Saturday, January 9, 2010
9:07 AM | Posted by Martin Berkhan | Edit Post
That being said, there are some supplements that you may find useful depending on your goals.
The first four on this list are supplements most people could benefit from. I'm not a great cook and once I find a few meals I like, I'll go for long periods just eating the same foods in various combinations - a pattern that is quite common among my peers as well. Adding these supplements is an easy way to safeguard against any potential shortcomings of a monotonous diet.
The other ones are supplements that may help with fat loss, performance or just makes life easier some days. They are not essential by any means.
I've linked to some products. These are either ones I can vouch for personally or the cheapest ones in their category. For the sake of transparency, I should also note that these are affiliate links, which means I get a 5-10% commision if you buy anything from the links. If you think this makes my recommendations any less credible, do not buy anything from this list. And why would you? Supplements are certainly not critical to your success and you may in fact do just as well without them. A balanced whole foods diet goes a very long way.
Swedish visitors should order from Svenskt Kosttillskott if they want the cheapest and fastest delivery.
European and UK visitors may also find Predator Nutrition a highly attractive and reliable alternative. They ship all across Europe, so that's great. Their rates are very competitive and it may interest some of you that they have some banned/discontinued supplements in stock. Enter code: "leangains" to get 5% off your order.
Unless you've been living under a rock the last decade, you don't need me to give you any long-winded explanation for this one. Maintaining a good omega-3:omega-6-ratio is important and we get too much of the latter. Take 2 g EPA and 1.5 g DHA per day.
Read: "Omega-3 Fatty Acids for Muscle Growth: Promising Potential."
Recommended: NutraSea Original Liquid (liquid) or Ultra Omega-3 (softgels).
Calcium increases fat excretion and boosts testosterone.
That's great stuff and we obviously want our calcium intake in the optimal range. Adding a 500-750 mg tablet to your daily diet wíll usually do the trick. If you get enough calcium through your diet, there's no need to supplement it.
Recommended: NOW Calcium & Magnesium
Emerging scientific evidence suggests that people don't get enough vitamin D to function optimally. The newfound interest for this vitamin and it's potential benefits was actually featured in New York Time's Top Ten List of medical breakthroughs in 2007. Here's a good (and free) full-text paper on vitamin D's role in health and disease. Moreover, vitamin D may boost strength and athletic performance. 2000 IU/day is a conservative and safe dosage, but some people use considerably higher doses without any negative implications.
Recommended: NOW Vitamin D-3
Branched-Chain Amino Acids
I use BCAA pre-workout whenever I train fasted. You can read more on why here and here. I prefer Purple Wraath by Controlled Labs. It contains beta-alanine as well, which gives me a nice little tingle and also seems to aid a bit with intra-set recovery and muscle endurance in the higher rep ranges. Take 10 g pre-workout if you train fasted.
Recommended: I've been using Xtend by Scivation for my fasted training sessions ever since stores around here ran out of Purple Wraath a few months ago. Taste and effects wise, it's pretty much a toss-up between Xtend and Wraath. Price wise, Xtend can't be beaten. Flavor wise, Xtend is very agreeable and I prefer "Refreshing Watermelon".
Creatine is the only legal supplement with numerous scientific studies to support it's effectiveness. It's so far ahead of the competition that it's the only supplement I can place in this category with a straight face. Besides elevating muscle creatine contents for a direct performance boost, creatine may boost muscle growth through effects on satellite cell proliferation, myogenic transcription factors and insulin-like growth factor-1 signalling (if that sounds like greek to you, let's just say all of this is "good stuff").
Recommended: Optimum Nutrition Micronised Creatine
I get beta-alanine through my BCAA-supplement, but this amino acid is also availabe as a stand-alone supplement; and as such has shown to boost exercise performance. As I noted before, the effect is only noticeable in the higher rep ranges (12 reps and above). The study summarizes the effect as "beta-alanine...have demonstrated improvements in performance during multiple bouts of high-intensity exercise and in single bouts of exercise lasting more than 60 s." So it won't improve your maximal strength, but anaerobic threshold and time to exhaustion will be enhanced. This may be particularily useful for CrossFit-practitioners and those training with kettle bells.
Recommended: NOW Beta-Alanine
Ideal use is pre-and post-workout. Optimum 100% Whey is the top selling product at bodybuilding.com. I would venture to guess that's due much to the innovative tastes available. I've tried Caramel Toffee Fudge and Extreme Milk Chocolate and both are very tasty.
Ideal use is pre-bedtime, but it could be used at any other time during the day as well. Casein protein is slow releasing and provides more satiety than whey protein in general.
For the best tasting casein protein, check out this post.
While I've been lucky enough to never find any use for this supplement personally, clients claim to have used it successfully for relieving joint pain. Studies support such notions and state that glucosamine seems to be a safe and effective supplement for relieving pain and stiffness in joints.
Recommended: NOW Glucosamine
For fat loss
Note that intermittent fasting potentiates the effect of stimulants. Any stimulant ingested during the fasted phase will have a greater effect compared to it's ingestion during the fed state. Some caution should therefore be exercised for those not familiar with the use of stimulants.
If you're not a regular coffee drinker, you're really missing out by not adding caffeine to your diet when the going gets tough. It's cheap, suppressses appetite and has thermogenic properties.
Recommended: AllMax Nutrition Caffeine (200 mg)
This stuff is nasty as hell. On the plus side, it has a quite potent stimulatory effect and works very well as an appetite suppressant.
Not available any longer. :/
If you can't stand the horrid taste of Clenbutrx, VPX Meltdown is a great alternative. This one actually has legit scientific backing, which is a true rarity when it comes to fat loss products. You can read both (free full text) studies on Meltdown here and here. Note the effect on resting energy expenditure. Not bad.
