I’m yet to find a simple, comprehensive, reliable guide to supplements for vegetarians and vegans. So instead of spending more time on Google I figured I’d just ask you all what you do.
I’m lactovegetarian (“veggie-no-eggs”). I take creatine and beta-alanine supplements. With the usual caveats (anecdata, placebo effects) I noticed a huge difference in the gym after I started taking creatine supplements. I think it’s likely I should be taking some other stuff (B12? Iron?) and plausible that the beta-alanine isn’t that useful.
There’s some other interesting Forum content in the “Dietary Change” topic. This guide looks useful but is 474 pages long (!). I’ve found Elizabeth’s posts on Examine.com’s vitamin reviews and testing vegan nutrient levels somewhat useful (but wish there was way more of this kind of research!).
VeganHealth.org at least looks useful and reliable to me, but I don’t know how good their evidence reviews actually are.
What supplements do you take? And what resources have you found helpful?
A “vegan” multivitamin (I used to take most of the things in it as separate pills but found it way too cumbersome and the dosage not very optimal)
Omega 3 (DHA&EPA)
In the last years I’ve gone 1x/year to get the following checked:
I might consider other tests/markers in the future (like holoTC). Based on the results the supplementation seems to have worked very well for me.
In terms of resources, I’ve found Niko Rittenau (mostly only known in German speaking countries) (his books, articles, etc.) very helpful. He seems to be very well up to date with all the relevant scientific literature.
I second the Niko Rittenau recommendation.
My current regime:
Methyl B12, 1000 Mcg, Jarrow (
link, not amazon) (roughly 1x week)
Vitamin D3 4000 IU Howard & James (
amazon only has with K3 now) (roughly 2x week)
Omega 3 with 400mg DHA, 200mg EPA, 744mg other Omega 3, Astaxanthin 1mg, Igennus (
link) (2x/3x a day)
Creatine, Optimum Nutrition, powder, 3g per scoop (
link) (1x day) (Gives me digestion issues if I don’t dissolve it with food)
Magnesium Glycinate, Inner Vitality, 280mg (
link) (Possibly gives me digestions issues, ~1x day)
Calcium Citrate malate, Pure Nutrition Naturals, 1000mg (
link) with D2, K, Zinc, Magnesium Oxide (half the pill ~3x week)
I think B12 is basically a must if you’re vegan and D3 a no-brainer I think. Not so sure about the others. If you want to supplement Magnesium and Calcium, you should pay attention to the form, e.g. magnesium oxide does nothing apart from worsening your digestion (unless you have constipation.)
Ideally, you want to take minerals apart from each other and after meals but probably doing whatever makes you actually take stuff is best and it’s easier to take everything at once/to just take a multisupplement.
For travel and colds only
Zinc Citrate (
link), 10mg (take many within the first 24 hours of getting a cold. Don’t chew and just let it melt.)
Dosage is very confusing here. I think the studies that found that zinc might help with the length of colds used around 90mg or something but maximum RDA is half that.
If you take zinc daily, it’s important to also supplement a bit of copper
I also tried:
Acetyl L-Carnitine, Life extension, 500mg (
link) with vitamin C. (Possibly gave me heartburn)
B-Complex, Life extension (
link) (gave me digestion issues)
If you want to supplement these, they are possibly best on an empty stomach after getting up but again, probably whatever thing people actually stick to is best.
Things I might add/swap some of the above out for:
A multivitamin (e.g.
, which looks pretty good but isn't super easily available. Also considering
but it has a weird ingredient list I can't easily interpret)
Choline/some other things related to vitamin B
Iron is probably pretty important for many people. I get regular iron tests and didn’t need it and it’s bad to oversupplement iron, also, but FWIW, I expect that I’ll have to start taking iron because I started menstruating again.
Things I test for ~twice a year via https://thriva.co/
Misc. other stuff on a rotation depending on what I feel like
Would be excited to hear thoughts/feedback if others have some :)
(Haven’t been on this regime for long and am a bit loose with it, e.g. just travelled for 3 weeks and supplmented ~nothing during that time)
I tend to trust NutritionFacts (based on reading How not to die and How not to diet), and I like its Optimum Nutrient Recommendations, which cover supplements (see prints below, and learn-more links on the page). Personally, I:
Follow a whole-food plant-based diet:
Nuts and seeds.
