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2017/11/18 10:10:19
James 1 comment

Supplements: Miracle or Placebo?

This article was written by Tom Daly aka MuscleTalk Member geneticallyjacked & was originally published in The MuscleTalker May 2011 edition
There is a lot of division within the bodybuilding community regarding supplement use. The vast majority of bodybuilders, as well as powerlifters or strongmen, will have a favourite supplement brand or product. There are a plethora of products from simple proteins and weight gainers, to test boosters and nitric oxide pre-workout energy boosters.

The major question is "how many of these supplements actually work?" I would like each of you to recall the various products you've tried over the years. How many are you still using? Not many, I'd imagine. Yet we all, me included, will be excited and eager to try a new product which promises ungodly strength and mass gains.

The benefits of protein and creatine are well established by science; these two have a part in every serious athlete's stack. However, even within these groups there is some derision. Should I use hydrolysed whey protein, liquid beef protein extract, casein, egg, soy, goat's urine? Ok, I made up the last one but you get my point. The question is the same for creatine, should I use creatine monohydrate, creatine ethyl ester (CEE), creatine phosphate or creatine citrate? These questions are common on any bodybuilding or weightlifter forum. An arm chair expert will explain at length how CEE is the only creatine worth buying as it won't cause the bloating associated with creatine monohydrate; or that one is wasting their time with regular whey protein powders because hydrolysed whey is easier to absorb. Are any of these questions necessary? Who cares? This is not brain surgery and it's not as complicated as some deluded 160lb arm chair bodybuilders make it seem. The difference between these compounds is miniscule. Anecdotal reports from various test subjects suggest there is no difference at all, except hydrolysed whey is more expensive.

What is my point you may wonder? Simply that we should concentrate on our training and proper diet and results will follow, supplement with protein powders and creatine but don't be fooled into emptying your savings for false promises and catchy slogans and shiny ads.

The Placebo Effect
A placebo is a simulated medical intervention. This practice is often used by the control group in case control studies in order to judge the efficacy or safety of an actual medical intervention. Placebos can, however, have a surprisingly positive effect on a patient who knows that the given treatment is without any active drug, as compared with a control group who knowingly did not get a placebo. This effect is explained by the power of our own minds and attitudes to influence or body. A positive mindset has been known to produce miraculous results. Arnold Schwarzenegger's rise to movie star and government is a prime example.

Now on to the crux of the matter: supplements classed as 'special' products. I can't name any companies or products for legal reasons, but you guys know the one's I'm referring to. Some major companies make several expensive products which promise results which seem too good to be true. They are. I'd wager many of you have tried these products. I'd wager more that few still use them. These products are based on science which is shaky at best. The studies never contain sufficient people to achieve statistical significance and are simply underpowered. The studies are often funded by the manufacturer and many of the amazing results such as "7 pounds of muscle gain in 7 days" are based on genetic freaks who may have never touched a weight before.

How can they get away with advertising these products in this way? The word 'may' is an amazingly ambiguous word; it suggests results are possible but doesn't promise anything and so, there is no legal responsibility. Do me a favour go to your local supplement shop and take a look at the product labels. How many contain the word 'may'? The vast majority.

Why do we continue to buy these products? After training for a number of years results are slow and training and chicken with rice become mundane. We want to believe a product can achieve wonderful things. I do too. They really can't. At best we 'may' gain .25lbs of muscle from this product. Is it worth the astronomical expense and constant search for the newest and best supplements? This is money which could be spent on red meat and chicken which will add much more mass. Guaranteed! I'd rather save my money for something important. I'm not telling you what to do; I'd just like people to think and not be too quick to empty your savings for a capsule full of sugar and promises. The placebo effect can be powerful but it doesn't last very long.

"Doctors are men who prescribe medicines of which they know little, to cure diseases of which they know less, in human beings of whom they know nothing" (Voltaire)
1 comment
2016/05/20 12:31:14
James 4 comments

Red Rice Yeast - can it really help cholesterol?

This article was originally published in The MuscleTalker August 2008 edition
Red rice yeast is a nutritional supplement also known as Cholestin and has been available in the Western World for a couple of decades. Its claimed benefits are that it can favourably control blood cholesterol levels. Although fairly new to the West, it has been around in Chinese medicine for hundreds of years however. Unlike many supplements, where the claims are faddy, red rice yeast can actually help lower high cholesterol levels and this has been backed up by studies.

Natural red rice yeast contains the active constituent lovastatin. Yes, this is the very same lovastatin prescribed by doctors as a drug to control cholesterol levels; it's one of the statin drugs, the clinically proven most effective cholesterol-lowering agents used in medicine today, which were originally derived from yeast products. It's true to say that if the Chinese had never discovered red rice yeast, then it's likely we wouldn't have statins today. There is very strong evidence demonstrating both lovastatin and natural red rice yeast in reducing total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood, due to the effect of lovastatin on inhibiting an enzyme called HMG-CoA reductase which is responsible for cholesterol production.

