We've all seen the ads in muscle magazines..."Add 40 pounds of muscle in one month!" "Build muscle while you sleep!" "Physique altering protein"
Do these supplements actually live up to their claims?
Let me start off by saying that I'm not an advocate against using sports supplements.
I actually use supplements on a regular basis because I beleive they help me with my overall program. They basically serve to "fill in the gaps" with my nutritional program.
For example, I use protein powders to help me with my morning and mid-afternoon meals.
What I'd like to do with this article is to give you an idea of what supplements I have used that have provided me with the best results from my personal experience. I've used these supplements in the past and I currently use these supplements today.
Alright, what supplements do work?
I've tried alot of supplements over the years and it has been a learning experience. If there is one thing that I've learned from my supplement usage is to not fall into the hype.
I know, marketers have some pretty compelling sales pages filled with all the right words and push all the right buttons but you have to remember, it's all words. These are professional marketers and chances are, they've never laid a foot inside a gym and never will. Chances are, they've never used the product in question.
I don't believe anyone who hasn't tried the product themselves.
They're a tricky bunch and before you run to your nearest nutrition centre to whip out your wallet to buy the product, make an informed choice.
I'll usually read the sales page and ask myself the following questions:
- What are the active ingredients?
- What are they supposed to do?
- What studies have been done on these ingredients?
- What were the results of those studies?
- Is this a credible company?
If there have been no results associated with the ingredients, I don't buy it. I want to know who has used them, what the results were and if the source is credible.
I don't go for the "instant transformation pictures". You know the pictures, it shows some skinny guy in the first picture and another that shows him 3 months later with 30 extra pounds of muscle.
They attibute all those gains to the "body transforming protein combination" of their product. It's all bull and don't fall for it.
Like I said, marketers are a tricky bunch and they will have you believe that their product is simply a miracle muscle builder.
Alright, what works?
Over the years, I've had the best results with the following supplements:
-Protein poweders/Meal replacement powders
-Essential fatty acids
-Calorie dense protein drinks (weight gainers) on as needed basis
I've also tried a bunch of other supplements such as inosine, pro-hormones, ecdysterone, plant sterols, smilax, boron, and a bunch of others that I've laid out a whack of cash for.
Despite what supplement marketers will have you believe, supplements are not magic so I suggest you put them into perspective. Your success will be determined by your determination and consistency with your program and not supplements.
For the purpose of this article with regards to each of the above supplements, I'm not going to get into the actual sciene of each supplement (because I'm not a chemist) only what they've done for me.
Let's start with creatine. When I first started with creatine, I used the EAS's Phosphagen transport system (Phosphagen HP). I have to admit, it worked wonders for me (and still does).
I tried experimenting with it at various times during the day and the best time for me to take the creatine was immediately after a workout.
For some reason, my body responded very well to the mixture of creatine and dextrose (simple carbohydrate).
The results were almost immediate. Give it two weeks and you should be seeing some results in almost all of your lifts.
The thing you have to do is load up on the creatine for about 10 days and than cut back (maintenance) for the duration of the creatine cycle. For my loading phase, I would take 5 grams of EAS Phosphagen HP in the morning (after breakfast while I rode into work) and another 5 grams immediately after training.
Here's a word of caution. Don't take anymore than 10 grams of creatine per serving. If you do, you're going to experience nausea. Keep the dosages to 5 grams per serving. Try and take a serving in the morning and one after training.
If I had to recommend a creatine transport system, it would be Xpand Dymatize and Athletic Alliance's "Rocket".
However, I've tried some other combinations and have had some great results. Here's a transport system that has worked pretty good for me in the past: Interactive Nutritions XX-Cell. It's A pretty good creatine system.
If you are using straight creatine, try using micronized creatine. It's a hell of alot easier to mix and you won't be chewing on the stuff. Remember, creatine works better if if's taken with a simple carb such as fruit juice.
Stay away from liquid creatine. It's a waste of money as well as creatine chews.
Alright, let's take a look at glutamine. For the longest time, didn't want to try glutamine. But after reading the studies done on the supplement, I decided to give it a try. Glutamine is not like creatine where you see immediate results.
However, if you give it a couple of weeks and keep your training consistent, you'll start to notice a difference in your workouts. I know I did.
Glutamine is not the best tasting stuff in the world. Here's what I do to make sure I get my glutamine for the day.
Upon awakening, I'll add 7 grams of glutamine to a glass of water and guzzle it down. I immediately follow it up with another glass of water to wash it all down. This way, you don't struggle with the taste.
I use Interactive Nutrition's glutamine. I've also used EAS's glutamine with no complaints.
I like ZMA. Although it is a relatively new supplement, it has taken the sports world by storm. I decided to try the combination out and I am quite surprised because it was one to those supplements that I wasn't so sure about.