Herbs and spices.
B12 (via cyanocobalamin), once every 2 days.
Omega3 (DHA/EPA), everyday.
Multivitamin (mostly to cover iron), everyday.
B12, iron and vitamin-D deficiencies are quite common among general population, even more so among vegans. I would suggest you to have a blood test for those.
Creatine (in capsule form because I find the powder gross)
Freeze-dried mussel powder (contains B12, I don’t think mussels are sentient in the relevant way).
Omega 3 made from algae
Vitamin D, altho I’m just going thru my stockpile and don’t think it’s actually useful to take.
Iron (I’m one of the people in EVN’s exploratory trial thing)
I should say: I haven’t actually noticed big differences from any of these, but I’m not convinced that I would notice them even if they were real and mattered.
EVN’s stuff seems legit.
Back when I was getting into veganism I read VeganHealth.org, and it seemed like it was less propagandistic than e.g. NutritionFacts.org.
What changed your mind about vitamin D?
Probably some combination of Medlife Crisis videos and the blog debate between ACX and Compass Rose.
I’ve been vegetarian since birth, and a vegan since 2007, and am based in the UK.
I take the Vegan Society Veg1 supplement daily (my kids take half a tablet), and also take an omega 3 (EPA+DPA) supplement. I use the lucky iron fish when cooking to improve iron content of food.
I was on the Board of the Vegan Society when the Veg1 was reformulated. I can vouch for the evidence base being taken very seriously during reformulation, led by Stephen Walsh, phD. There was careful consideration of balancing risk of deficiency against risks from supplementing nutrients many vegans would otherwise get, as well as practicality and affordability. I personally wouldn’t trust any multivitamin aimed at veg*ns containing antioxidants (vitamin E, A) given the possible risk of increasing mortality.
Many vegans don’t get enough calcium to avoid risk of fracture, and the Veg1 doesn’t include it, mainly because it would make the tablets too large to be practical. I consume enough fortified plant-milks, calcium set tofu, and bread to not worry too much about calcium.
The Veg1 supplement generally isn’t suitable for people in the US as it contains iodine (important for veg*ns in the UK), and there is risk of harm of excess iodine intake given salt is iodized in the US.
I think the evidence reviews of veganhealth.org are generally of high quality. Even though I think recommended intakes for some nutrients are higher than might be justified than the literature, I’m enormously grateful for Jack Norris (who runs veganhealth.org) for his work developing B12 recommendations with Stephen Walsh.
There’s an examine.com vegetarian and vegan supplement guide [PDF] which is pretty thorough
First, I would call your primary care physician and inform them about your vegan diet and ask for a blood test. The results will inform you and your doctor what vitamins you are lacking in, whether that’s D3, Omega 3, B12, etc.
I’d be skeptical of taking multivitamins or supplements your primary care physician doesn’t prescribe or recommend. https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/should-i-take-a-multivitamin/
I take Iron, Omega3, vitamin B12, vitamin D. My blood tests always look good. Creatine seems like a good idea but I don’t know a good vegan source.
I think most supplemental creatine is vegan? From what I can tell it’s lab-synthesized from chemicals. Folks should obviously double-check that for themselves and their specific supplements, though.
Everything here is based on friends’ recommendations and very lightweight research, I didn’t do much original research and didn’t measure my levels. I’ll probably get around to measuring soon and I expect this plan to change a bit. Philosophically I have chosen a low effort/low risk plan which I think is sustainable for me.
I take creatine and b12 when I remember to take them, which tends to be on days I go to the gym and make a smoothie afterwards. I take D3 sporadically when I think of it during the winter months (although this winter I didn’t bother for various reasons). I take a dental probiotic. And finally, I just bought some algae oil for omega 3s that I haven’t actually tried yet but I expect to find a way to incorporate into my diet.
Most of my supplements I incorporate into other foods, rather than taking pills. It seems more sustainable habit-wise that way.
