Cloud’s Supplement Guide

I get a lot of questions about nutrition and supplementation, and I’m more than happy to share my opinions on the subject. However, I find myself typing out basically the same thing as a response nearly every time. If only I had some sort of platform where I could just write it all out once, so I could just send people the link later, right?

First, some basic nutrition advice, from a very high-level perspective. Like Mike, I’m not a doctor. I’m not going to argue with you, or try and sell you anything, or convince you to change your beliefs (everyone already has their own food beliefs). But if you’re my athlete, here’s what I expect you to do.

Food: Cook and eat real food, not pre-packaged crap. Get at least your pounds of bodyweight in grams of protein (IE, I am 250 pounds of twisted steel and sex appeal. I better damn well get 250g of protein every day if I want to stay that way). Eat grassfed beef and other free-range mammals if you can, and eat wild fish. I guess you can add reptiles to that if you go Velociraptor hunting, or kill a snake that looks at your puppy the wrong way. Add all the good fats you can (oils, butters, etc). Add at least 100g of good carbs (tons of veggies, some fruits and potatoes, even rice, but avoid sugar and gluten). Alter your carbs and fat intake based on your aesthetic goals and performance needs. Buy and read Justin’s e-book Paleo For Lifters for a much more in-depth explanation. I edited that book and agree with just about everything in it – and it even goes into depth on supplements, too. However, keep in mind this post is my advice, not Justin’s.

Note: Assuming a consistent training schedule that is not completely stupid, your muscular gains will be DIRECTLY tied to how many days a year you hit your protein goals. You NEED to understand this. If I hit 250g of protein 3 days a week and ~100g the other 4 days of the week, I’m going to get half the results as if I am religiously eating carcasses. Think about it. How hard do you work to never miss a training session? Treat your protein intake this way, starting right now. Go eat a chicken; the article will be here when you get back.

Water: If you’re not drinking a gallon of water a day, you’re fired.

Now let’s get to the actual supplements. You have to have all the things above in order first, OK? It’s important. You can’t supplement your way out of a shitty application of the basics.

Protein Powder: I use whey because it’s cheap and delicious and mixes easily. Use something else (beef, egg, etc.) if whey bothers your stomach or skin. Get an additional 25g/day (small folks) to 50g/day (normal size folks) every day to supplement your real food. If, every once in awhile, you don’t hit your daily allotment of real protein, drink another protein shake, then wake up early and make more real food in your crockpot so you don’t make the same mistake twice.

PWO (Post-Workout): Bro science wins here, folks. I have an average person get an additional 50g of protein IMMEDIATELY post workout, almost always via another protein shake, but lean meat works too if that’s your thing. Add 10-25g of carbs for people who feel they’re too fat. Increase that to 50-100g for people who want maximum jackage and recovery. Reduce the carbs if you’re cutting, and/or use lower-glycemic carbs (sweet potatoes, etc). Add carbs and/or use higher-glycemic carbs if you can get away with it and/or need mucho mas energy (CF, etc). I currently use shitty sugar (Country-Time Lemonade mix…seriously) because I’m cheap and bulking, brah. Look, I’m human. There are better options, obviously.

Caffeine: Drink lots of good black coffee, and you’ll be a better person. Just stop before, say, 3-4pm, so it doesn’t affect your sleep schedule. If you don’t like it black, buy better coffee or try cold-brewing it (which reduces the acidity). If you still don’t like it, add some coconut creamer and stop whining. Use this as your pre-workout supplement if you don’t train at night.

Fish Oil: Take a couple grams a day of Omega-3 (that’s DHA+EPA). If you want to dork out about it, use Robb Wolf’s calculator and spend all your money on the best stuff available. Liquids are the best way to get high doses, especially if you’re nursing an injury. Use more if you eat cheap fatty meat. Use less if you slaughter your own grassfed cows or force-feed your chickens flax seed. Also, since I’m thinking about it, use grassfed butter, like Kerrygold. It’s delicious. Oh, and keep your fish oil in the fridge, unless you claim to be “Paleo,” in which case I expect you to find a cool damp cave for your medical pills.

