I was up at 4 am the other day as I am back home from another epic trip with the wonderful wifey.  At the end of the trip, we were in San Clemente the other day, we got to see one of our favorite humans – none other than Markus from www.gymbreakthroug.com! He took us to his favorite coffee shop where I had an amazing cappuccino and a fresh-baked cookie! Don’t worry, I had a Finnish protein bar on my way out the door- haha.

We got to chatting about a term he coined “High-Quality Basics.” These items that are super high quality, yet basic and simple.

We agreed that there is something special about these “common” items. It could be a hand-crafted knife to a well-made cup of coffee to a magnificent smoked porter beer, etc.

I relayed the story of saving my money up from my summer job in 1991 of trudging through the swamp at a shooting range. I then plunked 300 clams down to buy new home audio speakers.

After listening to many speakers, I went with the highest quality, simple, 2 way speakers – Infinity SM 82s- instead of a lower quality 3-way speaker. Several decades later I still have them- and love them.

They were expensive back then when I was only making $4 an hour, but for the number of hours of enjoyment I’ve received, they were well worth the investment. They even held up to multiple moves in and out of dorms/ apartments over 18 years of college. Heck, I am listening to them now.

My point is that these High-Quality Basics will serve you well.

This not only applies to items you may purchase, but to your fitness too.

Focus on the high-quality basics that provide the most “bang for your buck” in training.

Those would include

  • SquatZ
  • Deadlifts
  • Overhead Press
  • Rows
  • Bench press
  • Farmers carries
  • Supportive and pinch grip

These should make up a large portion of your training, or a minimum those movement patterns should show up.

By all means, toss in a few machines and arm day if you like it.  Everyone loves a great “doooooode brah” day at the gym, just don’t let it become every day.

Lay the foundation solid and then build from it.

This same idea applies to sports supplements too.

High-Quality Basics: Supplements

This same idea applies to sports supplements too.

Why should you even supplement?

Great question!

Supplement questions are the most asked question I get right after “Should I do a Keto Diet?” and “What do you think of CBD for XX?”

It goes without saying that supplements are just that – they are designed to supplement your current nutrition plan, not replace it.

I like the Paul Chek quote,

“…  Taking a supplement when your diet is a wreck is like building a boat out of rotten wood and using gold nails to hold it together. The nails look all fancy and shiny but your boat is going to sink …”

I paraphrased that a bit and maybe calling supplements “golden nails” is to give them a bit too much credit; although, I love the idea that without a great baseline of real food, all the best supplements in the world won’t make a huge difference.

Most people would better served to put their money into higher-quality food.

100% agree.

Most people just randomly pick supplements based on the latest magazine ad or whatever is trendy.

But you are NOT most people licking the windows at Planet Fitness since you are reading this post.

Here are my high-quality basics that serve as the starting point for supplements.


I will warn you that my top item below is boring and basic. If you are looking for the latest super squirrel secret Russian bear nutsack derived peptide, you won’t find it on this list.

Are you ready?

#1 Supplement: Creatine Monohydrate

high-quality basics


Yep, good ole creatine has an amazing track record of both safety and actually working!

I’ve noticed in my M3 online clients that perhaps since it is not sexy, many are not using it before they work with me; or if they are using it, they are not using it to its full effect.

The main exercise benefit of creatine is to increase the number of reps you can do with a heavier-ish load. More stimulus over time adds up to more strength, hypertrophy and can aid fat loss too (since more work is done).

Read on as there is much much more this supplement can do.

Creatine Form

There has not been a single study so far that has shown any other form of creatine is superior to creatine monohydrate (1).  No need for the fancy versions that every supplement manufacture is attempting to cash in on. Stay with OG of creatine monohydrate.

Other Effects of Creatine

Creatine may have neuroprotective effects (2-9), especially at a higher dose of 10-20 grams per day to saturate the brain.

This could be beneficial for impact sports or whack-a-dos that like to attach themselves to 100 feet of razor-sharp line to an upside-down parachute (aka kiteboarding).

I personally take 15 -20 grams of creatine 2 weeks before and during a kiteboarding trip. It may reduce the severity of or enhance recovery from mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) (5).

