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As registered dietitians and certified personal trainers, we’re often asked, “What are the best supplements to support my health and fitness goals?”

But before taking someone down the path of the best supplements for weight loss, muscle growth, or other specific health goals, we first emphasize the essential supplements for a solid nutrition foundation.

Although supplements alone won’t get you to your goals, they can be crucial support, and help to fill in the nutritional gaps that you may not be getting from your food.

Learn more: “What to Know About Nutritional Supplementation”

In this article, we’ll cover The Foundational Five, the five supplements we consider essential for optimal health.


1. High-Quality Multivitamin

Imagine building your dream home without using any screws, nails, glue, or caulk. You could use the best wood, granite, and glass available, but if you don’t have the tools to tie it all together, your home won’t stand very long.

Micronutrients in a multivitamin are like those invisible, yet extremely important, building materials.

You could buy the highest quality meat and fish and only eat organic vegetables and fruit, yet if you still lack the micronutrients necessary for a healthy metabolism, your body won’t hold up the way it could.

Keep in mind that as we emphasize with all supplements, prioritizing high quality versions are key. At a minimum quality-wise, you want to make sure the multivitamin includes:


  • Natural folate, not folic acid (labeled as Quatrefolic, Metafolin®, L-5-methyltetrahydrofolate, or methylated folate)
  • Methylcobalamin instead of cyancobalamin
  • Mineral glycinate chelates (such as magnesium bisglycinate or magnesium glycinate)
  • Both vitamin K1 and K2
  • Higher-than Daily Value (DV) levels of many micronutrients
  • Efficacious doses of any extra ingredients to enhance the formula

Note that this is not an all-encompassing list of what it takes to make the best multivitamin, but rather are some important signs that you’re likely looking at a more quality option.

At Life Time, we ensure our Multi Performance ComplexMen’s Daily Multivitamin AM/PM, and Women’s Daily Multivitamin AM/PM all cover these bases and then some.

Learn more: “High-Quality Multivitamins: Why You Need Them and How to Shop for Good Ones”


2. Fish Oil

Omega-3 fatty acids play a pivotal role in brain health along with the function of almost every system in your body.

Omega-3s are an essential nutrient, meaning your body can’t make them in sufficient enough quantities to maintain optimal health. Supplementing with a high-quality fish oil is often the easiest and most economical way to increase your omega-3 fatty acid levels. Some of the health benefits of omega-3s include:

  • Enhanced fat loss
  • Support for healthy lipid and glucose levels
  • Increased protein synthesis and supports gains in strength and lean body mass
  • Support for normal inflammation levels
  • Enhanced immune function
  • Support for cognitive and brain function
  • Support of a normal stress response
  • Potential reduction of some symptoms of depression
  • Enhanced eye health
  • Potential reduced chances of infant allergies if used during pregnancy

Part of their benefit comes from how they affect your cell membranes. When your omega-3 levels are high enough, your cell membranes can easily transfer nutrients into the cell and waste products or toxins out of it.

Life Time Omega-3 Fish Oil is sourced from sustainable fisheries off the coast of Chile. We only use oils from small, cold-water anchovy, sardine, and mackerel. It’s molecularly distilled to be sure it’s free of mercury, PCBs, and heavy metals. In addition, the distillation helps remove fish odor and flavor. And one other unique benefit: it includes peppermint oil which can eliminate “fish burps.”

Learn more: “Fish Oil: Health Benefits of Supplementing for Your Body and Brain” and “Why Omega-3s?

3. Magnesium

Magnesium plays a role in more than 300 enzymatic reactions — and the average person consumes a woefully inadequate amount. Magnesium:

  • Is necessary for proper cardiovascular function
  • Supports normal inflammation levels
  • Supports normal blood pressure
  • Helps maintain normal blood-sugar levels
  • Plays a role in energy production, assisting with the extraction of energy from food
  • Supports the proper utilization of amino acids, fat, or carbohydrates
  • Aids in the creation of adenosine triphosphate (ATP)
  • Is necessary for nerve impulse conduction
  • Is required for the utilization of other micronutrients, such as B-complex vitamins, vitamin C, and vitamin E
  • Is necessary for muscle contraction as well as muscle relaxation
  • Supports bone health, along with calcium and vitamin D and vitamin K
  • Supports serotonin production
  • Is necessary for muscle contraction
  • Controls synaptic plasticity, which affects learning and memory
  • Calms the mind and helps support restful sleep

You can find many different forms of magnesium on the market. However, the two best forms of magnesium and what we advise choosing are magnesium glycinate (which is what Life Time uses in its multivitamins) and magnesium malate.

