Hi guys! I’m just dropping in quickly to answer a reader question I received recently, about my thoughts on supplements. The past two weeks have been crazy busy for me and all of my good intentions of blogging three times a week have gone out the window. Bear with me and I promise I will get through all the other questions!
To be honest, I’m probably the worst person to ask for advice about supplements. I take absolutely no supplements related to training, as I have seen no real benefits from doing so.
When I first started lifting, I popped a lot of pills to help the gainz. I drank whey protein religiously after every workout, and I had casein protein before bed every single night. I took L-carnitine before my cardio sessions (those were the days!) and BCAAs during every workout. I also took fish oil, zinc, magnesium and hydrochloric acid under the instruction of my trainer. I also experimented with creatine for about a year.
When I started following the Paleo diet back in November 2012, I cut out all of these supplements except fish oil. I saw absolutely zero difference in my strength gains or hypertrophy. From June to December 2013, my strength increased at the fastest rate it ever had – all while taking no supplements whatsoever.
I break a lot of rules when it comes to post-workout nutrition. I don’t drink a protein shake and I don’t even eat until about 60 to 90 minutes after I finish training. The only time I will have a protein shake is if I have a client immediately after training and don’t have dinner waiting for me at home, as it will then be almost be three hours between me finishing my workout and eating, but this will at most happen twice a month.
I’ve experimented with my diet a lot over the years, and I honestly think supplements do nothing for me. The only real benefit I experienced from taking BCAAs was slightly reduced muscle soreness and a tasty way of jazzing up my water. I have only taken pre-workout supplements a handful of times and, for the most part, consider them a waste of money – a cup of coffee and a big serving of carbs is likely to do more for my energy levels before a training session!
I noticed no difference in dropping the zinc and magnesium supplements. About four months ago I started taking N Acetyl Cysteine and L Arginine to help with my hormones, but I can’t say I’ve noticed a real difference with these either. I plan on continuing to take them as I have now come off the pill, but I won’t be able to say for certain that they have helped for another few months. My skin has significantly improved but that is likely a result of the pill and taking tetracycline.
Taking creatine did not affect my strength at all. It did improve my muscle growth and definition, so I would recommend taking it if your main goal is hypertrophy.
Having fortunately been in the company of many people who are very strong, I find it interesting to see that most follow a similar approach to me: they drink protein shakes only if they need the extra protein, and occasionally take a pre-workout supplement before a heavy lifting session or competition. A lot of them are obviously on “special vitamins” so that may affect their decision to supplement with other products. For me, it just seems like a waste of money as I can’t personally tell any difference being on them or not.
Bodybuilders, on the other hand, are a different beast entirely. Most take a huge amount of supplements and see benefits from it. It really comes down to whether your goals are strength-based or aesthetic-based, and how effectively your body absorbs supplements (I’ve always had digestive issues, which likely play a large part in my body’s poor response to supplements).
I usually recommend that my clients take a fish oil and multivitamin tablet to cover the basics, but I also encourage them to experiment with other supplements (BCAAs, glutamine, creatine, etc) if they wish. Just because something didn’t work for me, there is no reason it won’t work for others. As most struggle to meet their daily protein requirement, I also typically include protein powder in my meal plans.
I will be back on Monday with some very exciting news!!!
What supplements do you currently take, and which have you experimented with in the past?