How To Choose Supplements That Actually Work (And Save Money in the Process)

Sol OrwellSol Orwell is the founder of I met Sol for a coffee a couple of months ago and was blown away by his passion and knowledge of health and nutrition.

Examine is an independent organization that presents un-biased research on supplements and nutrition. They currently have over 20,000 references to scientific papers and have quickly become my go-to resource for all things supplement related.

Sol and the rest of the team at Examine recently released The Supplement-Goals Reference Guide (see the giveaway details below).

There are so many supplements being pushed by companies and in the media. This guide can save people a lot of money because it tells you exactly what supplements are useless and what supplements have been proven to work on humans. Not mice.

The guide is automatically updated with their database on a daily basis so the guide never goes out of date. Love that idea.

In this podcast we talk about:

  • How the supplement industry is flawed and how Examine hopes to help people make good nutritional decisions.
  • The most widely used supplements that are a waste of money.
  • The supplements that Sol and I take.
  • How to use Reddit to learn more about health and fitness.
  • Sol’s number one supplement recommendation (kind of a trick question, but you’ll need to listen to find out).

You can listen or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes here.

You can also listen to the podcast on Stitcher Radio or by clicking here to listen now.

The Supplement-Goals Reference Guide Giveaway!

Here’s the deal.

Sol has agreed to giveaway away 2 copies of The Supplement Goals Reference Guide. I have the guide and totally agree with how the guide is described on the Examine website.

“The cheat sheet to better health, a better body, and a better life.”

How to Enter

Entering is easy. Simply leave a comment below for one entry. Write anything.

For two entries, ask a question related to supplements that you’ve always wondered about.

Leave your comment by September 27, 2013 to be eligible.

I will pick two entrants at random to win a copy of The Supplement-Goals Reference Guide.

Good luck!

Items mentioned in this post:

If you enjoyed this episode with Sol Orwell or any other Healthynomics Podcast episode, please leave a review on iTunes. Reviews go a long way in helping the podcast reach more listeners.

Full Transcription

Mark: Okay everybody. I am excited here to introduce you to Sol Orwell. I actually met Sol about two months ago. We went for a coffee and met online, I guess. I signed up to Sol’s company which we’ll talk about, his newsletter. He got in touch with me, anyways. We will talk about that later.Anyway, Sol, welcome.Sol: I’m very glad to be here. Thank you for having me.

Mark: No worries, buddy. This has been a conversation that’s long overdue.

Let’s start with your background, sort of who you are, where you’re from, what you took in school or university, and what you’re up to now.

Sol: What I’m doing now, right. Honestly, when people ask, “Who are you?” and “What have you done?” and whatnot, I believe the honest answer is I’m kind of like the immigrant dream.

I moved to Canada for high school and I started dabbling on in the Web almost immediately. My actual undergrad degree was in computer engineering but it was more just kind of keeping my parents off my back. It was either engineering or doctor, and I decided engineering would take less time.

I went in with a full scholarship and I lost it pretty much within the first six months. I was just busy building my own stuff. By the time I came out of university I had my own corporation by then and it was doing well. As an engineer, a lot of it is just kind of processes and making systems in place and whatnot.

Around the mid 2000s I essentially retired. I wasn’t really interested in the rat race. Making millions and whatnot, if that’s what you want that’s cool but that’s not for me. I’d rather make a decent chunk of change and I’d rather go traveling and whatnot, which is exactly what I did. I traveled around the states, I lived in South America for a while, and I was in Manhattan before I came back to Toronto. Kind of felt like staying in one place for a while.

When I got back, I’ve got to admit I was pretty unhealthy. In Argentina they do delivery, online delivery of ice cream. It’s incredibly cheap and every night I was downing a liter of dulce de leche con brownie or whatnot ice cream. Then in Manhattan I lived literally right above a bakery, like I was the storefront and there were windows right about and that was me. Everyday you’d wake up and you’d smell these fresh cookies and I’d go down. New York’s like a major [inaudible 02:26] for cookies and other baked goods. By the time I came back to Toronto I was pretty unhealthy, pretty out of shape so job number one was to get back in shape.

Mark: Work wise, you’re working a lot of computer work so you’re sitting down a lot. Were you exercising at this point or not really?

Sol: No, not really. I used to walk around. I mean, I have a dog so in Manhattan I’d go for a walk, a good 20-30 minute walk. I was playing soccer for a while but I tore my ACL so that kind of went out the window, too. I’ll admit it was a pretty sedentary lifestyle, but even then it wasn’t like I was working much. It was kind of I was just relaxing, or messing around, or reading books, I love to read. I was pretty sedentary, I will admit.

I came back to Toronto and I decided I’m going to get back in shape, and I know the first thing I did was I bought a pedometer and I made sure I hit at least 10,000 steps a day. I think that’s kind of one of those, you know, you’ve got small victories and you build on top of that, and that was mine. It did a lot of good to me, but as I learn and you know, it just in my nature, and again I just had so much time because there was no job really taking up my time.

I started researching, kind of learning kinesiology, nutrition, metabolism, all that kind of stuff and it was really interesting, but what kind of bugged me was that there was no good or reliable reference sites. You go to these forums, and there’s a lot of intelligent people, I mean [Allen Ayers] is on, right? He’s one of the moderators on’s nutrition supplementation sections, and he’s writing something intelligent and it might be around for a few days but then it gets lost, right? People don’t really search for the forums, they don’t really go through them, some people do but most people don’t.

