If you’re reading this, then chances are that fitness supplements at one point or another have been a part of your workout regimen.
They can be helpful in many ways: they increase energy levels, promote fat burning and muscle growth, and help with recovery time.
Supplements can also hinder progress if used improperly.
Most supplements are not necessary for reaching your fitness goals.
Most are snake oil and can’t deliver on their promises.
The good news is that with the proper workout routine and diet in place, you can achieve your fitness goals.
In this blog post, we’ll discuss the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to supplements so you know what will work best for you!
Let’s dive right in!
Separating Science from Marketing
In reality, anybody can contact a manufacturer and quickly throw together their own “proprietary blend” of useless ingredients.
With all the mumbo jumbo being thrown out nowadays about being back with science, it’s tough to tell who is being honest and who is full of shit.
Look at the ingredients
When it boils down to supplement ingredients, there are some tips to help you sort the snake oil salesmen from the real McCoy.
- supplement producers often will lie and claim different ingredients have different benefits when they haven’t been backed with reliable scientific research
- supplements with scientifically backed results don’t usually have a big enough dosage of the ingredient for you to see the effects
- supplement companies will include ineffective dosages of a good ingredient so that it can be included on the label as clinically effective dosages tend to be very expensive then they will throw in lots of junk filler
Unfortunately, in the fitness world, despite peoples’ body types, everybody wants to build a muscular physique and lose as much fat as possible.
If there’s even the slightest possibility a supplement will work, people will buy it.
Don’t believe the “science”
I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of ads that include “science-based”, “evidence-based”, or “clinically-tested” because these phrases work.
The supplement industry is largely unregulated meaning pretty much anyone can claim to use science without any fear of repercussions.
With billions in the fitness industry, you can expect supplement companies to cut corners.
There are several questions you should be asking when judging the quality of the “science” behind supplements you plan to take:
How was the study carried out?
Random controlled trials are the best with animal studies being less valuable as they don’t often transfer over to humans
Was the study based on 5 or 100 people? Larger sample sizes result in more accurate results and have a better chance of being able to be replicated.
Who’s paying for the study?
Scientific results can be paid for. If the study was funded by people with interest in the product, take the results with a grain of salt.
Was the study published in a reputable peer journal?
Publishing the study so that peers can review the experiment and judge its credibility is important.
Supplements That Work
Before we get into supplements that are objectively scientifically backed to help you reach your fitness and health goals, I should add that taking any supplements should not be a decision taken lightly.
It would be prudent to consult your physician before taking any supplements as you don’t know how they could affect your health.
Creatine Monohydrate is the most popular workout supplement for one reason- it works.
Creatine is a nitrogenous acid naturally produced in the body from amino acids, primarily arginine and methionine.
It can also be found in certain foods such as fish or beef.
The primary role of creatine is to supply energy to all cells in your body, particularly muscle tissue.
It also does the following:
When you exercise, you use up ATP (adenosine triphosphate) stores more quickly than usual.
This leads to fatigue and loss of strength within minutes after stopping exercise.
Your muscles are deprived of oxygen because they need more energy for contraction during exercise.
They don’t have enough ATP left over after strenuous activity has ceased.
This lack of available ATP causes muscle breakdown.
So what does this all have to do with creatine?
Creatine provides a phosphate group that helps restore ATP levels so you don’t feel as tired and your muscles recover quickly!
Studies also show that it can help increase muscle mass by promoting protein synthesis.
It’s well-researched and one of the best supplements to gain muscle for anyone looking to gain muscle and get stronger!
Caffeine is a stimulant that most people know has the potential in supplements to boost energy.
The benefits of caffeine are well documented in scientific literature, with studies showing that it can improve endurance exercise performance by up to 10% while also helping burn energy to lose weight.
Even if you’re not an athlete, you can still reap some of these benefits from your morning coffee or afternoon tea break.
Caffeine is thought to have many effects on the body, but one key reason for its ergogenic effect is its ability to block adenosine receptors in our brain and stimulate dopamine release.
This improves alertness and reduces fatigue which leads us to believe we can do more work with less effort.
This increase in perceived exertion doesn’t mean that caffeine will make you work harder, it just means that your brain is telling your body to do more.
Not only does caffeine stimulate the release of dopamine but also serotonin and endorphins which may help reduce pain during exercise as well as reducing perceived fatigue.
