In May, I posted Thinking About Supplements – 2013 Edition. Perhaps a better title would have been Guessing About Supplements? For me and probably most consumers, when it comes to supplements, we do our best and try not to get suckered into wasting our money on worthless crap. But we continue to waste money. We are hopeful that next pill or powder will make a measurable difference, but it rarely does, so we continue to get scammed.
For the most part, I am anti-supplement, yet I still have a collection of vitamins, minerals and “other” that I take. To reconcile this inconsistency, I tell myself that my current batch of supplements are being tested to eliminate the possibility they might work. And if they don’t I won’t repurchase them in the future. Then I’ll be free. Of course when the future does come, I buy different supplements and repeat the process.
It is silly guess work. This ties into a book that Examine just released this week that goes into the research behind all the supplements. They rate the supplements and provide scores.
The Supplement-Goals Reference Guide from Examine
Am I Wasting My Money?
Here are the latest supplements I am trying and what I learned from The Supplement-Goals Reference Guide.
- Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5) – Not listed in book.
- Rhodiola rosea – It appears I didn’t waste my money here. Research suggests it does a good job with fatigue, where it gets an A grade. It gets a B for Well-being and Cognition. Now if I can only cut back on my coffee enough to really test it myself. 🙂
- MSM – This supplement got a C for muscle soreness and pain, which were the primary reasons I started taking it. The magnitude of effect is listed as minor. When I first started taking MSM, I didn’t notice anything. Then I started mega dosing (per Glenn’s advice) and started feeling improvement. Was it the MSM or something else? Time will tell.
- Creatine Monohydrate – Talk about a supplement with a glowing report card. More A grades than an honor roll student. The Supplement-Goals Reference Guide has provided me with many reasons to take creatine other than building muscle. Plus it is super cheap. Solid win.
- Calcium-D-Glucarate – This does not appear in the book, but there is a page on the Examine website which says “Using calcium-D-glucarate as a daily preventative supplement does not appear to be a prudent idea, due to its lack of reliability even in theory and high doses used.” Good thing I ended up not buying this supplement, plus I get a tremendous amount of calcium from my dairy rich diet.
The supplement that I have flip-flopped on the most is BCAA. Art De Vany recently convinced me to give it yet another try. I haven’t noticed anything like he describes. Had I consulted the good book, I would have saved my money. There is nothing mentioned about BCAA suppressing appetite, because it doesn’t for mortals. Maybe for De Vany, but not for me.
One supplement that Dave Asprey hypes is L-Glutamine. I found it completely useless. The good book is on my side. I could have saved money here as well. Did nothing for my headaches or building muscle.
I’ll be using The Supplement-Goals Reference Guide going forward the next time I start to fall for the hype of some supplement. I’m certain it will save me money.
Disclosure: I received a free copy of the e-book and am an affiliate.
2019 UPDATE: My affiliate link was taken down without notice. Not sure why. I don’t think you need to buy the book though anymore. They seem to be freely posting enough information for you to make better informed decisions.
Wish I Were Riding
Jul 27, 2013 — 8:53 pm
It’s about time! haha 😉
Thanks for getting this out there. Makes sense, and like I said previously, I appreciate your viewpoints.
Jul 28, 2013 — 12:58 am
Regarding the BCAAs. Have you tried simply taking the most potent of all the BCAAs -Leucine? There seems a fair amount of research that suggests that Leucine is the most significant of the three BCAAs.
Kiefer posted this two years ago: http://athlete.io/524/the-secret-of-leucine/
Jul 28, 2013 — 9:12 am
Good update. Examine is a leap forward in supplement reviews. A problem, of course, is that results can be specific to the individual.
I suffer from restless lag syndrome (e.g., uncontrollable leg shaking at bed time). Some users at self help sites recommend Magnesium. The research at the Examine site, and all other studies I’ve seen, do not recommend Mg. When I tried supplementing with Mg, however, it fully cured my issue. When I stopped supplementing, the problem returned. When I supplemented again, the problem stopped again. Probably as clear cut evidence as you can get with a supplement. Yet the research I’ve seen says no effect, or weak effect at best.
Jul 28, 2013 — 9:20 am
@Stephan – Great link. Love the angle of meeting and confronting an old bodybuilder at the Arnold Expo. I went there in 2004 and chatted briefly with Pavel about the wrist injury I got following his Russian Bear protocol.
