My personal opinion
is that most supplements promoted by bodybuilding
magazines are junk
and the supplement industry is basically a
multi-million dollar snake oil industry.
Bodybuilding itself doesn't pay very well, so many
bodybuilders supplement their income by endorsing any
product that someone will pay them to. When you see
that perfect smile on a toothpaste ad, do you really believe
they have those perfect pearly whites because they use brand
X toothpaste? Same rule of thumb for the bodybuilders
you see posing next to their favorite supplement.
- If it doesn't have solid peer-reviewed scientific
research to support it, then it's probably junk.
- Many supplements have little or no testing done on
them. Therefore, you don't really know if they're going
to work or what short term and long term side effects
- Ingesting a particular chemical does not necessarily
increase its amount in your body or muscles. There's a
long complicated process between your stomach's digestive
acids and your muscles. Many substances simply get
broken down and excreted by the digestive system and never
even make it to your
blood stream, much less your muscles.
- Good Rule of Thumb: If a chemical has a major impact
on your body chemistry, then it will most likely have
correspondingly large side effects and health risks.
Stick to the basics:
- Exercise Properly
- Eat right
- Allow for Recovery
- Sleep right
Eggs, and Barbells - My Favorite Supplements
People often ask me what supplements I take: Being
basically a smart ass, I usually answer "Milk, eggs,
and barbells." In reality, I take Creatine Monohydrate, Zinc,
multi-vitamins, BCAAs, and L-Glutamine.
I strongly discourage the recreational use of steroids
Steroids - Everyone has an upper
limit of how strong they can get and how much muscle they
can build. This is based on genetics, age, health, etc.
Steroids can get you past this limit. However, if you
haven't reached this limit (and very, very few people ever
do), then steroids aren't doing anything for you that you can't
achieve without them - and without their harmful side effects
(acne, bitch tits, heart failure, medical problems, etc.). Yes, it
may take a little longer and you may have to work harder and
smarter to develop the body you want, but
two years from now is it really going to matter if it took
you an extra couple of months to get where you are? I
strongly discourage my clients from recreational use of steroids. I have
chosen this policy, not for moral reasons (an adult should
be able to do what they want with their own body), but
because I believe that exercising should improve your
health, and recreational use of steroids doesn't fit
philosophy. Also, I have only studied natural training. The optimal workout regimen for a steroid user is different
from that of natural trainee. The
workouts for natural trainees have to pay more attention to
rest and recovery and are designed to help boost natural
hormones. This is important for a natural lifter. However,
it's not so important for steroid users since the steroids
aid in recovery and since their body is typically no longer
producing significant amounts of testosterone anyway - no
matter what they do. Almost all their testosterone comes
from external drugs. Therefore, a workout program based on
causing the body to produce more natural hormones is
|My policy used to be not train anyone on
steroids, however, that policy wasn't working
since clients would simply deny their use when asked. If they are using, it's
better for me to know and work with that information. I
will still continue to encourage them to quit.
I can't recommend what supplements you should take
since everyone's body is different and responds differently
to what they take. As a general rule, I tell people to avoid supplements.
For most, even if they do work, the cost outweighs the
benefits. But, there are a few that are worth considering, so here is some basic info on some common
supplements and whether are not I think they may be beneficial.
Before taking any supplement, check with your doctor to make sure it doesn't
have any adverse reactions with drugs you are taking. For example,
the common supplement L-Arginine reacts with many blood pressure medicines
and can be very dangerous for people with heart problems. It seems almost
everything adversely affects statin users.
Full Disclosure Notice: If you purchase any Amazon
products via the links provided, I receive a small
Protein/Whey supplements can simplify
your meals when trying to gain weight, but good food will do
just as well. Eggs and milk are great sources of protein. There is still debate about whether eating egg yolks raises
your cholesterol. While the yolks contain significant
cholesterol, they also contain cholesterol lowering agents.