Research indicates it’s best to take caffeine in a pill or powder form.
Citrulline Malate can be used to increase energy levels during exercise.
It is a combination of two amino acids that are also found in foods like watermelon, grapefruit, and oranges.
Citrulline Malate increases blood flow to muscles by breaking down into L-arginine which causes nitric oxide production.
This creates an “open” effect on the arteries so they can carry more oxygenated blood and nutrients to the muscle tissues.
The increased supply of oxygen helps you work out longer with less fatigue or soreness.
It’s most effective when taken before exercising because it takes about 15 minutes for your body to start making its citrulline malate from arginine.
This supplement helps your body produce more ATP which is the source of energy you need to power through workouts and perform your best.
Whey Protein is the most popular and best supplement to gain muscle and strength.
It can be used as a post-workout shake or when you need that extra protein to build muscle tissue. It also contains leucine which directly stimulates protein synthesis.
A study done showed that using protein for greater than six weeks can lead to significant increases in muscle mass.
It’s also been shown to increase fat burning by 20% in people who work out regularly!
There are many different types of Whey Protein products on the market today and it can be difficult to know which one is right for you.
Here’s a brief overview of the most popular types:
Whey Concentrate: concentrate contains anywhere from 30-80% protein content, depending on manufacturing processes.
It may also contain lactose and fat as well as other non-protein ingredients that are not pure protein.
Whey Isolate: isolate is the purest form of whey available and contains 90+% protein content.
It also contains no lactose, fat, or other non-protein ingredients that are not pure protein.
It has a very bland taste but mixes easily in water or milk without clumping up like concentrate can sometimes do.
Whey Hydrolysate: hydrolyzed whey is pre-digested to some extent, making it very easy for the body to absorb.
It’s one of the fastest absorbing proteins available today and has a great amino acid profile that makes it perfect after an intense workout or when you need protein quickly.
It also contains some lactose and fat, which can be a good or bad thing depending on your own dietary needs.
Casein protein is one of the most underrated supplements for athletes.
It’s not as popular as whey, but it does have some benefits that make it worth considering.
Casein is a slow-digesting protein, so it provides your body with amino acids over a longer period than whey.
This makes casein perfect for pre-workout or post-workout supplementation before bed. Whey is possibly better immediately post-workout, but casein is great to help improve muscle recovery.
Since you won’t be getting insulin spikes from the food you eat before exercise, casein will help limit fat storage and promote muscle growth instead.
Finally, research has shown that combining whey and casein protein during exercise can improve performance even more than using just whey alone!
For these reasons, if you’re looking to maximize your gains, casein protein is a smart choice.
Egg Protein: A great alternative to dairy products.
It’s absorbed well into the body and contains plenty of essential amino acids.
Plus, it is digested slower than casein!
Plant-Based Protein: (pea protein, rice protein)
The two most popular plant-based proteins are rice and pea.
Plant proteins are wrongly criticized for being incomplete proteins, but they are.
The issue is that they don’t contain as much leucine as animal protein which is directly responsible for stimulating the most muscle growth.
This doesn’t mean that vegans are doomed to not getting enough protein to build muscle, it just means they have to choose wisely.
Rice protein is a great option.
A study shows it’s as good as whey at building muscle and absorbed very well, also being rich in amino acids including leucine.
Pea protein is another great option.
Fish Oil is one of the most popular supplements for athletes for good reason.
Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids which are important for heart health.
Studies indicate you may be able to use fish oil supplements to reduce inflammation.
They also help speed up the recovery process. You’ll be ready for your next workout in no time!
They’re great for increasing fat loss, reducing potential weight gain, improving memory and cognitive performance, improving protein synthesis, and decreasing anxiety as well.
Maintaining good cardiovascular health can help prevent many other diseases.
Fish oil can reduce the risk of the following: high blood pressure, depression, kidney disease, stroke, and metabolic syndrome.
It also reduces the effects of stress.
Fish oil supplements can improve glucose intake and insulin sensitivity which are beneficial for people with diabetes.
An ideal amount of omega 3 fatty acids is 3.5-4.5 grams daily and 6.5 grams should not be exceeded.