Creatine Monohydrate: Take all of it. I have small females start at 5g/day and work up to 15g/day and most of my dude-lifters are taking 30g/day. Use something cheap and buy it by the bucket. Use the “internet” to find good deals until I make an affiliate connection with an e-store. Make sure you take it daily – the exact timing isn’t nearly as important as the consistency. Don’t take it on an empty stomach. Deload a couple times a year (vacation, sickness, after a meet, etc). Don’t take this much if you’re an alcoholic. But if you’re an alcoholic, you probably won’t listen to me anyway. Jerk.

Multivitamin: Get a cheap one and take it daily. Can’t hurt.

Zinc/Magnesium: Either take a cheap ZMA pill (especially if you’re a male: low Zinc=low testosterone=bad), or Natural-Calm. Work slowly up to around 25-50mg of Zinc and 4-500mg/day of Magnesium, preferably right before bed for the best acid-like dreams possible (and subsequently, deeper sleep). You and your toilet will know if you take too much, or if you take it on an empty stomach.

Vitamin D: If you live in Seattle, I’m jealous. But you only get to see The Mountain a couple dozen amazing sunny days a year. Here in Austin, we get like 400 a year. Less sun? Take more Vit D. It takes blood work to figure out if you’re deficient, but use your common sense here. I just go outside and creep out the hipster chicks at the pool. If you never get sun, you might need up to 10,000iu/day. If you get some, 2k/day is probably fine. Spend more time outside topless or in tank tops, just to be sure.

Vitamin C: If you feel like you might be getting a cold, take ALL the vitamin C. You might get the shits, but you probably won’t get sick. Otherwise, try and eat lots of various vegetables to get stuff like this on the reg and you’ll be fine.

Iron: Most of you ladies have been told to supplement your iron intake by your lady-doc, haven’t you? First, eat more red meat and kale and other good food. Then, take the liquid iron supplements from your local hippy grocery store, especially…well…you know when. Wait, don’t get mad. Please stop yelling at me. I AM listening. BRB, going fishing. Guys, just eat lots of red meat, and you should be fine, as long as you don’t bring up delicate lady-times like a jackass.

Other stuff: There are literally hundreds of other supplements out there, and some of them are actually worth discussing. If you have joint issues, try taking a glucosamine/chondroitin supplement daily for a full month and see if you feel better. If you’re loaded, BCAAs can be beneficial, but they aren’t cheap and need to be taken in high doses. You shouldn’t really need them if you’re eating properly. If you have specific questions about other supplements, feel free to ask. But make sure you’re eating your damn meat, first.


80 thoughts on “Cloud’s Supplement Guide

  1. What about fiber? Is psyllium husk fiber a good thing to take for any reasons? I swear its been great to me as far as helping out with cramping/intestinal issues.

    • It’s fine if you’re stuck in a super low carb diet for some very specific reason, but you really shouldn’t need it if you’re eating enough (real) carbs and veggies. Asparagus with bacon grease tastes better anyway.

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  3. How much does everybody spend on food per week? I’m not talking supplements and whey and all that jazz. Like, how many doll hairs/week do you spend on meat?

    • Monday I went to BJ’s food club and spent about $50 on 3lbs ground chicken, 5.5lbs steak tips, 5lbs chicken breast, 3lbs sausage and 2 dozen eggs.

      • I assume this is not the best quality of meat? Local grass fed is hella expensive (the real kind that is raised cradle to grave on grass). Almost done with the book The Omnivores Dilemma. Good stuff in there.

        • It’s the same as at a supermarket. I also have a meat CSA where I get 25 pounds of mixed beef chicken and pork for about $7 a pound. All natural greases fed beef, no hormones/antibiotics.

          • It’s the same as at a supermarket. I also have a meat CSA where I get 25 pounds a month of mixed beef chicken and pork for about $7 a pound. All natural grass fed beef, no hormones/antibiotics.

            I freeze the bulk meat and use it to supplement the good stuff. I led with that based on affordability.

      • Ok, that sounds about right I guess. I usually just buy ~10 lbs of chicken and be done with it. It’s neigh on $30. If I wanted to get enough beef for 180g protein/day, I’d be more broke than I already am.

