Supplements are everywhere. From fat loss to muscle gain to erectile disfunction, there is a supplement company maximizing profit off of the hopes of the people. And I would know! Since my high school years as the scrawny 125 pound kid trying to work my way into the Major Leagues, I have put my hope into just about every type of supplement on the market. I started simple with weight gain powder, recommended by my dad’s boss’s personal trainer. From there, as I got deeper into weight lifting, I started to dabble in Creatine. As I graduated into college and became more of a meathead, I upped my supplement knowledge and started experimenting with new types of creating, Nitric Oxide boosters, pre-workouts, and more weight gainers. I started studying them all. When my friends had supplement questions, I was the guy they went to. I knew brands, types, needs, and even how long to take them. While I gained about 40 pounds through my college career, I would attest 90% of those supplements did nothing but empty my bank account. During Grad School, I continued my meathead ways, only I became a touch smarter. I dropped all of the unneeded hype and stuck to the staples of a supplement regime. My mainstay in Grad School consisted of weight gainer, creatine, and caffeine. That was it. The craziest thing…I had the most gains of my life during those two years of Grad School. While my weight gain was only about 10 pounds, my strength went through the roof and I maintained myself around 9% body fat.

At the time, I figured it was the workouts I was following and my eating habits, as I ate pretty clean and avoided a lot of the junk food I find myself around these days. I know all of this had a significant role in the success I had those two years, but looking back, I realize there was a much larger factor that so many people overlook. STRESS! During those years of Grad School my stress was damn near zero. Baseball was over and I was loving a looser schedule. My classes were of my interest so I enjoyed every moment of them. My workload was light and I never took school too serious anyway. I was left with hours upon hours of free time every day and I was a young, single guy just living my best life. The only stress I had was 60 miles away, so I just avoided it and kept it blocked out.

As I have experienced another 10 years since those days of Grad School, I can look back at my training, my strength, and my body composition and correlate every up and down with the stress in my life. Not only that, but I can also see the patterns of eating and how much more challenging it has been to stick to clean eating and less caffeine during times of higher stress. I always find myself reaching for a donut or a Rockstar when my stress levels are high. They are my comfort food.

Being in the field of fitness for as long as I have and working with the general population, most people come to me to look better and cut fat. In most cases, these people need to add in exercise and clean up their diet. But even then, a lot of these people don’t see the results they are hoping for. Many of them are held back because they haven’t addressed the stress in their lives. No matter how well you eat or how much you workout, if you can’t manage your stress, you will never reach the results you hope for. Stress does two main things: it causes us to reach for the bad habits to cause comfort, such as my donuts and Rockstars, and it also causes a hormonal response in the body, releasing Cortisol, which puts the body in a state of fat storage. With consistently elevated stress levels, our bodies are going to be constantly storing fat as a way of protection. So even while eating and exercising, the body isn’t functioning optimally because of the stress levels we deal with.

Because of this, and the types of lives we lead now days, we need to start taking a step further, and looker deeper into the causes of weight gain or loss. Learn ways to manage your stress with practices such as meditation, quiet time, fun and enjoyment, or whatever may cause relaxation in your soul. This is step one and the most important. Step away from the electronics (well, not right now because I want you to read my blog and go follow me on Instagram!) and just be in the moment, enjoying the peace. Along with these actions, there are certain supplements that can help the body physiologically, and help bring stress levels down and back under control.

Magnesium is a key player in nerve and muscle function, but also huge when it comes to sleep. Supplementing with magnesium has been proven to improve sleep, especially those battling insomnia. If we can’t sleep, or get quality sleep, stress can be kicked up a few notches. Without quality sleep, our bodies can’t recover and refresh for the days to come.

This is actually a supplement I have just recently started experimenting with. This is one of the superstar supplements when it comes to stress reduction. Do a simple google search, and this guy will show up on every list. Studies have show up to 44% less stress with subjects who took ashwagandha versus a placebo.

This plant, native to the arctic regions of Asia, dates back in the medical world to 77 C.E. It has been used for energy enhancement, improved mood, and stress reduction. It has also been shown to help people deal with fatigue. Since fatigue and stress go hand in hand, this is a great additive to the battle of stress.

One thing you must remember is supplements are just that. Taking a supplement does not magically cure the problem. What they do do though is help aid the process on a chemical level. Stop wasting your time with the diet pills and fat loss “secrets” all the celebrities are raving about! Instead, start taking care of yourself and your body and give it what it needs. Sleep, quality nutrients, exercise, and quiet time are the best ways to keep your functions on track. Once you have started a plan to get those as a piece of your daily life, then you can add in the help from my friends I just mentioned. You can’t out-supplement a shitty lifestyle, but you can help a quality lifestyle be more efficient.