May 4, 2010

The Truth About Bodybuilding Supplements

I've taken a looong time to finish this post. But I think it's worth it because people should be aware of these facts that people won't tell them straight in the face. Dirty facts. Controversial facts. I'm talking about


... about bodybuilding supplements.

Nowadays, many supplement companies sell the same thing, for the same purposes, but claiming to be different from the rest. Is this true? I've included some tips in this post for those who are wondering which brand could they trust and what should they be looking out for whenever purchasing bodybuilding supplements.

But first, let me show you this video just so you know the current condition of the bodybuilding supplement industry.

So, now that I've opened your innocent minds to the dirtiness of the bodybuilding world, here's some tips you could use to protect yourself.

#1 Cut the Crap

During my last business law tutorial, my tutor mentioned that there are some things that consumers can't sue companies for. If a company said that they'll provide an hour of Shiatsu massage and they give you 40 minutes, you can sue. If they say that their Shiatsu massage will make you feel younger, and it doesn't, you can't sue them. Same thing for supplements. They can claim that their supplements can

"Give you skin-bursting pumps!"

"Induce montrous muscle growth!"

"Create anabolic explosion in your body!"

but it's just huff and puff. So really, look past these attractive statements. They are like a Facebook profile with a hot girl's photo on it but with a fat hairy guy behind the keyboard. Supplements are extras to a diet, not magic pills. Look at what matters most, which brings us to our next point.

#2 What matters most - ingredients!

Honestly, after you look past the hype, the huge professional bodybuilder on the ad and everything else, what matters most will be the ingredient. That's the base of everything about supplements and nothing can replace that. It's the reason why you're getting the supplements for. So when buying supplements, READ the label closely! The next several tips will be about what to look out for.

#3 Protein source

The protein in your protein drink may come from soy, milk, eggs whites or the newest source of protein, beef (ew, that's a cow made into powder! And you're drinking a cow!). But let's talk about that another day. For now, let's talk about protein concentrate, isolates and hydrolysates.

Protein hydrolysates are highly filtered and pre-digested protein and are the essential of all protein. It's the fastest absorbing protein and is the most anabolic short-term protein but it's pretty rare to find it in most protein powders because of its price.

Protein isolates are highly filtered protein and are 90%+ pure protein. They are absorbed by the body very quickly, has a higher biological value compared to concentrates and are more expensive.

Protein concentrates are protein that are 70-90% pure. These are the most common type of protein found in powders. However, they not as easily absorbed compared to isolates and hydrolysates and need some effort from your digestive system, which is a disadvantage if taken after a workout.

So now that you know this, try to aim for supplements which contains higher amounts of protein isolates or hydrolysates instead of just concentrates.

Another thing to note is that mixed protein (especially whey and micellar casein) has an advantage over single-source protein. They tend to have different absorption rates so it feeds your body with protein both immediately and for the following several hours. Therefore, you stay anabolic longer.

Worst case situation: I've seen this damn-cheap-ass supplement which has a protein source that is worse than protein concentrate. Will blog about the supplement soon but the protein source for it is...


WTF! That's not even filtered at all!!

#4 Proprietary Blend

Do you ever wonder about something? Why would supplement companies wanna register a patent for a mix of ingredients? I mean, it's just a mix of ingredients! Ok, in a way, they wanna protect their formula. Secondly, so they can hide their formula. If you see a proprietary blend like this -

Super SyokTM Proprietary Blend 3,000 mg

Super Effective Ingredient A
Not-So-Good Ingredient B

well, chances are that most of the blend is made out of ingredient B. There is no law or rule that ingredient A must be the majority of the blend.

#5 All About Casein

Casein is a slow digesting protein that "trickles" your body with amino acids up to 7 hours. That's an advantage of taking casein when you're going without protein for a long period of time. E.g. before sleeping. However, some supplements contain sodium caseinate and calcium caseinate instead of micellar casein. The caseinates are derived from adjusting the pH levels by mixing casein with an alkali whereas micellar casein is filtered. Micellar casein is more expensive but better absorbed by the body. So always look for micellar casein instead of caseinates.