    • I spend roughly $100-125 a week on food. That includes a produce CSA box delivered weekly, and organic/grass-fed beef and chicken, and some fish. On meat… probably $50ish, though that varies.

  4. I’ve been taking cissus quadrangularis (1000-1600 mg/day) in capsule form for about 6 months now. I truly believe it helps keep my structures working well and helps my tissues repair after squatting my dick off. I ran out one time and didnt take it for a few days, and call me crazy, but I swear my back hurt a whole lot more. Pain went away when I resumed normal doses. I’d be very interested to hear from anyone else who knows a good deal about this supplement and/or a fellow (ab)user

  5. ZMA is my go to pre bed supp. Need to time it well or I fall asleep fucking.

    Creatine – been taking 5g. Will now double that.

    Protein – the game aint been the same since Justin’s posts a while back. Aim to hit at least 250g a day and BW of 245lbs.

    Carbs – sweet pots and roasted brocolli. White rice.

    Water and sleep. I did drink 10l of water one day and felt fine.

  6. Cheap, unflavoured whey.
    Fish oil.
    Zinc Magnesium.

    That’s it for me, now the sun has finally started to come out I’ll probably do without Vit D. On that cheap, slow cooker meat a lot, liver, as much fish as I can afford, then carbs from where ever. Gycemic Index is pretty much a non-issue as far as I understand it so white potatoes, sweet potatoes, oats, whatever. Non-gluten intolerant thankfully.

  7. Great summary! I have a few questions

    1) I took Creatine monohydrate for about two years. I was taking 10 grams/day (two of those little scoops). It made me thirsty as shit (no problem, I already drink more than a gallon of water daily), and I think it helped my lifting but like all supplaments it’s hard to know for sure. My doctor noticed that my creatadine blood levels were increasing in correlation with when I was taking creatine. He said this is not good and suggested I stop taking creatine for a while, get re-tested and then make a determination. I haven’t taken creatine for six months now and plan to go in to get my blood tested again. Has anyone else every encountered this issue?

    2) Could you explain the importance of taking protein/food IMMEDIATELY post workout? I have a 30 minute train ride home after the gym, so I usually just cook when I get home and end up eating a big dinner about 1:15 after I finish training. Am I missing out on gains because of this? If so why?

    3) Can you recommend some specific non-whey protein supplaments? Whey is good for me if I want to read the Editorials but that’s about it.

    4) I have found that a B-complex vitamin gives me a lot of energy (again, sort of impossible to say for sure). If nothing else it makes my urine look like a Pink Floyd laser light show, so it’s a good way to make sure I’m drinking enough water. Ever tried b-complex?

    5) A big +1 on caffeine. I drink a cup of coffee before lifting every time. It makes all the difference in the world. That usually means drinking a cup at like 4:30 p.m., lifting like crazy, cooking, eating and trying to get to sleep by 10:30. I think the coffee makes it hard to get to sleep right away some times, but it’s definitely worth it since the alternative would be simply not lifting sometimes.

    6) I’ve been taking magnesium and just finished my first bottle, but I still dont’ really know what the point is. I loved its segment on a recent NOVA episode that went over the periodic table of elements. Why am I taking Magnesium?

    7) I’ve said this before many times in these comments, but hunting and fishing are the best options for obtaining the best meat possible. Hunting isn’t something you can just walk out and do one day, but if you’re really serious about getting the best quality meat out there, there is nothing better than that of an animal that lived a normal, healthy, active existence. Whether it’s ducks, geese, deer, squirrel, rabbits, elk, hog, moose… it’s all good, much more filling, richer and tastier than anything you’ll ever get from a farm. Hunting also brings a person in touch with his food and his own humanity and mortality better than just about anything. It goes without saying that you will appreciate and understand your food much more if you kill the animal yourself. Same goes for wild fish as long as your local waters aren’t overly polluted. Unfortunately I fish the Potomac River so I throw all my fish back if it has rained at all in the previous two days.

