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 is a real hard hitter – its precursor is made by sunlight and gets activated in the kidney & liver.
Vitamin D3’s active form has the cryptic name of 1,25-dihydroxycholecalciferol* and has a specific receptor to bind to that is distributed at many places throughout the body. Through these receptors, vitamin D works its magic and is involved in:
- Cell differentiation
- Calcium & phosphor balance
- Blood pressure
- Immunity & Insulin regulation
- Microbiome and Production of B-Vitamins
- Indirectly it also influences mood, wakefulness, autoimmunity, and protects against cancer.
Getting more active, mentally as well as physically, and also sexually with spring and longer days arriving is also vitamin D mediated. Vitamin D is in fact more than a vitamin – it is a messenger. A hormone. That’s why people call it the sun hormone, as it influences our metabolism in response to outside sunlight. As a word of caution – conventional sunscreen hinders you body to make vitamin D3 and is estrogenic, avoid it at all costs. There is even evidence that vitamin D is superior to protecting yourself from skin cancer than other sources. Therefore, use mineral sunscreens if truly needed, but on most occasions avoid it at all.
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
Everybody knows calcium, especially in regard to bone health. But that’s not all this important mineral does! •It is needed for nerves to fire and communicate •It helps to move blood through the vessels and in the release of hormones and enzymes •Calcium is required for Vitamin K2 to do its work •Muscles need calcium to contract
So where do you find calcium?
Some might say dairy – that’s very true and if you tolerate dairy, raw unprocessed milk and dairy products are an excellent choice. Others might think of certain plants such as kale or beans – although these are relatively high on paper, these are incredibly high in a variety of antinutrients. These damage you and hold onto these minerals.
The question then is how much of the net calcium can you really use, and is it worth the damage?
I’d say ‘No‘ clearly. 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. But it does not end there, to store and use calcium effectively you also need to have an eye on Vitamin K, Vitamin D, and the parathyroid hormone. If all of those are in check, your body uses calcium optimally.
The RDA for calcium is 1.200mg per day with an upper limit of up to 2.500mg. You can get there with 4 cans of sardines, eating one eggshell or the powder thereof, as well as a small bone from your broth, either as it is or dried and powdered into a seasoning.
- You need to take it together with sufficient Vitamin D3* and Vitamin K2*
- 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.
Salt – we are contained Oceans on Legs
As we all know is sodium in combination with chloride the main component of salt. Our bodies love both – we contain a total of 100g of salt and 82g of chloride in our bodies on average. There it is mainly found outside of cells or stored within bones and connective tissue.
Our body mainly sodium and chloride just to maintain the membrane potential in check and in an ongoing interaction with potassium. As described in the potassium section one pump steadily pumps sodium and potassium around to create electric signals. This process consumes ATP and it is estimated that solely this pump consumes 20-40% of all the energy you need in a day. That is a nice fun fact to toss around at the next party – the Na+/K+-ATPase Pump is a hungry beast.
Despite that, sodium and chloride are also crucial to maintain blood pressure and our gastric acid, as Chloride is the main contributor to HCl.
The deficiency of sodium is also not uncommon, as today’s social narrative often deems salt as a bad and unhealthy thing. Some studies could establish a link between salt and high blood pressure and this narrative is often put forth. For diseased people, the upper intake level is 2.3g of sodium per day. Yet diseased people are no inference onto healthy populations.
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 Insulin
- 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 bisgylcinate* tends to get more into the muscles. Take around 2.000 mg per day.
- 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 that 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.
I really like the organ blends by True Carnivore* which consists of 9 different organs, the 6-organ blend by Codeage*, and the various more specific mixtures by Heart & Soil.*
Protein Powder – A tasty Ritual
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. Moreover, the amino acid glycine that it contains is crucial to balance methionine. The methionine to glycine ratio is detrimental for proper methylation and the function of the enzyme MTHFR – an often overlooked part of collagen. 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 K*. 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. Vitamin K2, also known as Menaquinone, comes in a spectrum known as MK-4, MK-7, MK-9, and MK-10 – MK13.
Plants normally use Vitamin K1, the only plant food rich in K2 is the fermented soy product Natto. But even Natto lacks the whole spectrum. Furthermore, the conversion of Vitamin K1 to Vitamin K2 isn’t rich either. That’s why plants are a terrible source for Menaquinone and many modern humans are Vitamin K2 deficient – or even broader framed fat-soluble vitamin deficient. An example of that is dental health in the Western World. I believe that the lack of Vitamin A, Vitamin K2, and Vitamin D3, as well as the mineral calcium, has the biggest impact on dental
health. Of course, sugar is another contributor, but our teeth have an immune system able to rebuild and defend themselves against acids and pathogens if our microbiome is healthy.
The body uses Vitamin K2 as a factor for coagulation, but it is also crucially important for an enzyme called gamma-glutamyl-carboxylase. Rough name, right? This guy is responsible for the carboxylation of specific proteins that are responsible for vitamin recovery. Besides these important effects the specific proteins called gla proteins, are also important in terms of bone health. In fact, a trifecta of nutrients, namely K2, D3, and Calcium, regulated by the parathyroid hormone are responsible to get that job done. Could the lack of those also contribute to cardiovascular plaques? I think so.
Aim for 100-200 mcg of Menaquinone a day from a full spectrum source. The best way to cover that is by eating 500g of beef liver a week. That’ll cover that amount completely! Other great sources are goose and duck fat, plus cheeses and dairy products if you tolerate them well.
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 the meat they miss:
- CoQ10, Taurine, Carnitin, Carnosin, Choline, Creatine
- Heme Iron is nowhere found in plants
- Vitamin K2 gets an issue
- EPA & DHA can only be found in fat fish
- Collagen? Boron? Calcium? B-Vitamins?
- and many more Zoonutrients!
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…
- Check out this simple, yet effective recipe to start cooking your own bone broth – either in an instant pot or slow cooker.
- Click! Here it is!
- Read more about L-Arginine here!