The Truth Behind The Supplement Industry
The fitness industry is chocked full of gimmicks, broken promises and so called wonder drugs, because working out isn’t easy and humans perceive a supplements that build muscle to be an easy shortcut. Unfortunately, there aren’t any replacements for good old fashioned hard work. When it comes to reaching your fitness goals you have to get in the gym, sling the weights around, lay down the miles, don’t eat like crap and make a true effort to cut fat and build muscle If you ever want to reach your goals.
That being said, not all are bullshit and many supplements will build muscle and deserve a spot on your shelf. The problem is when you start to look into the subject, it’s easy to get conned by over hyped expectations of nonsense wonder drugs and placebos.
So how do you tell the difference between the useful supplements and the useless ones. If you’ve read my other articles there is a common theme that occurs and that is, use your “common sense”.
Don’t outsmart your common sense, If any product is labeled as a “magic pill” or if it’s claiming that you won’t have to work as hard to achieve your goals. Than it’s most likely bullshit, this is where common sense plays a part. Pay attention to the products that aren’t trying to sell you a sales pitch that you know sounds too good to be true.
I know what some of you are thinking…
” But I read an article in a popular fitness magazine stating that this product will get rid of all my fat and build my muscle while increasing my I.Q. by 70 points”
I hope I was able to pass my sarcasm through to my writing right there.
What you need to understand is that the fitness magazines are owned by the supplement companies. If you doubt me, google it.
- Twinlabs owns Muscular Development
- Weider owns Muscle and fitness
- Muscle tech owns Musclemag and Oxygen
If you look hard enough you’ll find many more.
Please do your own research about the supplements you’re interested in, do not ever listen to product ads and articles.
If there was a product out there that gave guys the chiseled physique of a Greek god or woman the slender fit body of a runway model, everyone would look like that. I’ve said it earlier and I’ll say it again. There are no shortcuts to get what hard work, dedication, perseverance and the proper knowledge will give you in the end.
I’m going to make this as simple as possible and stick to the supplements that have been around for a long time and are considered tried and true.
I’m going to break them into 2 categories;
- (1st round) will be the products I feel you need to add to your fitness regimen.
- (2nd round) are the products that I feel should be included but really depend on your supplement budget.
- (pre workout) I hope is self explanatory.
Creatine (1st round)
Creatine is the most heavily researched supplement on the market and is the single most effective natural muscle building compound available, period.
What makes creatine so effective
- The first benefit is that it hydrates the cells in your muscles and increases their overall volume.When you take creatine on a daily basis your muscles become saturated as the phospho-creatine levels increase in the muscle tissue.The cells in your muscles are storing the creatine and also pulling water into them as well.
This hydrates the tissue making your muscles seem thicker, since the hydration is happening within the actual cell and not underneath the skin, your muscles will look more defined rather than your body looking bloated. A lot of people think taking creatine will make you fat this simply isn’t the case.
- The second benefit is that it improves the efficiency of your body’s ATP system which improves your strength and overall performance.
ATP- or Adenosine triphosphate is the primary energy carrier in all living organisms on earth. Micro-organisms capture and store energy metabolized from food and light sources in the form of ATP.
When the cell requires energy, ATP is broken down through hydrolysis. The high energy bond is broken and a phosphoryl group is removed. the energy released from this process is used to drive various cellular processes.
Simply put ATP is the primary energy molecule your body uses during stop and start activities such as weight training and cardiovascular exercises. When you workout your cells start demanding more energy so they start to break down ATP. ATP is made up of 3 phosphate groups and 1 molecule of adenine. By breaking down the third phosphate group your muscles are able to produce energy.
Because of this chemical change ATP now becomes ADP which is 2 phosphate groups and 1 molecule of adenine. Your muscles won”t be able to extract more energy until the third phosphate group appears again.
Creatine allows your muscles to carry additional phosphate groups which will allow ADP to Convert back to ATP at a much quicker rate. This will give your muscles the ability to lift heavier weights, achieve more reps and limit the time in between sets due to the fact that creatine limits lactic acid build up promoting faster recovery time.
The closest product you will get to a “magic pill” supplement is creatine, it should be included in every type of fitness regiment.
Creatine and fat loss
We know you should include creatine in any muscle building regimen but it is just as important in fat loss or cutting phases.
When your goal is to burn fat you have to create a calorie deficit into your nutrition plan. If not done correctly this can result in the loss of hard earned lean muscle. By continuing to ingest creatine during your cutting phase your body will hold on to a higher percentage of muscle and burn more fat.
Which is the best creatine
Not all creatine products are the same.
Creatine monohydrate in powder form is the optimal choice, studies show that liquid creatine and creatine ethylester (CEE) are unstable and break down in your bloodstream. 100% creatine powder is recommended, some companies add electrolytes or other ingredients, but studies have shown little evidence that they improve performance.
