Supplementation: essential or unnatural?

Nutrition and productivity blog 32

The debate

One of the big debates within nutrition is whether you should supplement or not. On one corner you have the argument that the modern diet doesn’t provide all the required nutrients and on the other corner you have the argument that supplementation isn’t natural (we didn’t evolve to pop pills) and that you should amend your diet to get the right nutrition. In this blog I lay out my philosophy on supplementation, why I supplement and provide tools on how to determine the right supplements.

My philosophy on supplementation

My philosophy is that supplementation is important for plugging nutritional gaps. Even when eating a diet with a high nutritional density and variation it can be hard to get the nutrients that lead to a powerful and energetic you. Magnesium is one such nutrient that is difficult to get through diet due to depleted soil levels and hence depleted levels in foods1,2,3. I also supplement when I want to perform above and beyond what an optimised diet could enable. One example is taking supplements to give me that extra boost in cognitive function. I’m conscious that supplementation is not natural and that there could be risks, known and unknown. I like to do my research and keep my eye out for new findings.

I’m mindful about what I take each supplement for, and pay close attention to the effects on the body and mind. Cycling off and back onto a supplement is a great way to ascertain whether a supplement works. With some supplements the effects are subtle and the effects not fully noticeable  until I’ve cycled off and the effects stop. Cycling off supplements is also recommended as you don’t want the body to become too accustomed and for natural mechanisms to atrophy. I start slow with supplements, rather than doing a big bang of different supplements in one go.

How to Choose the right supplements

How the body feels on a supplement is a good metric to track. If it makes you feel energetic, sleep better or think better it must be doing something right.  The more the data you have, the better. Getting a genetic profile ( and functional diagnostic tests are useful for determining nutritional gaps and can inform supplementation protocols.

As with food, you want to focus on good quality supplements as not all supplements are created equal. Different supplement companies have different standards and ethics. A good way for ensuring supplement quality is to send for lab testing or review lab testing rankings. Here are just a couple of resources on this:

Thanks for reading. Do you supplement? Please comment below.



  1. ‘Suboptimal magnesium status in the United States: are the health consequences underestimated?’
  2. ‘The multifaceted and widespread pathology of magnesium deficiency.’
  3. ‘Biofortification of crops with seven mineral elements often lacking in human diets – iron, zinc, copper, calcium, magnesium, selenium and iodine’

Disclaimer: the content provided in this blog is the personal opinions of the Nutrition and Productivity Blog / Patrick McCay and is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute any type of professional advice. The content may or may not be true. The Nutrition and Productivity Blog / Patrick McCay makes no representations as to accuracy, completeness, currentness, suitability, or validity of any information on this site and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. The Nutrition and Productivity Blog /Patrick McCay encourages you to seek the advice of the relevant licensed professionals before making any decisions related to health.

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