    My stack:
    I get everything from Costco. I <3 Costco.
    1 multi vitamin
    1 b-complext vitamin
    3 Tbs Norwegian Liquid fish oil (from I take 6 of the Costco pills if I'm traveling.
    2 cups black coffee (one am, one pm)
    1 magnesium pill
    [possibly creatine again soon]
    3 eggs and ~1.5 lbs meat
    Lots of fruits and vegetables

    • 1. Listen to your doctor…if he lifts. If there were concerns about your kidneys and he didn’t do any further testing immediately, find a new doctor.
      2. Make your shake and take it with you or you’ll never get hyooge. I said immediately in all caps, didn’t I?
      3. Beef or Egg are what I have my “sensitive” guys use. Get one with no additives or flavors, I believe bbdotcom has some. They aren’t as cheap and are fairly disgusting. Another option is the chicken shake. Enjoy.
      4. Should be getting more than enough in your multi and veggies. It does make for bright and expensive pee, though.
      5. K
      6. There are FAR too many benefits of Mg to list. Or should I say, there are far too many negative things that happen if you’re deficient. It plays a role in over 300 systematic processes in your body, and helps you recover more quickly. I didn’t explain every detail in this post because it was already closing in on 1500 words, but I will consider some stub articles if you really need convincing. Til then, just take it, preferably before bed.
      7. K

      • Thanks! My doctor doesn’t lift but he knows how beneficial it is. I fired my previous doctor after he told me “not to lift anything heavier than 20-30 lbs.” I’ll post back after I get blood work done again.

      • Fuarkin chicken shakes !! Every time I get that abomination out of my head, somebody brings it up again. It’s what I imagine Bulgarian lifters in the 70’s being punished with for missing lifts … “Hristo, you miss 160 kilo snatch for third time. Go drink chicken shake…”

    • re: hunting/fishing, I’m a huge proponent and lover of spearfishing. It’s a solid combo of the two. Shooting a fish, after having dove down underwater, holding your breath…oh man. Shit’s cray

    • Regarding #2: I can’t articulate the metabolic impact (not a biochem guy) but I have read John Ivy’s book Nutrient Timing which addresses this issue. It convinced me and it may convince you too. So if you want to know why I recommend giving it a go.

  8. Cloud,

    I have experimented with different things in the Paleo for Lifters book. Cutting dairy made a huge difference for me but I noticed no difference in how I feel or operate when cutting grains (gluten). I have added back morning oatmeal and whole wheat bread slims for sandwiches and I haven’t had any ill effects. If someone doesn’t have a gluten allergy, and aren’t going to abuse grains, why do they need to cut it out? The book treats gut irritation from grains as a matter of fact, but I tend to disagree with this.

    • I personally show almost no intolerance for grains (unless they talk smack), but still try to avoid them. Why? Because they’re probably still the devil. Real oatmeal should be gluten-free, BTW, and I have plenty of guys who can eat that without bothering their systems, but I try to get them to switch to potatoes, etc for their carb sources, and they usually report back postive things. I haven’t kept a loaf of bread in the house in years, though.
      Justin’s a little more staunchly against them than I am, but I can’t really speak to his opinion on the matter.

    • I cut out wheat to see if it helped my acid reflux, turns out it was caused by a hiatal hernia and another condition. Cutting out wheat didn’t necessarily solve my stomach issues, but interestingly my migraines disappeared and this small area of redness on my cheek that I always attributed to being a sleep time drooler went away.

      I should clarify that I consider myself wheat free and not gluten free, but a lot of my meals are paleo.

  9. I love a good black coffee, but in an effort to consume more fat I started adding a couple tablespoons of coconut oil to my morning cup (I have also done this with butter). I recommend either blending it or getting a good coffee cup that seals well and shake the shit out of it to get it to mix.

    While I still prefer a ‘regular’ black coffee, I find this a little more practical. My wife, who hates the taste of coffee and doesn’t drink any unless it is half flavoured creamer actually drinks this mix too. You can also add some cinnamon for a little extra flavour.

    Also, any recommendations for supplements to increase beard growth? My lack of a beard is more embarrassing than my bench press.

    • Yeah, I have several lifters use coconut oil in their coffee in an effort to increase (good) fat consumption. I don’t particularly care for it, but I make them do it, and I think it’s a bit better (tasting) than butter, personally.
      Steak works amazingly well for beard growth. Turkey legs, too – especially because the grease gets all over you and makes your beard and stache soft and supple. Really, any sort of meat that you eat with your hands and grunt a lot whilst enjoying will work.

