Supplements can be as confusing as the BCS, but the truth is, as "fitaholics" we over analyze the importance of supplements. Don't get me wrongwe need to supplement, especially those over 30, but how do we supplement is the big question. What is the best supplement to take? How much? How often? When? Do I stack or not stack? Glutamine, Pro-Hormone, Creatine? And finally, who makes the most reliable supplements?
Keeping steroids out of the picture there is no such thing as muscles in a bottle. There is help in a bottle and there is definitely energy in a bottle, but off the shelf supplements are simply that, a "supplement" to your training and diet efforts. The key is to find the right supplements to help you over the proverbial hump.
What is the best supplement to take?
Well, I'm going to get lots of flack no matter how I answer this. Truthfully there are three very good supplements we should all be taking regardless of training age. The first is a multi-vitamin. Too many of us feel we get enough from our diet that we don't need a multi-vitamin, but your wrong. Whole foods are great and the preferred method of receiving our nutrients, but you just can't get all your body needs from whole foods.
Secondly, we should all find a likeable protein supplement. I say likeable because there are several that meets the criteria for being a good product, but it all comes down to personal taste preference. I like vanilla; you may like chocolate or strawberry. Personally, I will use a Met-Rx, Biotest or EAS product. Each has good taste and is easily digestible. This is not to be confused with "meal replacement" products. Although I think MRP's are very important too, I'm simply addressing the addition of protein here. It is very difficult to get more than one gram per pound of protein each day without a supplement. The bigger you get, the harder it becomes. Whole foods just don't cut it. You can only eat so many whole chickens per sitting. Chose a good protein and stay away from soy.
Lastly, I think everyone should be taking a zinc, magnesium supplement. I know this sounds strange. Your question is "don't I get that in my daily multi-vitamin"? If I thought that was enough, yes. But it isn't. Take a "ZMA" type supplement daily. It has good effects on your testosterone level.
I already use those supplements, what's next?
There are certain levels of supplementation. Each of us is comfortable using different supplements and some are more supplement fixated than others are. The truth is, if you are already using the basics and seeing results, adding some more specific supplements will help your progress. However, do not be confused- adding more supplements does not all ways mean success. More is not always better. Having a cabinet full of bottles and taking 40 pills a day will not make you Mr. Olympia.
The next level after the basics includes supplements that help in recovery and growth. This list contains many amino acids such as L-Leucine, L-Valine, L-Isoleucine, L-Tyrosine, and many more. Additional supplements in this category are glutamine, creatine and HMB. The idea is to use these supplements to increase the amount available to the body for muscle production. This level of supplementation can get a bit confusing and really needs to be tweaked to see the best results. Remember each of us is different and the way our bodies react to supplementation will be different as well.
I like a few supplements in this category. I have used and will use in the future creatine. This is a good solid supplement that provides results for the majority of the users. This is a product that is affordable and available in most health food stores. There will be an increase in size for most users, but keep in mind some of this is going to be water retention.
I also find amino acids to have some validity. The trouble here is finding out what works for you. There are several types of amino acids some that need to come from outside the body. We can either get them with whole foods or of the shelf. You can find these in a variety of forms. I think Twin Labs has developed the most extensive line of different combinations. All with different names of course. I think they are still trying to figure out the best combination just like the rest of us.
I also like supplementing with Omega 3 and 6 oils. These generally come from fish and it seems most American's don't get enough. Most people are not familiar with the omegas and are not aware of their benefits. I'll cover that in a future article. At this point, let's just say I think they are important to your overall success.
I already knew that too, what's next?
Going beyond the basics things start to get a little darker. This is the area of new developments and "double blind" testing. This is the area that "packs on the pounds". This is the area of HYPE! Now we are talking about pro-hormones and "steroid like" over the counter supplements. Let's make one thing clearyou can't buy steroids over the counter legally in the United States. You need a prescription. However, many companies spend millions a year to try and tell you that their product is legal and will provide illegal results.
I am not saying that this area of supplementation isn't important or even that this area is a scam, but I am saying be careful what you read and buy. People that take their time to research, read and seek out correct information should consider this level of supplementation. Unfortunately, this is the area that all the newbies go to right away. Spending hundreds with no clue as to what the results should be.
Pro-Hormones are the latest trend and BioTest seems to have the market cornered there. Pro-Hormones are supplements that contain ingredients designed to assist your body with the making of testosterone or testosterone pre-cursors. The idea is that if you can increase your testosterone you should increase your ability to build muscle. Pro-Hormones can also be used to increase other muscle building products. The idea of Pro-Hormones is to deliver to the general public something like a steroid that doesn't have the side effects of a steroid.
Here's the problem. Steroids are the only substances that can produce results like steroids. Pro-Hormones will not produce the same results. Does this mean I don't use them? NO! This means my expectations are such. I believe some Pro-Hormones will assist you in making gains. Especially if you are eating clean, working out well and getting proper recovery time. However, if your training regiment is not at this level all the Pro-Hormones in the world aren't going to help you build good muscle.
My suggestions on Pro-Hormones are to find a reputable company. The last thing you want to do is spend your hard-earned dollar on a bottle of crap. BioTest provides a good product and seems to be on the cutting edge of Pro-Hormones. There are other companies that make Pro-Hormones that may be of a good quality, but I haven't tried them all.
The top Pro-Hormones available right now are 4-androstenediol, 5-androstenediol, 19-norandrostenedione, 19-nor 4-androstenediol and 19-nor 5-androstenediol. I did not list the ever popular Androstenedione simply because along with increased testosterone comes increased estrogen and none of us men are looking for that. One additional bit of information about Pro-Hormones, slamming them all together in a Pro-Hormone cocktail doesn't work. So if the manufacturer is claiming you can get the benefits of all in one pillrun away! Either the amount of each Pro-Hormone is so low you'll get no results or the marketing is all hype.
What does it all mean?
Let's review. First we should all take a muti-vitamin. Then we should make sure we are getting enough quality protein. At bedtime we should make sure we are getting our ZMA. Amino Acids are great, but make sure you find a good mix that includes glutamine. Creatine can be helpful and should be used, but does not need to be used all the time. Don't forget your Omega's. Lastly, if you want the heavy stuff, find a good Pro-Hormone, but make sure its not androstenedione. Good Luck and one day you can say"what are you gonna do when Hulkamania comes down on you?"