It's all a big lie!
Take a stroll through a supplement store, or the supplement isles of a superstore or drug store. Better yet, go to a website that sells supplements right now... I'll wait.
Flashy isn't it? Bright colours, BIG letters, and signs all directing you to buy their product makes shopping in these places almost as fun as walking down the strip in Vegas.
I'll get right to the point for you. All these brands telling you that your results will be out of this world and that their product is the only one that works and so you have to pay 2 or 3 times as much, they're all FULL OF SHIT!
So the question we must as is: What do I really need to take when it comes to supplements? What actually works?
Nothing is ever what it appears to be at face value when it comes to the supplement industry and advertising.
If there is only one thing that I can get through to you from today’s topic it’s that everyone is out there to make money, even if they say they are one of the good guys or only trying to sell you good, high quality products.
Now there are some reputable supplement brands, and there are some supplements that I would say are safe to buy from just about any brand, but just about every brand out there makes supplements that are completely unnecessary.
What do I mean by completely unnecessary? A lot of the effects that supplements are said to have are completely unsupported by science. And if they do have the effects they are said to have, it is often greatly exaggerated and misleading in advertising. 200% better results in just 6 months!? Sure, but what they don't mention in the big font is that the results were 200% of 1 lb, equalling 2 lbs.... not that impressive anymore is it? That’s why I hope to clarify what you should consider taking for a more optimally healthy diet and what is completely useless.
If you’re interested, the documentary Bigger, Stronger, Faster covers the topic of supplement advertising in more details, but I will summarize what I learned from it. Technologies like photoshop are used to a great extent in making advertisements for supplements. This has led to the ability of models to take their before and after shots for a product on the same day! Furthermore, while models for supplements may actually take the products being advertised, the majority of them also take anabolic steroids and other illegal drugs to achieve the physiques that they have. Although this can obviously never be explicitly stated and so many people remain ignorant of the fact.
Note that these are just suggestions, because as we covered with the Precision Nutrition principles in my post on macronutrient basics, you should be getting everything you need for optimal health from that diet.
Also, I understand that a lot of supplements and health food products are expensive and may not be an option for university students or young adults struggling to get by. The best solution I have for this is to buy things you need in bulk and get them online where they are much cheaper. Bodybuilding.com is a great site for many different name brands at the cheapest price I have found.
If you want to buy in bulk or want the very best prices on supplement ingredients with no extra fillers you can check out True Nutrition. They have the absolute lowest prices I’ve found, because they minimize the fancy packaging and advertising. Save 5% on your order when you enter the discount code RJK734 during checkout.
So what should I take?
I will leave this section to discussing only the supplements that have been found to be scientifically validated and effective and affordable. If you have questions about anything else you can always email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Protein powder (whey and or casein) – I don’t even think this should be considered a supplement anymore. It’s such a great snack food, since it is low in calories, carbs and fat. You might have to try some different brands or flavours to find one you like, because it takes a while to find one you like the taste of and to adjust your taste buds to the "not exactly a milkshake taste." Adequate protein stimulates your metabolism and promotes protein synthesis, helping you to burn fat and build muscle. Buying in bulk will last you forever and this way you can get crystal light or something else to flavour your protein and not have to worry if you don’t like the taste, because you can just change it up. Consuming a protein smoothie with fruit and some healthy fats as a meal replacement will cost less and usually be healthier than whatever other snack you might have had.
Fish oil – "The one miracle supplement" As I have talked about before, most people are deficient in omega-3s in their diet from fish and this has led to an imbalance in the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. Many people cook with corn oil, or other high omega-6 oils, meat products are full of omega-6s because they’re often fed corn or corn products and this has led to our diets being too high in omega-6s leading to inflammation and all of the health disasters associated with that – cancer, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, diabetes, atherosclerosis, high cholesterol, and the list goes on.... Since fish and seafood can be expensive to eat daily, it is important to get a couple of grams of fish oils in your diet each day (aim for 2-3 g of EPA and DHA combined). The anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3s will help to reduce muscle soreness, improve joint health, boost metabolism and stimulate fat loss, increase longevity. Taking a liquid fish oil flavoured like orange or lemon will often be easier to reach the clinical dose of EPA and DHA unless you like taking 6-10 fish oil capsules each day. True Nutrition has a bulk 1000 fish oil capsules for about 20 bucks! AMAZING PRICE!
Multivitamin – If you are working out a lot it's a good idea to take a daily multivitamin to insure that all of your bases are covered. You don’t need to spend a ton of money on a fancy multivitamin though, since most of your micronutrient needs should be covered by following a healthy diet, like PN. Take it daily and you will sleep better and have more energy, as well as respond to life stressors better.
