Sunday, July 11, 2010

Whatever happened to "supplements"?

Over the last few weeks I have cut down on the amount of protein powder I have been using, and the last week or so I haven't had any at all.  My digestion has improved, my bloating is gone (with it that horrible gas), and I have more money in my pocket.

To simplify things even more, I have gone to 3 squares a day for the most part, with maybe a 4th meal (no it's not Taco Bell) here and there when I feel like I need it.  At first I was really hungry but after a few days that subsided and now I feel fine.  I feel like my body has adapted and my energy levels are good.  I load up on carbs at lunch on lifting days, and on non lifting days I keep it all very moderate.  Around 2 P.M. each day I have some green tea or coffee and that satisfies my appetite.

So I started thinking, what happened to supplements being.............supplements?

What I mean is, a supplement is supposed to be just that.  If you can't find a way to get enough food in, you supplement your diet with that.  The last time I checked I wasn't living in a third world country.  I can eat 24/7 and yet there I was, throwing down a couple hundred dollars a month on protein powder that I honestly never noticed made any difference in my training.  So why was I continuing this warped pattern?  That's a good question.

If your muscular gains or fat-loss is simply a matter of calories in vs calories out, then why do those calories have to be split over 5 or 6 or 7 meals?  Of course, the reasoning behind this by a lot of people is nutrient absorption.  This stems from years of bodybuilding mags telling people the body can't use more than 30 grams of protein in a meal.  Thus the only way to get in enough protein per day is to eat 6+ times a day.

We really believed this shit?

Let's be real here, the supplement companies drive the fitness industry now.  So if they want to push a "study" that supports their claims, they will.  No matter how ridiculous it seems.  I think we're all smart enough to use some common sense to know that you can't apply a hard and fast rule (like 30 grams of protein per meal) to that many people.  Inmates are known for being jacked and strong.  Are those guys getting 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight in prison?  Highly unlikely.  Do they probably have higher test levels than most?  Most likely.  So get you some test and eat 3 square a day.  My point is, you can go back a long ways and find totally jacked lifters that didn't eat 6 times a day shoveling pounds of protein powder down their throat.  Look up Chuck Sipes if you think you don't think so.  

So why is the supplement industry so full of busts, when it comes to supplements then?

Because it's really all about the dollar.  And supplement companies prey on the wishes and wants of aspiring bodybuilders, powerlifters, and athletes.  If someone thinks that a supplement can give them an edge, they will use it.  And they will spend a significant amount of money on said supplements.  Eventually we learn this highly touted supplement really doesn't do what they said it will do.  The consumer is out of hundreds of dollars, and the supplement company is hundreds of thousands or millions richer, with no repercussions for selling us a complete pile of shit.  Doesn't really seem fair does it?

But I don't want to place all of the blame on the supplement industry here either.  The consumer is part of the problem too, and so are "internet gurus" and trainers all over.  I've heard guys say you need 400 grams of protein to grow.  I tried that.  Did I get "bigger"?  Sure.  Fatter, and felt like shit.  And then when I dieted down I was basically the same size as before.  A complete waste of time.  I've done the same thing not worrying about protein intake and grown the same.

I've come to realize over the past few years that carbohydrates are really the key to gaining mass, not protein.  So long as your protein intake is in a GOOD ballpark range, it's really the carbs that drive the mass gain.

Don't think so?  Try to gain mass on protein and fats only with no carbs.  Get back to me and let me know how that goes.

Ok so my point in all of this is, logic and simplicity is thrown out the door in training and nutrition now.  Because everyone thinks there is some magic bullet being developed that is going to make them into 250 pounds of ripped mass with a 600 bench and 900 squat.  There is no supplement that is going to do that.  There is no training program that will do that.

If you want a "supplement" that is really going to work, decide whether or not you want to use anabolics and go from there.  That is not an endorsement of them, just the fact that you're going to spend less money on them than OTC supplements, and actually get the results you desire.  Otherwise I suggest you rely on good food and hard training, and put some money back in your wallet by not buying a bunch of shit off the shelves or on the net.

This isn't going to make me any friends in the fitness/supplement industry but I'm a nobody anyway.  But I hate to see some young guy spending all the money he works for on supplements that don't do anything food won't do (actually they do less) so I hope they will read this and take it to heart.  Use that money to invest in some mutual funds or romancing a fine piece of trim.

We all need to be smarter about this shit than we are.  Chocolate milk has been shown to be pretty much a perfect post-workout drink.  If you lift 3 times a week you can grab one at the store for a buck fifty.  That's $4.50 a week.  Or $18 a month.  Or you can spend a few hundred a month on something else that does well, virtually the same thing, i.e. give you some simple carbs and protein after your workout.