Mark: And some of the best stuff, I mean, isn’t that searchable. I mean, just because you find something doesn’t mean it’s right or well written, right?

Sol: That’s the other problem. You don’t really have a way of knowing if the information’s useful or not. Google’s pretty terrible with forums. Forum searches are pretty terrible themselves. You don’t really know what’s worthwhile reading and what’s not. There is a lot of good information being lost. There’s really also a lot of bad information, but the good information is just kind of disappearing on the Web and it kind of irked me to be honest, right?

I mean, I’m a pretty heavy user of Reddit, and Reddit’s extremely time based, nobody really uses the search and I learned something really interesting about Creatine, for example, and how it works and whatnot. Then a week later you’d see someone asking the same question, you’re further into that link. Then a week later again, and again, and again, and eventually you’re just like, I wish there was one place where I could just send them and say, “Hey, just read this before you come ask me these questions.”

Mark: Just go back to Reddit for one sec, if you don’t mind. I’ve been on there and it’s a beast of a site. I think they say it’s the start of the Internet or…

Sol: They call it “The homepage of the Internet”.

Mark: The homepage of the Internet, that’s it. How can people use Reddit just from a health and fitness perspective? I’ve been on there and there a whole whack load of information, so how did you use it?

Sol: I mean, again, I’m a computer engineer so I’ve actually been registered on Reddit for seven plus years now, and I think it’s barely eight years old so I’m kind of one of those old hats.

Mark: Early adopters.

Sol: Yeah, I’ve been around from the start. The way Reddit works basically is it’s essentially the world’s largest forum. Instead of just being time based it’s kind of time based plus users vote up and vote down on what they find useful and it’s kind of a combination of the two. Reddit is basically a bunch of sub Reddits, which basically, you know, forum categories if you want.

One of the biggest ones is actually Reddit fitness which has got, I think, three or four hundred thousand users that are subscribed to it that see it’s updates and whatnot. Reddit fitness has really nice FAQ to be honest. It’s developed by the community over years and years now so there’s a lot of nuances, and information, and common questions that people have. I will admit that they’re more, let’s say, strength oriented than aesthetic oriented, but as a base, as a place to start, Reddit fitness is a decent place.

Once you get to a bit more knowledgeable levels there’s separate Reddits, there’s like Reddit weight room which is more for people who lift and who compete in power lifting, there’s Reddit body weight fitness, and you get more in the specifics like Reddit rowing, Reddit MMA, depending on your sport and kind of what you like. It’s a little bit overwhelming at times, people are absolutely assholes on the site, they’re extremely, extremely pedantic. I mean, you make the slightest, slightest incorrect statement and people will just jump down your throat as if you shot their mother or something.

Mark: Does that help the good stuff rise to the top, though?

Sol: I think part of it is that, you’ve got to have a thick skin, you’ve got to be able to defend yourself, and yeah, I mean, you know, when people are so, kind of, they enjoy the gotchas, right? If you can write stuff that they can’t gotcha on, I mean, it helps kind of create a sense of quality, right? There is a lot of strong, I mean, there’s people who competed at The Arnold there, there are PhD’s, I know there’s a few editors from actual biomedical journalism and whatnot, so there’s a lot of smart people there. There’s a lot of idiots, too. You kind of have to be careful.

If you take a cynical view when you think about, okay, the person wrote x y z, does that make sense? Honestly, there is a lot to learn. I will legitimately say there is a lot to learn, I know it’s popular for people to hate on Reddit but if you take it with a cynical mind, there’s a lot of intelligent people for you to come across.

It was from there where I found my co-founder Kurtis Frank. He was just finishing up dietetic school, and kind of as I was learning there was a few people that I’d constantly messaged and I kind of almost harassed them, you know, how does this work? Why is leptin doing this? Why is [Groland] doing this? Why are they not doing this? I boost my [inaudible 08:16] 15 percent, why doesn’t that matter? 15 percent, again, sounds like a lot for example, of testosterone but it’s pretty much irrelevant in the real world.

He was coming out of school and he was going to go RD or PhD and I said, “Listen, you know, why don’t we try to build something cool. Like, you have all the time in the world to become an RD or PhD, that’s never going to go away, but there’s an opportunity for us to build the reference house for fitness and supplementation.”

That was over two and a half years ago now, and we’ve been slogging since then. I like to say that we’ve carved our own niche. We started off with maybe 50 visitors a day and now we get almost 15,000 visitors a day.

Mark: Sorry, what’s…your site’s called

Sol: The website’s, pretty much just the word examine, not examiner. Pretty simple to remember domain. Pretty much, it’s what we do. We examine the scientific evidence behind various nutrition claims, let’s say, and supplementation. You’ll find information such as, is saturated fats bad for you? Are eggs healthy? Is diet soda bad for you? Do you have to worry about carbs? Is fiber good for you? Then you get into supplements such as, what does Creatine do? How does Creatine work? What about caffeine? Dr. Oz recommended supplementation, and what not.

We get really esoteric, I’ve got to admit. We have over 300 supplements so there’s a lot, a lot of information there. Not to toot my own horn, but I believe that we’ve been really at it for a while, we’re very independent, we’re very neutral, we don’t sell any supplements, we’re thankfully, again, because of what I had done before I can bankroll it until it’s kind of now running on its own. We’ve carted our own niche, we’re pretty damn big to be honest, and I think we have a really nice reputation for being kind of unbiased and independent on this.

Mark: I would agree. You’ve got some really well known and respected advisers on there, Adam Bornstein being one who I interviewed here on the podcast a few weeks back. What are your goals with Examine? Where do you want to take it?