Nitric Oxide Boosters
There are supplements you can take before or during your workout which give you an extra boost of energy so you’ll have enough stamina to work out without feeling exhausted halfway through your routine.
The best type of supplement is Nitric Oxide Boosters because these increase nitric oxide levels in the body which causes vasodilatation (widening) of blood vessels throughout the body-both inside and outside muscles.
As a result, nitric oxide is responsible for better blood flow, which leads to bigger and faster muscle pumps.
Nitric Oxide Boosters are one of the safest supplements available on today’s market.
They don’t contain any illegal substances that could cause a positive drug test result or a health hazard to your body if used incorrectly.
The best part about nitric oxide boosters is that you don’t have to take them forever just for short-term benefits.
Nitric Oxide Boosters are safe enough so they can be taken indefinitely without causing any negative side effects, which means you get the muscle pumps and increased energy every time you work out!
Spirulina has been used by ancient civilizations for centuries as both food and medicine.
It is a blue-green algae that has been used for centuries as both food and medicine by ancient civilizations including the Aztecs, Maya, and Egyptians.
Today, it’s most commonly recognized as one of the leading dietary supplements available worldwide.
Spirulina contains high levels of protein (over 60%) which are essential for building and repairing muscle.
Spirulina also contains a large amount of the amino acid Arginine which is used to create Nitric Oxide in one’s body.
This results in more efficient oxygen flow throughout the muscles, allowing you to push harder for longer periods without being fatigued.
It’s a great supplement to improve workout performance, reduce blood pressure, and reduce inflammation.
Betaine is a nutrient that can be found in foods like spinach, wheat bran, and beets.
Studies show betaine is great for boosting muscle endurance and increasing strength.
It achieves this effect most likely by swelling the cells up which protects them from exercise-induced damage which helps performance.
Beta-Alanine is a natural supplement that has been found to increase muscle endurance in individuals who are exercising.
On top of reducing fatigue, you should notice improved anaerobic capacity and increased workload potential.
There have also been reported benefits for weightlifters.
Increasing your level of beta-alanine can be beneficial for those looking to build lean mass, lose body fat, or improve their performance in athletics and other sports.
The biggest benefit of beta-alanine may be the fact that it’s not a stimulant so you won’t feel jittery in any way when taking it before exercise.
This makes it an ideal pre-workout supplement for people who might suffer from anxiety or depression.
They don’t need to worry about feeling anxious after taking the supplement as they would with most pre-workouts on the market.
For effective results, you shouldn’t need to take more than 5 grams daily.
Carnitine is a naturally occurring molecule that plays an important role in fat metabolism.
It transports long-chain fatty acids across the mitochondrial membrane to be broken down and used as energy.
Carnitine deficiency can have severe consequences for your health, decreasing athletic performance and preventing weight loss goals from being met.
Fortunately, there are many carnitine supplements available today which provide all the benefits of this essential nutrient without any of the risks associated with taking it through food sources alone.
The research is not there yet to back it as a fat loss supplement, but it is well-established as a muscle recovery supplement.
Green Tea Extract
The benefits of green tea extract for weight loss and increased energy are well documented in the scientific literature.
Green tea is a potent thermogenic and antioxidant, both of which can help you lose weight.
The caffeine in green tea also increases your metabolic rate, helping your body burn more calories throughout the day.
And because it’s high in catechins (a type of polyphenol), it helps block the formation of new fat cells.
Forskolin is an herbal supplement that is effective for weight loss and raising testosterone levels.
It can also help you maintain a healthy blood sugar level.
Found in citrus fruits, it is great for improving blood flow and reducing inflammation.
The benefits of Hesperidin are numerous, with evidence pointing to its ability to help with weight loss and maintain healthy blood pressure.
It stimulates adiponectin production, a hormone that regulates the storage of body fat.
A study found it also works with other molecules found in citrus fruits to raise basal metabolic rate which accelerates fat loss.
One of the most popular supplements in use today is HMB (beta-hydroxy beta-methylbutyrate).
It’s hard to find reliable information about why people are using HMB or if they are seeing benefits from it, so I thought I would break down some research about its efficacy as well as the potential side effects.
There is unreliable research full of design flaws that is is a muscle-building aid.
The more established benefit of HMB is it’s an effective anti-catabolic agent meaning it’s great at preventing muscle breakdown.
