Sunday, January 19, 2014

Guide: What Supplements to Take and to Avoid

It would be cool, but it doesn't happen.
I’ve discussed supplementing briefly before in this post, in which I basically talk about our inherent belief in the magic Hulkout potion that will magically transform us into Mr. Olympia overnight and, more importantly, how it doesn’t actually exist.

I also talked about how I generally prefer you don’t take supplements at all during the first several (eight) weeks of your training, so you use this time to learn how to feed yourself better without relying on any type of supplements (as a lot of times in your bodybuilding life you won’t have supplements to rely on).

That being said, it is important for you to know about supplements because while they won’t turn you into your favorite superhero, they certainly will give you a boost that is quite frankly very important. Following, I’m going to describe the five things I think you should take into consideration when shopping for supplements, and which ones to avoid.


Whey Protein

Protein is an extremely important element in your nutrition plan. Though the bulk of your intake should be carbs, you’re not going to gain a pound of muscle if you don’t ingest the basic building blocks of muscle. Whey protein is basically the precious nutrient you’d find in fish or beef, but in convenient powder form.

What’s cool about this supplement is that you can very easily measure your intake, you can beef up the number of calories you take when you take it, and you can just drink it down like a milkshake, easily putting in your body the equivalent nutrients of eating a big piece of chicken. It goes down easy, often tastes great (especially if taken with milk which also boosts the caloric content), and you can eat again soon after taking it.

There aren’t many downsides to whey protein. It’s easy to mix, easy to boost, and relatively cheap. The biggest problem here is that the product is so popular that choosing one at the store might be a nightmare. My favorite one is probably Syntha-6 by BSN. Not necessarily the cheapest, but the best mix of flavor, value, and results.

            When to take it: The dose depends on your caloric intake, but the best moments to take it is half an hour before your workout and immediately after your workout. This will ensure your muscles get flooded with protein in the moment they need it the most.


Not to be confused with other white powders.
Creatine is an aminoacid that’s naturally produced by your liver and is an essential building block that keeps your muscles from liquefying. As such, a surplus of creatine in your muscles is a must to make them grow. Creatine is pretty awesome because it is by far the most useful and cheapest supplement, and it has pretty much zero side effects.

You can find creatine in powders from pretty much every single supplement manufacturing lab, which also makes picking one kind of hard. I didn’t take creatine before but I started recently, and my creatine of choice is Dymatize’s Creatine Micronized. It’s very cheap, tasteless and very easy to take. You can’t go wrong with it.

When to take it: with creatine, there is a phase-based dosage cycle to make its effects optimal. I recommend checking the label in the bottle to be sure, but the basic gist is you need to ‘cover’ your muscles with the stuff at first, which means you take 25g, divided by 5 servings of 5g a day, for a week. Then, for the length of the cycle, you take 5g a day for about six or seven weeks. Then, you take some time off it, and begin a new cycle.


Taking pills is kind of breaking a wall when you’re taking supplements because pills are scarier than powders. The only supplement that comes in pill form that I can 100% guarantee is helpful and will not damage your body in any way is a multivitamin. This is a pill that millions of people, bodybuilders or not, take casually.

Basically this won’t directly affect your muscle growth like protein and creatine would, but it’s really important for general health. Getting the correct amount of vitamins in your body (which you can also find easily in fruit and vegetables) will guarantee faster muscle growth, strength, better sleep, better hair, better nails, better bones, etc. Again, this won’t turn you into Superman, but the feeling of general health is definitely there.

When to take it: Depending the dosage of each pill, you’re good to take one pill before bed every night. With MV it really doesn’t matter so much.


Nitric Oxide

A lot of bodybuilders would give me shit for putting this here. Nitric Oxide is pretty damn awesome, but it has several drawbacks you definitely need to consider.