Sol: Honestly, like I said, right now we’re at maybe 15,000 visitors a day. I just want us to get to 50. 50,000 is a nice round number but it also kind of means that we are now a legitimate source of information. We get messages everyday about, “Hey, you know, I used to buy, for example, Trib,” which is the number one testosterone booster on the market. It was like, “I used to buy Trib and then read your page and I realized I was wasting money.” Or hey, Glutamine, which is the number one muscle builder after protein and whey protein itself, you know, it’s like, “Oh, I used to buy that and now that I read your website I realized I was just wasting my money so thank you.”

It’s kind of cool. We’re making a dent in all the marketing and all the other garbage that goes along with supplementation so my goal is only to become bigger and bigger, and become a very, very reputable source of information on supplements and nutrition. That’s really it. That’s just our goal.

Mark: That’s great. I’m just on your website now. If people go there you’ve got like 300 different supplements from the popular ones, fish oil, and Creatine, caffeine, and then to obviously some sort of less known supplements. Does it include herbs as well?

Sol: Yeah, we have a lot of herbs. We actually cover a lot of the TMC, the traditional Chinese medicine, and Ayurvedic which is the Indian Medication. It’s kind of interesting to be honest. Stuff like berberine which is traditional Chinese medication, it’s actually really potent as an agent to decrease blood sugar. It’s pretty much as important as Metformin which is the number one diabetic drug. We definitely cover anything we find interesting. We have over 300 supplements now. There’s a lot of…there’s popular ones. There’s even stuff like blueberries, and then there’s random things like dill, or [Laos] coriander which is not something you hear about everyday.

Mark: Let’s dive into the supplements goals guide which I guess, you started the website first, and then the guide you developed. I’m assuming it’s most of the information that’s on your site already but you’ve compiled it in a way that is very reader friendly. It’s good. I have a science background and I can read and decipher a lot of some of the more scientific articles and stuff, but I think, was your goal in a way to write it too, that people who don’t have that science background can understand this and take away messages and information that they can use for their own benefit as well?

Sol: Absolutely. The thing about supplementation is it comes with athletics which is what most people talk about other than Creatine, and caffeine, and maybe beta alanine, it doesn’t honestly really work. Even then, consistency, and hard work, and lifting heavy weights, those pretty much trump everything else, right? Get enough sleep, that’s pretty much the number one supplement you can actually do.

The thing about supplementation is when you come to specific health goals, which depends on each person, right? Supplementation can make a big difference. I mentioned berberine which is really good for blood sugar control. I have a lot of diabetic friends who absolutely love berberine. There’s a lot of doctors I know who specialize in diabetics and they’ll be fans of berberine. It’s over the counter, it has it’s downsides in certain areas, but in other ways it’s extremely potent. Then there’s stuff, if you have PCOS, polycystic ovarian syndrome, [inaudible 14:05] and Inositol actually helps a lot with that.

Our viewpoint on supplementation is we’ll agree that for sports performance, there’s only a couple that work. We won’t even dispute that at all, but when you come to very specific health goals and, again, that depends on people, right? Supplementation can work and at the same time, supplementation in certain areas can cause problems, right? If you look at blood pressure, for example, caffeine increases your blood pressure. Now, you and I may know that, and I’m sure a lot of your listeners here know that too, but to a lot of people they don’t realize caffeine can do that. So if you already have high blood pressure and you’re already a heavy coffee drinker, it would make sense for you to make decaf a little bit or stuff like that.

What we did was we made this reference guide which only looks at scientific evidence done in humans, no rat models, no petri dish, no test tubes, nothing like that. We say hey, for this supplement what does it do and what doesn’t it do? That’s the easy reference part from our website anyway. Then we took it the other direction, right? Those health goals I was talking about, those contextual things. We have roughly 200 health goals and they could be blood pressure, they could be libido, blood sugar like I talked about, cognition, memory, stuff like that, and we say hey, for this specific health goal of yours, here are the supplements that have an effect on it and here’s what they do. Do they improve it, do they decrease it, and whatnot.

It’s meant to be for the lay person who just wants to know what supplements should I actually consider taking, which ones should I actually be weary of and not take? It is a very easy way to look these supplements up and [inaudible 15:42]. Honestly, you save a lot of money. When I just mentioned Glutamine and Trib, there’s a lot of other supplements that people are spending a lot of money on thinking it’s going to make a difference, but in reality it’s not really doing much other than emptying out their wallet for them. It’s meant to be a very easy to use reference for supplements and what they do and don’t do.

Mark: That’s cool. Let’s talk about a couple of examples of what are a couple supplement examples of people, according to your research and the guide that they’re wasting a lot of money on?

Sol: The popular ones that people are wasting money on is Trib, which is used as a testosterone booster. It’s a libido booster is the reality. The obvious connection is testosterone is up, your libido is up, right? You feel good, you feel kind of antsy let’s say, and whatnot. What Trib does is it increases your libido without actually increasing your testosterone. Because we connect the two so much in our culture and in our minds you think oh, because my libido is up, my testosterone is up, but unfortunately that doesn’t happen.

Another common one is Glutamine. Glutamine is an amino acid. It’s really easy to get via a regular diet, just protein and whatnot. What Glutamine does is if you can get it to your muscle cells, it can actually helps on a dose dependent matter it helps grow muscle tissue. The reality is in our actual human bodies, the small intestines love Glutamine, so other than the amount that they actually let pass through your muscles, they pretty much sequester all the Glutamine themselves. So as a supplement, Glutamine again becomes kind of useless.