Eat just the whites if you are concerned about cholesterol,
but don't be too quick to write off the yolks. I
personally eat the yolks and have good cholesterol
with whey-based protein supplements and avoid
soy-based supplements. Soy products are estrogen
boosters, not what you want if you are trying to
And as much as manufacturers want you to believe
that their whey protein is magically better than
everybody else's, the reality is making whey protein
isn't rocket science. The actual whey in every
reputable manufacture is no better than the whey in
any other reputable brand. However, what is
different is the other ingredients added to the product. It's
hard to find just plain old whey protein. Most have
a laundry list of ingredients that are added to make
their brand "unique and special." But that's mostly
just marketing hype. Here's a good rule of thumb: If
they list an ingredient, but don't list the actual
amount of that ingredient, then assume it's only
just enough so that they can legally list it on the
label - and probably NOT ENOUGH to have any real
value. They do this so they can list it on the label
to induce you to buy it, thinking you're getting
something that's better than everybody else's whey.
It's probably not.
What you do need to watch for is unwanted added
ingredients, such as sugar/glucose. And even sugar isn't all
bad. If you are using whey as post workout food,
then a little sugar to boost your insulin levels
immediately after a workout is a good thing for most
people who are trying to add muscle.
what's even worse are INGREDIENTS THAT
ARE NOT ON THE LABEL.
did a test of popular whey products and
found several that had unsafe levels of
contaminants such as arsenic, lead, and
cadmium. Cadmium is especially harmful
because it can damage the kidneys and takes
years to clear from the body. See
Consumer Reports Article
- Muscle Milk products. Three servings
had what is considered unsafe levels of arsenic,
lead, and cadmium.
- EAS Myoplex Original Rich Dark
Chocolate Shake. Three servings had an average
of 16.9 micrograms (µg) of arsenic and an
average of 5.1 µg of cadmium, both of which are
considered unsafe levels. And while these are
fairly small amounts, why do want them at all
when better options are available?
that Did Well:
Nutrition Platinum Hydro Whey Velocity
Six Star Professional Strength Whey
Protein French Vanilla Cream
Whey to Go Whey Protein Powder Natural
In 2005, National Football League running back
Michael Cloud filed a lawsuit claiming MuscleTech
Nitro-Tech protein powder contained undisclosed
ingredients that caused him to fail a drug test.
According to Cloud's legal complaint, an independent
laboratory analysis of the Nitro-Tech powder showed
it contained the undisclosed ingredients
norandrostenedione and androstenediol, steroid
precursors that would cause the positive test
results. A similar complaint was filed by Olympic
bobsledder Pavle Jovanovic. See
A good rule of thumb, if a company has poor
manufacturing processes and controls for one
product, their other products aren't likely to be
much better (and vice versa). As such, I would avoid
products by Muscle Milk and EAS.
Verdict: Useful, just be selective of what brands
Go-juice, Joe, java, morning dew, you know the stuff.
Caffeine acts as a central nervous system stimulant,
temporarily warding off drowsiness and restoring alertness.
It has been shown in numerous studies to improve athletic
performance. It has also been shown to help with glycogen
resynthesis after a workout (see
study). A little more energy during your workout can
help provide additional gains. A typical pre-workout dose is
50-200 mg. A typical cup of coffee can have between 80-170
mg. Check your label to find how much caffeine your favorite
cup of Joe contains.
Everybody reacts a little differently to caffeine, so
only use if it you have a good response to it. And of
course, don't take it anywhere near bedtime. It's best for
morning workouts. If you're a coffee drinker, you can just
drink coffee instead.
Start with 50 mg to see how it affects you. If it gives you the jitters
or any unwanted side effects, then lower the dose. If not, try a slightly
higher dose. If caffeine doesn't agree with you, then skip it. It's helpful,
but not essential.
The easiest (and usually cheapest) way to buy caffeine for us non coffee
drinkers is No Doz (or the generic equivalent). They are typically 200 mg
each, so you may need to break them up.
Post-Workout Caffeine Consumption
(branched chain amino acids) The three essential
amino acids that make up the BCAA's are leucine,
isoleucine and valine.
Leucine is one of the most powerful anabolic
agents known. It is responsible for the building and
repair of skeletal muscle, skin and bone. It is also
needed for the creation of human growth hormone (HGH).
Isoleucine, also builds and repairs muscle,
skin and bone and is needed for the creation of HGH.
Valine is needed for building and repairing
muscle and to maintain the nitrogen balance in the
While there is good clinical evidence for
the value of BCAA's, they can be found in the food you eat.
