We’ve all been there – sitting in front of a laptop, mouse hovering over the “Place Order” button.
Staring at the $250 dollar cart you managed to rack up at BodyBuilding.com. Thinking to yourself:
“I know I need to pay rent this month, but I also NEED bigger biceps and a sexy six pack. Screw it, I’ll just put it on my credit card.”
Boom, order placed and the ticket to the gains train successfully purchased.
I’ve done it countless times. Clicked on that little magic order button and stared at my door, patiently waiting for my stacks of protein and vials of pre-workout to complete their long, perilous journey to my doorstep.
It’s like Christmas when the package finally arrives, only better, because I can get it again and again – every week if I want to.
Each time I opened that supplement package, I imagined myself next to my boy Arnie, as we nonchalantly discussed throwing a few more plates on the bar. After all, we have these new supplements to fuel us.
Supplement Sales Drive The Fitness Industry
As a personal trainer, the one question I’m asked the most is – “What supplements do you recommend?”. Sometimes I also get asked if I’m on steroids (which is awesome :), but mostly it’s just what “stack” am I taking right now?
The supplement market is HUGE. We’re talking billions of dollars a year huge. Supplement sales run most of the fitness industry. Supplements are expensive, quickly consumed, and poorly understood.
Add that to the millions spent on marketing, and you’ve got yourself a massive money-making machine.
You’d be surprised how easy it is to convince somebody who’s never trained before that this latest “muscle gainer” will add pounds to their arms and chest. Or that this “revolutionary fat burner” will strip away inches off their belly, while they’re eating bagels and pizza.
And it works on almost everyone. I even find myself buying new supplements on occasion just to see if they really work. The marketing is so amazing that it gives even professionals just a little bit of hope that this may, in fact, be revolutionary.
Why does this happen?
Because, as humans, we all look for shortcuts. Consciously or not, we are aware of our mortality. And if there is a product that promises to decrease the time it takes to get shredded, build muscle or feel amazing, then you’d be crazy not to try it.
This is exactly why supplements are so attractive.
Why 90% of Supplements Are a Waste of Money
This wouldn’t be so bad, except for the fact that most supplements are garbage.
Here are the main problems with most supplement products out there:
- Their effectiveness is hugely exaggerated. While many of the ingredients used have at least a loose connection to what the marketing claims, the dosage is way too low to be effective. If they used the proper dosage, the supplements would be too expensive to the average consumer.
- The science behind them is usually shady. As part of their aggressive marketing, supplement companies often sponsor “research studies” that “clearly show” how their products are useful. Most of the “science” and tests are funded by the same supplement companies pushing the products. And they hide behind anecdotal evidence and fancy charts that don’t really show anything. Sometimes, they simply lie. The bottom line is that many products have no actual scientific basis for their effectiveness.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some legit companies out there, who spend a lot of money on actual scientific studies and development of quality products. Biotrust, Legion Athletics, Athletic Greens, and Onnit are a few that come to mind.
But the vast majority are driven by profits and will do anything they can to sell as much crap to you as possible.
On-Point Nutrition is Always the Key
Despite what you’ll read in fitness magazines, you absolutely DO NOT need supplements to transform your body and see amazing results in the mirror.
The biggest impact on your progress will come from your nutrition. It’s more important than your workout routine, and it is certainly more important than any supplements you dump down your throat.
The sooner you start counting your macros, tracking what you eat and get on a consistent meal plan that supports your fitness goals, the sooner you’ll start seeing consistent progress.
Good, quality supplements CAN help you see slightly faster results. There are no magic pills or powders that are going to transform you into The Hulk in a couple of weeks. But some supplements can help you get a little bit extra protein in your diet, regulate your hormones or support your overall health.
If that magic pill really did exist, I’d have already taken it. But no matter how much you want to believe it, you’re not going to find it.
The key is not to rely on supplements to be the driving force behind your transformation. Instead, think of them as little booster packs that can speed you up and steer you down the right path.
5 Supplements to Consider Using
With all that being said, I do take supplements. Most professional coaches, bodybuilders and athletes take them too.
If you have some extra money and want to build that muscle just a little bit faster or get in shape just a little bit sooner, here are five products that I use and recommend:
- Multi-Vitamin: Chances are, you’re not eating enough variety of fruits and vegetables to get a balanced supply of vitamins and minerals into your body. But that’s exactly what you need to support long-term health and keep a hormonal balance.
- Fish/Krill Oil: Fish oil is a natural supplement derived from oily fish tissues. It sounds kinda gross, but it’s a fantastic source of Omega-3, EPA and DHA fatty acids. They serve as natural anti-inflammatory compounds that are great for your joints and hormonal balance. They can also help with fat loss.
- Greens: If you don’t have the time to make fresh vegetables for every meal (which not many of us do), you can get a powdered version that you can quickly throw in your protein shakes.
- Whey Protein: If you’re having trouble getting enough protein in your diet, you can pick up some quality whey isolate protein powder to fill in the gaps. This is particularly useful if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, or if you travel frequently and don’t have time to cook protein-rich meals at home.
- Creatine: A mistakingly controversial supplement, it is a well-studied substance that has been proven to increase muscle endurance by increasing your muscle’s ability to retain water. If your goal is to gain muscle, creatine can give you a little boost in the gym and increase your muscle pump.
This list is more or less in order from most to least important. If you can’t get all of the above, pick 1-2 from the top, and you’ll be good to go.
Don’t Feel Like You’re Missing Out Without Supplements
It’s taken me years to figure out what works and what doesn’t. And with the help of websites like Examine.com, I’m learning more every day. Thanks to that, I can now laugh at fitness magazines and all of their “colorful marketing”.
Don’t expect miracles from supplements – they are called supplements for a reason.
You’re not missing out if you don’t use them. And if you are using them, don’t feel like you’re being swindled or duped. Sometimes, a shot of that pre-workout is exactly what you need to bring out the intensity in your workouts.
Plus, the labels are always really fun to read. Try reading them in different voices – hilarious!
Just remember, all you need is the right nutrition and training program, and you’ll see astounding results.