I remember when I first started working out and found a supplement called “Ripped Fuel”.
Since I had the workout part down and was eating chicken, be it breaded Tyson chicken…
...this little pill seems like an easy addition to my routine and who doesn’t want to be ripped?!
$40 and 30 days later, I wasn’t ripped yet.
What a bummer.
Even with my first experience taking a supplement being negative, I still managed to try every supplement that is legal and on the shelves.
As I transitioned into a career as a fitness professional I tried it all. I wanted to make sure I knew if something was a benefit to my client's and getting results. Pre workout’s, fat burners, muscle builders, probiotics, multi-vitamins, you name it.
Over time none of them seemed to meet the claims. I then forged relationships with people who have worked in the supplement industry. Listening to their stories of what goes on, made it easy to stop testing them all together. Especially since the cost was so outrageous.
One not so secret thing to know: the supplement industry IS NOT regulated. That means companies can put whatever they want in them. Only 1% of the product can be a quality ingredient to market the ingredient. Even worse is finding out what is in the supplements that is not listed.
In independent studies done on various weight loss supplements they have found some supplements contained appetite suppressants like sibutramine. It can increase blood pressure and pulse rate, causing coronary artery disease, heart failure, arrhythmias, stroke, and even death.
Other weight loss pills contained antidepressants like Prozac, or hidden laxatives, including the drug phenolphthalein. Phenolphthalein was banned by the Food and Drug Administration after it was found to increase the risk of irregular heartbeat and cause cancer with long-term use.
So yeah…. Use at your own risk.
Now, there are some that are worthwhile. Just keep in mind that it is just a SUPPLEMENT. Used to SUPPLEMENT missing pieces of your diet. We will get to those later.
Fight The Quick Fix Urge
The most important ones to avoid are the ones that align with the quick-fix mindset.
Two of the biggest sellers and most worthless are pre-workouts and fat burners.
Pre-workout supplements are the ones you see people toting around in a shaker bottle that look like some kind of neon nectar. These drinks are appealing because they make you feel like you are ready to run through a wall!
You get all jittery, tingly, and feel invincible. These are fine from time to time, but the problem over the long haul is it is artificial energy.
Some days you are low on sleep and lacking energy and it is best to tone down your workout for the day and take it a bit easier. This is just listening to your body and actually beneficial to your results in the long run.
These signals get blocked when hyped up on XXX Energy 365... or whatever is selling these days.
Once you are past the beginner stage of working out (congratulations you are sticking with it!) you find out not every workout can be the greatest workout ever.
If you try and deny this fact and counter it with a pre-workout, over time you get addicted to the pre-workout and can’t imagine working out without one.
Now it is a crutch.
Then you add in the fact that most of them are just a huge dose of caffeine, and you realize you are spending a lot of money on basically an un-natural and jazzed up cup of coffee.
Stick to coffee and get some other health benefits as well and not have to down food dye's everyday.
Another important note, these pre-workouts just increase energy and focus. Not strength & fat burning. You can and will lift the same amount of weight without the pre-workout.
If you find yourself needing a pre-workout supplement every workout then you need to address factors like your sleep, diet, stress and find out why you have no energy to begin with.
Fat burners are typically pills that sell huge promises and under deliver. Most of them are caffeine and green tea-extract. There are studies that show caffeine and green tea extract help your body increase metabolism slightly and burn more calories in a day.
This is why some of them can market their "claim" of fat loss.
The catch is it is just an extra 40 calories or so at most.
Hardly enough to make a scratch. Definitely not a miracle or anything to justify the price. Plus, most people already get plenty of caffeine from coffee or teas they drink.
So they are already getting the benefit of this SLIGHT effect caffeine has.
The bigger scare is what else they will throw in these pills to make the user “Feel” like good things are happening. Laxatives and mental stimulates are commonly used. That way you spend more time on the toilet and see the scale go down some. But only because you are emptying out some extra you know what. Not because you are creating REAL fat loss or change.
Don’t fall for it.
Takeaway: Get up to 200mg of caffeine a day from natural sources ( coffee & tea) and you will reap any proven benefit one of these supplements could have.
Should I Take Any Supplements?
Some supplements that are worth a try are ones that supplement an essential nutrient you have trouble getting in your diet.
Things like protein powder, fish oil, probiotics and vitamin D.
Nothing is magical about these supplements, though. Protein powder is not some elixir that automatically makes you slap on muscle. It is just a convenient form of getting amino acids into your body. The same as eating a chicken breast. In fact, eating whole food protein sources will always be better.
Fish oil provides omega 3 which many people are deficient in and is great if you do not eat any fish or seafood. But, eating fish is better.
Probiotics are helpful if you have been taking antibiotics or are having digestive issues. But, eating raw sauerkraut or kimchi is better.
Vitamin D is great for people who don’t get outside much. But, getting outside for 20 minutes and getting some vitamin D from the sun is better.
But, but, but... if supplement's aren't magic what is?
If you are curious about the beginning of the story and if anything got me “ripped” since the supplement didn’t work…
Funny enough, switching from breaded chicken to non-breaded and grilled or baked chicken did.
A simple habit change.
But, before the breaded chicken I was eating pringles and honeybuns all day at college. So when I moved home and wanted to reverse the effects of my first semester at college, even breaded chicken was a positive stepping stone in my journey of building my habits.
So put down the pills & powders and start looking at your nutrition and finding small things to improve. It won't be quick or instant (nothing is), but is cheaper and more effective than a promising quick fix supplement.