The other one that’s really popular is Glucosamine. It’s really popular as a joint…

Mark: For joints.

Sol: Yeah, for joint pain. It’s actually really, really, really popular, but when you actually look at it, glutamine hydro chloride I believe, it’s pretty much useless. It’s actually found to be useless. Glucosamine sulfate is the only one that works, and even then it only works a little bit for people who have osteoarthritis. Joint pain is not osteoarthritis. That’s a whole different issue, right? Joint pain includes inflammation and lack of recovery and whatnot. If you looked up recovery, for example, you’d find that Glucosamine is useless, but you find something like Curcumin which is found in Tumeric, is actually really good for pain relief in your joints. It’s stuff like that, you know, that it helps you identify things that are useless and then helps you identify things that actually work. For example, the Curcumin and joint pain.

Mark: Yeah, exactly. One of the things, too, I find, people get carried away with supplements and at the end of the day they are supplements. They are meant to supplement your diet. Of course, I’m sure you’re an advocate as well. Eat the right foods first. Drink the right fluids before you start taking supplements.

Sol: Absolutely. That’s what I say. When people ask me, “What supplement should I take?” the number one supplement honestly is sleeping, right? It’s hilarious when people go out on the weekend, they drink 10, 15 different shots of alcohol, they have four hours of actually garbage sleep, they wake up haggard the next day and they’re like, “Hey, what supplement can I take to get bigger and stronger?” Well, think about it, right? Get your sleep.

It’s amazing how important sleep is in your day to day operations. It influences all of the hormones in your body, it’s the time when your body finally gets to relax, to take a break, to recover, to rebuild, and people abuse that. Unless you’re getting your sleep right, unless you’re getting enough protein in your diet and you’re not eating too much or eating too little, I mean, supplementation again, like you said, right? Even the word itself lends to itself right there. It’s something to make your overall diet and nutrition, whatnot, better. It will not replace your base, and if you don’t have your base in the right way then you’re just wasting your time and money.

Mark: Yeah, exactly. Myself, I take a multivitamin. Not everyday but most I do. I take a fish oil and that’s pretty much it. I try to get everything else in diet, fish oil. I have to look some more on your website but I think there is some benefit to fish oil so I’d be interested to see what do you take on a regular basis?

Sol: Wait a minute, you don’t take vitamin D?

Mark: Oh, I take vitamin D as well. I have it in my desk at work actually. I don’t take it at home. I have it in my desk at work. I take it typically five out of seven days.

Sol: Close enough, close enough. Personally, I only take vitamin D. I do take Creatine, I actually make my mom take it, too. It’s just one of those supplements that’s extremely cheap, that has an incredible safety profile, and its benefits are just one of those things that are beyond just power output and muscular building. It’s essentially extra energy for your cells. If your cells are ever starved of energy it can be that little difference between your cells dying and your cells thriving. It makes it almost sound life threatening but it’s not, but Creatine is essentially one of those good, cheap general health compounds. I take that, I take vitamin D, and I don’t even take fish oil because I eat fatty fish regularly. I love smoked salmon, absolutely love it. You can give it to me by itself, in salad, on a bagel with cream cheese, whatnot, I will destroy smoked salmon all day long, so I get enough of my omega-3s through smoked salmon to not have to worry about fish oil.

Mark: So you’re good there.

Sol: Yeah.

Mark: Back to Creatine. I mean, Creatine that’s another supplement that I think has kind of flip flopped in a way. I know it was popular when I was…university days for me and I was lifting weights and a lot of buddies were taking Creatine. Then it seemed like it lost its popularity because everyone kind of freaked out and said wait a second, there’s not long term research on Creatine, be careful, or don’t take it. Where are we at now with Creatine? Obviously there’s got to be some good research out there, you’re taking it yourself and your mom is taking it. What are they saying now?

Sol: I remember when Mark McGwire was taking it and it was compared to steroids and what not and it was just like, wow, you literally cannot compare the two. Honestly, Creatine is literally just inside your body, it essentially helps replenish ATP which is essentially the energy unit for your cells. It’s completely harmless. It gets saturated. The problem with Creatine was that one of the tests for kidney failure is how much Creatine is expelled by your kidneys, and Creatine just by taking it produces Creatine, but it’s not doing to through your kidneys.

There was this huge kind of brouhaha about oh no, it’s damaging your kidneys and this and that, but there is literally over a dozen studies showing that RCT’s and whatnot that Creatine is completely safe for your kidneys. Again, if you can ingest two pounds of red meat a day you’re pretty much getting enough Creatine for your body anyway, so it’s not like it’s also an unnatural substance. We’ve had safety profile of now, I think 20 years where there’s been absolutely no problem whatsoever, and they’ve done washouts where it takes four to six weeks to just completely clear out of your system and you don’t have to worry about any kind of residual toxin or anything like that, so yeah.

Honestly, Creatine is completely clean, it’s completely safe, and there’s studies where one…I remember there’s on guy, a case study, who has one kidney, and even that kidney had renal issues, it wasn’t a 100 percent kidney, and he was able to take Creatine without any problems, so if he could do it I’m pretty sure we all can do it. What they’re finding now is Creatine could actually have cognitive benefits because of that cell energy kind of thing I was telling you about. It can actually help keep your synapses in order. It can even help make SSRI’s which are used for anti depression. It can make them more potent, so absolutely. The only downside to Creatine is if you don’t drink enough water it can cause some stomach cramping, but honestly if you can’t get enough water in that’s your own fault so I’m only going to point the finger at you if you manage to do that somehow.