This means you recover quicker and deal with less muscle soreness after those dreaded leg days.
HMB is more effective than BCAA supplements for anti-catabolic effects.
Naringin is also found in citrus fruits and helps increase the hormone adiponectin which leads to an accelerated metabolic rate when combined with hesperidin and synephrine.
Synephrine is a supplement that has been shown to increase speed and endurance as well as reduce body fat.
It can also help with weight management, which may be beneficial for those looking to lose weight without sacrificing muscle mass.
It helps you lose weight in several ways:
- increases basal metabolic rate
- blocks certain fat cell receptors that inhibit fat mobilization
- increases the thermic effect of food which means your body is using more energy to digest food
Theanine is a chemical that keeps the brain calm and focused, which in turn helps people attain fitness goals.
It’s not a stimulant like caffeine; it does not make you more energetic or “hyper”.
Instead, it promotes relaxation without making you feel sleepy or unable to function.
Theanine improves blood flow by enhancing Nitric oxide production.
It may be able to help with alertness, attention span, reducing stress levels, and memory when taken as an oral supplement.
Vitamin D deficiencies increase the risk of heart disease, type 1 diabetes, stroke, some different types of cancer, multiple sclerosis, and the flu.
Studies indicate about 60% of Americans are Vitamin D insufficient and about 40% are deficient.
Zinc is a mineral that is naturally occurring and necessary for the body to function properly.
Zinc can be found in several different foods, but many people do not get enough through their regular diet alone.
It helps support healthy testosterone production.
5-HTP is a natural substance that has been shown to increase serotonin levels in the brain and as an appetite suppressant.
Studies have shown that it is effective at increasing feelings of fullness when taken during meals.
It can also help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression.
5-HTP has been shown to work just as well as prescription anti-depressants without the side effects or costs.
However, not all forms are created equal so you need to do your research before selecting one.
Some sources recommend taking 300mg 3x/day on an empty stomach 30 minutes before each meal with 240ml water.
Others recommend 100mg 2x/day with breakfast and dinner.
You can also take it about an hour before bed to help with sleep issues as well since serotonin is the neurotransmitter that helps promote restful sleep at night.
But, some people have reported feeling groggy in the morning when taking 100mg/night so you may want to consider this for your needs.
Supplements You Should Avoid
Now that we’ve covered supplements you could benefit from taking, let’s look at the ones that are a waste of time.
These supplements usually grow in popularity because TV personalities and health “gurus” are trying to make extra money.
The Acai Berry is a natural fruit that has been touted as an all-natural supplement to help reach fitness goals.
But what is the truth about this fruit and its effects on your body?
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine stated:
“There is no definitive scientific evidence based on studies in humans to support the use of acai berry for any health-related purpose.
“No independent studies have been published in peer-reviewed journals that substantiate claims that acai supplements alone promote rapid weight loss.
Researchers who investigated the safety profile of an acai-fortified juice in animals observed that there were no body weight changes in rats given the juice compared with controls.”
Acai berries are a healthy food, but they aren’t going to be the reason you can lose weight.
With time, our bodies change and we can lose muscle mass as well as gain weight, both of which make us less fit and more prone to injury.
One way people try to combat these changes is by taking supplements like BCAA’s, but it turns out they might not be worth your money or time after all.
If you’re not familiar with BCAA’s, they are a blend of three amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine.
Amino acids help build proteins in your body to maintain muscle mass while working out.
For this reason, many people turn to supplements like BCAAs when trying to increase their fitness levels.
they are one of the most popular and overrated supplements on the market.
All of the studies that are done are misinterpreted and misleading.
As long as you have a decent workout routine and consume enough protein, you don’t need BCAA’s supplements and they’re not as effective.
You can get enough of them through food alone.
Often, when buying BCAA’s, you’re paying for three different amino acids, but leucine is the only useful one of the bunch.
Chitosan is made from chitin, which is found in shrimp and crab shells.
The idea behind this supplement is that since chitin has been proven to lower cholesterol levels when taken with certain medications, then by extension it will also lower levels of fat cells in the body when taken alone.
But there are two problems with taking chitosan for weight loss purposes: firstly, the amount of actual chitin that would need to be ingested before any weight-loss effects might take place would probably cause nausea or other unpleasant side effects.