If I had to narrow down the supplements I will still take it's pretty simple.  A good multi-vitamin, and some BCAAs mixed with gatorade for during the workout.  That's about it.

Yesterday I got hungry in between lunch and dinner.  I had a turkey sandwich.  I could hear the half full canister of protein powder crying about it from the pantry.  


  1. Second that. I stopped eating whey protein powder, and gallons of milk. The bloat is gone, my belly feels better, the fat drops like crazy.

    I was wondering, you just mentioned "try gaining on fat and protein and no carbs, see what happens"

    Do you think you won't grow on a very low carb diet?

    Not to make thing overly complicated, but i'm not build like a ectomorph. I can gain bodyfat (and a bit of muscle) like crazy. I also have a very good appetite. I've been told my insuline-sensitivity is fucked up. Peaks in my bloodsugar is something I should avoid.

    Do you think it's impossible to gain quality muscle with very low carbs, high protein, high fat, lots of vegetables, and lots of water.

    I'm think you're totally right about protein powders and other bullshit supplements.

    The last few months I haven't taken a single gram of protein powder, but instead I eat a lot of cottage cheese, chocolatemilk before and after my workouts, a lot of chicken, steak, fish etc.

    I just feel so much better. My strength is increasing, my indicators are improving (squat, bench, deadlift, BF%, MP, Chins, Bodyweight).

    If you look at the old timers, like doug hepburn, reg park, anderson..

    All they ate was lots of milk, steak, eggs, vegetables, fruit. They made their own shakes, milk mixed with raw eggs, honey etc.

    Supplements are just like all the fancy machines you see in gyms.. bullshit so people can make money.

    If you have a barbell, a squatrack, a decent bench, 500kg of plates, a chin/dip bar.. and access to a couple of farms for cheap milk, meat, eggs and vegetables..

    You can become the biggest, strongest mofo out there.

    It is so simple, and I have wasted aprox. 4 years listening to all the gurus.

    I am so greatful I have discovered honest people, like Jim Wendler, Mark Rippetoe, Bill starr, and you Paul carter, who make a real effort to get the basics out in to the world:

    - Squat, bench, deadlift, chins, MP, dips, rows.
    - Hill sprints of running
    - Lots of sleep
    - Food that flyes, swims, runs, or grows from a tree, combined with lots of water.
    - Hard work, consistency, discipline, and simple progression.

    The only "supplement" worth buying is chocolatemilk. But even that can be made easily with whole milk, cacao-powder, some dextrose.

    Keep 'm coming!

    Mark From Holland

    1. This is a very effective supplement approved by the Food and Drug Administration. where to buy turmeric extract supplement

  2. Real food for gaining mass will always reign king in my opinion, though for cutting down i still think powdered food has it's place.

  3. Quitting even the "PWO" protein shake? That's the only time I've ever consistently used whey.

  4. Mark - I think at some point carbs have to come in to play for really optimum muscle growth sequences. If you are carb sensitive, just limit that to the days when you are training hard. Play with it and see how you do.

    Jon - Nope. I just do real food after I lift. Feels awesome.

  5. Kefir is also a good option for PWO

  6. Paul,
    I actually think protein powder can be cost effective. With your chocolate milk example, 3 post-workout chocolate milks per week (12 per month)will run you $18.00. Throw in another 12-15 "snacks" a month and you are up around $40 bucks, which is a 5lb tub of protein. And I get more "servings" than that out of a tub of protein. Am I missing something?
    -- Dave

  7. Well I define "snacks" as real food. So I would still have to buy protein powder on top of my "real food". All I have to do is cut out the protein powder. And myself, I was going through a 5 pounder about every 8-10 days.

  8. Amen! Thanks Paul.

  9. Do you think perhaps most protein brands are 20-30grams per serving because it was once thought that you can only absorb that much?

  10. It's very possible. Would fit right in with that theory now wouldn't it?

  11. How were you spending hundreds per month on supps, are you using name brands or being completely excessive with your shakes? A bag of whey lasts me up to two months and its 40euro - that's 50 dollars. And I buy isolate because concentrate makes me feel bloated, so it can be bought even cheaper if that doesn't affect you. Maybe things really are very different stateside, but whole foods are much dearer here per gram of protein than a bag of whey, so for someone on a budget like me a mix of whole food and powder whey just makes sense.

  12. Well seeing how I was going through a 5 pounder of whey about every 10 days (sometimes 7) and they were give or take $50 per 5 pounder, that's about $150 a month.

    Add in a good vitamin pack, my BCAA (which goes for around $55) and you figure $220-230 a month.