Supplements Don’t Work – Evidence
Protein supplements are among the most popular supplements, and just about everyone is taking them now. No longer is it just your bodybuilders and fitness models who pound down their post-workout shake, oh no, your average housewife is at it too.
This cultural norm didn’t arise from solid science proving that we are better off having a shake, as opposed to chicken breasts or steak. Nope. Simply, clever marketing, industry-funded research and roided-up gym bro’s were all that were required to convince people that protein powder will transform their physiques.
Don’t get me wrong, protein is great. It’s very, very anabolic, and is also highly satiating. The problem is, you don’t need that many “bricks” in order to build your house at the maximum rate possible. You also don’t really get hungry during a diet (unless very lean), you just get cravings as you cut out certain food too aggressively (most of the time).
Therefore the infamous 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight is absolute bullshit. Unless you’re trying to get stage-lean or almost stage-lean.
Furthermore, protein powder absolutely does not provide you with anything more than food will do!
Guys like myself, who have years upon years of experience, simply ask ourselves the question:
“If, over the past seven years, I never consumed a single shake, would my physique right now look ANY different whatsoever?”
If we were being honest with ourselves, we already know the real answer to that question. Same applies to pre-workouts.
The only time protein powder is a viable option for you, is when you are legitimately unable to meet your protein requirements for some reason. Laziness is not an excuse. That means cook for yourself. But if you want to keep wasting thousands per year on takeaways and protein shakes then fine, bankrupt yourself.
I’ve spoken before about how you don’t need as much protein as you think. Here, here, here, and here is a load of evidence for those who remain unconvinced. The third and fourth studies there are particularly interesting.
A lot of YouTubers/Internet gurus have been screwing people over for a while now. But, this is GREAT NEWS! Less protein means more carbs, again, to clarify, I mean the macronutrient. Not sugar. More carbs means greater diet adherence, greater performance in the gym, and a happier you.
Many poor guys for many years have been obsessed with the “Anabolic Window”. God forbid, if you were to miss this arbitrary window, your gym session was a complete waste of time, and you would go home and cry yourself to sleep.
Obviously, this isn’t the case.
There is very mixed research on protein timing, but I think we need to just apply a little common sense. Total protein is obviously going to be more important. For example, two guys, imaginatively called “A” and “B”, both weigh 150 pounds.
Guy A consumes a total of 120g protein. Guy B consumes 40g of protein.
However, Guy B gets his timing perfect – nailing that “Anabolic Window”, and gets his 40g straight after his workout, in a big, chocolatey shake. Guy A only has one meal, eight hours after his workout. But remember, he has three times as much total protein.
According to the above studies, both of them need around 0.75g * 150 = 112.5 grams of protein.
Of course, Guys A does, because he meets his daily minimal requirements, despite his timing being fairly awful. The other guy doesn’t even come close.
The research is mixed, as I said, but the bottom line is that realistically (as everyone eats at least once per day), timing isn’t very important.
Creatine appears to be useful for most people, who are not advanced athletes. Most studies have been performed on lesser experienced trainees, so if that’s you, Creatine Monohydrate gets the thumbs up from me.
Word of warning: Don’t bother with other forms. They are no better. If Mono doesn’t work for you, you are a non-responder.
Pre-Workouts just add fun to your workouts. It should be fairly obvious that they don’t improve your long-term gains – they reduce your recovery ability due to the neural fatigue. However, they are useful for peaking, so if you really want to hit that PR, have some caffeine.
In terms of fat loss supplements, caffeine can be useful for appetite suppressing purposes, but you need to make sure it doesn’t affect your sleep. Furthermore, never go above 300mg per day, otherwise you will adopt a “dependency mentality”. 300mg is just anecdotally what has happened to me.
Once you have a dependency mentality with any supplement, whatever success you’re currently having automatically becomes unsustainable.
The only real powerful fat-burner that ever worked was Ephedrine, and that got banned.
I hope you’re starting to see what a con the supplement industry is – the research is limited, and the guys creating these products are desperate to keep coming up with ideas that might help your gains by 1-2% (if that). The supplements that really work turn out to have drugs in them, and consequently get banned.