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Suggested Supplements For Fit Vegans
By Ed Bauer
 
 
 


As a vegan coach and nutritionist for aspiring athletes, fitness competitors, and CrossFit contenders, I often hear from those who have a desire to get in the best shape of their life. The caveat is some would like to do this on a completely plant-based whole foods diet, with no supplements. Now, I do believe in the power of plants as much as the next adamant vegan, but I think harping on the idea that vegans do not need to supplement ever is doing more harm than good for our movement. Now, before I go any further:

Disclaimer:

The material provided in this article is designed for informational and educational purposes only. The information in this article is provided with the understanding that Ed Bauer and veganbodybuilding.com are not engaged in rendering medical advice or recommendation. You should not rely on any information in this article to replace consultations with qualified healthcare professionals to meet your individual medical needs. Information accessible in this article, including Ed Bauer’s fitness concepts and nutrition information, is not individualized and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. This information is general in nature and may be helpful to some persons but not others, depending upon individual needs. Individuals should never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this article.



Now that I have that out of the way, here is a list of my three favorite supplements and why:

1. DHA/EPA

2. D3

3. ZMA

DHA/EPA
(Algae-Based)

DHA/EPA are types of Omega-3 Fatty Acids, which are deemed essential because the body cannot produce them. The body can convert a very small percentage of the ALA omega-3s found in flax, chia, savi seeds, and walnuts into DHA/EPA, but this does not provide as much as we can benefit from. DHA accounts for up to 40% of the omega-3 fatty acids in the brain and 60% of the omega-3 fatty acids in the retina. Taking DHA-rich algal oil will preserve brain function for the future by building the foundations of healthy cognition.

DHA/EPA has an anti-oxidant and exercise related anti-inflammatory nature to it. These fatty acids exert an anti-inflammatory response by competing with arachidonic acid, which forms pro-inflammatory compounds. Since high intensity exercise and weight lifting causes increases in inflammation and oxidation, reducing this response may be beneficial in improving exercise recovery. However, the research has yet to fully examine this angle of DHA/EPA supplementation. Supplementing with DHA/EPA has been shown to support muscle protein synthesis and limit protein degradation. This means it has a positive effect on building lean mass.

DHA/EPA are also suggested to support insulin function and increase glucose and fatty acid uptake into muscle cells. This may help partition nutrients toward muscle and away from fat, improving overall body composition and providing more fuel to the muscle during workouts. DHA/EPA have been suggested to increase cardiac output and stroke volume, which may help support healthy blood flow and exercise performance. Being that our bodies cannot create enough of these essential fatty acids, I find that there is plenty of evidence to justify adding this valuable supplement to my regimen.

Vitamin D3 (Lichen-Based)

Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a host of medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, osteoporosis, autoimmune disease and cancer. Of course, we can get Vitamin D from sun exposure, but many of us don’t get enough of it because of winter months, cloudy weather, or simply too much time indoors.

There are two forms of vitamin D available in supplemental form: vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). D3 is the form that is produced in our skin when we are exposed to sunlight. Traditionally, D3 supplements have been non-vegan, usually produced from lanolin (a product of sheep’s wool). It was recently discovered that the microorganism lichen produces D3, so vegan D3 is now also available. D2 (ergocalciferol) is the synthetic form of vitamin D in many supplements. There has been some controversy over whether D2 and D3 are equivalent at raising blood vitamin D levels and bringing about the health benefits associated with vitamin D adequacy.

Many studies have been published showing that D3 is more efficient at raising the body's vitamin D levels. Studies show that D2 gets partially deactivated by the kidneys, while D3 remains active. This simply means that if you supplement with D3, you are actually getting what you expect from the vitamin. Vitamin D directly influences over 200 genes in our body. Being that it is partially responsible for the prevention of many autoimmune conditions such as MS, Crohn's disease, systemic lupus erythematosus (or 'lupus') and rheumatoid arthritis, I find it a worthy addition.

ZMA

ZMA is a combination of zinc, magnesium and vitamin B6. It is most often used as a recovery aid. Studies show that ZMA helps the body achieve deeper levels of REM sleep and indirectly raises testosterone and growth hormone. Although B6 is easy to obtain through diet, many are low in zinc and more than 50% of Americans do not get enough magnesium. Zinc is important because low levels lead to an increase in estrogen receptors and a decrease in androgen receptors. Zinc is necessary for androstenedione to be converted to T(Testosterone). Low zinc may increase aromatization of T to estrogen, just like vitamin D. The male prostate tissue requires 10 times more zinc than other cells in the body for health.

Magnesium is important for many reasons as well. It assists with forceful muscle contractions during exercise. It relaxes the central nervous system and plays a primary role in cardiovascular health. It promotes blood sugar regulation to assist in energy production and prevent diabetes. It also stimulates better quality sleep. B6 helps with the absorption of zinc and magnesium.

For all of these reasons, I have supplemented with some version of this combo for years. Whether you’re vegan or not, these specific nutrients will assist in optimizing health, which leads to better workouts, better recovery, and a leaner, stronger physique.

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References:

Poliquin Group™ Editorial Staff. "Benefits of a DHA Rich Diet." Poliquingroup.com. 24 Jan. 2012. Web. 05 June 2014. .

Weider, Ben. Weider, Joe. The Edge New York: Avery, a member of Penguin Putnam, Inc., 2002. Print.

Fuhrman, Joel, M.D. "Should I Take Vitamin D2 or Vitamin D3?" DrFuhrman.com. DrFuhrman.com, Inc., n.d. Web. 05 June 2014.

Welcome Trust. "Vitamin D Found to Influence over 200 Genes, Highlighting Links to Disease." ScienceDaily.com. 24 Aug. 2010. Web. 05 June 2014.

Poliquin™ Editorial Staff. "Five Simple Ways to Raise Testosterone Levels for Better Body Composition & Optimal Health." Poliquingroup.com. 4 Oct. 2012. Web. 05 June 2014.