Mark: There you go. I want to talk a bit about the supplement industry, I guess. I mean, you guys, I’m sure you’ve been contacted by supplement companies. Your site’s got a lot of traction. You’ve got your guide out there. There’s got to be some supplement companies out that going, “What the hell are you guys doing?”

Sol: Yeah, yeah. We don’t get a lot of direct grief. We get a lot of, let’s say there’s always companies willing to offer us their private research. There’s companies always very interested in sponsoring our work. There’s companies very interested in having us test out their products and whatnot. The nice thing is because we’ve taken a very blanket statement of saying we’re not working with any supplement companies, we’re independent, we’re not selling your brand, we’re not selling your stuff, you know. You could be my best friend and I’m not selling your stuff. It’s been easy to just say here, here’s our policy and that’s all there is to it, but we’ve definitely been offered, I mean, there’s never been a direct, “Hey, take this down and we’ll give you this much money,” but it’s one of those, “Hey, if you were to reword this perhaps, then we’d be happy to sponsor you to 2000 dollars, or in Glutamine paid,” or whatnot, right?

I’m very thankful I’m in a position where that kind of stuff doesn’t really matter to me. I live a pretty good life, I go on long walks with my dog, I travel two, three, four, five times a year and I read all the time, so it’s been easy to say no, but absolutely. We get contacted quite frequently by supplement companies about, you know, “Hey, we’d like to share some interesting research with you,” which is absolutely not peer reviewed or in any way whatsoever, so yeah. We stay away from them pretty much in general. We really don’t have any type of contact with anyone.

Mark: That’s cool. I appreciate your guys’ stance. I just love going to your site, too. It’s clean and there’s no advertising which if you go onto…you’re reading an article, it could be a newspaper article online or something and you see ads popping up, and it just kind of screams like it’s offsite, or you don’t know if you should believe it.

Sol: There’s also a lot of sponsored writing now in the industry. You go Forbes Magazine or Fortune Magazine and there’s these gushing reviews of supplementation and they’re written by lawyers or people who have absolutely no reason to even be writing about supplementation, who have absolutely no connection with it, so it’s a very murky business, let’s say. I have to admit I get a few jollies off of here we are kind of doing our own thing and we were kind of ignored at first because hey, there’s some nerds doing what they’re doing, but we work hard at it and it’s been kind of gratifying to build up our revenue, build up our reputation and we’re completely in the clear on our own. Feels nice.

Mark: I love it man. You guys are doing great work.

Sol: Thank you.

Mark: What about you? What are you doing for workouts now? How are you staying fit?

Sol: Unfortunately I am a genetic disaster. I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome which basically means I have very loose ligaments so pretty much I’m in a constant state of injury, so that previous ACL injury I told you about, I had surgery, I had that all fixed but now my other side is torn. It was so bad that even the doctors were, they actually let out an audible “Whoa”. Yeah, they were actually pretty impressed where the MRI said my ACL’s gone, my MCL LCL are mostly gone, my meniscus is gone, I have an accumulation of synovial fluid, a burst baker’s fist, and I have micro fractures in my fibula from one little disaster playing soccer.

Most of my own workouts are more geared towards, let’s say, tendon and ligament strength building because they tend to lag, right, behind actual muscular development, ligaments and tendons take a bit more longer, their blood flow’s really poor, you have to work in really higher reps, negative [inaudible 28:06] and whatnot to build up their strength. I know what I’m good at, which is let’s say nutrition, which is letting Kurtis do the research. We just hired a doctor nine days ago and we’re actually working on hiring another researcher to kind of vet all of our information, so I know who’s good at what so I let them kind of do what they do best to make it easy for them to get their research on and be able to make a little bit of a difference in the supplement industry.

Mark: That’s great, man. I know you mentioned, or we chatted about earlier the possibility, and I’m not going to put you on the spot, but giving away a couple copies of the Supplement Goals Reference Guide to a couple of lucky listeners.

Sol: Absolutely. We’ve hung out before, we’re local Torontonians, for your listeners I’d be absolutely happy to give away a few copies. It’s your show, your rules, you tell me whom and you tell me when and I will get it to them, not a problem.

Mark: That is awesome. Well let’s decide together. So, we’ll choose a couple winners. Why don’t we say the winners have to go to the blog,, we’ll use that URL. Go there and then they’ve got to put a comment in, what do they have to comment, what do you think?

Sol: They can comment about anything they want. If they’ve got a question we’ll give them two entries for that, how about that?

Mark: Let’s do that. Put any comment in there for one entry, and if you’ve got a specific sort of supplement nutritional question, throw that in there and you’ll get an extra entry.

Sol: Boom. Done.

Mark: Done. We’ll keep it open for a week and a half or so.

Sol: Sounds good.

Mark: What’s up next for you guys over at Examine? You’ve hired someone else, what’s next? Are you updating the guide? Tell me what’s happening?

Sol: The guide is one of those things where it’s essentially if you purchase and it’s lifetime [inaudible 30:08] basically generated from our database so as long as we update the site, the guide’s getting updated and there’s no additional fee to you.

In terms of us, honestly, yeah it’s just we have our strengths and we admittedly have our weaknesses in terms of reading research is not something that one just becomes good at and that’s all there is to it, right? There’s different parts to it. There’s methodology, there’s the physical analysis, stuff like that. Kurtis has a strength, and he has weaknesses, and we are either going to hire one or two more people to focus on the research end to verify everything he said to kind of be devil’s advocates.

