It went like this:
I was writing an article about new supplements on the market and why they might be worth a shot when I realized, that sort of subject matter is most of what I’ve been writing. Now, there is not necessarily anything wrong with that if you have been learning about supplements, training, drugs etc. as long as I have, but then I thought about my average reader. I’m assuming my average reader has not spent years pouring through scientific literature to evaluate the claims made by supplement manufacturers, or to see things the way they really are.
No, my average reader probably is fairly new to the game, has just started lifting and training properly, and is just looking for something to get him a little bit of an advantage. He is also probably not versed in the terms of academia, doesn’t know what double blind or placebo controlled means, often confuses correlation and causation, and generally accepts things as facts if stated with authority.
Which is not to say my readership is stupid, only that you haven’t been shown the way yet. Science isn’t everyone’s thing, I get that. You’re probably reading these articles specifically because you don’t want to put the time and energy into it that I have, and that is fine.
So, I’m going to teach you how to not waste your money on supplements, because, make no mistake, most supplements are a waste of money.
First thing you need to know is this, unlike the pharmaceutical industry, the supplement industry is unregulated. As I’ve stated in previous articles, anything that has been consumed by humans is assumed to be safe for continued human consumption by the DSHEA. The loophole here is that humans consume pretty much everything in some parts of the world, and that a plant which may contain only 1% of a given chemical can be extracted to 99% of that chemical, making it behave completely differently within the body.
The second thing: don’t trust any supplement companies, at least not initially. Supplement companies have repeatedly and remorselessly lied to the general public to make a dollar (which is not much different than any other corporation). This fraud ranges from shady practices like using proprietary blends to conceal non-active doses of ingredients (cough…Muscletech) to the outright criminal such as spiking products with pharmaceuticals and out-and-out selling steroids over the counter.
So, my advice to you is to NEVER read the ad for an indication of what the product is like. The ad will almost always lie to you. It will tell you that the ingredients are backed by science which turns out to be studies on rats or individual cells (not giving you an accurate representation of what it will do in a resistance trained human male). They’ll use all sorts of hyperbolic phrasing and official sounding terminology to make you think that you HAVE TO HAVE this product. Well, you don’t.
This is really where supplements manufacturers shine. There are a few supplements out there that are popular because they are really effective, but most of the popular supplements are popular because they have the most successful ad campaign, the shiniest labels, the most juiced out elite athletes representing them.
So now that I’ve sufficiently pissed all over your boyish enthusiasm, you ask “Well how do I know what supplements to buy?” Well, you have a few options.
One, you read my stuff. I know this seems very self promoting, and to an extent it is. But there is a key factor which differentiates me from the advertisements I just wailed on, I don’t have a financial motive to push anything on you. I don’t stand to make money from you buying supplement X. in fact, I’m more likely to have a continued demand for articles if the shit I tell you to buy is super effective. This is not true of writers like me in fitness magazines, those magazines are paid for ad space and product endorsement, this leaks into the articles in a very obvious way. Like, Ronnie Coleman saying N.O. Xplode got him so jacked type of obvious. So, I’m an option.
Two, if you run into something in a store that I’ve not discussed and you want to do a little sleuthing of your own. Look ONLY AT THE INGREDIENTS PANEL. Don’t let the shiny bottle and the word “science” hypnotize you. Go home and look up research on the ingredients, including dose, duration, study group and population size. You want to find research in young resistance trained male humans, but something super promising in animals might be worth a shot if you find nothing saying it doesn’t work in humans.
Really the supplements you should be taking at any given time should be fairly simple: creatine, fish oils, vitamin D, and protein. Plenty of people have gotten all jacked up using less than that. Every now and again you might want to throw in a fat burner, testosterone booster, pre-workout powder, insulin mimicker or something and that is all well and good, but don’t make the mistake of thinking these supplements are needed for your continued success in the weight room.
Work and determination get you results, supplements and drugs will only accelerate that.
As a sort of Addendum, there is a company who I will take at their word, they continually introduce new and effective ingredients to the market which are promptly ripped off by everyone. 7-OH, 3,4 divanilly, TTA, R-ALA and multiple other unique compounds have all been introduced by this company. I’ve pretty much never seen them do anything indicating dishonest conduct in many years and so I can recommend them personally. Driven Sports (formerly designer supplements), check them out.
So, that’s the long and short of it. It’s not pretty but it is going to save you money. In my next article I’ll go through a big long list of shit supplements (and why) so you’ll know what to look out for the next time you’re shopping for supplements.