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The Supplement Pyramid

by Brandon DiNovi

The Supplement Pyramid

Dear Fellow ALPHA,

Have you ever walked into a supplement store and felt a little, I dunno, overwhelmed? If you have, you're not alone. It's a feeling that plagues a lot of us. We walk in and see hundreds, or in some cases, thousands of bottles and we don't even know where to start.

I was in the same boat early in my athletic career. It was about that time that I discovered not all supplements fall into the same category. There are supplements which are considered "staples" because they are essential to the body. Others which are non-essentials but ergogenic - performance enhancing. Then, there are products which we deem "worth the try", products which are used infrequently.

Staple supplements are most beneficial if taken on a daily basis and others, such as ergogenics, are most beneficial if taken only a few times a week. Then, there are even some supplements that are to be used infrequently for highly specific circumstances.

When I am working with a client one of the most common mistakes I see is an "incomplete" supplement profile. I commonly see clients sprinkle in different supplements at different times for no real rhyme or reason. Frequently, these are the same clients who claim supplements "don't work" or are a waste of money. Well, I am here to say supplements can work but only if used properly. 

With so many people using products without a "plan" or clear understanding of what supplements are for, I decided to create a supplement pyramid. A way for people to gain clarity when they find themselves at a supplement "crossroads". I have been following the pyramid you see above without fail for as long as I can remember. 

I believe my consistent use of the supplement pyramid has helped me in the gym as well as helped me in the classroom and now in the business world. I can say without a doubt that I have made more progress because I have adhered to this supplement pyramid for years. 

Foundation Supplements (Base of Pyramid)

All structures are only as strong as their foundation. In my opinion, a supplement regimen should have all of the necessary "bases" covered. You would be shocked to learn how many people fail to see progress because they are deficient in the basics.

A foundational supplement is something you consume day in and day out, 365. These include items such as vitamins, minerals, vitamin C, high quality protein powder, healthy fats and brain support in the form of a cognitive enhancer.

Products which support a healthy body, mind and immune system. Products our body needs for repair, regeneration and proper functioning. These are also where the bulk of your financial resources should be spent. Frequently I hear questions like "Brandon, whats your take on this new pre-workout called Gorilla Juice TestoRX? Do you think it will work?"

I usually respond by asking them which multivitamin or protein powder they are using. Definitely, not the "sexy" answer they were looking for. But, it's the answer they need to hear and that's my job - telling people the truth and then it's up to them what they do with it.

Another truth is that many of these foundational supplements aren't cheap. Heck, my multivitamin alone cost me close to $40 bucks a month! However, to me, it's worth giving my body the best - I mean, it's the only body I have. 

The trendy thing that people like to talk about are their "macros" which includes fats, carbohydrates and protein. However, I find it is way more important to talk about "micros" which are vitamins and minerals. It is a subject that few people want to discuss and an area most of my clients are lacking in.

Ok, before you even go to the "our food has everything we need" argument, in my not so humble opinion, highly active individuals have not received enough micronutrients from food in decades. The food our parents and grandparents had available to them was radically less processed which resulted in a higher amount of micro's than what is currently in our grocery stores today.

In addition to lacking micronutrients our over processed food supply is also lacking essential fatty acids (EFA's). EFA's are "healthy" fats which are "essential" for our bodies to function properly. Our body is unable to synthesize EFA's from other fats. As a result, we need to get our EFA's from our diet or through supplementation. EFA's are found in foods like salmon, herring, mackerel, walnuts, almonds, flax seeds or flax oil. 

EFA's have been linked to helping prevent arrhythmias, heart disease, depression, dementia and arthritis. As well as, lower blood pressure and help lower triglycerides. Definitely check with your doctor, however adding this essential product to your diet could be a real benefit. 

If you came to my home and checked out my pantry, you would find a high potency multi-vitamin  & mineral, tubs of protein powder, bottles of vitamin C, NEURO Z3 and in the fridge a bottle of flax oil.

Plus, if you pulled a "surprise" visit a few weeks or even years later you will find I am still taking the same products. Ok, I might have varied my protein brand but I wont have varied the type of products. 

Look at what I consume and how it hits all of the "bases": 

Multivitamin: provides the micronutrients our over processed food may be lacking check 

Protein powder: provides amino acids for muscular repair and regeneration* check

Flax oil: provides a great source of EFA's check 

Vitamin C: helps with immune support* - check

NEURO Z3: Contains ingredients which prevent mental fog and enhance clarity* check 

Lacking in one of these areas can cause a derailment in your progress, performance and possibly lead to health problems.

Health and Performance Supplements (Middle of Pyramid)

The middle of the pyramid is where you will find the "fun" supplements. The products which claim to be ergogenic aids, increase immune protection or get you pumped up for the workout. These products are likely frequent inhabitants of your pantry, gym bag or backpack.

These are products which are frequently taken multiple (3-5) times a week or during an intense training routine. These products include things like creatine monohydrate, pre-workout powders, BCAA's or workout aids like beta alanine, arginine or extra immune support during stressful times. 

The middle of the pyramid is for supplements which provide a specific benefit and are designed to be used for a precise time frame. These are "non-essential" for proper functioning, but are designed to boost performance. 

This is also where people spend the majority of their supplement funds. These are the products people prefer to purchase instead of the foundational "essential" products discussed above.

Look at it this way, if you find your pantry is full of nitric oxide support, cell volumizing products and stimulants but you ran out of multivitamins 2 months ago because you can't "afford" it, you may be cheating yourself out of increased performance and health.  

Specialty Supplements (Peak of Pyramid)

The peak of the supplement pyramid is where the specialty products can be found. These are products which are taken for a specific reason.

Products for a "cleanse", liver "detox" diet support or maybe a rest aid for those nights you need to relax. The peak of your supplement pyramid are items that you may have had your eye on trying and finally pulled the trigger.

These are supplements that might be expensive, not something you really "need", an impulsive buy or all of the above. That's totally fine as long as you are not replacing a "staple" product with it.

In conclusion, putting your supplement pyramid together is a personal process. A soul searching experience. I have also found it a test of someone's will. When they only have a few bucks left to spend on supplements, do they grab the multi or the "Pump Volumizer 6000"? Now that you have a pyramid to follow, you know what the right choice is. 

Until next time,

Attack your life with passion!

Brandon DiNovi

Brandon DiNovi

Co-Founder and CEO, RAM

Brandon DiNovi
Brandon DiNovi

Brandon DiNovi is the Co-Founder and CEO of RAM ADVANTAGE. He holds a doctorate degree as well as two bachelors in the field of human performance. He is also the author of American Strength: The Ultimate Guide To Health, Happiness and Success.

Disclaimer: The information, suggestions, and techniques offered in this blog are the result of the author’s experiences and are not intended to be a substitute for professional financial advice, medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Some articles are intended to influence the reader to purchase products or services. Before making a purchase, financial, medical or health decision the reader should contact a qualified professional. If you have questions or concerns, seek the advice of a financial consultant, physician or other qualified professional before practicing the techniques presented here.

In fact, you should always consult a qualified healthcare professional before beginning a new nutritional or exercise program. If you fail to do so, it is the same as self-prescribing, and neither the author nor RAM ADVANTAGE assumes responsibility. *This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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