All About Supplements
Here are three foods/supplements that I strongly believe every bodybuilder over the age of 18 should be using:
- Isolated whey protein powder (see top 5 best protein powders)
- Flax seed ground at home (or fish oil)
- Green tea (not pills, just real brewed tea – no sweeteners or whiteners)
Here are supplements that many other people think are valuable, but am less optimistic about. You need to do research and decide for yourself. In my opinion, the below supplements might give you a 5% edge – not worth the money or potential health risks:
Please also see the related article, “All about steroids“. Todays muscle mags are packed with page after page of incredible sounding supplement advertisements with amazing testimonials and jaw-dropping before & after photos. Let the buyer beware! The basic rule to remember when choosing supplements is that if it sounds too good to be true, it is! Adding muscle is a slow and difficult process, if anyone tries to make it sound quick and easy then they they are lying. Remember, pro-hormone supplements are illegal. Anything that claims to have “steroid like results” is either lying or illegal. Pro-Hormones are simply designer-steroids created by brilliant chemists to get around the laws prohibiting selling steroids. These prohormones turn to steroids once in your body and do the exact same thing as steroids do – they raise testosterone levels to 5-10x the normal levels … with exactly the same bad health effects associated with steroids.
Most people decide what supplements to take based on what they hear in the locker room, this is stupid! Don’t waste your money and risk potential health problems for something that wont help you anyway. Learn all you can about supplements from an unbiased source free of hype, this saves you from wasting money on stuff that wont help you anyway. I can highly recommend Bodybuilding Revealed by Will Brink he reviews all the supplements without getting trapped by brand name hype. For each supplement he lists what it is, what the research says about it, and what real-life users experience. Since supplements are unregulated, “truth in advertising” doesn’t exist and wild ridiculous claims are everywhere – this book will help you be an informed consumer.
Supplements are a huge business, 26 Billion dollars a year – their advertisements have shaped the way a generation thinks. They are completely legal but can be very dangerous because they are not regulated and don’t require any testing at all. I’ve been saying this for years and finally I have solid backup from the most respected non-profit consumer advocate groups in existence, Consumer Reports -please read the September 10 2010 issue. Here are the two most important quotes from their article:
- “Because of inadequate quality control and inspection, supplements contaminated with heavy metals, pesticides or prescription drugs have been sold to unsuspecting consumers”
- “China, which has repeatedly been caught exporting contaminated products, is a major supplier of raw supplement ingredients”.
About Creatine, the one supplement that definitely works
First, when I say “works” I dont mean it builds noticeably huge muscles. By “works” I mean that if someone has been lifting for years and plateaued in strength that they will notice maybe a 5% increase in strength and some water weight gain. People who are just starting lifting will not notice anything at all because they are gaining strength so fast anyway. Remember, this is the best supplement out there and its effect is negligible.
My anti-supplement stance is not because I don’t think there are some effective ones like creatine, but because of safety concerns. Let me share with you my own personal experience with supplements. After years of not using any supplement other than protein powder, I decided to see what the buzz about the new creatine nitric-oxide product was about – lots of people seem to swear by it. I decided to give in and try it for a month, how harmful could a creatine product be? Well, it cost me $650 in medical bills to find out. After three weeks of using it I had a routine physical and full blood test which discovered that my liver function was 10X normal meaning that my liver was working overtime cleaning some toxic crap out of my body. After a liver ultrasound and several other expensive tests later, the only possible cause remaining was the creatine product. Although I didn’t go to the expense of having the product itself tested for toxic impurities, I’m convinced they are there. Anyway, shame on my for not listening to my own advice!
Creatine is the one supplement that is without question effective for strength gain and muscle gain but the problem is that there is no quality control whatsoever on these supplements. There are companies like “LabDoor” or “USP Verified” that test supplements but they do so infrequently (years between tests) that there is virtually no hope of catching bad batches before people end up in the emergency rooms with failed livers. If you think that it is safe taking a cheap brand of creatine that was tested 3 years ago by Labdoor then you are a complete fool. These supplement companies change suppliers on a monthly basis simply choosing whoever has the cheapest barge floating over from Asia at the time.
With creatine, your one hope is to buy a brand that is manufactured in the EU and as far as I know, the only factory is in Germany and they make the Creapure trademarked product. The trouble is that Creapure is manufactured by AlzChem AG in Trostberg Germany, a region very near and dear to my heart as I spent 6 months studying German at the Goethe Instutut at Priem am Chemsee which is a short bike ride away from their factory. Anyway, I digress. The point is that this is the one factory making a product under EU safety rules which are far more stringent that those in the USA (USA has no rules for supplements) but the problem is that they are a wholesaler and not a retailer. You cannot buy a bucket of creatine from AlzChem AG, they only sell to companies like Optimum Nutrition. Here is where the problem lies. Big companies like Optimum Nutrition have many creatine type products and the Chinese imports are about half the price of the AlzChem Creapure product. Since all the buckets come out of the same factory, ‘mistakes’ might be made where the cheap Chinese creatine is put in the “German Creatine” bottle and sold at a premium. You see the problem. Even if a company was caught doing this, which they never would be because nobody is checking on them, they could simply claim an “honest mistake” was made.
Quality problems with supplements
Think your supplements are safe because they are from a big reputable company? Think again! Check out this press release (read whole article):
“May 1, 2009 — Fourteen Hydroxycut products, marketed as fat burners, low-cost diet aids, and energy enhancers, are being recalled voluntarily by the manufacturer after the FDA received 23 reports of serious liver injuries ranging from jaundice to death.”
And that is from one of the most respected companies selling their most popular product! They never confessed what the problem was or how it happened but my guess is that because of lax manufacturing processes coupled with nonexistent batch testing, some heavy metals slipped into a batch and went un-noticed. If a highly profitable and well run company like that can sell toxic supplements, what do you think that all those products from no-name companies who advertise in the back of the muscle mags have in them???
If you a
Well, how do I get huge then?
You cant, not legally and safely. Even the best supplement, like creatine, only gives you a very tiny edge. Maybe with creatine you could reach your genetic potential in 7 years of lifting instead of 8. If your buddies are gaining 30 pounds of muscle a year taking a “pro-hormone” supplement from a “former east block country” then they are simply taking steroids, not supplements. If you want to get huge quick then you will have to sacrifice your health, period. If you want to get strong and muscular like an athlete and keep those gains for decades then its going to be a very slow and enjoyable process.
Everything in life is a risk/benefit analysis. Gather all the facts on the risks and decide if the benefits are worth the cost of all the risks.