Have you ever seen an old clapped out banger of a car with fancy bumpers and a big loud exhaust slapped on the back?  It looks as if It has crashed into Halfords with all sorts of tat hanging off it.

This is the approach most people take with supplements. They have gone with the ‘bells and whistles only’ approach and overlooked the basics of health and wellbeing. Most supplements are unlikely to have a positive effect on the body if you are not focussing on your diet, training, rest and recovery.

Worse than that, there are plenty of supplements that are completely pointless. They contain zero scientific backing and yet are still sold by the bucket loads. I think this is morally wrong for the supplement companies to push products knowing full well they are pointless, but as the industry is estimated to be worth 124.8 billion US dollars, profit unfortunately comes before morals.

Fear not though, I am here to help point you in the right direction and to hopefully saves you a few pennies along the way. (maybe you could use the money to pay for a decent personal trainer).

Branch Chain Amino Acids

There are 20 amino acids that play in role in various functions in the body. 9 of those are called essential amino acids and are required to be eaten. 3 of those essential amino acids are called branch chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine and valine). BCCA’s are thought to play a key role in the process of building muscle.

Reading that statement alone makes you want to go and instantly buy the biggest bag of BCAA’s you can find, but hold your horses, as it isn’t as simple as that. BCCA’s do play an important role within the body, especially for building muscle, but you can also get these amino acids from a complete protein source (meat, eggs, whey). These protein sources, not only contain the 3 BCAA’s but also the other 6 to make up the 9 Essential Amino Acids (EAAs).

If we look at the science behind it, there are various studies (this one, and this one) that show no effect on muscle recovery from taking BCAA’s. In some studies a potential benefit of BCCA’s is observed, but if you compare the results to drinking a whey protein shake, the BCAA’s only have half the potential benefit of whey.

Bottom line: If you are eating enough protein, you do not need to supplement with BCAAs. Concentrate on eating enough whole protein sources to maximise muscle growth and recovery.

Fat Burners

Fat burners must work, the name is in the title, right?

Unfortunately not. Most fat burners contain high levels of caffeine that are likely to increase your energy levels, which will make you move more and burn more calories. It will also likely supress your appetite, meaning you will eat less and consume less calories. This is an attempt to create a calorie deficit.

There is no magic formula for ‘burning fat’, and an overpriced powder or pill isn’t going get you the results you want. If you want increased energy, then I would recommend having a coffee and saving your money. If fat burners worked they would be handing them out on the NHS like smarties and obesity wouldn’t exist.

Bottom line: Please don’t every buy a ‘fat burning’ product. They are all bullshit!

Pre Workout

I am not a big fan of pre workouts. They are a mix of mostly pointless ingredients that will have the same effect as having a strong coffee but will cost 10 times as much. Your skin may feel like it is peeling off your body, but does that really translate into bigger muscles or more fat loss? Probably not.

Pre workouts are mostly used to cover up your poor recovery strategies and make up for your lack of sleep. Unfortunately they have the opposite effect than what is required. If you have a high caffeine drink a few hours before bed, the chances are that will affect your quality of sleep. This will have a knock on effect with your recovery and therefore you will feel more tired the next day. You take more pre workout and the cycle continues.

Bottom line: If you really need a pick me up, have a strong coffee. Concentrate on recovery, stress management and quality of sleep, rather than taking a double scoop of mega energy extreme 3000.

Diet Whey

Whey protein is a by-product of the cheese making process and is high in protein. It is a great source of protein that can easily be added to the diet for convenience or to replace a meal.

Diet whey on the other hand is exactly the same product but with the word “diet” in front of it and a higher price tag. If we take The My Protein example below, the product is slightly less in calories, more carbs and less protein. In my opinion, it doesn’t warrant the extra price tag, especially if you are getting less protein.

Bottom Line: I would just stick to a regular whey protein if you are looking at increasing your protein intake.

Testosterone Boosters

There are many ‘natural’ testosterone booster or “t-boosters” available to buy with various wild claims. From improving libido and building strength these claims are often unsupported. When we think of more testosterone, we think of big muscles, loads of strength and the raging sex drive of a horny teenager.

One study shows that out of 109 different products, only 24.8% of these had any scientific evidence to support their claims. 10% of the products contained ingredients that were shown to actually decrease testosterone.   

Any product that will have a massive effect on testosterone is either prescribed by your doctor or illegal (anabolic steroids).

Bottom line: If you think you need to increase testosterone, go and speak with your doctor. (not the big guy in the gym that calls himself a doctor).

 No supplement is necessary within the diet. A supplement is exactly what it says on the tin, a supplement to the diet. I would highly recommend using a ‘food first’ approach. Concentrate on nailing the basics consistently and try not be dazzled by all the shiny bells and whistles. There are many supplement companies that are willing to take your money for pointless supplements.

If you want to find out how to make progress without bullshit products or fads, get in touch today and let’s discuss your fitness goals. What are you waiting for?