        • My stance is that I eat a ton of it, mostly in chicken or beef curry. Also mixes well into rice crepes. I buy the cheap cans ($1.99) from the Asian grocery store … don’t get all hipster and go looking for free-range, shade-grown, antibiotic-free coconut milk available at Trader Joe’s for $5.99 in a colorful plastic jug.


    • I thought that adding kerrygold butter and coconut oil to my coffee would be disgusting… turns out its actually pretty good. I don’t do it everyday however because I’d rather eat a ton of steak to get that much fat in one serving… or a cheeseburger with bacon… mmm bacon

  10. In the process of switching all my meat purchases to a farm that pastures everything, grass fed beef, etc. Anyone have any experience with this? Straight from the farm or do your order through a website like or something?

    Also, dem farmers market eggs hnnnnghhh

    • I used a local grassfed farm for my beef for awhile (that delivered to my door, even), and was so happy with them, I told all my friends about the place, and they all started using them, and…they ran outta beef. So from now, no source checks!

      • Cool, I’m looking around right now at different local farms. Going to spend my tax return on a chest freezer and a new smoker I think. Looks like maybe $400 per month if I want to eat 2lbs of beef plus a few eggs every day. I’ll probably also get in on one of those fruit/veggie CSAs that delivers a box every week.

    • We did local harvest last year, sticking to my own garden and farmers markets this year. We were getting too much stuff/variety with LH, it cost at ton and all I really need is kale and broccoli.

  11. Just purchased some creatine. Couple of questions:

    When in the day should I be taking it?

    I’m a male lifter – should I ramp up to the recommended 30g’s or just jump right in?

    How many inches can I expect to add to my guns?

  12. What are some quality brands for good black coffee? I loves me some coffee, and right now I drink fucking Maxwell House. It gets the job done, but I’m sure there be better out there.

    • Bruce, a lotta factors go into a good cup of joe, but by far the most important factor is freshness. If you’re using the same bag for months, it’ll go stale, no matter how pricey. Just hit up your supermarket, buy whole beans, and use their grinder to make only what you need for the week. Give that a shot first.

    • Some ways to improve your coffee:

      -Buy organic, regardless of brand. Coffee’s one of those foods where there’s light-years of difference in taste and quality between conventional and organic. The extra buck or so per pound’s well worth it.

      -Some good roasters: Intelligentsia coffee; Peets; Trader Joe’s, Illy. Deathwish coffee is seriously awesome and I highly recommend that stuff.

      • The exact brand you can get will depend on where you live. Where I am (Washington, DC/Arlington Costco) I can get this brand called Mayorga. I’ve tested all of the brands that Costco carries and it beats the pants off all the others, including Starbucks. Best of all, it’s made right down the street from where I grew up!

        No matter what band I buy I grind my own at home just before brewing.

        If I need coffee really fast, I always just keep a bigass can of instant Medaglia D’Oro espresso handy. I call it the National Bohemian of instant coffees. That is to say as bad coffees (or beers) go, it’s the best.

        As far as the nationwide brands go, Pete’s is pretty good.

  13. Thank you Cloud!
    This was good as
    1. It reinforced that I’m doing things (mostly) right and
    2. I finally know what the hell ZMA is. Zinc/Magnesium?

    1. Can I/should I replace my nightly Magnesium with ZMA?
    2. An pre-workout caffeine alternatives? Coffee doesn’t always sit well with me. Right now I take ON Amino Energy (plus creatine/bcaa/beta-alanine) but I’m not sure thats optimal.
    3. I take my fishoil with every meal (3x day),as I recall reading it was best done this way. Am I wasting my time packing fish oil pills around all day?

    • You’re welcome!
      1. I actually prefer my zinc in the morning (so, Natural-Calm pre-bed, and zinc with my EmergenC in the morning after breakfast). Zinc alone will WRECK an empty stomach, so you’ve been warned.
      2. Hmm. Not really. We’ll see if any other coffee-haters out there chime in. What you’re taking should be fine.
      3. Yeah…I don’t think it really matters. The exact timing of fat soluble diet supplements (like, uhh…fat) is much less important than the consistency in which you take it. So if you’re in the habit already, there’s nothing wrong with taking it with each meal, but don’t stress about it as long as you get it daily.