Magnesium is a supplement ingredient that takes up a lot of space. That’s why you won’t find larger doses of it in multivitamins, and why we recommend a separate supplement.

Learn more: “Magnesium: Health Benefits and Best Ways to Supplement” and “Why Magnesium?

4. Vitamin D (Cholecalciferol)

You’ve likely heard about the health benefits of vitamin D, and how many people are deficient in this micronutrient. Vitamin D, or cholecalciferol, is more of a prohormone than it is an actual vitamin, and this prohormone influences more than 200 genes.

Low vitamin D levels are associated with:

  • Increased risk of the flu
  • Insulin resistance and diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Osteoporosis and bone fractures
  • Atopic dermatitis
  • Cancer
  • Decreased production of adrenal hormones, including DHEA, androstenedione, and cortisol
  • Decreased strength
  • Increased body fat
  • Low birth weight of newborns
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Psoriasis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Schizophrenia
  • Type I diabetes

The average person has a vitamin D blood level of only 16-25 ng/mL. If you get your vitamin D levels tested, your doctor will probably tell you you’re “fine” as long as your levels exceed 30 ng/mL. However, that’s still quite low. The Vitamin D Council suggests levels below 40 ng/mL to be “deficient” and the optimal range to be between 40-80 ng/mL.

While cholecalciferol is inexpensive, not all vitamin D supplements are the same.

Because cholecalciferol is such a tiny compound, it needs to be diluted before it’s put into a supplement. Many supplement manufacturers buy their vitamin D from a raw material supplier already diluted. Here’s the problem with that: Most suppliers use lactose to dilute it. And, unfortunately, the lactose doesn’t need to be disclosed on the label. This can affect those who have lactose intolerance. (Note: The vitamin D we use in our supplements at Life Time is not diluted with lactose.)

To maintain optimal vitamin D levels, the Vitamin D Council makes the following recommendations:

  • Children: 1,000 IU per 25 pounds of body weight
  • Adults (including pregnant and breastfeeding women): 5,000 IU
  • Upper limit: 10,000 IU per day

More recent research shows it’s best to also take vitamin K2 with vitamin D, which is what you’ll find in Life Time’s Vitamin D+K2.

Learn more: “Vitamin D: Deficiency Symptoms and Benefits of Supplementation” and “Why Vitamin D?

5. Digestive Enzymes

Digestive enzymes help break down the protein, fat, and carbohydrates in your food, helping it pass through your digestive system so your body can absorb the nutrients. Without enough digestive enzymes, digesting food can cause immune reactions and inflammation in the body.

Stress, excessive exercise, genetics, and certain medications can all compromise the production of enzymes. We also need a highly acidic stomach to break food down and activate some of the enzymes.

digestive support supplement that includes both acids and enzymes can make a big difference in how you feel after eating, and in your ability to break down and absorb the nutrients in your food.

Digestive enzymes fall into three different categories, based on the macronutrient they act on:

  1. Proteases and peptidases: Convert protein to peptides and amino acids. They also act on other parts of the body to support normal immune function, inflammation levels, tissue repair, and blood viscosity. Common proteases and peptidases: Bromelain, Pancreatin, Papain, Peptidase, Protease, and Trypsin.
  2. Carbohydrases: Convert carbohydrates to glucose and fructose. Common carbohydrases: Alpha-galactosidase, Amylase, Cellulase, Diastase, Glucoamylase, Invertase, Lactase, and Phytase.
  3. Lipases: Convert fat to fatty acids. Common lipases: Lingual Lipase, Gastric Lipase, and Pancrealipase.

Life Time’s Digestive Enzyme Complex formula is a full-spectrum digestive enzyme blend with added acids to increase stomach acid levels. You might be surprised by how much better you feel after trying it.

Read more: “Digestive Enzymes: What Are They? Why Do You Use Them?

Keep the conversation going.

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The Life Time Health Team

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