Love this quote as well:
The reason I got tricked into BCAA again wasn’t to become HUGE, but because Art suggested it rocked for appetite suppression. I still suspect the limiting factor in ectomorph muscle gain is lack of calories (probably carbs) and over training (too little time between workouts).
Examine seems to be mildly positive on Leucine.
Jul 28, 2013 — 9:25 am
@Jim – Good to know. I’ll be using their research as a 2nd opinion when I’m not sure. They are extremely positive on fish oil, which is a supplement I wouldn’t touch. They also like Melatonin, which I found was worse the useless – it actually made me feel awful.
Jul 28, 2013 — 10:21 am
One other thing. After years of experimenting, I had comfortably settled into taking no supplements and just eating food. This approach saves time, money, and mental resources. Now, with my unexpected major success with Mg (see above), I’m getting sucked back into the mix.
Jul 28, 2013 — 10:40 am
@Jim – It is too easy to get sucked back in. After Stephan’ post I spent an hour dreaming about how leucine was the ticket to massive muscles. One voice is telling me don’t do it and the other is saying – But it is so cheap, try it! 😉
Jul 28, 2013 — 2:24 pm
I have taken Leucine before, not perfectly regular, but after some time I didnt seem to notice any changes in my muscle size. If you want those massive muscles, go for Vitamin T. It has worked for decades. 🙂
Anyways, I would try Leucine anyways even if you have your doubts regarding its potency.
However, I will say this. People take BCAAs religiously – especially when training in a fasted state usually in the morning to prevent the catabolic effects. For those who do this, I would try switching the BCAAs for pure Leucine because it is much more effective at preserving muscle tissue than the other two BCAAs, Iso-Leucine or Valine.
Again, all credit goes to Kiefer.
Check out this video where he explains effect of leucine as an insulin potentiator with regard to his Carb-Backloading.
Jul 28, 2013 — 4:59 pm
@Stephan – I no longer believe working out in a fasted state is ideal for lean ectomorphs. Since our glycogen stores tend to be lower than other body types, I think we should have some pre-workout carbs. I’m going to go into greater detail on a future post, but that is my current belief.
Jul 28, 2013 — 5:18 pm
I couldn’t agree more – especially the cycles of optimism, false hope, the sense of betrayal… And yet I go on buying…
Now I’m led to believe Vitamin K2 is the missing link 😉
What’s your current thinking on Vitamin D(s) supplementation. Or maybe we don’t even want to go there…
Jul 28, 2013 — 5:37 pm
@Glenn – I’ve been a Vit D skeptic for over 2 years now.
My skepticism over the high mega dosing and testing was recently validated in a Chris Kresser podcast, which basically said everything I suspected, which is we don’t know and maybe we are over supplementing.
I take zero Vit D most of the year and minimal amounts during Seattle winters.
K2 eh? 🙂
Jul 28, 2013 — 6:52 pm
Does the book reference, or do you have experience, with Asian/South American plant roots such as Ginseng, Maca, or Ashwaghanda?
Those three plant derivatives have supposedly been used for medicinal purposes for millennium in certain regions of the world. I don’t recall coming across reviews with those substances in modern fitness and health articles…
Would love to hear your thought.
Jul 28, 2013 — 7:00 pm
@Jay – All 3 of those herbs have detailed reports in the book. I only have limited experience with Ashwagandha. Not enough to form an opinion.
I will say that Chris Kresser, who has lots of clients, seems to have good results with Ashwagandha and “adrenal fatigue”. I place that in quotes because some bloggers foam in the mouth with anger and state there is no such thing. Beats me if there is or isn’t.
Jul 31, 2013 — 8:01 am
Here is an interesting link on supplementing Vit D, B12 & B5 and sleep, worth a read:
I have stopped B5 for about month now as I haven’t felt I needed any. But my sleep has not been great as I have had very bad pollen allergy this season which developed into an acute sinus infection spreading to ears, throat and even my eyes. So lots of early morning hours spent coughing. I put this partly down to stopping Blue Ice Fermented Cod Liver Oil/Butter, I stopped in May thinking I would not need it over summer. Maybe when you take Vit D it needs the K in the fermented oils to work synergetically. I had not stopped suppplementing Vit D. Since I began taking Fermented CO/Butter a week ago, I am mending but its taken a long time and could have been prevented possibly. My sleep is not as great so maybe its the B5 and the other B vitamins I need. I generally don’t tolerate the B vitamin complex as a supplement very well.