Everybody’s buying the snake oil…

Almost everybody has been guilty of it at one stage in their training career: falling for the hype surrounding supplements. Be it believing the hype around the latest and greatest supplement that promises to give you bigger pumps in the gym or thinking that if you take enough supplements you will offset any deficiencies in your diet/training regiment. I will be the first to stick my hand up and admit that I am very guilty of this, having taken N.O products, testosterone boosters, pre-workout powders, post workout powders, BCAA pills/powders, prohormone stacks, fat burners, weight gainers, metabolic enhancers, the list could go on. The one thing I’ve learnt is that a simple cost-benefit analysis would mean these have all been dropped from my routine.

Let’s take simple the humble protein powder as an example. Now please don’t infer that I am recommending you don’t buy/take protein, I use protein powder almost everyday, it’s a fantastic supplement that almost everyone can agree is cheap & proven to work for training goals & recovery. I am simply trying to highlight that everything has a time and place and to place some perspective as to what you are actually paying for.

Costco sells 60 eggs for $5.79. Notice the nutritional information of this powerhouse food item.

Just looking at an egg from a protein standpoint, you’ll notice that each egg contains 6g of protein. Times that by 60 and we can see for under $6 we can get 360g of protein.

Simple math reveals we get 62g of protein per $1 spent on eggs. Now I know this is a very limited view on eggs and the other nutritional factors associated with it, such as fats, calories & ease of preparation. But I’m oversimplifying the cost analysis to highlight a point.

And to further add to this, keep in mind if you were to get all of your protein purely from eggs, a 200lb male would need to eat 34 eggs each and every day. Now that seems ridiculous (ly cheap!). I personally, eat around 3-5 eggs per day, at minimum I have 3 for breakfast, cooked in different ways just to keep it interesting.

Now if for argument’s sake we compare this to probably the most popular protein powder on the market: Optimum Nutrition 100% Gold Standard Whey (a product I am a fan of and highly recommend).  A very popular bodybuilding website has 5lb tubs selling for $52.99 (not including P&H). You can see the nutritional information below (which is really good for a protein powder FYI):

In a 5lb tub of protein powder we receive 1920g of actual protein. This works out to be 36g of protein for every $1 we spend on protein powder, which is just under half of our return from the eggs. However, it is a lot more convenient to mix up a scoop of protein powder in some milk or water, than cook four eggs!

The point of all that? Switch to eggs instead of protein powder? NO! Definitely not, the point is that everything has a time, place and purpose. Don’t blindly take some supplement just because everyone else is, or the guy at GNC tells you it’ll make you swole. Do some research, weigh up your options and look at ALL the alternatives. Everyone wants to know what is the best type of protein to ingest and when. At the end of the day, all good quality protein powders from reputable brands will have the same effect on your body. More importantly you shouldn’t rely on these powders for your sole source of nutrition. If you have the time and money, whole food will serve you a lot better than any protein powder ever will.

There are so many supplements available on the market, some that work and a lot that don’t. Most supplements don’t have peer reviewed scientific studies backing their claims, not even standard literature that provide evidence that it’s even vaguely effective. Now, keep in mind that sometimes sports supplementation is on the cutting edge of nutritional break throughs and only years after will studies come through that support the efficacy of a particular ingredient, but I dare say that that isn’t a normal occurance and more often than not there are no studies or studies that prove it’s ineffective at best, a detriment to your health at worst.

Something important to keep in mind is that for almost all trainees out there sports supplements will have little to no effect at all, why? Because most trainees are nowhere near the upper threshold of training where these supplements (if they had an effect) would actually have an effect (the same goes for steroids, but that’s another topic all together). Their diets are not in check, they are training with poorly constructed programs, they aren’t pushing themselves to their limits, they’re training too much, they’re not training enough, they’re not sleeping enough, they’re too stressed, there are so many factors out there far more important to getting stronger and bigger. A supplement regiment would rank right down the bottom of the list of things you should pay attention to.

It’s amazing how gullible the public is when these supplement companies come out with claims that are so preposterous they are literally unbelievable. If consumers knew the truth behind their research, stories, ‘results’, consumer testimonials, manufacturing methods, I think the industry would collapse. (Watch Bigger Stronger Faster or read http://www.anthonyroberts.info)

Before & after photos, taken two hours apart! Click the photo for another video illustrating the before and after process

 I’ve since dropped almost all ‘exercise’ supplements and you know what? I haven’t gotten weaker, I haven’t lost my pumps nor am I a mess of unsupplemented softness. The supplements I currently take are: multivitamin, protein powder, caffeine, 1-3-DMAA, creatine, gatorade, fish oil, vitamin D, flax seeds & chia seeds. Very simple and mainly for general health reasons rather than ‘performance’ reasons. The only exception to the rule would be the 1,3-DMAA powder, which I use with caffeine for that extra energy for those longer workouts. Instead of focusing on the supplement side of things, I’ve improved my diet (it’s not the best, but its a lot better than it used to be) the money that was spent on supplements is now spent on awesome food. I’ve really dialed in how I train and I’ve increased my sleeping hours… And surprise surprise, this is the strongest and heaviest I have ever been, two goals accomplished!

So what is the secret of getting big and strong? I honestly believe there isn’t any secret snake oil that will magically make you swole. All it comes down to is blood, sweat and tears. Putting in the honest hard work over the long haul (I’m talking a lifetime here), being honest with yourself, keeping your nutrition in check, staying committed to the cause and getting enough rest. It’s really simple when you think about it, but it really is hard to put into practice -which makes the results all the more satisfying.

“The greatest results in life are usually attained by simple means and the exercise of ordinary qualities. These may for the most part be summed up in these two – common sense and perseverance.” Owen Feltham

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