Been struggling to find any motivation to blog of late, so excuse me if this post is a little terse. I’ve got about 5 blog posts half-written, but just can’t be bothered to finish them off!
In a previous post, I mentioned how important it is for anything that I choose to believe in to have been backed up by cold, hard evidence. The greater the level of near religious zealotry displayed by proponents of something, the more suspicious I become. There are few areas with such little scientific fact on display, and so much rabid conjecture bandied about than the area of supplementation.
Fortunately, the dudes over at SpotMeBro (generally good lifting blog – follow it if you’re not already) have done all the hard work for me in this area. One of the founders of the site, having already launched the excellent “supplement bible” examine.com, has taken things a step further, and come up with what he calls the Human Effect Matrix. Basically, the dude has trawled through literally 1000s of scientific papers involving the effects of a wide range of supplements, investigating the strength of the testing methodology used, how strong an effect was noted, and how statistically significant the results were.
From this data, for most supplements in their database, he has been able to produce a rating from A to D for each supposed effect (raising testosterone, increasing lean muscle mass, increased power output, etc) representing the amount of evidence backing up a particular claim, with A being definitely true, B being possible, and C & D being pretty much no correlation noted. Additionally, the direction (up or down), and the strength of each type of effect is noted from 1 to 3, along with the editor’s comment (which usually contains the important bit of analysis).
Check out this page on Fish Oils for an example.
So, having had a look over some of the information, here are some things to note:
There is not a single verified natural testosterone booster
None. Zero. Nada. Zip. The only single supplement with a strongly noted effect in this regard is DHEA, and that was in menopausal women. Tribulus, maca, horny goat weed, zinc – forget it all. It’s all a load of shit.
There is no known supplement that will help you build lean mass
With the possible exception of creatine, and the effect of this appears to be strongly confounded with water retention.
There is very little point in taking fish oils for any kind of weight lifting benefits
Taking a single, large daily dose of Vitamin D has more proven health benefits than taking a multivitamin
Creatine is the single most important supplement you should be taking
The evidence for creatine increasing your power output at the gym is so strong that it is used as the baseline against which other such supplements are measured. More power equals more weight and more reps, which equals more muscle tears, which equals greater strength/size gains. There’s literally no reason for you not to be taking this supplement if you weight train and are even halfway serious about it, it’s not even expensive.
The effects only become apparent after a saturation level is reached in the body, after about a week. For the first week, take 20-25g daily, and then 2.5-5g daily from then on. No need to take before. or after the gym – it is much more slow acting than that. Just take your daily amount first thing in the morning, and get into a routine of doing so, so that you don’t forget.
No need to cycle on and off, there are no verified harmful effects of taking it long term.
So there you have it – strong factual evidence that 99% of supplements out there are doing literally nothing for you as backed up by current scientific literature.
Now I’m sure there will be plenty of people saying “But waah, supplement x definitely works for me, I have noted its effect in an incredibly subjective, and non-scientific manner. What do you mean, where’s my evidence? I know I feel stronger/hornier/whateverer than before”. It’s not possible to say with 100% certainty that there they are definitely wrong – but the weight of a hell of a lot of scientific studies, which have had their methodologies appraised, is strongly against them.
Have a good weekend all.
Since I first wrote this, the good guys at examine.com have come out with an ebook product that’s automatically updated every single month with all the latest information gleaned from reviewing the most recent scientific literature.
Check out my post on it, or head over and check out the book from here – Examine.com Supplement Goals Reference Guide. If you’re serious about getting your nutrition and supplementation right, it’s a must read.