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)
James Collier - MuscleTalk Co-Owner@JamesCollierMT