I will never be part of the club (GASP!)
This article will guarantee that I will NEVER EVER receive any compensation or support by a supplement company. My opinions on supplements contradict the products and marketing these companies shove down our throats. This is okay. I have a rewarding career outside of the health and fitness industry, and I don’t rely on this blog to make a living. My intention with this blog is and always will be to help people. I do this by giving an honest opinion from a regular Joe blow that has achieved results. The goal of this post is to save my fellow dumbbell daddies time and most importantly money! So here we go……
Supplements are HUGE
The supplement industry is a billion dollar industry and growing every year. Supplements are a huge part of the bodybuilding, health and fitness scene. Almost every professional bodybuilder, fitness model, TV Doctor, health guru, weightless coach or actor/actress are promoting supplements.
Every day a new breakthrough supplement hits the market, usually promising miraculous results loaded with miracle ingredients taken from unicorns, dinosaurs, Greek God’s and aliens.
The fancy names and the shiny labels may attract your eyes but few know much about the science and effectiveness of the products they’re purchasing. Most people are convinced that they need supplements to reach their greatest potential. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Below is a hilarious video of Dr. Oz getting absolutely destroyed by John Oliver. This video is not only informative about the supplement industry but it also had me in stitches. Pour yourself a cup of coffee and sit back….
Don’t SHOW ME THE MONEY!
Over the years I have wasted lots of money on countless amounts of supplements. I’ve tried every product under the sun. Different brands, flavours and types. The majority of them have all been a waste of money. All the positive results I’ve had over the years were a result of hard work and sticking to a plan. Supplements have helped supplement certain areas of my diet that would be lacking due to work, family and leading a busy life. They picked up the slack so to speak.
They were NEVER staples in my diet.
I give 80% credit to proper nutrition and 20% credit to exercise. Supplemtns = 0%. Exercise is the easy part. Eating properly is the hard part, but the part that can give you the greatest rewards.
So why take supplements at all? Should we just park them altogether?
Supplements are exactly that, supplements. As I mentioned earlier, they should supplement your healthy diet not become a staple in it. I do believe certain supplements can have a role in adding to a health and fitness plan. The big one’s being:
- Protein powder
- Fish Oil
- Multi Vitamins
By what about Gludamine? Nope
But what about BCAA’s? Nope
But what about fat burners? Nope
But what about testosterone boosters? Nope
But what about magic purified bull semen? Nope
With a proper diet you don’t need any of these. The science is weak and the science that is out there is probably provided by companies or individuals endorsing these products. The supplement industry does have its share of shady characters. Many of the products you see on the shelves are most likely harmless, and also quite useless.
Many of these supplements just end up being expensive urine.
Most of these products have more smoke, mirrors and hype behind them than solid research to back them up. I do believe there are a few categories of supplements that have shown great promise and have worked for me over the years. Here are a few of the supplements I would recommend:
It’s pretty much common knowledge that to build any kind of muscle you need lean protein in your diet. I’ve always tried to get my protein sources from food such as eggs, lean meats ect. A quick Google search and you’ll discover a million different studies of the effects of whey protein.
Whey protein when you break it down is pretty much just powdered milk.
Thats all it is. It’s not some magic powder that will give you an edge. Maybe it might release quicker into your muscles, maybe it won’t. Your muscles won’t whittle away if you don’t have your 2 protein shakes at specific times during the day. That’s all nonsense the supplement industry wants you to believe so you can keep forking over your hard earned money on their products. I’ve always looked to whey protein as more of a convenience.
For example: If I’m heading to the gym early in the morning before work, a banana, some almond butter and a whey protein shake after my workout will be the perfect breakfast on the go. I can’t exactly scramble up a couple eggs in my car. I want something healthier then a (sugar packed and processed) granola or energy bar. Viola. Protein shake.
Creatine oh creatine. Creatine is the most researched supplement around. It’s actually quite natural and you can get a fair amount from eating meat, especially beef. Creatine is thought to improve strength, increase lean muscle mass, and help the muscles recover more quickly during exercise. However, scientific research on creatine has been mixed. Some say it’s a miraculous wonder powder (usually the people selling the stuff). Others will tell you it’s useless and/or potentially harmful. A quick Google search and you will realize there’s a million studies done on creatine. I’ve tried many different types over the years. The big one’s being:
- Creatine Monohydrate
- Creatine HydroChloride
- Creatine Kre-Alkalyn
Despite what the labels and companies wanted me to believe, I didn’t notice anything different between the various types of creatine I’ve tried. In fact, I didn’t notice a huge difference when taking any form of creatine. The small benefits I did notice were:
- Minor strength and muscle gains (possible placebo effect from thinking this will make me stronger)
- Slight increase in muscle size (due to water retention in the muscles)
- Increased mental alertness. I want to expand on this point a little. Numerous studies (by actual non compensated researchers) have found that creatine slightly increases mental ability.Now before you start thinking you’re going to be the next Good Will Hunting or ace your LSAT, STOP right there.Taking creatine did not allow me to secretly solve complex mathematic equations at night on a chalkboard at MIT, while working as a janitor! It made me a bit sharper but at the same time I noticed it made me a bit more impatient. For some reason I would get really impatient and ticked off more easily. I’m not talking about body checking people out of the coffee shop line and having an all out roid rage but I noticed my fuse got bit shorter.