Again, we’re not interested in just being big and just being well known. We’re interested in actually being a source of legitimate information. We want to be used in academia and whatnot, so that’s kind of our next step is. We’re going well, we’re pretty much a 15,000 visitors a day now and we just continue to grow. Right now our focus is just on ensuring that the quality of information is really good.

Part of it is…I mentioned that we hired a doctor about a week and a few days ago, and the reason with that is there’s practical experience you’ll learn in the lab. There’s practical experience you’ll learn being an actual nutritionist. There’s practical experience you get from being an actual doctor. When we did our baking soda page, one of our advisers, Dr. Brian Chung was actually both a PhD and an MD, he mentioned about how they use baking soda with patients in the hospital. This kind of information, that he has experience with it so he can share and he can say this is why we did what we do, and that’s kind of our goal now is to build up a broad base of really intelligent, really smart people with their own skill sets so that when you go to you can be really confident that this is not just the work of one or two people. We’ve had four, five, six heads come together and look at the information, verify what’s going on so you can really, really rely on what we’re stating. That’s kind of our next step.

Mark: That’s cool, man. Where can people, if they want to get in touch with you or follow you online, where can they do that?

Sol: Like you said,, throw a comment there, I’ll be happy to respond if you have any questions. Our website is, it’s got a contact page. We’re on Facebook, we’re on Twitter, Examinecom, you can find links on the site, pretty much, yeah. If you have any questions, I suggest just pull up the comment on your site and I will keep an eye. People always do podcasts and they don’t really respond to questions and whatnot, I on the other hand, I have way too much time on my hands like I said, so I’ll be sure to keep an eye on those comments, and if they have any questions I’ll be more than happy to respond to them.

Mark: That’s awesome, Sol. Hey well listen, a huge thank you to you for your time and expertise and your work on Examine, and your colleagues over at Examine as well. It’s much appreciated.

Sol: Thank you. We try our best and I’ll be sure to send your kind words on to the rest of the team.

Mark: That’s great. Okay, so everyone, that’s it for now. We hope to see you on the next episode.

Sol: Awesome. Thank you for having me, Mark.

Mark: Thanks.


  • Chuck Strassburger

    Always looking for info in what to get and what not to get. What should I look for when purchasing BCAA’s?

    • Mark Kennedy

      Hi Chuck – you should check out this post on Adam Bornstein’s site: Hope this helps!

    • SoloX

      Beyond Mark’s post, since there are only three BCAAs, and the variance is maybe a gram or two, taste and cost becomes the main concern.

  • Emma Milligen

    Nice show today! I was curious about what vital supplements are necessary for vegans (I prefer supplementing with whole foods, herbs and such whenever possible). I currently take a vegan multi + greens with a small amount of iron in it as well as a Vitamin D tablet. I also use spirulina, hemp, flax and maca regularly in my diet as a natural booster in my diet. Thanks guys!

    • Kurtis Frank

      Hi Emma, Kurtis from here:

      We have actually made a ‘stack’ page on Examine collecting the information on this topic which is attached as follows:

      We tend to just collect recommendations for simple decisions. From that list, I would supplement creatine and carnitine and consider iodine if your diet does not have any in it.

      • Emma Milligen

        Thank you for your quick response! Much appreciated. Being vegan, I try to avoid animal derived supplements. Is there nothing else I can take in place of creatine?

    • Mark Kennedy

      Hi Emma – congrats! You’ve won a copy of The Supplement-Goals Reference Guide!

      Please send me an email to and I’ll arrange for the guys at Examine to get you your guide.

      Thanks again for the comments.


  • Dave A

    Very enjoyable Podcast episode. The site has already led me to some intriguing new supplements to try (citrulline for one).

    • Mark Kennedy

      Thanks Dave. Yes, Examine is quite a resource.

  • joble

    I’d post a question, but has already answered all of them. So here’s an empty comment :)

  • Gina Penzig

    I recently heard in a podcast that magnesium is a good supplement to support mental function. Is it effective? Is there a recommended way to take it? Also, for many years, the benefits of fish oil have been touted. Is a daily fish oil supplement advisable with a typical American diet (heavier on meat than it should be and only working in fish an average of about 1.5 times per week)? If so, should it be taken at a certain time related to omega 6 intake or does that matter?

    • Kurtis Frank

      Hi Gina, Kurtis here from Examine.

      Magnesium is beneficial if deficient and doesn’t do much if you have enough in your diet, so in regards to mental function it is definitely effective if you do not consume enough normally. It is more of an ‘avoid a negative effect’ than ‘induce a positive effect’ though. Most magnesium supplements will work (even the form known as ‘Magnesium Oxide’), but since oxide is associated with some intestinal distress I tend to recommend Magnesium citrate since it is the cheapest alternative.

      And if we assume a typical american diet, then I whole heartedly recommend fish oil. Timing does not matter with fish oil supplements (since they just build up in your body) although it would be nice to take it with a meal.

  • Vincent Pezzi

    Thanks for this podcast. I’ve been using since a few weeks and helped me save some cash on some supp already :)
    I was wondering if you think supplementing with BA (Beta-Alanine) is worth the cost? As only a A studay has proven a minor increase in muscle endurance.

    • SoloX

      Thanks Vincent :)

      Honestly, it depends on the person. I personally don’t like it because paresthesia (the tingles) drive me crazy, but I know people who love it.

      On the flip side, it does help your performance (admittedly not by much) if you work out in the 60s-240s range, and only you know if the cost is worth it (we all have our own priorities).