Save money and buy the powder and mix it with fruit juice. The sugar in the juice raises insulin levels, which increases the creatine levels into your muscles.
A good way to test if your creatine is high quality is to see if it dissolves easily in your drink. If there is residue at the bottom of your glass after you drink it the brand your buying is probably not of the best quality. You want the powder in your body not in the glass, if this happens try another type.
Is creatine safe
Researchers are constantly studying creatine for its effectiveness and safety. That’s why many trainers and health experts support the use of it. Studies indicate that it is safe and there isn’t any published literature to suggest otherwise.
To put it another way, creatine is backed by more studies, tests and research than any other supplement and has constantly shown to be safe in the short term and long term.
Recommended Supplement Brand
Optimum nutrition Micronized creatine powder.
This brand is derived from 100% CreaPure, this is the purest form of micronized German grade creatine available. Other products have a bad habit of mixing in lower grade alternatives from china which often contain impurities. This brand also has a low price per gram ratio.
dosage: 5 grams daily -1 teaspoon equals 5 grams
Directions: Mix 5 grams with fruit juice anytime of the day, don’t worry about the what time you take it, whenever it is convenient for you is fine.
The full effects of creatine will be administered after taking a 5 gram dosage daily for 3 weeks.
Whey Protein Powder. (1st round)
Whey protein is a mixture of proteins found in the discarded liquid produced during the cheese making process. It is found in the milk of nearly all animals, including humans. It is rich in vitamins, minerals and amino acids needed for muscle growth.. So much so that it’s considered a complete protein since it has all 9 amino acids in it.
Whey protein shouldn’t even be considered a supplement, calling it a separate food group would be more accurate. I say this because it is the highest quality source of protein you can put into your fitness plan to facilitate your body into building muscle and burning fat.
Whey protein is also very high up on the bio-availability scale, what this means is your body will absorb the highest percentage of protein in comparison to any other food.
It also has the most complete amino acid profile, largely because of the amount of L-leucine. Consuming a sufficient amount of L-leucine every day is critical to achieve your muscle building and fat loss goals, as it is the amino acid most responsible for protein synthesis to occur.
Whey protein also boosts the bodies glutathione output, which is the most powerful antioxidant in your body. Larger percentages of glutathione will increase the strength of your immune system, protect your cardiovascular system and increase brain function.
In addition to all of the above benefits whey protein is also the most convenient source of protein you’ll find. Prepared correctly a great tasting protein shake can be mixed up and consumed within minutes, whey can be used to make countless recipes and shakes.
If your on a structured fitness plan with higher protein needs, whey protein will help make your diet needs more accessible and far easier to stay on track over a longer period.
Recommended Supplement Brand
- Gold Standard 100% whey (optimum nutrition)
- 24g of protein
- 3g of carbs
- 120 calories
- $0.79 per serving
This product has been on the market for 24 years and has set the standard for whey protein powders. The main reason for this success is that optimum nutrition owns every phase of the manufacturing process. This gives them complete control over quality control and product consistency, so you receive a product that is high in protein (24 grams per serving) and complete with muscle building branched chain amino acids or BCAAs (5.5 grams per serving). Comes in an outstanding 20 flavors.
- Pro Jym (jym supplement science)
- 24g of protein
- &g of carbs
- 150 calories
- $1.10 per serving
JYM founder Jim Stoppani is a well known figure in the world of exercise, physiology and biochemistry, He’s also a freakishly tough bodybuilder. Stoppani used these skills to create an entire line of nutrition supplements, the prime product being his Pro JYM protein powder. It has blend of whey, casein and egg proteins that provides both fast and long term amino acid availability to boost muscle growth.
- ISO 100 (dymatize)
- 25g of protein
- 2g of carbs
- 120 calories
Ultra pure, fast absorbing and gluten free with 25 grams of fast digesting hydrolyzed whey protein isolate per serving. ISO 100 also delivers 5.5 grams of BCAAs to amp up muscle building and joint protection. With less than a gram of fat and less than a gram of sugar, ISO 100 can help you reach both muscle building and weight loss goals. It comes in 12 flavors.
I recommend these particular products because they offer a high quality blend of whey isolate at an economical cost per serving, are well flavored, mix easily and most importantly have been third party tested to guarantee that the ingredient label is accurate.
Dosage: Whey protein doesn’t have a set dosage, use as much as needed to fill in the gaps in your diet.
Directions: Mix your protein powder with anything from milk, water, almond milk, rice milk, juice or blend it with fruit, vegetables, oatmeal, peanut butter to make it a more complete shake.
Meal Replacement Powders and Protein Bars (necessary but only for convenience, not excessive use)
The difference between MRP’S and protein shakes is that MRP’S will include carbs, a higher percentage of minerals and some brands will have healthy fats included in them.
