Lets Talk Supplements
This is a mini-article that I originally wrote for The Fitcast a few months ago. I figured this would be a great place to post it since there is still an overwhelming stigma on the supplement industry in general.
As Alwyn Cosgrove has stated time and time again: supplements are progress ENHANCERS, not progress starters. If your training and/or nutrition are not getting you the results you want with your physique then loading up on every supplement that GNC sells is not going to do a bit of good; except maybe having the most expensive pee known to man.
That being said, I dont like blanket statements such as all supplements are a waste of time and money. On the contrary there are a host of supplements that I recommend to my clients that I dont necessarily consider supplements in every sense of the word.
I like to use the same approach as Dr. John Berardi in regards to categorizing supplements:
Essential Supplements (non-supplement supplements): proteins, fats, carbs, vitamins, and minerals. These can all be used by everyone based on their dietary needs.
Protein: Protein Powder (whey, casein, milk protein isolates, etc)
Fats: Fish Oil, flax oil
Carbs: Post-Training drinks
BCAAs (Branch Chained Amino Acids)
***All of these can technically be attained through whole foods alone, but supplementation is often utilized to meet daily requirements/needs based on lifestyle. For the most part I feel that everyone could benefit to some degree using many of these supplements.
Targeted Supplements (the supplement, supplements): CNS stimulants, thermogenics, acid buffers, cell volumizers, etc. Used only in special physiological situations based on special needs.
Important questions to ask before taking these supplements:
1. What physiological system do I hope to target with this supplement?
Asking most trainees what Beta Alanine is supposed to do is like asking them where the Quadratus Lumborum is on the body. (Enter crickets chirping). The general rule of thumb is if you dont know what the heck the supplement is supposed to do, then you dont need to be taking it.
2. Is there objective research demonstrating real benefit and safety?
Using the popular NO Explode as an example is it safe? If you ask Dave Barr, the answer would be a resounding nope. The combination of screwing with key enzymes in the heart and brain, while also hindering creatine uptake into those two organs, makes this one about as useful as a poop flavored lolly pop. (Side Note: I added the unsavory lolly pop flavor for effect ).
What about creatine? Is it safe? First off, it IS NOT a steroid contrary to what many people (particularly parents) may believe. Do you eat red meat? Then you’re essentially taking creatine. Secondly, its the most studied supplement in history. I just typed creatine AND performance in the search engine and came up with over 1600 studies. A review of over 500 studies evaluating effects on muscle physiology and/or exercise capacity; 300 have evaluated performance value and 70% showed positive results. Of these, very few showed any negative effects.
Short answer: it’s safe and it works. And no, your kidneys will not explode.
In a nutshell, do your research and ask qualified people on the merits of supplements and whether or not you should be using them. While many supplements do deserve the negative press they get, there are also many out there that do not.