  • Alex M

    Thanks for the podcast! I am still curious about the current state of consuming foods rich in phytoestrogen and the effects that this can have on males. My interpretation is that it’s still somewhat uncertain. Cheers.

    • SoloX

      Our stance is that they are pretty weak in general, and if they *are* notable enough in your diet to cause problems, its really not them, but your overall diet. A diet rich in vegetables and meats will go a long way in making their effects trivial.

  • Martijn Koevoets

    Great information there. No BS!

    Some companies claim theirs are better absorbed than the generic brands multi’s. Due to synthetic vitamines in the cheaper products.

    Is there any real evidence for this? Or is generic just fine and should i save some cash?

    • Kurtis Frank

      Hey Martijn, Kurtis from here.

      There is some truth to this, but it is mixed. Interestingly, the stuff you see on the label only plays a small part (between magnesium oxide and magnesium citrate, there isn’t too much of a difference in absorption rates for the deficient people who need it) but the capsule itself is sometimes a problem. The hard capsules that are outside the typical Centrum-like multivitamin do tend to reduce absorption since they sometimes don’t fully break in the body. Thin gelatin capsules or liquid gel pills are better absorbed.

      So, avoid those hard little pills that could double as paperweights.

      • Martijn Koevoets

        Thanks Kurtis! Great advice. Currently i take vitamin capsules with powder in it. Seems like a good choice.

        I thought of an other question, about alga, like Chlorella and Nano Chloropsis.

        I see there is not much to find about on, but they are always a hot topic with vegans and vegetarians.

        To me personally i think theres better ways to get the benefits from these alga. And they do not seem to be worth the money.

        But maybe i’m wrong and perhaps you now if there is some promising research pending?

  • Krunoslav Ivesic

    Great post, thank you! IMHO, the site is a discovery of the year :)

  • paintedrednails is one of my favorite sites. I am constantly researching and switching up what I take based on both information and my experience. Here is my question: What would be the best supplement to relieve a sensation I get that I refer to as “vibrating ears”. It is a sensation that happens while a here noise. NAC is the only supplement I have found that seems to help but it doesn’t always work. Since that is the case I think it may have to do with modulating the NMDA receptor, but I am not sure. When I eat certain foods like spicy things or other specific things (IE too much fenugreek) it makes the sensation worse.

    If you want to know what it sounds like put your fingers in your ears. I hear that during and just after hearing noises. And some noises trigger it more strongly.


    • Kurtis Frank

      Hi there, Kurtis from here.

      If what you are talking about is at all related to tinnitus, then ZMA (due to the zinc and magnesium, B6 is irrelevant) and melatonin show promise in tinnitus; it would at least be worth a shot there.

      I do recall that methionine was touted for its benefits in ear health and damage as well (in general, not tinnitus specific), and since it is related to NAC (both sulfur bearing amino acids) that is making me think that sulfur signalling might be a problem. If that is the case, and this is just the ramblings of a madman right now, I would consider trying some garlic. Garlic (examine page is quite vast now) has a lot of mechanisms similar to NAC, but it also has some mechanisms that are opposite that of capsaicin in spicy foods (look at the sections on the garlic page about TRPs). Its cheap, so perhaps try a clove and see how it works?

      • paintedrednails

        Thanks Kurtis. I have read about tinnitus before and it doesn’t seem to fit.

        Garlic is one of the spices that doesn’t seem to cause more problems. I currently take a supplement that has garlic in it (but the does might be too low). Where can I read more about sulfur signaling? I wonder if that could be it.

        Broccoli is another thing that seems to help. And that contains sulfur.

        I happen to have MSM kicking around, which has a ton of sulfur. I will try that out.

  • hotandbothered

    Great show! I was wondering if all these herbal testosterone supplements are effective? I’m 55, and though I’m very healthy with a vegan diet I have noticed a, shall we say, an increase in the time between some night-time activities. Frequency between ‘events’ is down to twice a week. Would these help, and is there some sort of ‘payback’ with these further down the line?

    • SoloX

      Two separate issues.

      No supplement has been proven to help with T (and lots have been disproven, including the #1 selling – trib).

      On the flip side, there are definitely supplements that help with libido. Something like maca has a lot of evidence behind its efficacy. You can learn more here:

      • hotandbothered

        Thanks for replying so quickly! I shall do a bit more research on this before committing to eating! Thanks again.

  • Joe Santulli

    Hi. Love website! It’s the best supplement resource I’ve come across. I’d like to know your thoughts on protein powders and what type of protein powders are most effective?

    • SoloX

      Thanks for the kind words Joe :)

      Honestly, it’s more about hitting your protein goals:

      Since it’s well above the RDI, you don’t need to worry about complete vs incomplete protein, and basically your top concerns should be 1. cost and 2. deliciousness. Stuff like superduperprocessedultrapeptides matter to the top 0.001% of the population.

  • Joe Santulli

    Also, do you recommend taking nootropics?

    • SoloX

      Depends – nootropics is such a broad definition that covers memory, attention, and so many more.

      Our official recommendation is to take what you think will help you out. On a personal level, I do occasionally take nootropics as a pre-workout. It’s definitely one of the most interesting upcoming fields.

      • Joe Santulli

        Thanks Sol! I agree, this particular field is really interesting and I’m definitely going to do more research. I really appreciate your responses to both questions. Thanks!

  • JustTellMeWhy

    Loved the interview. Sol, I’d love to see research into brainfog, something I suffer a lot from. Cheers!