I stopped taking creatine altogether. The main reason being:
Ewwwww I hope you’re not eating soft chocolate right now! I’ve tried a lot of different types of creatine and every single one has given me diarrhea. Maybe I just have a sensitive stomach to creatine but that’s the effects it has had on me. Other big side effects linked to taking creatine supplements include:
- Water retention
- Liver and kidney damage.
Fortunately I have never experienced any of these. Funny, they never mention these side effects when you’re shopping around online or at your local supplement store.
Go figure! I realized the possible small muscle and strength gains I might achieve while supplementing with creatine, just isn’t worth the inconvenience of pissing out of my ass.
I’m not a professional athlete with my career on the line. I’m not endorsed by supplement companies. Any minuscule advantage really isn’t worth the side effects for me.
Fish oil contains the all import Omega 3 fatty acids. The research on fish oils is pretty impressive. Many legitimate studies have demonstrated tremendous benefits of taking fish oil including:
- Decreased risk for heart disease and cancer
- Improved joint and muscle mobility
- Decreased insulin resistance
- Improved cognitive ability and mood.
Most of us nowadays are Omega 3 deficient. Our hunter-gather ancestors consumed much larger amounts of vegetables, fish and grassfed meat then we do. Their food was highly rich in Omega 3 fatty acids. Unfortunately nowadays the typical western diet (bagels, pasta ect) is lacking in Omega 3. One way to overcome this is to take purified Omega 3 fatty acids. I personally have noticed big improvements in my recovery from workouts and my mood when supplementing with fish oil. It could just be all in my head but I feel generally more balanced when taking this supplement. I currently am not supplementing with fish oil, due to trusted brands not being easily available where we are living but I have taken fish oil in the past and will again at some point in the future.
To be blunt, there’s a lot of crap out there. This is a huge supplement category..… and a lucrative one to boot. Everyone is selling multi-vitamins. From your family doctor, to your massage therapists to the local coffee truck guy on a construction site. Ask 10 different health and fitness professionals about multivitamins and you will get 10 different answers.
Multivitamins and their quality, vary as much as the colours of their packaging.
My only advice would be try and source your multivitamins from a trusted source. It’s shocking to discover how unregulated the supplement industry actually is. There have been many studies done by consumer advocacy grounds that have studied various multi-vitamin brands. Some of the brands studied DID NOT contain some of the ingredients advertised on their label. Some studies even found toxic levels of certain vitamins. DO YOUR RESEARCH!
Currently I am not taking any multivitamins. I have in the past and will likely again in the future. I try my hardest to get all my nutrients from my diet. There have been times where I have relied on taking multi vitamins. An example of this was when I worked in the Arctic flying bush planes around. Being that far north it’s extremely hard to find fresh fruits and vegetables and when you do, the produce you find is extremely over priced and half rotten.
Here’s Frank Zane:
Frank Zane is one of the most aesthetically impressive body builders of all time. Frank Zane has also admitted to taking steroids back in the Golden Era days of bodybuilding. It was considered legal back then and the health consequences were not well known.
Doesn’t he closely resemble the fitness models you see plastered all over Instagram and supplement ads?
You can take as much whey protein or creatine as you like but the harsh reality is you’ll never look like him. Hard work, proper nutrition and steroids will give you the body like Frank Zane. On a positive note, hard work and proper nutrition will get you close. Even better, you’ll be healthier! This took me a long time to realize.
The take away
It’s surprisingly pretty hard to find solid unbiased supplement information out there. Everyone has their hands in the cookie jar. Take everything you read with a grain of salt and form your own opinion.
A big take away from this article is that supplements are not held to the same standards as medications. Regulation is minimal at best.
This means you will never be 100% certain about what you’re putting into your body. Also you’ll never know the exact amounts either. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that the places selling or endorsing supplements aren’t exactly the best place to get honest and unbiased advice. Neither is your local health food store. The guy working at the health food store is likely a kid taking night school courses to be a graphic designer. He’s working in your health food store part-time to help pay for school. If you’re a healthy person with a decent diet you don’t need any supplements. Proper nutrition, good eating habits and a decent workout plan is all you will ever need to reach your maximum potential.
Now go out there and make yourself a protein shake……just kidding.
Disclaimer: As always, I was never smart enough to go to medical school or have fancy titles and letters in caps and lower case behind my name. Read at your own risk…..
Keep the blue side up
So what’s your take on supplements and the supplement industry? I respect everyone’s opinion. Comments, good and bad are always encouraged.
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