Question of the Week: Effective vs. Ineffective Supplements
Our expert answers a recurring question about what supplements are worth all your hard earned money.
The science behind fitness and health is wild, crazy and ever changing. One minute a study supports a particular claim, then next it's the worst thing you could humanly do to or for yourself. Sometimes you'll even find the same questions looming around the industry with mixed reviews, perspectives and findings. In efforts to calm the madness, each week, here at MensFitness.com we'll scour the Internet, tap into forums and ask our friends on Facebook and Twitter about what question in fitness we can get some firm answers to.
This week, we take a look at the industry's most popular performance supplements.
Q: What supplements have solid research behind their effectiveness and which are still questionable?
A: With amateur bodybuilders and weekend warriors slugging down any supplement or pre-workout pill that promises a huge pump during the workout and unheard of strength and muscle gains, it’s very tough to figure out what to take and what to avoid. Before taking any sort of supplement, you should understand what you hope to achieve by taking them. If muscle growth is your goal, look for supplements that feature BCAAs (branch chain amino acids). These ingredients will not only metabolize right in your muscle tissue, giving your muscles energy, but they also have been said to positively affect your hormonal levels, particularly your testosterone. Usually, high quality protein like whey is chock full of BCAAs and are a wonderful way to kickstart your protein synthesis (muscle growth).
If strength is your goal, look to find some creatine monohydrate. Creatine helps turbo-charge your body’s production of ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which drives your muscles to contract. Creatine is easy and it very simply works. The thing to avoid when purchasing creatine is buying contaminated products. Tons of no-name brands offer creatine contaminated with some nasty chemicals. Avoid no-name brands, read tons of customer reviews and find some high quality stuff that will work best for you.
To figure out what supplements you should avoid, simply read the ingredients on the back label of anything you put in your body. Most of the time you’ll find that most commercial protein shakes that promise a large amount of protein per drink also contain an absurd amount of sugar that will do you way more harm than good. The same thing goes for most of those protein bars that are flying around. Sometimes it’s worth doing some independent research in order to save you from taking any supplements that could be harmful to your health. The recently banned JACK3D supplement contained an ingredient called dimethylamyaline (DMAA) which was said to increase metabolism and energy. Upon review, the FDA found that in high doses, DMAA could narrow the user’s blood vessels causing high blood pressure. If the promises a supplement tout sound too good to be true, it’s definitely worth digging in and doing your research. It is your body after all.