Vitamin D- EVERYBODY should be taking more vitamin D through supplements each day!!! The current RDI for vitamin D has been shown to be extremely lacking for maintaining adequate blood and body vitamin D levels. You should be taking at least 2000 IUs of Vitamin D each day, 1000 IUs will be ok if you are in the sun a lot during the summer, but bump it up in the winter. The good news is that it’s only a couple of dollars for several hundred Vit D capsules. This is especially important in Canada and even more so in the winter when we don’t get enough direct sunlight to synthesize adequate vitamin D from the UV rays. Adequate vitamin D promotes bone health and muscle strength and will keep you energized, it keeps metabolism up and it regulates gene expression. It is also very important for mood and can help to reduce depression.
Creatine – If you are working out, creatine monohydrate is the cheapest, and most effective proven supplement to take to help improve strength and build muscle at a slightly faster pace. Adequate creatine levels in the body help to maintain strength through a workout by supplying one of our most immediate energy systems with more fuel: the ATP-PCr system. It has also been shown to help prevent dehydration in endurance athletes.Anything you may have heard in the news about it killing football players due to dehydration is not true. This isn’t a miracle supplement, but will give most people some positive effects and then there seem to be some people who seem to really respond well when they first start taking it and gain upwards of 10 lbs pretty quickly. Note that a lot of this weight will be additional cellular hydration and not necessarily muscle mass, but the hydration will help you with strength a great deal.
Glutamine- Glutamine is a pretty expensive supplement and I don’t think it is all that necessary, but it helps to promote recovery following a workout and can help to balance the acidity in your diet. If you can afford it, it is also good for intestinal health.
Beta-Alanine - starting to have some more evidence for its use as a strength boosting supplement. It works to buffer hydrogen ions during long sets or endurance training, so it can help to improve muscular endurance. I've noticed a pretty good strength gain rapidly after taking supplements with beta-alanine daily in the past.
Digestive Enzymes – If you are eating a lot of food to try to gain weight, you might start getting digestive issues, because your body just doesn’t synthesize enough enzymes to break down all the food you are eating. You may want to try taking digestive enzymes with your biggest meals to see if it helps you gain weight or at least prevent bloating. This is one supplement you don’t want to go cheap on though, otherwise the lower quality ingredients won’t work. NOW Super Enzymes is probably the best one for the price, if you get it on bodybuilding.com
Caffeine and Ephedrine- The combination of these two certainly work for weight loss goals. However, I don't like to see people abusing these supplements to the point of dependency issues and bad withdrawals. If you're using caffeine and ephedrine for fasted morning cardio you can have 1-2 ephedrine tabs and 1-2 caffeine tabs and try to limit your coffee intake the rest of the day any more won't be anymore effective and will just mess you up. Caffeine also has the benefit of boosting max strength at doses above 200 to 300mg or equivalent to a couple of caffeine capsules. You can take caffeine capsules or drink a black coffee 15-30 minutes before a workout to improve your performance, but once again I like to restrict caffeine intake to this time frame to avoid dependency as well as maximize the effectiveness of the caffeine as a preworkout supplement for getting your nervous system fired up.
Bonus Tip: Weight Gainer
Weight gainers are pure crap and cheaply formulated! You only get about 50 g of protein for 4 huge scoops totaling over 400g of powder? I mean come on!
Make your own at home and it will be much easier to digest and much higher quality ingredients.
- At least 2 scoops of your favourite protein = 50 g of protein (over 200 calories)
- 1-2 cups of quick oats (60-120 g carbs) (200-400 calories)
- If you don't like oats or want faster digesting carbs include some maltodextrin or dextrose powder
- Natural peanut butter or extra virgin olive oil (each tablespoon is about 100 calories)
- Banana or frozen berries for some sugar and extra nutrients (50-100 calories)
- Enough water or milk to cover the ingredients in the blender (about 1-2 cups) (about 150 calories per cup for milk)
Throw it all in a blender together, hit the button, and in about 60 seconds total prep time you've got yourself a 800-1000 calorie delicious snack that won't leave you feeling gassy and bloated (unless you're sensitive to milk or maltodextrin, in which case you can leave them out). Choose chocolate or vanilla flavours for maximum awesomeness and add in a little bit extra natural vanilla extract or low sugar chocolate syrup for extra flavour if you need it.
Share this post with all your friends who might be a little misinformed about what supplements they should take for trying to build muscle or burn fat! Also remember to subscribe to email updates for all my latest posts and like the Kayser Strongman page on Facebook by clicking the links below.