If I Could Only Take ONE Supplement – by Sol Orwell, co-founder of Examine.com

In today’s guest post, I asked nutrition expert, Sol Orwell of Examine.com, which supplement he would take if he could only have one. Well, he cheated a little and recommends more than one. But why do I think you should listen to him? Frankly, it’s because I don’t know anyone who has combed through more published medical research than his team when it comes to nutrition. Sol has reviewed more than 25,000 research studies on vitamins/supplements. That’s A LOT! He’s a category authority on this topic, and we can all learn a lot from him.


Thankfully I’m not above cheating to answer my questions.

I want to add the caveat that the answers are based on not having any major health issue. For example, for diabetics, berberine is absolutely fantastic for managing your blood glucose levels. We are operating under the assumption that I am “healthy.”

With that in mind …

If I could only take one supplement … it would be vitamin D (if I lived outside of the tropics).

It’s a common cycle. Something (sports player, food item, car, website) starts off underrated. People start praising it all the time, and the reputation builds up. Soon enough, what was underrated has now morphed into something overrated.

Vitamin D is approaching that level … but how important it is cannot be understated. A fat-soluble nutrient, vitamin D is one of the 24 micronutrients critical to human survival. Most people know that you need sunlight to produce vitamin D inside your body, but what most people don’t know is that it’s actually produced from cholesterol. In itself, vitamin D is implicated in a wide range of benefits, including cognition, immune health, bone health, and reduction in risks of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and even the chance of falls!

People living inside the tropics (Tropic of Capricorn and Tropic of Cancer) should be able to get enough sunlight for ample production. Just ensure you’re outside and have exposed skin – if the only part of your body exposed to sunlight is your face, vitamin D production will lag.

For those not getting ample sunlight, 1000-2000 IU/day should be more than enough (the old RDA of 400 IU/day was based on simply warding off rickets).

If I could only take one supplement … it would be ZMA (if my diet was poor). ZMA is combination of ZincMagnesium, and Aspartate; of consequence are the zinc and magnesium.

After vitamin D, the nutrient most deficient in people’s diets is magnesium. A deficiency in magnesium appears to increase blood pressure and reduce insulin sensitivity.

Zinc isn’t that hard to get in diet, but when deficient, it can cause your testosterone levels to drop. A lot of testosterone-boosters include zinc because of this simple fact – it won’t boost your testosterone past your baseline, but it can help you get back there.

If I could only take one supplement … it would be creatine (because it’s multi-purposed).

Creatine gets a bad rep, and I’m not sure why. It’s been heavily tested, and the only downside is that it can give you GI distress (if you do not hydrate adequately). Fears about the kidney etc are all heavily overblown.

What does creatine do? In a very simplistic manner, creatine becomes a stored form of energy that can be accessed quickly by your body (faster than say, glucose). People who lift weights take creatine as it lets them eke out an extra rep or two when lifting.

Yet creatine is far more useful than that. Creatine itself aids in cellular function. While research is still ongoing, it has been implicated in helping with depression, helping against neurological diseases, exerting membrane protective effects, anti-diabetic, and cognitive benefits.

I helped write an article that goes into more details.

Still not convinced? I’ll give you the highest testimonial I can give: I have my mom take creatine.

And there you have it…

Surprised to see fish oil not included? Fish oil is pretty awesome – it’s almost a panacea for people suffering from metabolic issues. But for those that are generally healthy, eating fatty fish a few times a week should more than cover your needs (I prefer pacific/arctic salmon as my source).

Want to learn more? Check out our site, Examine.com, where we research this kind of information…


Examine.com is an independent collator of scientific research. Sol Orwell and his team have recently released their Supplement Goals Reference Guide and it’s nothing short of fantastic. 

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I totally agree with the creatine commentary. For some reason, it has been flagged by the medical community as dangerous without a shred of proof. I highly recommend trying it if you are into strength training…

Vitamin D, ZMA and creatine. I’ve taken everyone of them and they work magically. I especially love ZMA because it makes me sleep better. Thanks for sharing. Fish oil is also amazing and a great fat burner as well.

I definitely agree Vitamin D would be my one supplement. I take fish oil pills because I do not like the taste of fish, so I can’t just eat fish to have it’s benefits.

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