There is a lot of talk of miracle, muscle-inducing, bodybuilding supplements. But which one's hurt more than help?
As any chronic insomniac will tell you, there is a seemingly endless supply of bodybuilding supplements available for four easy payments of $29.99 to anyone interested and watching television in the early hours of the morning. These ads usually feature some gigantic specimen of human life shoveling a spoonful of powdered muscle into his face while some blonde throws out scientific-sounding words and bright lights flash all around you. The result is your buying of a product with no previous knowledge of what it contains, what it is supposed to do, and, more importantly, what else it does.
When it comes to supplements, the most important advice you can heed is to always read the ingredients. Every single one. Over-the-counter supplements often contain a wealth of waste, like cornstarch and synthetic vitamins the body has trouble breaking down. This can lead to inefficient workouts, muscle damage, and kidney and liver complications. Moreover, many supplements contain products which, although commonplace in bodybuilding, have been the subject of numerous studies that highlight their dangers or inefficiencies. Products like:
Sold in supplements touting fat reduction, yohimbine or yohimbe also increases blood pressure and heart rate and has been found to create anxiety issues like insomnia and panic attacks. The range between an effective dose and a dangerous one is very narrow; more serious side effects include seizure and renal failure.
Often used in combination with creatine, glycocyamine or GAA has been shown to raise homocysteine levels in the body. These elevated levels have been linked to dementia, Alzheimer’s, and coronary heart disease, and there is little conclusive evidence highlighting GAA’s fitness benefits.
Soy, right? That’s good for you. Not if you’re trying to build muscle. Most soy products contain phytoestrogens that have been shown to reduce testosterone levels, limiting muscle growth and strength. Trypsin inhibitors in soy also block protein digestion, which is necessary to maintain bulk.
Keep reading to find out which supplements you should be taking and where you can get them…
There is little more to the ‘scientific innovations’ propagated by infomercials than un-attestable voodoo. The practical essentials of effective bodybuilding come down to about four or five supplements that ensure safe and healthy muscle growth.
Creatine supplements boost naturally occurring levels of creatine, which supplies energy to the muscle cells, giving way to greater strength and muscle mass. Though much fuss has been made over the supplement, most professionals agree that it is the most effective way to go. Application: Loading Method - 20 g/day for 5-7 days followed by 3-5 g a day for 2-3 months. Non-loading - 3-10 g/day for 2-3 months. Taken immediately after workout.
L-glutamine is the most abundant amino acid (building block of proteins), which depletes after a hard workout. To restore it, the body takes the remaining glutamine from the muscle tissue, reducing muscle gains, so staying stocked ensures a more efficient workout. Application: Taken immediately after workout.
Available as a powdered drink or in bar form, whey protein acts as a meal substitute that is high in protein but low in fat and carbohydrates, offering a bodybuilder the protein needed to train without the inhibiting extras. Application: For the average trainer, this could replace a meal an hour before training. For advanced builders, it may be taken between meals.
Many new trainers are so focused on protein and muscle enhancers that they neglect other essential vitamins integral to health. A multivitamin or mineral formula maintains balance in the body, giving the builder the other essential nutrients required to remain physically fit. Application: Taken with the first meal of the day.
There are avenues to go above and beyond these four supplements. Approved hormone modifiers can increase testosterone and human growth hormone, while other supplements can slow protein metabolism, both of which can have noted effects on muscle growth. But as for anything that suggests it’s the be-all and end-all solution, it’s not.