The answer to that question depends on who you ask.
If you consult a fitness magazine, the answer is a resounding yes. As a matter of fact, they’ll tell you exactly which supplements are best. The ones that shellout the most advertising dollars, of course.
That’s why you can’t trust everything you read about nutritional supplements online. Or in fitness magazines for that matter. Personal trainers and other fitness professionals tend to get it wrong too.
They have the right intentions. They’re trying to be helpful. Only recommending what they’ve taken. Telling you about their experience with different products and manufacturers. It’s not that they’re being paid by the supplement companies, although they could be. Regardless, bro-science is the real issue.
Dude, take this mass-gainer, fat-burner, pre-workout! It will get you JACKED!!!
Really, will it? Well your buddy works out all the time. He takes protein. He has big arms. Bigger than your arms, anyway. You’re convinced. That’s the broscience bullshit I’m talking about.
Look, we’ve all done stupid things in the name of fitness. I know I have. I’ve spent ungodly amounts of money on supplements. Later, I realized I didn’t need them, they didn’t work, or I was using them all wrong.
Get Smart About Supplements
If you’re actually serious about your health or athletic performance, there’s a much better way to go about determining what supplements you need – if any.
Option A. Go to your doctor. Get a blood test. Have it evaluated. Do you have any deficiencies? Now we’re getting somewhere.
Option B. Keep a food journal. Consult a nutritionist or dietician. Are you getting the appropriate foods, in the right amount, to reach your goals?
Option C. Read academic journals. Check out PubMed. It’s a free search engine for research on the life sciences and biomedical topics. Fair warning, this could bore you to death or confuse the shit out of you. Probably both. But, if you’re a huge nerd like me you’ll enjoy it.
Option D. Check out Examine.com. If PubMed is a search engine for studies, Examine.com is a search engine for supplements. They also whipped up an exhaustive reference guide for supplements. It’s packed with facts on 300 supplements, including what works and what doesn’t.
Red Flag !!!
Here we go again. When I saw the Examine Supplement Guide my bullshit meter went through the roof. An online product touting supplements. Right, I’ve seen this before. I had a sneaking suspicion they were selling supplements and using the guide to promote their products. I sent a couple emails. As it turns out, I had it all wrong. Time to eat crow.
Examining the Examine Supplement Guide
It didn’t take long for me to get in touch with the team over at Examine. I exchanged emails with a bunch of the editors. I even did a Q and A with Dr. Spencer Nadolsky of Examine. I found out first hand that they’re team was full of PhDs and PharmDs touting degrees in biochemistry & molecular biology. Now that’s science. The real kind. Sorry bros.
The Best and Worst Supplement
When I interviewed Dr. Nadolsky, I asked him the best and worst supplements they researched. You know, the ones people spend a ton of money on and have nothing to show for it. I also asked about the best of the bunch. The supplements that actually deliver. Here’s what I found.
The Best of the Bunch
1. Real food. As the word supplement would suggest, these products are intended to be an addition to a solid nutrition and exercise.
2. Vitamins D and K. Most people are deficient, so supplementing can help. As far as vitamin D goes, the best source is the sun, so try to soak up the rays. But, supplementing can help.
3. Creatine. There is so much confusing information out there about creatine. But, it’s legit. The best part is that the benefits extend way beyond the gym. It’s been shown to creatine promote brain function and even has some anti-depressive effects.
Anyone out there take testosterone boosters or joint supplement? You’re wasting your money, friends. Here’s what I found when I dug into the Examine Guide:
1. Tribulus, a highly touted testosterone booster was all hype. It doesn’t help add mass or increase muscle mass.
2.) Glucosamine – the main ingredient in joint supplements – hasn’t been proven to be of benefit to athletes or active individuals.
3. Glutamine – This one made me mad. I had previously sworn by glutamine. All wrong. “Glutamine increases muscle protein synthesis when it is present in a cell, but oral ingestion does not allow for glutamine to get to the muscles in useful levels.”
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