powder until I have finished the packet. Then I will either get some rice protein powder or Pea protein powder, any suggestions on which one?

  19. Claudia Hall Christian November 11, 2010 at 9:16 am #


  20. Max November 12, 2010 at 1:01 am #

    Maca didnt make the cut??

  21. Max November 12, 2010 at 1:10 am #

    I guess it wouldnt not minimalistic if you started including everything though.

  22. Master Scott November 12, 2010 at 4:05 am #


    Thanks for the post, I have heard about the greens but never tried them! I have used whey protein for years and that is about it. I agree, you can certainly spend some cash on supplements in a hurry.

  23. clement November 12, 2010 at 8:47 am #

    Oh man, I don’t use supplements. Never felt the need for them.

  24. Kirpal November 12, 2010 at 9:31 am #


    I use Whey sometimes too. I have a Dymatize container to finish before I switch to any other whey. I use the Sun Warrior brand that Jason recommends for rice protein. It’s strong tasting but tastes a lot better to me when I blend it berries, bananas, spinach, and almond butter/natural peanut butter.

  25. Blake November 12, 2010 at 10:39 am #

    Jason, have you tried the So Delicious Coconut Water Sorbet? Stuff is phenomenal, especially the Lemonade flavor!

  26. Summer November 12, 2010 at 9:46 pm #

    Kroger has the ONE single servings (coconut water) for 10/$10. There are a lot of places for raw milk, which has all the good bacteria — I think for most people the pasteurization is the problem. The Weston Price Foundation has great info on milk and nutrition.

  27. Anna November 16, 2010 at 2:29 pm #

    Still keen to see what you recommend for vegans. Fish oil is not an option. What do you take?

  28. Rasa November 17, 2010 at 4:32 pm #


    Try hemp oil, flax seed oil or Udo’s oil. I mix them in my shakes or oatmeal (after its been cooked, of course).
    Great info…I’m going to look for coconut water.

  29. Anthony Dalke November 30, 2010 at 8:02 pm #

    Jay, what about Vitamin B-12? I’ve heard that it stands as one of the only nutrients you lose out on when you stop consuming animal products (which my wife and I have gradually done).

    We love all of your posts! Keep up the phenomenal work!

  30. Jonathan December 5, 2010 at 9:23 am #

    Hey Jason,

    I’ve been following your articles for a while now and have bought your Muscle Gaining Secrets book. I’ve been particularly inspired by your strength levels and physique as a vegan and so I’ve been eating more and more like a vegan…and would say 95 per cent of my diet is vegan.

    I’m a bit confused though as to why you take fish oil as a vegan..?

  31. Adrian February 23, 2012 at 10:25 am #

    Is it better/worse to get your omega-3s from a variety of sources (flax etc) or is the omega-3s from fish oil the main reason for all these benefits? (Note: I have been taking just fish oil and it works but I’m wondering about the alternative) Thanks Jay, keep it up.

  32. Vleit February 23, 2012 at 10:26 am #

    What are your thoughts on liver tablets. I’ve been using these for a couple of months at 10 per day and actually like them a lot. Anything vince gironda pushed I think is a good choice

  33. Matt February 23, 2012 at 12:44 pm #

    I drink milk all the time and feel perfectly fine :) I’ve actually tried eliminating milk and felt worse after a while so I’ll continue drinking milk. I don’t think its fair to say everyone should eliminate dairy. Milk has great benefits