This all seems too good to be true doesn't it? Red rice yeast is a natural powder supplement which will help improve heart disease outcome? And it's clinically proven to do so?... Yes, I'm afraid it is too good to be true! Here we have a supplement with 'drug-like' effects, so in 1999 the US FDA regulated it and red rice yeast cannot now be sold, in its natural form, in health food stores.

You will still see red rice yeast available on the shelves of health food stores, but this is new stuff that is now apparently fermented using a different process, and apparently (though it is in fact extraordinarily difficult to find out what dietary supplements do and do not contain) does not contain lovastatin. Therefore, as the active ingredient has been removed its ability to lower cholesterol levels is probably nil.

Conclusion: yes red rice yeast should be very effective at controlling blood cholesterol, but unfortunately the stuff that's available to us today, probably is useless, unless you can find a brand which does contain lovastatin.
2016/01/23 08:53:33
James 8 comments

Choosing the Correct Nutrition Bar

This article was originally published in The MuscleTalker May 2006 edition
here are a huge range of nutrition bars out there, so how the heck are you to know which ones suit you, or indeed which ones are good for you and are not just junk confectionary bars?!

Nutrition bars are quite varied and can be classified under a number of different headings based on their make up and general nutrition they provide. They can be labelled as meal replacement, protein, energy, low carb or flapjack bars. Nutrition Bars can be useful supplements for health and sports enthusiasts, especially bodybuilders who struggle to consume enough food to meet their requirements. They are a convenient way of adding extra nutrition to a food and supplement plan as they are easily transported and eaten on the go. Nutrition bars should not replace any of the main meals of a diet, but are useful replacements for 'snack' meals, especially for people with busy lifestyles.

Obviously the first factor to consider when selecting a bar is what you want from it. If you want an energy boost, then go for an energy bar; if you want it to contribute to a good protein intake, opt for a protein bar; if you want it to act as 'complete nutrition' for a significant snack then pick a meal replacement bar; or if you simply want to enjoy a bar which has more nutrition than confectionary, then any will do.

The best bet when you're deciding which nutrition bar to choose is to read a bar's description and if reviews are available look at them too. Things to look out for include the sources of protein, fats and carbs they contain. Many nutrition bars do unfortunately contain trans fats - these are the bad hydrogenated fats which ideally should be avoided. So try and look for bars which contain no trans fats.

Flapjack bars, or those based on oats, are generally a good choice as they contain slower released complex carbs as well as sugars and are more ideal for a sustained energy release rather than a sugar rush. Bars based on oats will also be high in fibre. However be aware that bars which contain maltodextrin will not give sustained energy, because, although maltodextrin is a complex carb, it is rapidly absorbed.

Bars can have their protein from a whole range of sources including whey concentrate and isolate, peanut butter, nuts, soya, milk solids (in the chocolate ones) and calcium caseinate. A useful common ingredient in many bars are nuts, which are a useful healthy way of contributing protein and good fats to the bar.

The other major factors affecting choice will be taste and texture. Bars need to be palatable, that's why we have them. Reviews will give an indication but people's tastes vary; remember that you may loathe a bar others love! As we get bars for convenience, make sure yours are easy to eat - some are extremely chewy and a chore to consume. A bar which is good value for money will be relatively small and packed with good nutrition.

Nutrition bars are not essential by any means, and they are not on the whole, particularly a healthy choice to a fitness enthusiast's diet, but they are convenient so make sure you get one with suitable nutrition that you enjoy.
Home-made nutrition bar recipes in Muscle Menus Shakes, Bars & Smoothies ebook available for Kindle at Amazon
2016/01/18 13:44:47
James 1 comment

Echinacea and Good Health

This article was written by me & was originally published in The MuscleTalker January 2006 edition
Many members of MuscleTalk will be aware of my conventional nutrition views and my scepticism on many herbal tonics and remedies. However, with Echinacea I remain positively open minded as there is some evidence to back up its claims.

Echinacea (Purple Coneflower) is claimed to have immuno-boosting activity and to help fight off winter sickness bugs (which we call 'the flu') and the common cold. No one likes having a stinking cold; it stops us training hard and kills our appetite - just no good for gaining muscle or performing in the gym! Obviously the most fundamental methods of reducing the risk of getting ill during winter include taking plenty of exercise, eating a well-balanced healthy diet, getting plenty of rest and washing your hands properly and regularly.

If you do feel the symptoms of a cold or flu coming on or if you're in close contact with people who are ill you may want to consider taking Echinacea. Historically Echinacea was used by North American Native Indians to treat fevers and by early settlers to North America for treating colds and the flu.