My first times on Nitric Oxide.
The good thing is that taking Nitric Oxide is the closest thing there is to taking the magic Megahulk Elixir. You know that feeling when you’re working out and your muscles harden? That’s what’s called ‘the pump’, and nitric oxide promotes that. What it does is rush into your blood and engorges your muscles. The effects it gives you are amazing: first, a tingly drunken feeling that just makes you want to go out, climb the Empire State Building and roar, banging your chest; second, once you actually start working out, it really pumps your muscles with blood, making them just grow and harden in front of your eyes, even making your veins pop the hell out. Third, it makes you want to work out harder and for a longer time. This taken in tandem with a pre and post-workout serving of protein, ensures that the protein reaches your muscles during your workout, and during recovery, when they need it the most.

The bad thing is that after you return to being Bruce Banner—and it happens relatively quickly—there aren’t a whole bunch of lasting effects on your body, which means that you’re paying for the feeling of turning into a monster in the gym for a while instead of for an actual lasting effect on your muscles. Considering this isn’t exactly cheap, it’s far from being an imperative part of your diet. What’s worse, is that this one does have some poor side effects. Let’s talk about them.

Most NO2 products will give you the shits, which is an industry term for a terribly upset stomach: diarrhea, cramps, farts like mustard gas, maybe nausea. The worst thing about it is that I can’t recommend a specific product and guarantee it won’t make you want to shit out your amygdalae. I haven’t been able to find a product everyone agrees causes or doesn’t cause an upset stomach. When I first took NO XPlode, it worked for me, but when I took it again, it was the poops. Another shitty side effect is that it might give you the jitters and cause sleeplessness. You need to be careful if you don’t want to spend a long restless night shaking like you got Parkinson’s.

Also, you will develop a tolerance rather quickly, which will mean you’ll have to take more and more. And what’s worse, you might become entirely dependent to it. Not addicted, but if you’ll find yourself less willing to hit the weights without it. These are all things you need to consider. I’ve found two products that have never failed me or given me poor sides: Bullnox Androrush by Betancourt and Jack3d Micro by USP Labs.

Again, if you’re interested in that awesome feeling which I genuinely love, look into reviews of each product, but there will still need to be some experimentation on your part before you find an NO2 product that works for you without turning you into a shaky shitting machine.

Weight Gainers

Pretty much.
I definitely think that weight gainers get a bad rep. Weight gainers are powders like protein, but they come with carbs and fats, as well as a lot more crap to up the calorie count in each scoop. The good thing about it is that it’s extremely easy to put a shitload of calories into your body. The bad thing is that depending on the product, those calories might be mainly coming from sugar and filler instead of protein, carbs or fats.

This is where you need to stick to respectable brands and check out the reviews. Yeah, you’re very skinny and your body will be great at processing the sugar and filler, but you want to get muscular, not fat. I’ve found Monster Mass by CytroSport and Carnivore Mass by MuscleMeds to be pretty good in general. Don’t be too afraid of these, but don’t use them to substitute your meals.


Testosterone Boosters

Though Bullnox claims to have testosterone boosting agents (and if it does I never noticed), this is a supplement you need to avoid. A lot of labs promote test testosterone boosters as a safe alternative to steroids, which really sounds like a great thing if you want the effects of steroids but are too afraid to take them.

See, there are several types of anabolic steroids. When you take them, you’re putting in your body a chemical that imitates the effects of testosterone. In a great world, that means quick and amazing muscle growth and loss of fat, but with some scary side effects that go from acne and hair loss to gynecomastia (man boobs that can only be removed through surgery), liver disease, and shrunken testicles. Yes, a lot of these side effects can be taken away or even entirely avoided if you know what you’re doing, but it’s still a scary road to take. Testosterone boosters claim to have these effects, if on a lesser capacity.

Again, it sounds great, but the truth is that you’re more likely to see the bad effects of steroids than the good ones, and that if the pill works at all. If you’re unfamiliar with the hormonal chemistry of your body, and don’t have a doctor to help you do hormonal supplements/steroids in a safe way, you need to stay the fuck away from this, promising as though it may look. You might fuck up your body for good.

That’s all for now. There are other supplements that might be helpful (like aminoacids), but for now this feels like a good guide for you to get started. You just need to research every thing you decide put in your body. Remember a lot of this stuff isn’t playing around, so be smart and don’t take anything that will cause you short-term or long-term damage.

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