Creatine showed a benefit after only 8 weeks via changing brain metabolism in women with major depressive disorder (10).  In another study, creatine improved Cognitive effects in patients with bipolar depression (2).

What Creatine Can’t Do . . .

Not all studies were shown to be beneficial on the neuro side, so creatine is not a magic elixir.

In a 5-year study in humans with Parkinson’s Disease, creatine at 10 grams per day was not shown to be beneficial in slowing the disease progression (6).

In another study, creatine supplementation was not shown to help in Huntington’s disease (11).

​Creatine and Inflammation

When creatine monohydrate was combined with exercise, it reduced inflammation and poor vessel function (endothelial dysfunction) in heart failure patients (12).

Creatine was demonstrated to be a benefit to health via its antioxidant potential which reduced oxidative stress and apoptosis (cell death) from exhaustive exercise in humans (13).

Creatine was superior to whey protein as muscle protectant – in mice (14).  I hear ya, PubMed ninjas with your itchy trigger fingers, but I doubt you want to volunteer to have an entire muscle group removed and then tested in the lab.


Common dose is 3-5 grams per day for a minimum of 4-6 weeks in length to see the full effects (15, 16).

​Is Creatine Safe?

While you can always request more long-term studies, creatine has been shown to have an exceedingly good safety profile (17-20).

Keep in mind that creatine monohydrate as a supplement has been widely available since the mid-90s which amounts to a metric-F-ton of it being consumed with very rare case reports on issues.

​Creatine Summary

There you go . . . My #1 supplement recommendation is creatine monohydrate.

It is effective, has a multitude of effects beyond just getting you more mad gainZ in the gym, tons of high-quality research, and is quite cheap.

I personally use creatine monohydrate from Driven Nutrition.

>>Get Creatine<< Use code drmike to save 15%.

Yes, I do make a few clams of the sales, but I did not write this article just to make a few shekels.

Supplement #2: Fish Oil

Yep, once again this is a very basic but effective supplement.

The biggest “issue” I see is that most will not consume enough.  I’ve done blood spot testing on lipids including fish oils on all my M3 online clients and in Skype consults since 2010.

Most I see could benefit from increasing their fish oil consumption.

Of course, you can consume more fatty fish, but make sure it is wild-caught since currently the fish oils themselves (EPA + DHA) in farmed fish is much lower.

If you are not eating that much wild-caught fish, odds are that you are low in EPA+ DHA.

The good part is that it is easy to add a supplement of around 2- 4 grams (that is EPA plus DHA) to your current diet.

Keep in mind that you can convert some Omega 3 fats to EPA+ DHA, although it is a small amount.

Consider adding a high-quality basics like fish oil as a supplement in the 2-4 grams per day range.

I personally use the one from Driven Nutrition

>> Fish Oil <<

Use the code drmike to save 15%

Supplement #3: Protein

whey protein

I know . . . shocking that all 3 of my high-quality basics are really based on food.

While the use of a protein supplement is not a requirement at all, it can be helpful when the option of getting real food is not present.

I would not base all your protein on a supplement.  But in a pinch or used when needed, they are extremely helpful to hit your protein macros.

I’ve droned on and on about all the benefits of protein before so I will save you the nerd speech.

As you can guess, my fav protein supplement is from Driven Nutrition.

And it tastes amazing too.  They have a variety of types and flavors. I use the whey protein during the day and the Pro-Fusion Seven or Casein some times in the evening before bed.

>> Protein Supplement << 

Use the code  drmike  to save 15%

Grand Summary . . .

Now you have my top 3 High-Quality Basics for supplements.   If you are using a supplement, make sure to have these 3 covered first before you get fancy.

Bring on the gainz!
Dr Mike

PS – Yes, they are affiliate links above, and I do make a few coins from them, but they are the ones I personally use.  The fish oil was the first one my mom actually took in about 10 years.  True story.  Hi Mom!

>> Protein Supplement << 

Use the code  drmike  to save 15%

Actual Research (aka References)

1.Jager R, Purpura M, Shao A, Inoue T, Kreider RB. Analysis of the efficacy, safety, and regulatory status of novel forms of creatine. Amino Acids. 2011;40(5):1369-83.

