An Interview With the Supplement Boss: Dr. Spencer Nadolsky

To say I’ve wasted money on supplements would be a drastic understatement. But then again who hasn’t?  Supplement sales represent one of the fastest growing industries in the world.  To quote Forbes:

“One of the fastest growing industries in the world is the nutritional supplement group, or more broadly known as Vitamins, Minerals and Supplements, or VMS. Producing about $32 billion in revenue for just nutritional supplements alone in 2012, it is projected to double that by topping $60 billion in 2021 according to the Nutritional Business Journal.

According to Partnership Capital Growth partner Brian Smith, a leading industry expert since 2000, the reason for the growth is it has gone mainstream. ‘Ten years ago, it was just the muscleheads and the weekend warriors. Now, it’s the full spectrum with men and especially women,’ he said.”

As the above quote highlights, supplements have expanded far beyond the athletic and gym rat population, and are slowly becoming staple household items.

I mean everywhere you look you get bombarded by supplement companies telling you to take this pill or drink that shake because it’ll give you unworldly superpowers and allow you to conquer the world.

Although that’s an exaggeration, some of the claims the supplement industry make are rather outlandish.

Unfortunately, there’s never been a place to turn to get real info.  Unless you’re a doctor and spend the vast majority of your time pouring through research, then there’s no way to know what’s good and what’s bs.

Well that has all changed.

We finally have a resource we can trust: and their supplement goals reference guide.

To be 100% honest, this is the only resource I’ve ever come across that I feel everyone should own.  It’s unbiased supplement research that actually tells you when, how and why to take a certain supplement.

And at the rate the supplement industry is growing, that’s information everyone needs.

With all that in mind, I’m beyond excited to have Dr. Spencer Nadolsky on board today to answer a few questions and drop some knowledge bombs.  Let’s get started:

1.  Dr. Nadolsky, it’s great having you here today.  Before we get started, why don’t you tell us a little about yourself and what you do?

My name is Spencer Nadolsky and I am the Director of and a licensed practicing family medicine resident physician.  After a successful athletic career at UNC-Chapel Hill, I enrolled in medical school at VCOM (Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine) with aspirations to change the world of medicine by pushing lifestyle before drugs (when possible).  Lifting, eating, laughter, and sleeping are my current first line medicines for whatever ails ya’ (although those don’t cure pneumonia unfortunately).

I wrestled in the Heavy Weight division for the UNC Tar Heels for 3 years and was ranked in the top 4 of the nation at one point.  I owe much of my success to nutrition and exercise science and of course hard work.  My goal is to use what I learned as an athlete and apply it to my patients to help them get as healthy as possible using lifestyle as medicine.

Other than medicine, I am married to a beautiful pediatric resident doctor, who I met during medical school (Jenna – or as I call her – “Sweet Pea”).  Our hobbies are lifting, cooking, and taking long walks after meals while we vent about work.  Right now my only other endeavor is that I am giving a shot at bodybuilding so I will likely be posting my updates along the way.  If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.

2.  Very cool stuff.  Glad to see you’re taking the lead on using lifestyle as medicine.  Hopefully more doctors will follow that example.  What about though?  What inspired it’s creation and the supplement goals reference guide?

I actually didn’t create examine but now I am their head honcho. It was developed because there was nothing else out there that put together all of the research and data on supplements. No one knows if they are getting snake oil/hype in their supplements. We look at if there actually is anything to back it up.

3.  And boy am I glad you guys are.  I can’t tell you how nice it is to have one resource I can turn to confidently for answers concerning all things supplements.  In your experience, what are three of the most misunderstood or “abused” supplements on the market?

Definitely anything that claims to be a fat burner. Other than the old ECA stack, which has now been taken off the market, there really isn’t any evidence behind using these miracle fat loss pills.  Other than that, folks taking things like DHEA haphazardly without understanding that they have pharmaceutical effects.

4.  Can you elaborate briefly on ECA and DHEA?  I imagine a lot of people have no idea what those are.

Sure.  So ECA stands for ephedrine, caffeine, and aspirin and was used for fat loss before ephedrine was banned.  It was banned due to potential health risks.

DHEA, on the other hand, stands for Dehydroepiandrosterone.  It’s one of our endogenous hormones and you can take it over the counter, although I wouldn’t supplement with it without a physician’s guidance.

5.  Knowing you’re a fat loss expert, what are a few of the most common mistakes you encounter when working with people trying to slim down?

Top mistakes I see are:

Lack of accountability and support, which are likely needed for the long haul.

Setting unrealistic goals that lead to failure and rebound.

Crash dieting with no transition plan.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with this term, crash dieting can be anyone going on a very low calorie diet whether with supplements or juicing.  In the long term it’s a bad choice because of the potential rebound effect afterwards.  Furthermore, anyone doing a very low calorie diet should be under medical supervision.

6.  I couldn’t agree more.  I think far too often “diets” fail because people try to do too much too fast.  You were a high level athlete yourself, so probably encountered the supplement craze as much as I have.  In particular, high school and collegiate athletes are bombarded with advertisements for the latest and greatest pill and/or powder that’ll help them reach the next level.  What sort of general recommendations can you offer these individuals to help sort through it all?

I loved supplements, especially in high school as an athlete. I certainly wasted some money though.

My recommendations are to keep it simple and first make sure the entire diet is set (which usually gets put on the back burner).

From there I would keep it simple with a good protein powder (milk or egg based) and potentially creatine depending on their goals.

(Note from James:  head on over to this page to get our free ebook Winning the Nutrition Battle, and check out this page if you’re in the market for protein powder)

7.  Nutrition and supplementation, like so many other things, are highly individualistic.  What tends to work well for one person may not work as well for another.  With that being said, however, do you have any general supplement recommendations for the post collegiate athlete looking to stay strong, healthy and fit (assuming they have their diet in order of course)?

Protein powder is always on my list.  I might be bias since I have been using protein powders dating back to middle school/high school, but having sufficient protein will help with recovery and body composition.

Beyond that, targeting nutrient deficiencies particularly magnesium, vitamin D, and vitamin K might be a good idea as well.

Having a cup or two of coffee before workouts is a great pre workout as well with caffeine being a potent aid.

8. has been a tremendous step forward in the world of supplementation.  Before you guys came along people had hardly anyplace to go for quality info.  What do you see for Examine moving forward and the state of the supplement industry as a whole?

We would like to get more involved with a mainstream focus. It would be great if we were a household name where someone could see a doctor selling something on TV and we have all of the evidence for it.  Beyond that, working with academic institutions would be great.

9.  I always like to end on a lighter note, so if you could have one superpower what would it be and why?

I have ALWAYS wanted to fly…. although invincibility would be awesome too. I could then come up with some sort of flying machine and it wouldn’t matter if I crashed it because I was invincible.

Well that’s about it for today.  I’d just like to thank Dr. Spencer Nadolsky for taking time out of his busy schedule to join us, and I highly recommend you go checkout the Supplement Goals Reference Guide if you haven’t done so already.  Like I said before, it’s a go to resource and a must have in my books.