In part one (5 Supplements That Actually Work), we established that, even though supplements aren’t necessary to reach your fitness goals, there are some that’ll certainly help you along the way and make getting results a little easier.
However, this isn’t the case for all supplements.
There are supplement companies and people selling products that have no scientific backing to show their effectiveness. They’re counting on people’s naivety and desperation for results to sell their products, along with all the marketing tricks known to man.
I’m sure many of you reading will have taken some kind of supplement, whether it be a shake, pill or magic potion, that has guaranteed to make all your hopes and dreams come true.
At the very least give you the body of your dreams in no more than a few weeks. I know I certainly have and on more than one occasion.
Unfortunately, this will never be the case.
Getting results is the combination of hard work and consistency. Think of it like this, if you’ve had a poor diet and exercise history for the past 5, 10, 15, even 20 years then it’s going to take more than a few weeks of taking a drink or pill to fix your problems.
Thankfully though, there’s no need to waste any more time or money on supplements that don’t work.
Below are my top five worst supplements you’d be best avoiding at all costs.
1. Fat burners
If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is – and that’s certainly the case with fat burners.
Promising to melt fat off your body like a Mr. Whippy on a hot summers day, fat burners are one of the most popular but worst supplements on the market.
Looking at the ingredients, however, you’ll see that most fat burners ‘work’ by using high levels of caffeine, which gives two side effects:
Boosted energy levels and a suppressed appetite.
Essentially, fat burners are likely to make you move more and eat a little less, increasing your chances of creating a calorific deficit.
To be fair, this sounds great in theory, but here’s the thing:
You can get the same effects by drinking a coffee or two to boost energy levels, eating a high protein diet to help with feelings of satiety and maintaining a calorie-controlled diet to help create a calorie deficit.
This way not only works out a lot cheaper but comes with a whole load of health benefits you won’t get from a pill.
Don’t believe the hype.
2. Diet/bulk powders
You may be wondering why diet and bulk protein powder shakes are here when they are essentially the same as normal protein shakes.
Well, that is exactly why – there is no real difference between them other than how they are marketed.
Yes, really! A load of marketing BS…
If you look at the ingredients on diet/gainer shakes and the ingredients on protein shakes, they are more or less the same. Maybe there is a slight difference in their carbohydrate content, but that’s about it.
The big difference you’ll notice, however, is the serving suggestion.
I was once on the hunt for a new protein powder in the pursuit of building some extra muscle and I came across two tubs from the same company.
One was a regular tub of protein, the other was an “extreme mass gainer”.
Taking a closer look at the labels, I found that they both had the same 22 grams of protein per scoop and they both contained near enough the same calories per scoop.
However, the extreme mass gainer suggested taking three heaped scoops compared to the one level scoop of the standard protein. I mean, seriously, really guys?
The same applies to diet shakes. The reason they claim to guarantee weight loss results is because they simply give you a smaller scoop in the tub and probably recommend you live off nothing else but their shakes. Thanks, but no thanks.
If you want to use shakes to help boost your protein intake then opt for a standard whey protein or dairy-free option. Use servings that are in line with your goals and let you hit your daily protein and calorie targets.
Branched-chain amino acids are fast becoming a must-have supplement in many gym bags around the world – however, there’s little to no evidence yet that actually shows the supplement has any benefits.
BCAA is made up of three proteins: Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine – all of which can be found in high protein foods.
The chances are, if you’re supplementing with BCAA to help build muscle, it’s likely you’ll already be eating a high-protein diet, rendering the a BCAA supplement pretty pointless.
Not only can you obtain BCAAs easily through food but study after study has shown using the supplement has no beneficial effects on muscle performance, muscle mass, anaerobic performance or reducing muscle soreness.
This is one of those supplements that everyone down at the gym takes just because everyone else down at the gym is taking it, with no-one ever really knowing if it’s actually having any benefit on their strength or muscle growth.
However, a quick look at some studies on glutamine would quickly give them an answer – no.
One study showed that, over a period of six weeks, a group of men supplementing with glutamine had no greater increases in strength or size compared to the group who were given a placebo.
Whilst another study concluded that having glutamine with your pre-workout drink had no positive impact on strength, tested using the leg press and bench press, and again showed equal results with the group who were only given a placebo.
If you do want a supplement to help with the above, then creatine would be your best bet. Other than that, it’s just about getting the basics in place; a calorific surplus, a high-protein diet and a structured training programme.
Related: What Is Glutamine & What Does It Do?
Now, I’m not gonna lie, I like to take a scoop or three of pre-workout as much as the next guy or gal.
Having that tingling feeling as you enter the gym just does something for getting you in the zone and ready to lift big.
But is there anything more to pre-workouts than a simple placebo effect?
Most pre-workouts are made up from a blend of ingredients, knows as ‘proprietary blends’. However, most of what’s included in these blends either isn’t backed by science to show any benefits to training or is included in too small a dose to be beneficial.
BCAAs, glutamine, arginine, citrulline malate and beta-alanine (which causes that tingling sensation) are all common ingredients in pre-workout drinks. Yet there is little evidence to show any of these will have a positive impact of your training.
We’ve already talked about BCAAs and glutamine but what about the other three?
Well, arginine has poor bioavailability, meaning little of it is actually absorbed. Whilst citrulline malate and beta-alanine are often included in dosages too small to be effective.
My advice? Just take a coffee before hitting the weights room for a caffeine hit. You’ll miss out of the pre-workout sensation but your gym performance won’t suffer for it.
Take supplements to complement
Every year, more and more supplements are coming onto the market, each with more elaborate promises than the last and selling the fantasy that if we just buy their products, we’ll all have the bodies of our dreams.
The truth, though, is there is no magic pill, potion or shake that will get us the results we desire.
That is always going to come down to hard work, a good diet, consistency and having a plan.
Once you’ve got all these in place, then we can start looking to supplements to help complement the above and give you that extra little push
Just make sure to take the ones of that have been proven effective and won’t simply burn a hole in your pocket.
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