Supplements. Probably the most talked about, yet unimportant topic in bodybuilding.
Most people are already aware, but just in case, they literally only account for 5% of results….maximum!
BUT, they can be very useful in regards to time efficiency. Additionally, certain supplements that are particularly cheap and cannot be found in foods, can indeed be a very good investment.
Firstly, let’s begin with why they aren’t important in the long term for achieving great physiques. As discussed here, we established that great physiques were 80% accounted for by diet. Diet includes some supplements. At least supplements that are basically a combination of the three macro-nutrients. This is because they are the same thing, except the “Supplements” are packaged in a particular manner, and are usually considerably more expensive than whole foods.
So, for most people, spending loads of money on supplements is ludicrous, as they do the exact same thing that whole foods would do but at a far greater cost. To add to this, most supplements are of course heavily protein-based. As discussed here, you probably don’t need ANYWHERE NEAR as much protein as you think you do. So this compounds the initial point that for most people, supplements are a massive waste of money!
It is the same principle as that you can’t out train a bad diet. To demonstrate, you won’t stay lean and chiselled if you consume 50% over maintenance calories. Similarly, you cannot gain muscle any faster by increasing protein beyond your requirements (which are a lot lower than you think), assuming total calorie intake remains constant.
However, downing a quick protein shake in 5 seconds saves time and hassle. This is important if you are genuinely busy. Time is money. This is particularly true, if you have managed to snag a really good deal from a local store, whereby delivery costs aren’t incurred. I am not talking about supplement stores as obviously they are expensive as hell. A great example in the UK is Quality Save. Protein powder is protein powder. Keep it cheap.
For example, this could save you 45 minutes worth of cooking, eating and washing up after a chicken risotto meal. This can be very nice if you are eating with family, friends or girlfriends, but is a huge pain in the ass if you have stuff to do. In this 45 minutes you could have achieved a lot.
This could be compounded for hard-gainers, particularly if their supplement is a sweet-tasting carb-based product, with creatine added. Not only do they save time, they also get potentially appetite stimulating, sweet, liquid calories. This helps them get enough calories for the day. Not a good idea for those who have enormous appetites though (like me).
The time saving aspect can also apply to Multivitamins. Vegetables take time to cook, and popping a pill takes half a second. My stance on Multi’s is that they do work. I personally feel better taking a Multi + B vitamins + Vitamin D3. Could be placebo, who knows.
Finally, there are some pretty cheap, awesome supplements that you cannot get enough of in your normal diet. Creatine and caffeine are my favourites.
They both work. Creatine is fairly cheap. Caffeine is unbelievably cheap.
Important note: Don’t waste money on bloody pre-workouts! Caffeine is the main effective ingredient in 99% of them, and is dirt cheap (about £4 for a 6 months worth). Now look at the price tag on most pre workouts, that will last you 1 month! Stop wasting money! 😉
Caffeine’s main use in my opinion, is that it’s potentially a useful appetite suppressant for the naturally greedier specimens among us. Just don’t take too much per day, and only take it in the morning, otherwise sleep quality will suffer!
It also has temporary performance boosting properties. But from experience, I think the negatives (additional fatigue) completely counteract the neural efficiency boost, therefore gains in the long term are no better.
Everyone knows about creatine so I won’t go into detail there. Just take it, as long as it fits into your budget!
Main points for this post are:
- Most of the time, supplements are a massive waste of money.
- They can be useful from a time saving standpoint if:
- You got the protein powder, weight gainers or multi’s or whatever very cheaply from a local store.
- You are genuinely very busy with your goals (Time is money).
- They can also give you a 5% performance boost if unavailable in sufficient quantities in your diet (creatine & caffeine). Despite this, I’m not convinced (even with creatine) that this 5% increase is permanent.