    • Kurtis Frank

      Hi there, Kurtis from here.

      Usually brainfog is a habit issue (either poor control of glucose in the blood or poor sleep), so while the best course would be to try to avoid spiking your blood sugar unnecessarily, hoping you’re not diabetic, and getting proper sleep, I’ll just assume that all those are taken care of and talk about supplements.

      If you use caffeine, the addition of L-theanine alongside it is usually the first recommendation for brainfog; cheap, effective, and safe but is most impressive in those with a caffeine habit. If you don’t use caffeine, then either L-theanine alone would work or pairing it with a very subtle stimulant (tea with extra theanine, or perhaps synephrine).

      If your sleep is the issue though, melatonin or glycine won’t hurt.

      • JustTellMeWhy

        Thanks for the reply Kurtis. I’m definitely getting plenty of sleep. I’ll try staying off sugar for a week, and see if that helps. Then I’ll try L-theanine with my coffee.

        Thanks a million!

  • jeffy7nat

    I recently discovered and love it …..Thanks for the site it is very helpful, and I had a question: Are there any Nootropics that conflict with Albuterol or Advair?

    • SoloX

      Drug-drug interactions are very trick. We can state that be careful taking Propanolol with them, but there may be others we are not aware of.

      Also please do not construe this as medical advice! Consulting a physician or a pharmacist would be ideal.

    • Mark Kennedy

      Congrats! You’ve won a copy of The Supplement-Goals Reference Guide!

      Please send me an email to and I’ll arrange for the guys at Examine to get you your guide.

      Thanks again for the comment.


  • John

    I’d like to know more about 5-MTHF. I can’t find any info on the Examine site.

    • Kurtis Frank

      I’ve just added it to the list of things to do. I honestly do not know too much about the benefits it would have relative to folate/folic acid off the top of my head though :(

  • Mohsen Zarkesh

    I want to learn more about supplementing with saffron and its effects and proper dosing! Please let us know and kindly let the crew know to make a page for this wonderful spice!

    • SoloX

      Definitely on our todo. We have quite a few delicious herbs and spices already :) (and my parents love saffron!)

  • Evan S

    Great interview. Question: If money were no object, would you take all (or nearly all) of the supplements you guys have found to have positive health outcomes?

    • SoloX

      Our stance on supplementation is that you should take them targeted to your health goals (eg peppermint for IBS, berberine for blood sugar, etc).

      In that same vein, I’m incredibly lazy. So while Kurtis loves self-experimenting, I tend to stick to the very basics (I get pill-fatigued very easily).

  • Jessica Bell Grote

    Loved the Podcast! What are your thoughts on probiotics? Are these helpful or are they a fad? Sometimes it seems the healthier I eat, the more stomach problems and bloating I have so may need something to help aid digestion

    • SoloX

      Probiotics is one thing we really need to investigate, but as we haven’t, alas have to deliver a “no comment” for now!

  • Bruce F. Koblinski

    Great information. I train 5-7 times per week, sometimes twice a day. If I take in four servings of meat/fish, is that enough protein? Perhaps a BCAA supplement would benefit my particular situation?

  • Tom Fehring

    Well worth the read, thanks for this.

    Kurtis mentioned in his AMA that there’s some evidence of negative side effects from prolonged Vitamin D supplementation in the range of 5000+ IU/day. In that range, is that pretty much limited to vascular calcification, as far as we know?

    Also, as far as Vitamin D goes….the examine page mentions that there’ve been some accounts of trouble sleeping at night after supplementation late in the day. Any guesses as to the mechanism behind this? Full disclosure: I take it like an hour before workouts because I find it stimulatory.

    • Kurtis Frank

      Hey Tom; I have positively no clue why that happens.

  • Dave A

    Anything in the supplement arsenal that actually helps with not sleeping enough? Melatonin doesn’t do much for me.

    • SoloX

      Melatonin only helps you *go* to sleep. Try tyrosine or a few drops of lavender on your pillow.

  • Jon Fraley

    I am a health food extremist to the point of not even consuming whey protein. To me its a dairy bi-product they are marketing to athletes. I use an enzymatic processed rice protein instead. Do you think that is a good alternative to whey? If not what would you recommend? Lets not even start a whey debate. You will not convince me :) I use liquid collagen during my workouts. Non whey of course and have found it to be the most powerful supplement to extend training and performance I have ever tried. I have also found that a more whole protein for post workout is needed. Hence the rice protein for that purpose. Thanks for your feedback!

  • Gareth

    Been looking for such a book for a long time. Very excited about it. Does it have any info about potency of supplements? Most brands claim their products have so and so amount of protein for example but rarely deliver.

  • Austinite

    Awesome! Love your work, Sol!

    • SoloX

      Thank you!

  • Michelle A

    I’ve spent many an hour following links on and its helped to clarify some of my supplementation choices. I walk the fine line between being a sucker for the latest magic pill and wanting hard evidence, helps me cut through some of my own wishful thinking by providing the facts. Thanks for your great service. Any suggestions for breaking sugar addiction in my teenage son ( other than lots of healthy food).

    • SoloX

      Thanks! Our entire goal is to suck you in and make it hard to leave!

  • Katarzyna Janiszewska

    Hi. I’m new in sports nutrition world. I’ve just found and feel very excited to have such a reliable source of knowledge! It would be a dream come true to win a copy of The Supplement-Goals Reference Guide 😉

    • SoloX

      Thank you!

  • SoloX

    It depends on your diet. We tend to recommend just making sure you eat fatty fish in your diet.

  • mustapha