OK, I know this is long. But this is something I'm putting together for some of the younger guys who are just getting into the scene. Let me know what you guys think.
What are you supplementing for?
Beginners guide to supplementation
Having been around the iron for a while now, I have had the good fortune to learn quite a bit about this passion we call weight training. And I’ve also had the misfortune of making very many mistakes along the way. Hind sight is always 20/20, and for that reason I wanted to outline a few of the basic points for understanding supplements, and utilizing them to enhance or expedite your training. This isn’t a do all end all list of good or bad supplements, but a mindset you should take with you when you do decided that it is time to spend your hard earned cash. Obviously what I say is not gospel, but I think it will be of great use to some, especially those just beginning to delve into the supplementation world.
Order of Importance:
When I began training at 15 I did so in an ass backwards sort of way. I made the mistake of thinking that if I just dedicated myself to moving weights; the rest would fall into place. This simply did not happen, and while I did have great success getting stronger, I could have done so much more. I’m sure most have you have seen this posted, but I am of the opinion that it can’t be said too many times. The single most important thing in training (no matter what your goals are) is your diet. If you don’t feed your body the correct way, you will not get the results you want. Next comes training and rest, I group these together because they are equally important. The body is a machine that once stimulated, needs time to repair and grow. Then and only then do we get to supplements.
There are all kinds of supplements out there, mass building, metabolism boosting, libido increasing, and even some that just make up their own categories. But for our purposes, we are going to break them down in to the three classes that I call supportive, concentrated, and adaptive. I will explain each class, their main properties, how to use them, and some good examples.
supplements are used when your body has a natural deficiency, or an ongoing documented problem. They can be used continually throughout just about all phases of your training, and should only affect your performance by making you healthier in general. In my case, I have had, and still have, joint issues and I take celedrin & MSM year round to support it. Other examples would be taking hawthorne berry for high blood pressure, milk thistle for healthy liver function, or Echinacea for immune system support. When used at the recommended dosages, these supplements can be used year round, and should help keep any nagging problems at bay. If you have an ongoing concern, you should speak with your doctor about supplementation, and gather as much info through research as you can. Be well informed, and be healthy.
supplements are for the most part are “natural” food substances that are manufactured to be of higher concentration, and more easily ingested then solid food. In some cases the substances are altered, some elements being isolated, and more concentrated. But this doesn’t change the fact that they are what some may call “food replacements”. Examples of this would be protein powders, weight gainers, carbohydrate packets, Amino Acid complexes, EFAs, among others. These concentrated supplements are great for giving your diet more depth, and for making it easier to eat on the go. Just like supportive supplements these can be used year round safely (depending on your goals and diet). Concentrated supplements should be used to aid your dietary needs. To that end, research what will best fit your diet, and go from there. I would venture if you’re lifting weights, you should be using some sort of concentrated supplement. In my opinion you should be well versed in both supportive and concentrated supplements before moving on to adaptive.
supplements are what I like to call the last resort supplements. This classification of supplement for the most part has no nutritional value at all. But what they do is make your body adapt to whatever process they promote. This can be dangerous if not done properly. In most cases Adaptive supplements will cause a change in the way your central nervous system functions, and therefore they affect every part of your body (some parts more then others). Because of this change, precautions must be taken when dealing with adaptive supplements. First you must understand that these supplements are not meant to be taken for long periods of time, they must be cycled. Second, you must make changes to your diet, both during and after their use. I will give an example to better illustrate my point.
The ephedra caffeine stack is one of the most popular fat loss stacks on the market. This combo has the ability to drastically increase your metabolism, and decrease your natural appetite, among other actions. Knowing this, the correct course of action would be to slowly decrease caloric intake while on the e/c stack, eventually settling at a specific target intake, and maintaining that. And since it is a stimulant, you would want to cycle the e/c stack for no more then 4 weeks at a time, giving a 4 week break in between. Having used this stack the wrong way, I know that even if you don’t take these steps, it is effective at dropping body fat. But if you make the mistakes I did, mainly cycling for far too long (4 months in total), and not being consistent with my caloric intake, your body will simply rebound in the post cycle. In my case that meant gaining back over half the weight I lost, and a completely depleted immune system, not to mention deficient adrenal activity which screwed me for a long time.
Now some adaptive supplements are not as harsh as the e/c stack, and some can be even worse. Prohormones and Prosteriod have similar properties; however I would classify those as simply steroids not as supplements of any kind. When using any supplement it is imperative that you learn all you can about the effects it will have on your body. But when it comes to adaptive, you may want to pay careful attention to all aspects of how they make your body adapt. In some cases investing in an adaptive supplement will mean you must use the other two supplement types to counter some of the negative effects. This can become an expensive investment.
It would be naive to exclude the other types of supplements out there from this intro. But because of my lack of knowledge with supplements such as nootropics, gaba, phenibut (basically anything that crosses the blood brain barrier), I will refrain from grouping them, and commenting on them.
Another type of supplement that I wish to make a distinction for are scams. Now it’s not always easy to spot a scam product, even for someone who has been around for a while. And the reason for this is, not everyone is effected the same way by these substances. So what worked for Quincy and Jamie, might not work for John and Harriet. But there are some warning signs to watch out for; One, if the advertising for a supplement is so elaborate, and very expensive, you can be sure its either a scam, or you can get the same thing cheaper elsewhere. Two, if the product claims are simply outrageous, for example “add 10lbs of muscle in 4 weeks”, then your just wasting your money. Three, if you can’t find more then one favorable review online, then don’t bother.
It always amazes me how often I give this advice, and how little I listen to it myself sometimes. When you do finally decided what supplement(s) are right for you, there is a particular way to go about using them. In school I believe this was called the scientific method. In order to asses what supplements work, which ones don’t, and which are the most cost effective, you need to slowly include them into your daily routine one at a time. If you purchase 10 supplements, all from different categories, and begin their use at the same time, there will be no way to tell which supplement had what effect.
In addition to this, you always want to start your supplements at below the recommended dosages. Asses your tolerance to the compound, then adjust the dosages from there. In the past I’ve subscribed to the, the more the better, philosophy. However, after many screw ups, I understand now that the effective dosage is different for everyone, and that too much of a good thing, can be harmful to your health.
It may be obvious at this point that the running theme for this intro is self education. The more you know about what you are putting into your body, the better you will be able to plan, and see results. There are many online resources at your finger tips, so ignorance is not an excuse. I am all for self experimentation, but only if you are well prepared. Eat well, lift hard, and rest often … then see what the world of supplements can do for you.
“Now you know … and knowing is half the battle”