Secondly, chitosan has not been proven to help with weight loss.
Research conducted has proven that it is of little effect on body weight and has minimal clinical significance.
Testosterone Boosters are one of these supplements that many people use in an attempt to improve muscle growth and strength.
There are some drawbacks with this type of supplement:
They do not provide testosterone- they just increase its production.
There is no scientific evidence that shows any correlation between taking a Testosterone Booster and increased muscle mass or strength.
This is because the ingredients are not backed with science and the ingredients that are backed with science are in too small of quantities to create any benefits.
Some men who take Testosterone Boosters have reported experiencing sexual dysfunction such as erectile dysfunction, decreased libido, and reduced ejaculate.
If your test levels are low, it is recommended to visit your doctor for effective medical options.
Manipulating your hormones is risky for your health.
Glutamine is an amino acid that helps your body form proteins, which are the building blocks of muscle.
It’s also a key fuel for cells in the immune system and plays a major role in fat metabolism.
But does it help you build muscle?
The answer is no.
It is the amino acid most abundant in your body and the easiest one to get from food consumption.
Getting excess glutamine will not help your gains and is a waste of your hard-earned cash.
CLA is an unsaturated fatty acid popular as a weight loss supplement.
It does work well in mice, but the effects on humans are unreliable.
Humans don’t respond well to it and the weight loss effects are minimal.
Save your money for better options.
Deer Velvet Antler
What is Deer Velvet Antler?
Deer velvet antler, also known as deer antler spray, is a supplement made from the ground-up velvet of male deer.
The product has been marketed to improve athletic performance and relieve pain.
But does it work?
Research shows it doesn’t improve testosterone levels, won’t increase growth hormone levels, and doesn’t help build muscle or strength.
GC is also known as tamarind, a small, sour fruit used in cooking.
Research done with rats indicated it can reduce weight gain during periods of overconsumption.
The issue is that rats and other animals react differently to molecules than human metabolisms making the research unverifiable.
Green Coffee Extract
Green coffee extract is a go-to weight loss supplement despite the lack of trustworthy research.
There were trials done, but they were found to be biased because the funding sources were the companies producing green coffee extract supplements.
Human growth hormone boosters do absolutely nothing.
Most contain amino acids, herbs, and some random ingredients that don’t have any effect on hormonal production.
Research has proven that in juiced-up bodybuilders, HGH alone doesn’t help build more muscle, it has to be combined with anabolic steroids.
Small fluctuations of anabolic hormones within natural levels have minimal effects on muscle growth.
Do you want to know the ugly truth about Hoodia Gordonii? It’s a useless diet pill that does not help with weight loss.
The product, which is derived from an African succulent plant, has long been associated with weight loss and appetite control because of its ability to suppress hunger pangs in some people.
But now researchers are finding out that it doesn’t work for most people who take it.
You would need to take a high, potentially toxic dose, with serious side effects to suppress your appetite.
The government highly regulates the plant which should make you wonder what you’re buying.
Trib is used in supplements to gain muscle by increasing your test levels.
Research indicated that it doesn’t improve testosterone levels, body composition, or exercise performance.
Don’t waste your money!
Powdered Weight Gain Shakes
I admit I used to be a supporter of weight gainer shake companies.
Only us skinny guys understand how hard it is to have to force-feed ourselves 4,000 calories/day.
However, powdered weight gain shakes are packed full of empty calories and can be expensive and awful tasting.
You’re WAY better off creating your own with some protein powder, a banana, peanut butter, and milk.
Are supplements worth it for working out?
Supplements are not always necessary for working out, but the right ones can supplement a good workout routine and diet to make it easier to reach your fitness goals.
Can workout supplements be harmful?
A lot of supplements contain ingredients that are not approved by the FDA and can cause issues such as kidney failure, heart problems, or seizures. Even legal supplements can cause harm. It is a good idea to consult your physician before using any new supplements.
The sad truth is that unless you do your research on what supplements are effective, you risk wasting your money or hurting your health.
Supplementation is not as important as you might believe, and you can obtain the physique of your dreams through consistent hard work, a proper workout routine, and a diet plan.
With that said, the right supplements can enhance your gains and help you on your way.
Share this post with your friend that goes overboard with supplements so that they can re-evaluate their supplementation routine.