Guest post by Sol Orwell, co-author of The Supplement-Goals Reference Guide
A few months ago I had Sol from Examine.com come in and talk about 5 popular supplements that people take (and that just don’t work). As Examine.com as been on a tear lately (their editorial team has expanded to include a doctor, two PhDs, and a pharmD), I asked him if he would give us an update on some supplements that do work.
He came back with some interesting stuff:
Creatine works. Athletes that take creatine will find benefits across the board. Creatine improves muscle growth, glycogen supplements, power output and hormonal levels. In fact, the only parameters creatine doesn’t help are fat burning and endurance sports.
Side-effects of creatine are limited to the nausea and stomach cramps (from taking too much and not drinking enough water). Anyone who fearmongers that creatine hurts your kidney or liver cannot be trusted. Initially, weight gain from creatine is water weight, but over the course of the maintenance period, that weight slowly becomes dry muscle mass.
There are also some lesser-known benefits of creatine supplementation. There is some early evidence that it is cardioprotective, reduces liver fat buildup and improves cognition in both sleep-deprived athletes, the elderly and vegetarians.
Creatine is one of the most reliable testosterone boosters on the market, though only to a slight degree, boosting testosterone levels by 10-20 percent.
Not only is creatine effective, reliable and safe, but it’s also cheap supplement that flat out works.
Protein powder is a highly recommended supplement. You don’t need it if you manage to eat enough protein in your diet, but if you don’t, it’s easy and convenient (and also can be tasty!). To be honest, most protein powders are pretty much the same. While some proteins may get absorbed “faster” or may even be “pre-processed,” none of that matters unless you are a pro athlete.
Focus on taste, and don’t worry about whey vs casein vs whatever else.
Beta-Alanine works best for athletes that exercise in the 60-240 second range. Beta-Alanine improves endurance performance in that range by about 5%. That kind of improvement may be too small for the average gymgoer, but it is definitely noticeable by athletes.
There is even some evidence that b-a can help build muscle and burn fat in athletic people, but we still need to do more research on that.
Nitrates are the nitrogen-compounds found in beet root and leafy green vegetables. They have been shown to improve physical performance in both aerobic and anaerobic endurance scenarios.
Early NO Boosters had bad absorption or other side effects (l-arginine can cause diarrhea), and were also not very potent. They were also marketed as “enhancing nutrient delivery,” though that was also not true.
What NO boosters can do is enhance blood flow, and potentially increase muscle protein synthesis. And of all of the options, the cheapest and most effective way to boost nitric oxide in the body is actually consuming nitrate rich food products in your preworkout meal (if you do buy beet roots, make sure you don’t buy the ones that are doused in sugar).
Cheat a bit here – not a specific supplement, but a group. Sleep aids can be awesome, but they get personalized.
One thing before I start – ZMA is not a sleep aid. If you are deficient in magnesium (common), it can be slightly sedative (and thus helps you go to sleep).
The sleep aids that are actually likely to benefit you are as follows:
Melatonin or lemon balm will help people that have trouble falling asleep. If you’re tired but can’t fall asleep, take melatonin. If you’re wide awake, go for lemon balm. Note – these supplements will only help you fall asleep.
If you can fall asleep fine but wake up feeling tired, check out glycine. It is cheap and worth trying.
Do not take any of these before a workout (obviously). And sleep supplements should only be taken if you have the basics covered – blackout curtains (no light when you sleep) and quiet (any kind of distracting noise makes it extremely difficult for your brain to properly fall asleep).
As you can see, Sol doesn’t just go out pimping every single supplement there is. When he talks about supplements, he talks about taking supplements for specific reasons. His favorite example is how berberine is pharmaceutical-grade in helping with your blood sugar levels.
They are doing a quick sale until the end of this week on their awesome Supplement-Goals Reference Guide. If you want to find out which supplements actually work (and which are just a waste of your money), you need this guide.
Oh, and it’s a lifetime product. Whatever new research comes out, they’ll be all over it.