To Supplement Or Not To Supplement...
If you are new to weight training and your goal is to pack on muscle, no doubt you have been confronted by an overwhelming array of supplements that promise to deliver the goods! First and foremost, keep this in mind: genetics are super important, as are workout intensity, consistency and proper nutrition. Patience in achieving your goals will keep you on track. Too often, people quit their program soon after starting or don't put the adequate amount of research/application into ALL the elements necessary to help maximize the results of training. It can take MONTHS to see results but does that mean you should abandon your goals? Hell no! Stick to the program and it will pay off. If you discourage easily, expect it to take as long to change your physique as the half-hearted attempts you make. Just keepin' it real. Weight training IS NOT for pussies.
If you are ready to aim for the stars, there are NATURAL supplements that can act as your rocket-booster. These are a few I've used during the last 6 months with my personal feedback on each:
Altius: Pretty intense for me at the recommended serving amount. I get a kick out of the label statement 'Clinically Dosed' as I picture a Hanz and Franz-type lab assistant duo dispensing doses while advising "Take me now and work out later. We're here to pump you up!" Work out later meaning this definitely kicked into high-gear about 35 minutes after drinking. My main beef with this product is how hot it made me. I was too uncomfortable during training, feeling like a human furnace with no air-exchange system, making me feel a bit bitchy during my sessions. And, be ready to hit the gym after taking this otherwise, pity on whatever person or obstacle that stalls your session as this is definitely your alter ego on Altius:
I did experience great strength gains and intense focus (once I adapted to the heat!) while using this. I liked the level of creatine monohydrate, with 3 gms per serving. Overall, I give it a 2 fully-pumped biceps rating!
Next up is Evogen EVP:
I like this one quite a bit. No jitters, great focus and strength gains, keeps me going for intense sessions. Also, great taste with the Grape flavor. Would prefer 3 gms minimum of creatine monohydrate-this has creatine gluconate but doesn't specify the amount. Kicks in about 25 minutes after drinking. I give it a 2 biceps, 3/4 pumped-up rating.
I'm currently switching it up, using a product that is designed for intra/post workout:
My main beef with this product is the addition of sucralose, dextrose, artificial flavor and colors. However, the Orange Creme is quite tasty and I get a LOT of improved work outs using this supplement-probably due to the high creatine monohydrate content. This product kicks in almost instantly. I was really in a hurry when I bought it and most likely won't buy it again; instead I will probably go back to Evogen EVP and add a quality micronized creatine to it. Rating: 2 biceps fully-pumped but not liking the additives.
So, what is creatine? Creatine occurs naturally in the body, produced at a rate of about one gram per day and helps to supply energy to cells-particularly muscle-by increasing the formation of ATP (adenosine triphosphate). It has also been proven to:
Assist in protein synthesis
Make muscles appear larger by allowing them to hold more water
Assist in the manufacturing of fat-free muscle development
Assist in recovery
Increase athletic performance, among other things
I do use the recommended serving size of these products, once I have tested to see how my body reacts with a half-serving portion. The Altius took me a bit longer to work up to the full serving-the stuff is strong! I do use 20 oz. of water for dissolving even though the product may say less is fine. Can't get enough water and being properly hydrated for your workout is key.
Can you get a good training session without supplements? Probably. But like the movie Knight and Day, when Tom Cruz explains the importance of "...with me, without me..." to Cameron Diaz, I'd choose 'with me' any time. It's always better to have a training buddy as opposed to going it alone. And, having trained for years without any supplements, I can confidently say that I owe a lot to the use of them. Increased focus during intense training, watching my max reps with increasingly heavier weight go up, and in a shorter time frame than without supplementation, as well as seeing more muscle due to increased resistance are all part of why I use them. Even if I never compete, to stay competitive with myself and continue to push the boundaries-without the use of steroids-supplements are a must in my arsenal.
If you are a female considering this as an option to kick your workouts into high-gear, do the research and start them slowly but do give them a chance. You should be able to do the full dose within 2 weeks and you should see great results within 3-4 weeks. Assuming you are doing everything else properly! And-especially if you are my age or older, it becomes harder to pack on any appreciable muscle mass-and keep it-and these supplements won't do it for you. You still have to do the work! But, I do consider them to be the gym version of Viagra. I suggest to the companies marketing these products that instead of using meaningless, techno-geek sounding phrases like 'Terra Intelligent Dosing Beadlets' (WTF?!!), why not just use an easy to understand name like 'Via-Pump' or 'Pump-Agra'!
And don't worry about becoming 'manly', as the pro-bodybuilder women that do look this way are taking things that you cannot purchase over the counter. Getting any kind of substantial results in the gym will take hard work and commitment and supplements do indeed help with the hard work.
Or, to put it another way:
Just to recap: supplements can give you an added edge in your training but you will still need to focus on putting all the elements together. They will never be able to replace bad nutrition, poor lifestyle choices and less than a 100% effort in the gym!
Note: If you are using a supplement that works for you and you want to share, or if you have questions about weight training, please use the comments box below. The last blog, 'And The Winner Is...' got a lot of good feedback and it was awesome to hear from so many of you. Please keep the dialogue coming!