For many, many years, I have been in or on the sidelines of the “Vitamin and Supplement” industry. I have literally seen “the Wheel” reinvented, reformulated, repackage more times than I care to remember.
The purpose of this article is to inform the reader which supplements work the best, in what order one obtains benefit from them, and which should be avoided. This is this author's opinion only, and should be treated as such.
That said, not a day goes by when someone doesn't come into my store asking for a pill “to grow muscles!” Or better yet, do you have that “new stuff” in the magazines that says you will “gain 20 pounds of muscle”...GUARANTEED! So STOP reading, STOP being prey for advertisers, and START using common sense and making gains!
Lastly, before we get started, let me say that supplements are just that. There is no substitute for sound nutrition. We use the 80/20 rule, 20% works, 80% is a waste of money. There are many supps that do provide enormous benefits, but there is also a ton of crap. Let's CUT THE CRAP!
What works: The good guys!
Now just because something works, doesn't mean it is good for you.....we will be getting to that shortly.
Protein: NOT weight gainers, mass builders, MRPs, but good old simple protein. It doesn't have to be “top of the line” either, just clean and free of sugars and ca-ca. If you want a weight gainer, a mass builder, a post W/O shake...protein is your foundation. You can add back calories, carbs, and fats, but in many of today's products you can not take them away! An example would be most mass market weight gainers. Some have excellent protein sources, but they follow on the label right after fructose and maltodextrin. You’d be so far ahead of those products to take your protein powder and add, peanut butter, fruit, flax oil, cream or whole milk (individualistic), etc and make your own, w/o all of the SUGARS.
Note: The so-called Nighttime proteins are nothing more than casein. You can achieve the same thing with milk, calcium casseinate...even the addition of fat and fiber to a “fast burning” anabolic protein such as whey, will make it digest slower and become anti-catabolic. The science behind “nighttime” proteins is based upon the amino L-leucine which stays in your system for 7 hours as opposed to 3-4 hours with the other aminos.
Creatine: Once you have been lifting 12 weeks or more...and your connective tissue is up to speed (to avoid injury from rapid strength increases), Creatine is the single most ergonomic aid next to protein. While it occurs naturally in meat and fish, supplementation with creatine allows for phenomenal progress, both in lean body mass and strength. There are no studies, or supported incidents of cancer, fat deposits on the liver or kidney damage. Even the occurrence of calf and hamstring cramping of elite athletes in hot humid weather has been dispelled as “normally occurring, even in those NOT on creatine.” Poor grades of creatine, with chemical by-product residue, will cause the traditional gastro-intestinal upset.
Glutamine: We only suggest glutamine to enhance recovery. If you are excessively sore, tired, and are unable to train several days in a row, glutamine can change your world! On top of the cell volumizing,
anti-inflammatory effects, glutamine can also help repair and soothe “gut problems” and reduce sugar cravings.
Antioxidants or Multi-Vitamins: When we exercise, we create additional “oxidative free-radical damage.” I can't stress the importance of additional vitamins, especially the antioxidants Vitamins C and E. While we derive many of our vitamins and minerals from our food, hard training athletes invariably benefit from supplementation. It is visible not only in increase recovery ability, but also in the athlete's capability to push the envelope day after day, without compromising their immune system.
Note: ALA, alpha lipoic acid, enhances antioxidant uptake and increases insulin sensitivity, definitely a supplement to consider.
These are the “essentials”, there are many more, but those are the basics. I could elaborate on Chromium, CLA, Liver tabs, Aminos, etc, at another time. If this article were titled “Keep it Simple”, we would stop here. There is a short list of things that work but are not cost effective (such as ZMA, CoQ10, and HMB). Also there are supps that prevent or reverse certain conditions associated with training (such as Glucosamine Sulfate, MSM, EFAs, arnica and more), but are not within the scope of this brief article. The next class of Supplements are those that work, but at a cost, and we are not talking monetarily. And in the final installment, “Pure Crap: Save your Money!”