I did some research and found out that the studies have been positive. So, I decided to give it a shot.
My first ZMA supplement was MuscleTech's Aceatobolan. I followed the directions and kept at it for 3 weeks. The results were great.
I'm not sure what it was but my workouts were more energized and my pumps were better. My strength and stamina increased after about 6 weeks.
I was skeptical at first but after 6 weeks, I was a believer. If you have a heavy duty workout schedule, this supplement can definetely help.
I usually take 3 capsules before training and another 2 capsules before going to bed.
I haven't changed my ZMA schedule and I stay with MuscleTech. I'm sure there are other great ZMA supplements out there but hey, why mess with something that works?
This supplement serves as my nutritional insurance. It's not like creatine or glutamine where you see immediate results in the gym. It just makes sense to ensure that your getting optimum nutrition.
I take a vitamin pack immediately after breakfast.
The vitamin pack I'd recommend is Animal Pak by Universal. You can't go wrong with this supplement.
What can I say about a quality protein powder that hasn't been said before...I use protein powders two times a day and one MRP before I go to bed.
I consume a protein drink consisting of two scoops of protein, 1 glass non fat milk, 1 glass of spring water, 1 cup of plain yogurt, 1 tsp flax oil and half a cup of strawberries at around 11:00 am and one right after my workout at 5:30 pm.
The only difference between my morning and afternoon drink is that I add one glass of orange juice and 1 tbsp of honey to my drink after my workout.
This way, I can get the necessary fast acting carbs into my system.
After a workout, your body is like a sponge and is thirsting some nutrients. Why not get the nutrients into your body for growth? Trust me, if you start taking the above noted drink right after your workouts, you'll pack on the pounds in a matter of weeks.
It's also important to get some fast acting protein into your system because your muscles are depleted of not only glycogen but amino acids.
The fastest acting protein you can get into your system is whey. So, immediately after my workouts, I consume a large "power drink" consisting of fast acting carbs and whey to give my body what it needs - Fuel.
I will consume a meal replacement drink 1 hour before I go to bed. I will mix the drink with water and 1 tsp of flax oil.
This combination works great for me. However, if your a hard gainer, mix the drink with 2% milk.
When I first started to seriously look at my diet, I added in weight gain powders.
Now, there are some people out there who think these drinks are a waste of money but I've had only positive results with these powders.
The trick is to know how to use them. You have to be consistent and use them at the proper times.
One serving one of these drinks can provide you with 1,000 calories, 100 grams of carbs, 55 grams of protein and 10 grams of fat.
I used to drink two of these drinks per day when I really needed to add more weight. It worked. I consummed one of these drinks in the mid morning and one right after my workouts.
Once I acheived my weight gain goals, I switched to pure protein powders. Remember to use caution with these powders because you can gain alot of weight...Really fast and if you don't monitor your weight gain, you can add alot more fat than you want.
The powders I would recommend you use are Mammoth 2,000 by Interactive Nutrition and Prolab's N2 Large.
I would recommend you stick to esbalished companies for your protein powders.
I've used EAS, Prolab, and Interactive Nutrition and all of these powders have been pretty good to me.
EFAs are required for normal growth, a healthy circulatory system, the maintenance of cell membranes, a healthy nervous system and strong connective tissues and cell walls.
They also lubricate and protect your joints and help keep your skin smooth.
I've been taking EFA's for awhile now and I wouldn't think of stopping. I suggest you take a tsp of EFA with your protein drink or simply add a tsp to your cooking.
I'd say one to two tbsps per day is best. It's a great supplement to add to your training regiment.
You can find most EFA's at your local nutrition store. I would strongly recommend you look at using Udo's Choice EFA's.
There are some other supplements that I use on a daily basis and will continue to use these supplements in the future. These supplements have been very good to me.
I've been weight training now for over 15 years and it has taken a toll on my joints, specifially my knees and shoulders.
I've been taking Clucosamine and chondroitin now for over two years and they've helped me out quite a bit.
Yes, you read right...Dessicated Liver!
These supplements have been around for a long time. I've had great results from these supplements and I swear by them.
Once I stop taking these supplements, I find that my workouts lag. Maybe it's all in my mind but I love taking these supplements. I usually take three tablets with every meal.
You can generally find these supplements at your local health food store. There cheap and effective, you just have to be consistent with them and give them a couple of weeks to adjust to your body.
Alright, these are the staples of my supplement regime. If you remember to be consistent with these supplements, they will work quite well in conjuction with a solid diet and training regime.
Just remember, supplements only work it you take them. You have to be consistent and give them about a month before they acutally start to give you some solid results.
The next tip will look at building a large and powerful chest. Trust me, there's one exercise in the next tip that will pump your chest to the max! Until next week...
All the best,
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