The Most Underrated Nutritional Supplement



What is the most underrated nutritional supplement?

Most people would guess Vitamin D or Calcium – especially with how little sunshine we get here in Buffalo, N.Y. But that’s not the answer.

At Quarter Deck Athletics (QDA), I have clients who come to me for nutritional guidance and often bring with them a litany of supplements. Bottles upon bottles!

Common questions and comments include: What should I do?  How much should I take?  Is this helping me?  Do I get enough of these things?  My coach said I don’t need this…

Here is the deal with supplements: You get what you pay for. Some people might say they are all the same, but my response to that is a simple comparison. Do you buy meat based dog food to consume because it’s cheap? It’s all the same (meat), right? (Wrong.)

Many studies suggest supplements don’t work. Why? Because using the recommended dosage amount (RDA) as dosage guidelines is ineffective. The RDA is the amount of a nutrient required to prevent disease, not create a therapeutic benefit.  There is a substantial difference between RDA and therapeutic dosage.

IMG_2159Clients will often say something like, “I found this one at Walgreens for $6.” They want to know why they should pay more than that amount. Not all supplements are created equal. Just like not all meat is intended for human consumption. The same analogy could be made for oil. Would you put some Castrol Syntec 10W-30 motor oil on your salad? Of course not.

So how does this apply to supplements? Let’s talk about calcium carbonate. It is an extremely cheap form of calcium. (It is also the same active ingredient in Tums.) One 1000mg of calcium carbonate is composed of 400mg calcium and 600mg carbonate. That doesn’t seem so bad, but it has low bioavailability – around 38 percent. Bioavailability is the proportion of a drug or other substance that enters the circulation when introduced into the body and so is able to have an active effect.

To break it down further, this 1000mg of calcium is really about 150mg of actual bioavailable calcium, or about 15 percent of what you thought it was when you bough it, meaning you need to take almost seven times the amount in order to reach the original intended levels. Not such a great deal anymore, right?

IMG_4287But that still doesn’t answer: What is this most underrated nutritional supplement?


It’s not some sexy goji berry fruit extract or green coffee bean or whatever someone else is trying to shove down your throat, but it’s essential to our bodies like gasoline is to a car.

There are two really important liquids that run your car: Gasoline and oil. Many people think of calcium and magnesium as being the gas and the oil but often misidentify which is which. They think that calcium is the gas when, in reality, it is the other way around.

Magnesium is used by the body for almost every single cellular process. That is over 300 different chemical reactions within the body.  It contributes to your body’s ability to contract its muscles and the ability of your nerves to conduct and relay messages, and it enhances the function of arteries, veins and capillaries, as well as establishes cell membrane integrity.

In 2005-06, almost half of the U.S. population failed to receive the RDA of magnesium from diet alone. That means that most people aren’t getting the minimum amount to prevent disease. Do you know the symptoms associated with magnesium deficiency?

  • Calcium deficiency
  • Weakness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Tremors
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety
  • High blood pressure
  • Type II diabetes
  • Respiratory issues
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Poor memory
  • Confusion

You might be thinking some or all of those symptoms. You’re not alone. That list describes many, many people within the U.S.  Many of those people are medicated, sometimes heavily, for those issues.

Recently, I read a post from a respected strength coach. In this post, he mentioned he received a blood test and his magnesium levels came back healthy. He then stated that most athletes do not need magnesium. My response to that is two-fold.

First: Serum magnesium levels do not accurately depict the current state of available magnesium within the body. In fact only 1 percent of magnesium is found within the blood and only .3 percent is found within blood serum.


  • Do you get 7 plus hours asleep every night?
  • Do you have at least 15 servings of fruits and vegetables daily?
  • Do you get healthy and adequate sun exposure?
  • Do you have a stressful job?
  • Do you exercise regularly?

Missing any of the first three and having or doing the last two will increase your body’s need for certain nutrients, minerals and vitamins.

Magnesium is a not cure for all of your health woes, but it is a safe, effective and simple solution for many of those woes. It is always better to make simple changes before going down a life-altering path, such as could be the case with heavy medication. And, remember, you get what you pay for. Even the simple solutions aren’t always so simple. Contact a healthcare professional you trust instead of taking advice from your Facebook friends. It’s like Abraham Lincoln once said, “Everything on the Internet is true.”

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