Protein powders, pre-workouts, and creatine: which are bomb and which are bust?
Some hucksters will have you believe that in order for you to get the best results from your training you need to be taking some combination of pills and powders daily.
That's not true. There are very few supplements that are worth the plastic tubs that they're stored in. I'm here to tell you which supplements are worth it and which aren't.
In order to keep things relatively uncomplicated, the supplements that I talk about here are only those that you don't require to survive. The vitamins and minerals that we require for life are just that, necessary to survive. Obviously, if you are deficient in one of those, you should be supplementing or changing your diet around.
What I'm talking about are those supplements that are completely unnecessary for human life that you're potentially spending greater than 10% of your monthly income on… I'm talking to you Cpl Jones.
I went to bodybuilding.com and searched their top 50 most selling supplements. I'm sure this list is very similar to the sales in your closest Exchange on base, so I'll just use it as a proxy. Out of those top 50 selling supplements, all fall into the following categories:
- Protein powder
- Pre Workout
- Weight loss AKA Fat burner
- Intra Workout
- Testosterone 'support'
- Omega 3
- Pump stimulator
- Mass gainer
I don't fully accept that protein powder is a supplement...because it's a macronutrient. You need protein. If you aren't getting enough in your diet from foods, It's perfectly acceptable to buy and use some form of protein powder.
When should you have it? Literally whenever. There is no significantly important anabolic window. If you are eating somewhere in the ballpark of .8-1.3 grams of protein per lb of body weight per day, then you're fine. For more on nutrition timing, check this out.
NOW, not all protein powders are created the same. There are generally three factors that you should keep in perspective when you go to buy some protein powder. Here they are in order of importance:
- Leucine Content: If a protein powder has less than 11% leucine or if it doesn't list the exact proportions of amino acids, it's sh!t protein with useless fillers. You don't get an adequate muscle protein synthesis response with any dose of protein that has less than 2.5 grams of leucine in it. 11% leucine puts you at just over 2.5g of leucine for a typical serving scoop of powder of 25 grams of protein. This may seem more complicated than it actually is… read more on it here or shoot me an email at email@example.com, and I'll gladly explain it to you in detail.
- Ingredients: If you're supplementing with additional protein, then supplement with protein, not a 'proprietary blend.' If there are other ingredients in your preferred brand, the chances are that they are simply trying to distract you from the fact that there's an inadequate amount of leucine per serving.
- Sourcing: This one is simply based on your preferences. If you're vegan or dairy doesn't sit well in your stomach, then you'll want to avoid proteins like whey and casein. Typically worthwhile vegan proteins will be a blend in order to get you the required amount of leucine. That being said if it doesn't tell you what the blend is or again how much leucine there is per serving then it's bullshit hippie nonsense made by someone just trying to take advantage of you or that's too stupid to understand how protein supplementation works; either way, they don't deserve your money.
This category is pretty large, mostly I'm talking about those dumb supplements with names like Gnar Pump, NitraFlex, Pre-Kaged, NeuroCore, and Pump Mode. Chances are that if it has a dumb name, it's a waste of your money.
You'll see, though, my umbrella recommendation is pretty consistent. If the supplement you're considering contains any trademarked or patented blend/mix of supplements instead of individually listing the supplements, don't buy it.
There are plenty of pre-workout supplements that have been shown to help increase performance. Recommendations are varied depending on what type of training session you are walking into and what the rest of your diet looks like.
Caffeine taken with theanine are pretty much always a safe idea to supplement with 30 minutes prior to training. That is my blanket recommendation for pre-workout. I failed to find any pre-workouts on the top 50 purchased supplements on bodybuilding.com that contained solely caffeine and theanine. They pretty much all have nonsense and bullsh!t in them.
If you're a constant experiment, which you are, and you want to find out what actually impacts your performance, which you do, how can you figure that out if you're taking a supplement that has 60 ingredients? There's no way to know what's working, what's fluff, and what's contributing to the tingling side-effect.
If you've already Pavlov's-dogged yourself into needing that tingling sensation in order to get a good workout have no fear, it's not something dangerous.
- It's probably beta-alanine that your favorite blend uses to achieve that feeling, which isn't harmful and can actually aid in physical efforts over a minute.
Creatine is probably the most highly researched supplement in existence. Yes, it does work, but what it does is probably not what you think it does.
Creatine doesn't make you stronger or more muscular. It helps increase your power output, which in turn can make you stronger and more muscular.
It's cheap and effective. If you want to invest in one supplement that will help you in your strength/muscle/health journey, this is the one.If you want a full rundown on how creatine works exactly, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
and I'll write a future article on the topic.
In part 2 I'll cover BCAAs, Post Workout Supplements, Intra Workout Supplements, and Multivitamins. That's when things get interesting.
As I mentioned multiple times throughout this article, if you have any questions or alternative opinions on my take on these types of supplements, do not hesitate to email me at email@example.com.
As always, when it comes to nutrition, your number one solution to any dietary need or hack should be to alter your diet of real foods to get adequate quantities and proportions of macro and micronutrients. Only after you have that dialed-in like I very explicitly outline in The Ultimate Composure Nutrition Guide should you bother walking down the supplement aisle.If you made it this far in the article, you clearly care about your health and fitness. Why then have you not joined the Mighty Fit FB group? If you are in the group post in there which category of sports supplements that I covered in this article that you are the most disappointed by.
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