The original version is not available any longer. :/
This herb may be particularily useful for those trying to get rid of stubborn body fat - such as the fat covering lower abs and back in lean men and thighs and hips in lean women. Hokey as that may sound, there is a valid explanation for how this occurs. Lyle McDonald explains this in great detail in The Stubborn Body Fat Solution. In short, yohimbine inhibits alpha-2-receptors (and lower abs/back has a high density of a2-receptors) which aids with blood flow and fat mobilization from stubborn fat areas.
Yohimbine is another fat loss product that has been proven effective in clinical trials and this is perhaps the most widely cited study on the effects of yohimbine on body composition.
Recommended: PrimaForce Yohimbine HCI
Pure yohimbine may lead to feelings of anxiety and even panic attacks in predisposed individuals. A better alternative can be found in Alpha Burn, and other supplements containing rauwolscine, which is a stereoisomer of yohimbine. Reg from Predator Nutrition recently sent me a box of these and I can vouch for it's psychoactive effects not being as rough as pure yohimbine. While it won't make you as jumpy and jittery as yohimbine, it seems to have a pretty potent appetite suppressive effect.
The original version is not available any longer. :/
L-tyrosine is a precursor ("building block") to the catecholamines dopamine and norepinephrine. For this reason, it has been studied in the context of performance enhancement among other things. Although studies show mixed results, empirical evidence suggests that tyrosine has it's use as a pre-workout stimulant when combined with other substances such as caffeine. It seems to enhance the effect of other stimulatory substances, which has been my experience as well. Tyrosine has also shown promise in alleviating the decrements in cognitive performance associated with stress and fatigue. For this reason, it might be useful for keeping your mind sharp during intense stints of dieting.
Recommended: NOW L-Tyrosine
Jack3d Review (Pre-workout/Fat loss)
I've been trying a wide range of pre-workout supplements but I've never found something worth recommending. Some like the extra pump from NO Xplode and similar nitric oxide based supps, I just don't any use for it.
I was pleasantly surprised by Jack3d. Besides the usual ingredients present in many pre-workout supplements, such as caffeine, creatine, arginine and beta-alanine, it contains 1,3-Dimethylamylamine also known as geranamine. This is a potent stimulant (as far as legal alternatives goes) and this is what provides the oomph in this product. Apparently Geranamine is used as recreational drug in some circles and banned in a few countries. I wouldn't be surprised if we'll see more countries banning it soon as everything that is mildly effective seems to get a ban sooner or later. Shortly after I wrote the supplements guide, Meltdown and Clenbutrx both got banned in Sweden.
Anyway, being somewhat resistant to stims, I started off with the maximum recommended dosage the first time (three scoops). After 5-10 minutes, I could tell that it was working as I got an intense urge to do the dishes. During training, I didn't notice anything out of the norm besides a somewhat uncomfortable back pump after squatting. After training, I had to wait two hours before my appetite returned. I never have problems eating after training, especially not after fasted training, but the thought of food made me queasy. I also noticed some slightly panicky feelings at that point, the kind where you want to crawl out of your own skin. Nothing serious, but for those sensitive to CNS stimulants or prone to anxiety attacks, I would not recommend starting off with the highest dose like I did. However, it seems tolerance develops and within a few days I could use the maximum recommended dosage without any side-effects. Unfortunately, the stimulant effect is also lessened.
In my experience, Jack3d is quite effective, but less so for the purpose it's advertised. I see it's use mainly as an appetite surpressant or stimulant, much like ephedrine. The mechanism by which Jack3d exerts its effect is also similar to ephedrine in that it increases epinephrine/adrenaline, which in turn boosts lipolysis and leads to that "focused" feeling. Or that urge to do something, anything.
Either way you want to use it, for a pre-workout or motivational boost, or appetite surpression, Jack3d works, which is why it ends up on my list of recommended, but certainly not essential, list of supplements.
By the way, I haven't found any studies to back the effectiveness of 1,3-dimethylamylamine for fat loss. If anyone knows of any human trials regarding its use for weight loss or improving cognition, alertness, or anything else for that matter, let me know. I always try to find some scientifical backing for the supplements I recommend but I'm at a loss for this one.
The original version is not available any longer. :/
Adipoxil is a strange beast. It's different from all other fat burners reviewed here in the sense that it has no stimulatory properties. At the same time, it's a very potent appetite suppressant - at least as far as legal alternatives goes. I suspect this might be explained by the synephrine and the "lipolytic oxidation protocol," which contains cayenne pepper and various other thermorgenic compounds. Synephrine and cayenne pepper are both known to suppress appetite.
There's also a peculiar side-effect that's noticeable shortly after ingesting the tabs; it alters taste, and specifically it made coffee undrinkable. I'm not sure how to describe it. I'm a coffee-fiend but that hot cup of goodness turned wretched after I downed the tabs. Also, be careful with the dosing and don't go for double dose the first time you try it. I experienced nausea with two tabs and it wasn't very pleasant.
Anyway, Adipoxil might be a good alternative for those looking for a supplement without pronounced stimulatory properties. I need to add a big disclaimer here however; Adipoxil does contain Yohimbine and caffeine, and should provide a stimulatory effect. I might just be a weird outlier to not have noticed anything. If you do try it, let me know in comments if you felt anything. I should also note that I only tried this three days in a row, so I'm not sure about tolerance issues. For the short time I ran it, it worked very well.
I also tried another supplement from iForce Nutrition, the makers of Adipoxil: a pre-workout supplement called "Maximize V2". This was nothing special - pretty much the same as Jack3d, but less potent.
Remember that you can enter "leangains" as code when ordering from Predator Nutrition and get 5% off your order. I receive no commissions; instead you get cheaper supplements.
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