This is the fourth and final part in “The B.S. Train Stops Here” series. As I’m writing this, I can think of at least ten topics that warrant being part of this quadrilogy. After some deliberation, I decided that it would be most helpful to you if I tackled the topic of supplements. Based on feedback, there is such little clarity on supplement use, and people generally feel they have nowhere to turn for honest information. That is about to change.
You see, the intense drive to lose fat, increase muscle mass and boost energy levels has fueled the development and experimentation of many nutritional supplements. Unfortunately, much of the “research” out there is delivered by the same companies that are selling the supplements.
Can you say “agenda”? These companies have a simple marketing strategy. First, they prey upon your insecurities and/or symptoms, and second, they confuse you with an overwhelming amount of scientific jargon that sounds quite remarkable, but is actually just a bunch of B.S.
Every day, we are bombarded with advertisements for new supplements. These ads almost always contain skewed graphs, complex terminology and ridiculous claims. Unfortunately, many consumers don’t know that these companies can’t be trusted.
For example, I know so many people (myself included!) who have purchased a supplement with high hopes, only to find that none of the manufacturer’s claims were true. In other words, we were completely scammed.
But that’s just the beginning. You see, people tend to learn the hard way—myself included, so I know exactly what I’m talking about! The story usually goes like this: a short while after that first frustrating experience with a “super-supplement” that turned out to be totally useless, yet ANOTHER supplement company comes out with the same basic supplement and comparable preposterous claims such as “this product, however, is now ‘new and improved’”.
And the same people who got suckered the first time fall right in line, and get suckered by the same line of B.S. all over again. And of course, they get burned once again. It’s a vicious circle that never seems to end, and too many people out there never get wise to it.
The purpose of this post is to make sure that you never get scammed, and if you already have been, that you never get scammed again! I will provide you with honest information based on years of personal research and experimentation. I don’t work for any supplement companies, so I have absolutely no ulterior motives here. I just want to help you do what’s right for your wallet and your health.
Now let’s objectively review the most commonly used fitness related supplements out there.
1) Creatine- When will this stuff die?! I first used creatine back in 1993 and my results were non-existent. Then after I wrote it off, the supplement companies funded some “cutting-edge research” that showed how creatine needs to be in the presence of high insulin levels in order to be absorbed.
Oh, that was my problem (or so I thought)! So, of course I immediately shelled out forty bucks and began guzzling my “new and improved” creatine formula. In this case, “new and improved” simply meant adding a bunch of sugar to the already ineffective formula. And my results were…(drumroll please)…NOTHING!
Since then (1995), the supplement companies have a new creatine formula every year, all containing a new enhancing ingredient (many of which I’m not smart enough to even pronounce…but at least I’m smart enough not to buy it!). I may have fallen for this nonsense twice but I won’t get suckered a third time.
Here is my straight up advice on creatine- Stay away and save your money! And quite frankly, I don’t care who recommends it. Even a reputable strength coach can fall for the B.S. I know I did once—or twice!
2) Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s)- These aminos were all the rage back in the 90’s. They fell out of favor for a while, but are making a serious comeback of late. Before I give you my opinion on BCAA’s, let’s get a brief understanding of what they are.
The BCAA’s consist of three amino acids: leucine, isoleucine and valine. These amino acids make up almost one third of your muscle mass. And unlike other amino acids, these aminos can be used directly by your muscles for fuel. So in theory, these aminos should have the ability to increase energy levels and stimulate protein synthesis. Additionally, the supplement companies claim that the BCAA’s also increase GH levels, enhance fat loss, and increase strength.
Sound too good to be true? Well, that’s because it is. I have experimented with BCAA’s for almost two decades and have NEVER seen the hype become a reality. But before you clean out your pantry and dump your BCAA supply in the trash, let me tell you the one set of circumstances in which BCAA’s can actually help.
Here it is: If you are ever training while in a fasted state (such as a person who trains first thing in the morning before eating their first meal), BCAA supplementation may help to decrease muscle tissue breakdown. Simply take 5 grams within 30 minutes of your workout and another 5 grams immediately after training. I prefer the capsules, because the powders either taste like crap or add too many chemicals and artificial sweeteners to mask the gross taste.
3) N.O. Boosters- For the last several years, N.O. Boosters have been the most heavily promoted supplements on the market. For those of you who don’t know, N.O. stands for nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is a naturally occurring substance in your body. Nitric oxide has been shown to be important in many activities, but the ones that have the fitness world excited include:
? – Boosting immune function
? – Dilating arteries and improving blood flow
? – Reducing inflammation
? – Improving the quality of sleep and recovery
?- Increasing endurance and strength
I agree that these are exciting effects. The question is: “Do N.O. supplements increase nitric oxide enough to warrant their use”? Quite frankly, I’m not impressed with the results. These supplements basically contain the amino acid arginine (and some add citrulline to the mix). These aminos have been shown to help increase the production of nitric oxide. But we can get all the N.O boosting that we need naturally. Here’s how…
a) Resistance Training- When you lift weights, your muscles attract higher volumes of blood (aka the “pump”). To supply your muscles with more blood, the lining of your arteries releases N.O. in order to relax the vessel walls, thus allowing more blood to rush though to your muscles.
b) Diet- Remember our friends arginine and citrulline? Well these aminos can be obtained through diet. Just be sure to consume lean proteins, nuts, lentils, legumes, and fruits (especially watermelon).
Alright, those are my opinions on the most popular supplements. But don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe that all supplements are bad. In fact, I use and recommend various supplements for many different reasons. Getting into all of them would be impossible here, since it could probably fill an entire book. So I will just give you some general supplements that most people could benefit from in their quest for better health and a leaner/stronger body. Here they are:
Protein Supplements/Meal Replacement Powder- These powders are not superior to whole foods. They are, however, much more convenient. For that simple fact, I recommend them to ensure compliance on a diet plan.
Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s)- EFA’s are a critical part of a healthy diet. Although it is possible to meet your EFA requirements through diet alone, I find that most people’s diets fall short. To ensure adequate amounts of EFA’s, I recommend supplementing your diet with a high quality fish oil supplement. Vegans can instead opt for flax oil.
Multi Vitamin/Mineral- Again, if you were to eat perfectly, you wouldn’t need to take a multi. But most diets are far from perfect. Unless you have specific nutrient needs that go above and beyond the needs of the average person, a multi from any reputable brand will do.
I know my supplement recommendations aren’t flashy, or even exciting, but they help to make up the foundation of a diet that delivers results, not empty promises!
Dedicated to your success,