If you have a good diet, supplementation is not
really necessary. In fact, two large eggs have
roughly the same BCAAs as a typical dose of BCAA
pills for about the same price; and as a bonus the
eggs also contain many other essential amino acids
For Those Trying to Lose Weight
While two large eggs have similar BCAAs
to a serving of Twinlab BCAA Fuel, notice that the
calories for the eggs are significantly higher. For
those on a calorie restricted diet, BCAA
supplementation may be a good low calorie source of
these important amino acids.
Table comparing a single serving of Twinlab BCCA
Fuel to common foods:
||approx. cost USD
|1 serving Twinlab BCCA Fuel
|2 Large Eggs
|1/2 cup peanuts
Peanuts for nutrition info
especially if you are trying to get your amino acids
on a calorie-restricted diet. If you are eating a
full diet, then probably not that necessary.
||Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)
has been shown to increase lean muscle mass and lower body
fat, however, the gains are minimal at best. In most
studies, the participants lowered their body fat by 1% or
less. If you are prepping for a bodybuilding contest and
your body fat is 7% or less, 1% can make a difference. But
if you are 12% body fat or more like most people, 1% would
hardly be noticeable. Studies with athletes show it to not
be effective. While there is some concern that CLA
may increase the risk of diabetes for obese people,
it appears to relatively safe; The FDA deemed it
"Generally Recognized as Safe." Also, there does not
appear to be any advantage to taking more than 3.2g
a day. A month's supply is typically about $20 USD.
Not likely to be useful.
Creatine Monohydrate (CM) has
numerous studies showing that it enhances muscle-building
gains by allowing the user to perform a more intense
workout. This usually translates to being able to do one
maybe two more reps when working 12 reps or less to failure.
However, if you are not working out at full intensity, then
CM is not likely to provide any benefit for you.
The long term effects of CM use is not clear although it
appears to be safe. CM also causes a weight gain due
to water retention. This goes away a few weeks after
use is discontinued. Another important thing about CM
is that the body can only store a limited amount, making
overdosing difficult. This also means that taking more
than the recommended 5 grams/day is a waste of money and
just more work for your kidneys, since your body will have to
excrete it. Many people recommend a preloading phase,
such as 20 grams/day for four days, but studies show that
this is not necessary. It should be taken with
carbohydrates, such a fruit juice or a sugared drink.
Since it is stored by the body, it doesn't really matter if
you take before, during, or after exercise. It is also
recommended that its use is discontinued for one week of
each month. The serum is NOT as effective as the
Creatine and endurance athletes: CM does not
provide significant benefit for endurance events, and
because of the water weight gain associated with its use, is
probably more of a detriment. However, it can be
useful during the strength training phases to build muscle,
but should be discontinued four weeks before an actual event
to reduce the water weight gain.
Note: Studies show that about 30% of the population will not get
any benefit from CM. How can you tell if you are in
this 30% group? Short of lab tests, you really can't.
The effects of CM are relatively minor. In fact they
are so minor that you are unlikely to be able to tell the
difference. But if it works for you, you will be able
to work out slightly harder and this can translate into
a significant difference over a long period of time.
Creatine Monohydrate studies and information
||Digestive Advantage Lactose Defense
Formula While not technically a bodybuilding
supplement, it can aid in the digestion of milk products
for those who are lactose intolerant. Before I starting
taking this, a single glass of milk would give me
terrible gas. I can now drink up to half a gallon a day
with no problems. Several of my clients have also had
similar success. It doesn't work for everyone and some
people report that it causes them diarrhea, but if
you're lactose intolerant and want to add milk to your
diet, it's worth a try. It's a probiotic that you take
up to once a day and helps your digestive system break down
lactose. I personally only take one every other day and
have good results.
HMB Studies with untrained
athletes tend to show positive results, however,
studies with trained athletes show little to no
benefit. Here's an interesting
article on HMB.
This is a very common problem for
weightlifting/bodybuilding studies. They
take a group of untrained people and test a
product. In general, this makes the results
meaningless (unless you are trying to figure
out what works for a beginner). What works
for a beginner is irrelevant for an advanced
trainee. If you are an advanced lifter, then
ignore studies involving untrained athletes.
Verdict: Not likely to be useful