I take a multivitamin which includes B12 and a bunch of other water-soluable vitamins. I also separately supplement Omega 3 & Vit D. I take Choline when I remember to.
Hi Stephen. I’m also lacto-vegetarian. I take Vitamin D supplements (mainly for the reasons that they’re recommended for everyone) and an occasional Vitamin B complex or B3 supplement. I’ve considered taking algae-based Omega-3 supplements (in the form of DHA and EPA) but I don’t think the evidence is strong enough to justify the expense. My iron levels have consistently been fine without supplementation. I’ve found VeganHealth.org to be useful (I’d vouch for the quality of their evidence reviews). Ginny Messina is also worth reading (https://www.theveganrd.com/vegan-nutrition-101/vegan-nutrition-primers/recommended-supplements-a-vegan-nutrition-primer/).
Recently investigated creatine intake because the internet has different opinions on it. I asked two athletes, a fitness consultant, and a medical doctor whether creatine would be necessary for vegans. The two main takeaways were:
#1 Main & major point of concern should be your protein intake (!), esp. if you’re doing a lot of sports. Muscles need to be “fed” and will just disappear/not even show up without sufficient amounts of protein. Your daily dose should be your kilogram bodyweight in grams.
#2 Only if you want to build muscle mass that exceeds your DNA prescribed amount, you should take creatine. But still, your should prioritize your protein intake.
Glad to see this thread. It precipitated several questions, which I am happy to post separately if you’d like.
Has anyone found a good source of vegan creatine?
Has anyone calculated the monthly cost for their supplements?
Does anyone try and avoid or at least minimize highly processed/ ultra processed foods? I’ve noticed more studies over the past several years around ill effects of such foods. It’s one reason I don’t consume most meat substitutes very often.
I wonder if concerns like the following act as barriers to people going vegan, or even reducing their consumption of animal products:
lack of knowledge re: optimizing nutrition
inability to afford supplements
uncertainty around which supplements to take (and perhaps questions about efficacy of supplements)
uncertainty around optimizing protein intake
concerns about highly processed / ultra processed foods on health / the environment
These are concerns that have come up in several conversations I have had.
On (1), I commented above, but most supplemental creatine is vegan as far as I can tell.
Thanks, I’m seeing that here, too:
“It should be noted that although creatine is found mostly in animal products, the creatine in most supplements is synthesized from sarcosine and cyanamide [39,40], does not contain any animal by-products, and is therefore “vegan-friendly. The only precaution is that vegans should avoid creatine supplements delivered in capsule form because the capsules are often derived from gelatin and therefore could contain animal by-products.”
I’ve been vegetarian (but with steadily decreasing levels of animal products) for >30 years now. I’ve almost never taken supplements. I did take vitamin D and calcium when I broke a bone in a hiking accident last year, thinking they might be helpful and probably aren’t harmful.
I’m sceptical of a lot of nutrition science, kind of lazy—just looking at the regime in Chi’s comment makes me want to take a nap! - and also suspect that humans can adapt well to a range of diets that contain a lot of whole foods. My partner and I eat a lot of home-grown food, including some eggs from a couple of semi-feral hens we have hanging around, which I think gives me a more balanced diet than many people are able to achieve.
I do long-distance running, including some pretty gnarly trails, and I feel like if I’m able to do that, I’m probably doing OK nutrient-wise. Maybe I’m doing this all wrong but it seems to be working so far...
B12 deficiency is common among people who don’t eat meat, eggs, or diary and has some nasty potential results: fatigue, nerve damage, anemia, higher risk of strokes, etc.
Supplementing b12 either through pills or fortified foods seems pretty important for anyone not eating many animal products.
I supplement iron and vitamin C, as my iron is currently on the lower end of normal (after a few years of being vegan it was too high, go figure).
I tried creatine for a few months but didn’t notice much difference in the gym and while rockclimbing.
I drink a lot of B12 fortified soy milk which seems to cover that.
I have about 30g of protein powder a day with a good range of different amino acids to help hit 140g a day.
I have a multivitamin every few days.
I have iodine fortified salt that I cook with sometimes.
I’ve thought about supplementing omega 3 or eating more omega 3 rich foods but never got around to it.
8 years vegan for reference.