2.Toniolo RA, Fernandes FBF, Silva M, Dias RDS, Lafer B. Cognitive effects of creatine monohydrate adjunctive therapy in patients with bipolar depression: Results from a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Journal of affective disorders. 2017;224:69-75.

3.Adhihetty PJ, Beal MF. Creatine and its potential therapeutic value for targeting cellular energy impairment in neurodegenerative diseases. Neuromolecular medicine. 2008;10(4):275-90.

4.Turner CE, Byblow WD, Gant N. Creatine supplementation enhances corticomotor excitability and cognitive performance during oxygen deprivation. J Neurosci. 2015;35(4):1773-80.

5.Rawson ES, Miles MP, Larson-Meyer DE. Dietary Supplements for Health, Adaptation, and Recovery in Athletes. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2018;28(2):188-99.

6.Kieburtz K, Tilley BC, Elm JJ, Babcock D, Hauser R, Ross GW, et al. Effect of creatine monohydrate on clinical progression in patients with Parkinson disease: a randomized clinical trial. Jama. 2015;313(6):584-93.

7.Freire Royes LF, Cassol G. The Effects of Creatine Supplementation and Physical Exercise on Traumatic Brain Injury. Mini reviews in medicinal chemistry. 2016;16(1):29-39.

8.Klein AM, Ferrante RJ. The neuroprotective role of creatine. Sub-cellular biochemistry. 2007;46:205-43.

9.Zhu S, Li M, Figueroa BE, Liu A, Stavrovskaya IG, Pasinelli P, et al. Prophylactic creatine administration mediates neuroprotection in cerebral ischemia in mice. J Neurosci. 2004;24(26):5909-12.

10.Yoon S, Kim JE, Hwang J, Kim TS, Kang HJ, Namgung E, et al. Effects of Creatine Monohydrate Augmentation on Brain Metabolic and Network Outcome Measures in Women With Major Depressive Disorder. Biological psychiatry. 2016;80(6):439-47.

11.Hersch SM, Schifitto G, Oakes D, Bredlau AL, Meyers CM, Nahin R, et al. The CREST-E study of creatine for Huntington disease: A randomized controlled trial. Neurology. 2017;89(6):594-601.

12.Hemati F, Rahmani A, Asadollahi K, Soleimannejad K, Khalighi Z. Effects of Complementary Creatine Monohydrate and Physical Training on Inflammatory and Endothelial Dysfunction Markers Among Heart Failure Patients. Asian journal of sports medicine. 2016;7(1):e28578.

13.Rahimi R, Mirzaei B, Rahmani-Nia F, Salehi Z. Effects of creatine monohydrate supplementation on exercise-induced apoptosis in athletes: A randomized, double-blind, and placebo-controlled study. Journal of research in medical sciences : the official journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences. 2015;20(8):733-8.

14.Cooke MB, Rybalka E, Stathis CG, Hayes A. Myoprotective Potential of Creatine Is Greater than Whey Protein after Chemically-Induced Damage in Rat Skeletal Muscle. Nutrients. 2018;10(5).

15.Hall M, Trojian TH. Creatine supplementation. Current sports medicine reports. 2013;12(4):240-4.

16.Iraki J, Fitschen P, Espinar S, Helms E. Nutrition Recommendations for Bodybuilders in the Off-Season: A Narrative Review. Sports (Basel, Switzerland). 2019;7(7).

17.Andres S, Ziegenhagen R, Trefflich I, Pevny S, Schultrich K, Braun H, et al. Creatine and creatine forms intended for sports nutrition. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2017;61(6).

18.Butts J, Jacobs B, Silvis M. Creatine Use in Sports. Sports health. 2018;10(1):31-4.

19.Kreider RB, Kalman DS, Antonio J, Ziegenfuss TN, Wildman R, Collins R, et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2017;14:18.

20.Stares A, Bains M. The Additive Effects of Creatine Supplementation and Exercise Training in an Aging Population: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials. Journal of geriatric physical therapy (2001). 2019.