#6 Rules & Regulation

A certain label on Magnum products intrigued me. Here it is -
After some research, I found out that Canada has stricter rules for supplement producers. Plus, if a supplement company is a licensed pharmaceutical company, that means they follow a more stringent rules and regulations in producing supplements. Being "pharmaceutical" will increase costs, but at least you consumers know that whatever is on the label is in the capsules/powder. So unlike the video above, these company aren't allowed to use fillers for their products!

#7 Bad Company

Think about it this way, whether you're taking Product A of Company M, or Product B of Company M, both of the products are produced by the same group of people and most importantly, marketed by the same group of people. So, if they bullshit you once, you can already tell that they are willing to do so for your money. Why trust them again if so? I saw this ad and from then onwards, I stop buying their supplements for good (Not that I buy their supplements often in the first place anyway)!
What's so fake about this ad? Firstly, if you look at the before and after photos, you can tell that the bodybuilder, IFBB Pro bodybuilder Jeramy Freeman, didn't actually gain much muscle. He is probably relaxed in the before photo and flexing in the after photo. Believe me, 50 pounds of muscle MAKES A HUGE DIFFERENCE IN APPEARANCE!! And come on, 50 pounds in 42 days!? Plus, that ad was in 2007 and Jeramy Freeman did not compete in any bodybuilding contests. Which pro bodybuilder on Earth will gain 50 pounds of muscle and not compete? FIFTY POUNDS!! And by the way, his last competition was in...

2003. Nuff' said.

#8 Microfiltered vs. Ion-Exchanged Whey Isolates

As you have read in #3, whey isolates are usually the purest form of protein used in protein supplements. But if you look closely at your protein label, you might noticed that you're either getting microfiltered whey isolates or ion-exchanged whey isolates. Ion-exchanged whey isolates have the highest protein content of all isolates. However, there is a drawback. You see, during the ion-exchange process, most of the beneficial subfractions in the whey is lost.

And what do these subfractions do? Each of the sub fractions found in whey has its own unique biological properties. Some of these properties include anti-carcinogenic effects, pro-immune effects, and positive effects on the health of the digestive system.

One of the best whey isolates is cold cross-flow micro filtered whey isolates. This type of isolate is cold processed, so it remains undenatured and retains most of its beneficial subfractions. So look for it in your whey, okay?

#9 Masses of Mass Gainers

If you're an off-season bodybuilder or a guy trying to put on size, mass gainers are probably a MUST in your supplement arsenal. But the differences between the dozens of mass gainers on the market today is MASSIVE (pun intended). So here's a few guidelines when choosing a mass gainer.

Look out for a good carb-to-protein ratio. If you read the label on mass gainers, you might notice some gainers have up to 6:1 carbs-to-protein ratio. That sucks! Get the ones with 2:1 C2P ratio or less!

And watch out for the sugar contents too. It should be as close as possible to nil. When gaining mass, you would want to gain muscle mass, not fat mass.

Another thing to look out for is protein source. Please refer to tip #3.

Then there are extras in the mass gainers such as essential fatty acids, a great vitamins and minerals profile and digestive enzymes. When choosing from two very similar mass gainers. These ingredients would help you make the final decision.

Oh, I've seen the suckiest mass gainer in my hostel kitchen and will be writing about it soon. So keep on reading! And I got a question from one of my readers the other day - "Wee Kiat, should I be taking weight gainer or mass gainer?"

Both are just different names for the same thing. -_-'''

And no, simply taking mass gainers won't make you look like Ronnie Coleman (big black guy in the photo). It's just for inspiration.

#10 King Creatine

Creatine is the supplement with the best price-benefit ratio on the market. If you're not taking creatine, you're losing out on a huge advantage. But nowadays, there are plenty of types of creatine, e.g. creatine monohydrate, creatine ethyl ester, Kre-Alkalyn. Recommending which one to choose will probably take up a whole new post.

For beginners (or even advanced bodybuilders), creatine monohydrate is the most basic creatine and is almost just as good as other creatines. But watch out! Always look for micronized creatine mono. If it's manufactured by a company called Creapure (which sells it creatine to supplement brands), all the beter. And yes, not all creatine are micronized and non-micronized creatine mono sucks (They clump a lot)!

Ok, I'm done with this post, for now. There are just too many points to fit into one. There'll be more coming up! So keep on reading!


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