Most supplements don’t work.
They often promise big strength and muscle gains in a short time.
But supplements can’t give you steroid-like results, or they would be illegal.
That’s why most supplements are a waste of money, and why I barely use any.
In this post I’ll share the few supplements that actually work.
- 1 Whey Protein Powder
- 2 Creatine
- 3 Frequently Asked Questions
Whey Protein Powder
Whey is a dairy protein. It’s left-over from milk during the process of making cheese.
You need 0.82g of protein per lb of body-weight (1.8g/kg) for muscle recovery. That’s about 145g of protein if you’re 80kg/175lb.
Whey typically contains 25g of protein per scoop. So taking two scoops a day can help you get about a third of your daily protein intake.
So the main benefits of whey are:
- Convenience – just add scoop to water and you’re done, no cooking, and it’s portable.
- Cheap – you can get 10lb for 100usd, at 2 scoops a day that 2.5 months of daily protein.
But that’s it.
There’s no other benefit to taking whey.
Supplement companies often say you need fast-protein workout, and thus recommend whey.
The idea is to get the protein as fast as possible into your muscles post-workout, to help muscle recovery process and stop muscle breakdown.
But there’s no evidence that this actually leads to more muscle growth.
Besides, even if it was true, it doesn’t matter. If you eat before you workout (which you should do), then that protein is in your blood stream by the end of your workout. It’s there for muscle recovery. So how fast you get protein post-workout is irrelevant.
These are all just bogus claims, which a lot of guys believe, and it sells a lot of protein. But there’s nothing special about whey.
Personally I just have a real meal after my workout – typically oatmeal with milk and yoghurt and some fruit. This gives me protein (dairy protein just like with whey, not that this matters), with carbs.
Usually half an hour passes between the time I finished my workout, and the time I eat. That’s not an issue. Because I ate before my workout. So there’s protein in my blood to help with muscle recovery.
Bottom line, take whey protein if you like its convenience or to save money. But don’t think it’s going to make you grow more muscle.
I take 1-2 scoops every morning on waking up, with water and creatine (see below).
There are many brands on whey, which can make it hard to determine which one to buy.
My advice is to not go cheap.
Several brands have been caught cheating in the past.
They’re adding cheaper amino acids to the mix and other ingredients to drive the cost down.
They’re like drug-dealers cutting cocaine by adding sugar to it.
I usually get my protein from myprotein or optimum nutrition. I buy the regular 80% whey protein (each serving has 80% whey). I do not bother with whey that has higher concentration of protein per serving).
Creatine is my favorite supplement. It’s the only supplement I take (besides whey). I take 5g every morning.
Creatine is found in meat. But you need to eat 2.5lb of meat a day to get 5g. That’s a lot of meat, making that an inconvenient and expensive way to get your daily creatine intake.
It’s cheaper and more convenient to take 5g of monohydrate creatine each day. A 500g bag usually costs about 10usd. At 5g/day that’s 100 days of daily creatine intake.
Expect to gain weight when you start taking creatine.
My body-weight jumps by about 3lb when I take creatine (and immediately drops by the same amount when I stop taking it for a few days). This is due to water retention from creatine, and is normal.
You should also expect muscle gains over time.
In terms of strength, you should see yourself be able to get 2-3 reps more on each set compared to before.
Note that some people are non-responders, and get nothing out of creatine. I immediately lose/gain 3lb when I’m on/off creatine. But some people gain no strength or no weight even when taking dosages of 20g/day for 5 days (that’s how you can test). Most people will get results with creatine however.
You don’t have to load the creatine. Don’t bother with purer forms of creatine or liquid forms. Just get the regular monohydrate one.
I highly recommend to take creatine, especially as the weights start getting heavier on StrongLifts 5×5.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can whey cause acne?
Acne and break outs are usually caused by changes in hormonal levels. Heavy Squats/Deadlifts increase testosterone levels, which can cause acne. Some people find that dairy products like whey protein powder, milk and yogurt can trigger acne break outs.
I seem to get more sensitive to dairy products, and get occasional red pimples on my forehead or neck when I’m taking two scoops of whey a day. It never seems to happen when I’m not taking protein. If it’s a major issue for you, you can experiment with lower doses of whey protein or non-dairy alternatives.
How many scoops of protein powder should I take?
Depends on how many total grams of protein per day you need. Which depends on your body-weight. You need about 1g of protein per pound of body-weight. So at 80kg/175lb that’s about 175g of protein per day. Two scoops would be about 50g of protein or almost a third of your daily requirement.. Should be enough.
Can I get all my protein from whey powder?
No. You need to eat real food because that has a ton of other things besides just protein – vitamins, minerals, fiber, etc. You don’t want to get some nutrient deficiency in other areas. Plus real food takes longer to digest which keeps you full longer.
What about mass gainers?
Mass-gainers are usually high calorie protein powders. The extra calories usually come from cheap and nutrition-poor sources like plain sugar.
The term “mass-gainer” is therefore deceiving. The only thing they do is help you gain weight by giving you a lot of calories. That extra weight gain can become muscle with the right training. But it can also turn into fat if you eat more calories than necessary to grow muscle.
Mass-gainers are also expensive. They look cheap because the bag is huge. But hte price per serving is high compare to making your own mass-gainers. It’s cheaper to make your own shake using protein powder, oatmeal and peanut butter. It’s also more nutrient-dense and healthier than that cheap sugar from mass-gainers.
You don’t need mass-gainers. Just make your own if you need to gain weight.
What about coffee?
It’s great as a pre-workout drink. Especially if you didn’t sleep much, and need a kick. Drinking coffee before your workout will help you get more reps and train harder when you only had a couple of hours of sleep and feel tired.
The drawback is that the benefits of coffee disappears once you get tolerant to it. And you get tolerant quite quickly. It will not be as effective if you drink it every day as a pre-workout drink.
Drink it if you barely had any sleep, and can feel that the training is going to be hard. The coffee will help. The other days, train without.
What about testosterone boosters?
They don’t work. If testosterone boosters really increased your testosterone enough to increase your strength and muscle mass, then that would make them steroids. Steroids are illegal, so t-boosters can’t deliver on their claims.
Testosterone boosters can make you hornier by increasing your libido. But that doesn’t mean your lifts and muscle mass are going to increase too.
Save your money, lift heavy instead, and your t-levels will increase.
What about fish oil?
It can help with joint pain, soreness and inflammation. But you shouldn’t need to take any if you eat need it if you eat a lot of fatty fish. I prefer to eat salmon, tuna and sardines than popping pills.
What about multi-vitamins?
Many people take multi-vitamins so they don’t need to eat vegetables and fruits. That doesn’t work. There is no pill that can give you the same nutrients as a balanced diet consisting of unprocessed foods will give you. There’s more in real food than just vitamins and minerals.
Besides, a lot of multi-vitamins don’t work. The doses of some of the ingredients inside are often too low to be effective (but they’ll still dare to charge you a ton!).
If you eat a balanced diet, you don’t need to take a multi-vitamin. If your bloodtest shows you’re deficient in something, just take a specific vitamin for that.