What you get is a more complete meal, In my opinion they should only be used when you need it for convenience, you should never make a habit of using MRP’S over meals consisting of whole foods.
The same goes for protein bars, anytime you buy protein bars or MRP’S you need to make sure you know exactly what you’re putting into your body. The range of ingredients can be very different with every brand and some will drastically alter your results if not used properly.
To make sure I got my point across, I wrote a separate article How to use meal replacement shakes and protein bars
Please read this to get a better understanding on how to use these properly.
High Potency Bio Available Multivitamins (necessary)
Supplement ads are everywhere! Surprisingly one of the most important supplements is rarely shown, a multivitamin.
For your body to complete all the tasks it has in a normal day, it needs a wide and complex variety of vital nutrients. Becoming deficient in any one of these essential vitamins or minerals causes breakdown of the metabolic process and will cause your performance to diminish quickly. Obviously this isn’t what you want. Body builders, athletes and people that lead active lifestyles need even more nutrients than the average person. If you think just grabbing the first one you see off the shelf is going to work you should think again.
Recommended Supplement Brand
- Controlled labs Orange Triad
- Iron free daily multivitamin
- Supports optimal digestion, immune system and joint health
- 45 servings
Orange triad combines key vitamins, minerals and nutrients for supporting optimal digestion, immune system and joint health into one twice daily vitamin. The joint and flex complexes help lubricate joints and cartilage as well as increase the resiliency of connective tissue, while the digestion and immune complex includes digestion aids and nutrient agents to increase your bodies performance levels.
- Opti Men (optimum nutrition)
- 70 active ingredients
- 5x more vitamin D
- 275mg of B complex vitamins
- 1,000 mg of key free form amino acids
Opti men is a complete multi vitamin providing 70 active ingredients in 4 blends designed to support overly active people. Taken as a single tablet at breakfast, lunch and dinner it provides 22 vitamins and essential minerals, including 1,500 IU of vitamin D, free form amino acids, botanical extracts and antioxidants. Think of Opti Men as potent nutritional insurance for your fitness lifestyle.
Dosage: Follow the instructions on the back of the label
Directions: Again follow the directions on the label but you may want to take with a meal as some people can have slight stomach discomfort taking it on an empty stomach.
Fish Oil (1st round)
Fish oil is a commonly used supplement because it provides many health benefits. The oil is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can improve brain function, protect the heart and promote healthy bones and muscles. Fish oil is naturally found in fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and tuna. However, if you don’t eat these foods often, taking a daily supplement will help you receive the benefits from getting enough omega 3.
Some of the benefits are;
- Reduces high blood pressure
- Lower risk of heart disease
- Reduces joint pain and stiffness
- Improves your skin
- Supports a healthy pregnancy
Benefits of fish oil in a muscle building or fat burning program;
- Increase muscle anabolism by raising protein synthesis, A study at the Washington university school of medicine using 4 grams of fish oil daily demonstrated this.
- Reduces muscle breakdown by lowering cortisol levels and suppressing the key system involved in muscle catabolism.
- Improve recovery in between workouts by reducing muscle inflammation. This will also help joint health, which in turn helps lower your chances of injury.
- Increases thermogenesis, the number of calories that are burned as heat energy throughout the day.
- Increases the activity of certain enzymes responsible for fat oxidation.
Fish oil isn’t going to increase your biceps by 2 inches or slap 50 pounds on your bench. Its overall health benefits and effects on your body warrant it as a staple in your supplement plan.
Recommended Supplement Brand
Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega
I recommend this specific product because it delivers a high quality source of fish oil in its natural triglyceride form. Ethyl ester form fish oils are only 30% as absorbable as the tryglyceride version.
This product also provides a high potency dose of EPA and DHA. Which are the specific compounds responsible for the benefits that fish oil provides. You get 550mg per softgel rather than the 300mg other brands will give you.
Dosage: For this particular product it’s 2 soft gels a day
Directions: Take in the morning or night, whatever is more convenient for you, If it makes you burp try splitting the dosage up during the day or putting the pills in the fridge.
Vitamin D (1st round)
The only way you are receiving enough vitamin D-3 is if you spend 6 hours a day in the sun. It is nearly impossible to achieve enough through diet alone, getting vitamin D-3 through a supplement is the only choice.
The benefits of vitamin D-3 are many but the most common are
- Increased energy levels
- Mood enhancing
- Strengthens the immune system
- Enhances calcium and phosphorous absorption
Most people think of supplements as having a direct effect on your muscle size or fat loss. While vitamin D won’t contribute to either of those, it will benefit your mood and energy levels which will definitely help your performance and motivation in the gym.