    • I take some BCAAs, creatine, beta alanine and a 200 mg caffeine pill… Seems to do the trick most days. I’ve drank americanos before a workout before and I just felt jittery. Plus I felt extra thirsty the whole workout. C4 always got me fired up for moar squatz, but I stopped taking it because I didn’t really know what was in it

      • Caffeine pill huh? A coworker gave me one of those once and I thought I was having a heart attack, worst feeling ever. Perhaps her dose was a bit high… I do take green tea supplements occasionally but never noticed a boost of energy following. May reconsider a tester of low-does caffeine. Thx captawesome.

        • I’ve used caffeine pills for training, and I likealot . Break a pill in half if the does is too high (I’ve never seen 100 mg pills, but maybe they’re out there). I’ve also done this when training later in the day and don’t want to be staring at the ceiling at 2AM thinking about why I missed that last squat rep.

  14. Great article. I like the emphasis on real food.

    I have just one comment regarding Vitamin D, I live in Brisbane, Australia, arguably one of the sunnier spots in the world. It’s probably worth pointing out that even in Queensland, Australia, we regularly find people that have medically low levels of Vitamin D.

    Vitamin D deficiency seems to be frequently associated with some common health conditions. If you’ve got any sort of auto immune condition, recurrent viral or bacterial infection, or even are just prone to the cold and sniffles more than once or twice a year, then vitamin D supplementation may be really, really, important. It’s probably worth getting your doctor to test your levels.

    It’s also probably worth thinking about testing vitamin D levels if you happen to be using cholesterol lowering meds.


  15. I’m deploying to a place where it’s hard to get enough protein on a daily basis. I’m thinking about getting a whole bunch of costco canned chicken and shoveling it down but that would still leave me pretty calorie deficient. Any better ideas for supplementing this?

    • Just try to get as much foo as you can, and thank you for your service. Canned chicken is something, at least. Jerky, maybe? Guys in jail rely on tuna and powdered milk. You’ll need calories, and fat is the best way to get those little suckers, remember that. When you get back, you’ll enjoy the bulk even more.

  16. Okay, so, huh? I was nodding right along until creatine 30g/day and WTF? I’ve read 5-10g as being as much as anyone is likely to be able to absorb in a 24hour period in a number of credible places. Even T-Nation, which is a goddamn supplement pimp extraordinaire, has said as much. What purpose does megadosing serve?

  17. re: Creatine: I’ve always suggested 5-10g for most lifters in the past. One of my 181-198 guys, RoryT from this site, read a few of Kiefer’s articles and upped his creatine intake to 30g/day. His TM Intensity Day squat went from about 440×6 to 500×3/525×1 over a few months, and his bench pretty quickly went from about 250×4 to 295×3 (he had been in the 275×1 range for at least a year). This is an intermediate lifter who made GIANT gains – while cutting bodyweight, NOT some beginner doing GOMAD. The only difference was a mega dose of creatine (well, and some pretty decent programming, of course!). I have had other lifters jack up their intake with similar results, and feel comfortable suggesting you do the same, particularly if you follow any sort of “max rep” top set programming (Greyskull, 5/3/1, my versions of TX Method, etc). Read Kiefer’s articles for yourself and make up your own mind, but I’m sold.

    • that’s interesting, im asking cos just day before ive got lecture about creatine (im physicall education student) and profesor told us that everything more than 20g is just marketing, but as someone once said, what works works, no matter what science says.. reading about squats makes me sad, hopefully my adductor will heal soon:(

  18. Anyone else have experience with Leucine? I got some after reading Kiefer’s stuff and anecdotally it seems to have had positive results on body composition. I just suck down 5g of powder after every training session.

  19. I struggle to avoid gluten because I have a very active job in remote locations so need to take meals out with me. I’m stuck taking sandwiches as I can’t think of anything I can take along that’s cheap, packs fairly small & doesn’t need heating. I’ve tried taking shakes but they don’t fill me up for long. any advice/recipes?

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