Echinacea is claimed to be most effective if taken when you feel symptoms of the flu or a cold coming on. If you're quick you may be fortunate to minimise symptoms, or better still avoid them altogether. However taking echinacea once the cold or flu symptoms are in full swing, will not help at all.

Some people recommend taking echinacea for the autumn/winter months, and this has been shown to reduce incidence of infection, severity of symptoms and duration of illness. Indeed immuno-compromised individuals like some cancer or HIV patients are often recommended to take echinacea for these months (September thought until April in the UK). Furthermore it's recommended that if you're in close contact with people who are ill, you may benefit from taking echinacea to keep your immune system more resilient.

Echinacea should not, however, be used all year round as it may lose its effects of boosting your immune system. When taking Echinacea always be sure to refer to the manufacturer's directions for use. Intense exercise puts a strain on the immune system, so supplementation with echinacea may have an important role for the gym goer.
1 comment
2015/12/04 17:23:02
James 16 comments

The Truth about Creatine

(This article was written by Michael Iurato aka MT member Capri200 & was originally published in The MuscleTalker November 2004 edition)
When the word 'creatine' surfaces in conversation it tends to be a very opinionated subject. This supplement has been dragged through the mud in anyway it possibly could be. The people who involve themselves are people who feel that their word is stone because they have MD next to their name. These people may be paediatricians who don't know the first thing about supplement stimulation or what makes the human body tick from a performance stand point. I am going to clarify some things about creatine in this article. Some thoughts are from fact and some from opinion; at the end you can make up your own theory.

First off America and other countries were blinded by the FDA from their outtake on this supplement. It is understood that creatine is a compound which has a say in muscle stimulation, performance, and growth. But society was brain-washed into believing that supplemental forms of creatine is very hard on the kidneys, crystallizes in your joints, dehydrates the body and blows you up with water retention. Well I hate to break the news to all these 'gurus', but that is about as true as cigarettes not being habit forming. There was a study done to determine the body's response to creatine. The result was that retention of water was non-existing and something else was happening.

Many of the companies with dextrose uploading formulas are really not hitting the boundaries that it should. Dextrose can infact upload creatine, but it is a proven fact that it takes exactly 92g of dextrose to get a full shuttle of creatine into the system. To me that is totally intolerable to the gut. The Germans did a study that proved to work: Creatine mixed in warm water is a very sufficient way to take creatine. It allows for a smooth ingestion without cramps, gas, or stomach pains.

The fact of the matter here is that creatine has had more tests done than any additives in any food known to man. If creatine was proven not to work than I'm sure the FDA would find something better to do with their time, but they still cannot come up with a proven clause stating that creatine is detrimental to your health and does not work. See, in our world of bodybuilding it's not about internal response anyway. Who the hell cares if something changes the expression of a gene and who cares if GH goes up? The only thing that matters is that someone gets bigger, stronger, faster, and leaner. And Creatine fits that bill!

2015/11/21 11:09:00
James 54 comments


This article was originally published in The MuscleTalker August 2004 edition
Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is currently one of the most controversial supplements around. Is it a supplement or is it a drug? Is it banned or isn't it?

GABA is a natural substance and a neurotransmitter. As a supplement it became popular after the gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) scare, a drug used as a growth hormone releaser and subsequently a recreational drug, due to the fact that GABA is found in the same chemical pathway as GHB.

GABA is still available in the UK, but its availability becoming increasingly limited. It remains very popular as a supplement and has been used with mixed reports of its effectiveness. Taken before bed it gives deeper quality sleep, hence more growth hormone is released and you feel better the next day. Some people like to use it pre-workout and claim it gives them a 'buzz' during training; but many have tried this and claimed it made them feel 'odd'. The increase in GH release hasn't been verified scientifically, but it certainly does improve sleep quality; it has been said you can get 8 hours worth of sleep in 6 hours - useful for the busy-lifestyle bodybuilder. Note that GABA will not make you sleepy; it merely improves the depth of sleep.

Watch out for its extremely unpleasant side effect of shortness of breath about 10 minutes after ingestion which lasts about 5 minutes. This can be scary if unexpected.

Officially in the UK GABA's production and sale as a supplement was banned last autumn by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). It can still be produced for scientific analysis work. Many companies are still selling it, but I am certain this will be short lived. It is also banned in many other countries including the USA. GABA is not classed as a 'drug', merely its sale prohibited because the MHRA claim it to be 'body altering' (a claim which stirs up huge controversy with a wide range of supplements).

People who do use GABA before bed are urged not to use it too often, so as not to rely on it. The good thing in this respect is a tub will last months, and, compared to other supplements GABA is relatively cheap.

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