NOW Vitamin D-3
DOSAGE: 2000 IU to 3000 IU
Directions: Take 2000 to 3000 IU daily, whenever is convenient for you.
Carnosyn Beta Alanine (2nd round highly recommended if you can afford it)
The early stages of Carnosyn beta alanine is a lot like creatine was in the early years, people in the know love it and the research is building to show how this amino acid helps with muscle strength, power, growth and endurance.
What Exactly Is It
- Essential amino acids cannot be made by your body and has to be gained through your diet or supplements.
- Non essential amino acids are the opposite and can be made by the body.
In order for your body to make the wide variety of proteins it needs to repair, grow and maintain all of its cells it needs the full complement of amino acids.
Beta alanine is a non essential amino acid that is gained through meats such as poultry and beef. it is also produced naturally by your liver.
Your muscle fibers take it in and combine it with another amino acid Histidine and this forms Carnosine. Carnosine provides nearly all the same associated benefits with carnosyn Beta Alanine.
What Does It Do
Having higher percentage levels of Carnosine in your system allows your muscles to resist hydrogen ions, which build up when lactic acid levels rise during intense workouts like strength training.
When you have a buildup of acid in the muscle it hinders your ability to contract the muscle, so by limiting the build up of lactic acid it allows you too workout longer and increase your intensity level.
Allmax Beta Alanine
This brand is recommended due to the fact that many other brands use the amino acid L-alanine as opposed to actual beta alanine.
All Max uses the purest quality beta alanine sourced from pharmaceutical grade carnosyn.
With this product you know your receiving the best
Dosage: 3 to 5 grams daily
Directions: Mix with any liquid that you like the most.
After taking beta alanine you may feel a harmless tingling feeling, you can decrease or eliminate this by splitting up the dosage or taking it with a meal.
L-leucine (2nd round but highly recommended if you can afford it)
Of all the amino acids this is probably the most important, it is an essential amino acid that you have to get through your diet.
It is found in Wheat pasta, wheat bread, nuts, brown rice and whey protein powder.
Its primary benefit comes from being one of the three branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) that is needed for muscle tissue structure. Of the three BCAAs leucine separates itself by being a signaling molecule that helps regulate skeletal muscle protein synthesis.
I’ll explain that in a normal way, it slows muscle degradation by creating muscle proteins, it’s used by muscle, body fat and liver to increase endurance and energy.
It also helps control blood sugar and plays a part in human growth synthesis.
All Max Leucine
- Stimulates muscle synthesis
- preserves lean muscle mass
- Promotes muscle recovery
Dosage: one serving 2 times a day, Take one serving directly after your workout, if it’s a rest day split the servings up however you would like.
Directions: Pure Leucine has a tart or bitter taste and does not dissolve well in water, what I normally do is take one serving in my protein shake and put the other in any liquid, just make sure there isn’t much residue left in the cup.
Pre Workout Supplements
The products in this grouping will help with energy performance and strength, if you feel like like you need a boost to improve your workout performance these will help. If you have never used a pre workout product I recommend half the recommended serving at first until you build your tolerance up. If that doesn’t work have an double shot of espresso, that will always get your blood flowing.
Here is the dual stack i use:
- Caffeine:100-200mg depending on your tolerance
- L-tyrosine: 1000-3000mg
Caffeine is one of the most popular stimulants in the world and is consumed by millions of people everyday,
Caffeine increases your heart rate, perspiration and blood flow to the brain, heart and muscles. The side effect from this is a boost in energy and mental alertness and increases the overall effort you put into your workouts.
While many believe caffeine to be a great appetite suppressor, it is actually only modest at best, however it does have a mild fat burning effect because it does increase thermogenesis, this is the amount of calories burned as heat in your body.
To put it mildly, caffeine is the single strongest component of any pre workout stack you can put together.
To make it even more attractive is how affordable it is compared to other pre workouts, you can buy it in pill form which is how I’m going to recommend it or you can simply make a cup of coffee or a shot of espresso at home.
Just remember that overtime you will start to build a tolerance and may need to increase the amount you take to reach the desired feeling,
Dosage: 100 to 200 mg about 30 minutes before your workout, I know some people who like to do it on an empty stomach, I prefer to eat a small snack with it. In the end do what ever feels comfortable to you.
Directions: I’ll say it again just to clarify it, make sure to start off on the lower end of the dosage to make sure you don’t take to much, you can always take more later if needed.
When used by itself it doesn’t have any positive side affects, but when it is accompanied by caffeine it helps increase mental focus greatly.
This is because caffeine causes catecholamine to release in the blood stream and L-tyrosine increases catecholamine production, so hand in hand they have a symbiotic relationship and help to increase each others effects when combined.
It only makes sense to add tyrosine to a pre workout stack that already has caffeine as the base.