Dietary supplements are extremely popular these days with sales expected to reach close to 200 BILLION dollars by the year 2025. The supplement market has products that promise to deliver results for an almost endless number of desires and targets. Unfortunately, the vast majority of them will do nothing of the sort. To put it plainly, most supplements are a complete waste of money. This is especially true when it comes to the fat loss, muscle gain and athletic performance market. If you want to lose fat, build muscle, and improve your athletic performance, diet, exercise and lifestyle will give you 99.9% of the results you could ever want. Supplements may account for the other 0.1% but most supplements won’t even give you that 0.1%.
I could try to list all of the supplements that will do nothing for you besides drain your wallet, but then this article would be way too long. Instead, I will focus on the top 3 supplements that are currently popular but won’t do anything for you. In order to make this list of money-wasting supplements, the following products had to meet the following criteria:
- They have to be popular and be created by multiple brands.
- They provide zero benefit.
Branched chain amino acids are three essential amino acids that you can find in any complete protein source. They are leucine, isoleucine and valine. These amino acids have made their way into fitness supplements for decades now. Their popularity seems to come in waves with lots of popularity followed by total disinterest (probably as people realize they don’t do anything.) BCAA supplements promise to improve muscle recovery, build more muscle and strength and help preserve muscle when dieting. These amino acids are extremely important and are essential meaning we MUST consume them since our bodies don’t produce them. BCAA’s are in fact important pieces in the muscle building and recovery process. There are even studies that show some people do benefit from taking them. If this is true, then why am I calling them a waste of money?
One whole egg will give you 1.3 grams of branched chain amino acids. ANY whole protein source has BCAA’s. If you consume a high protein diet, supplementing with expensive BCAA’s will give you zero benefits. What about the studies that show some people benefit from taking BCAA’s? The people in those studies all had low protein diets. If your protein intake is high (0.5 to 1 gram per pound of your bodyweight) then you are already consuming MORE than enough BCAA’s. Studies have tested BCAA supplementation in high protein settings and each one has shown the same conclusion. If protein intake is high, BCAA supplements do nothing.
Just eat a high protein diet. If you eat 0.5 to 1 gram of protein per pound of your bodyweight you will consume more than enough of all of the essential amino acids.
This one cracks me up. Back in the 90’s when I was a teenager obsessed with lifting weights, I used to save up my money so I could buy the cool-looking muscle-building drinks for after my workout. They were in flashy bottles with names like “Amino Force 5000” or “Super Muscle Blast.” After drinking these terrible tasting drinks, I would inevitably have a stomach ache. I eventually stopped drinking them because they did nothing for me. I replaced these drinks with a quality whey protein shake and I finally saw some results. Later on, I learned why those drinks did nothing for me. They were packed with a very low-quality type of protein called collagen (which is why they were so inexpensive).
Collagen is the protein found in connective tissue, cartilage, skin and other “throw away” parts of animals. Hot dogs are packed full of collagen proteins. In fact, most processed and inexpensive meats have lots of collagen. More recently, health and wellness hucksters re-branded this cheap protein as an amazing protein source good for skin, hair, nails and joints while jacking up the price and they became rich in the process.
Not all proteins are created equal. Some are more effective at helping muscle recover and build and are better at promoting health. We have ratings systems for proteins which grade how well they are assimilated and used by our bodies. Generally speaking, animal sources of protein are superior to plant sources. Less animal protein is needed to produce the same muscle recovery and building effects versus plant protein.
Among all protein sources whey and egg are the best. They are effectively used by the human body and studies show that they have the best health and fitness performance benefits. If I made a list of proteins which ranked the best at the top and the worst at the bottom, we would see collagen way down near the bottom. The amino acid profile of collagen is terrible when compared to egg or whey and it’s even ranked lower than some plant sources like soy. Collagen is almost considered an incomplete protein due to its very low amounts of certain key amino acids like tryptophan.
Some studies do show collagen supplementation benefits, but again, these studies look at people who ate low protein diets. The benefits they received were just from having more protein.
If you eat a high protein diet, taking collagen won’t do diddly for you.
Among all of the categories of supplements, far burners are among the most lucrative. This makes sense when you consider that fat loss is the number one fitness goal. Unfortunately, fat burning pills and powders won’t help.
When you examine a bottle of some of the most popular fat burners you will find a list of powerful central nervous system stimulants. Some of them are herbs like bitter orange, while others just have a good dose of caffeine. These stimulants are the nuts and bolts of how fat burners proport to work.
Stimulants rev up your body with energy and, often times, will suppress your appetite. Sounds like a great way to help with fat loss! Not so fast. These effects are very short lived because the body adapts quickly. Tolerance to stimulants can happen in as little as one week and this is when they lose their impact. When you take a stimulant, your body quickly tries to adapt by reducing production of its own natural stimulants like norepinephrine and it down regulates or “shuts down” receptors that stimulants attach to. This is why the amazing effects of coffee don’t seem to last when you drink it daily. After a short period of time, stimulants just bring you up to baseline. In other words, you need them to feel normal. This probably sounds familiar to you if you drink coffee regularly.
Ask anyone who has a daily coffee habit how they feel when they stop drinking coffee. They will tell you how terrible they feel and that they feel bad for at least a week (usually longer) before they feel normal again. Fat burners that are packed with stimulants are like this except MUCH worse.
Sure, you will get an initial bump in energy and a decrease in appetite with a fat burner but after a few weeks this effect completely loses its power. Once you go off the fat burners, you rebound with a higher than normal appetite and lower than normal energy levels. Whatever few pounds you lost in the first few weeks comes back with a vengeance. I have seen this happen to clients more times than I can count.
NOTHING can replace the results you will get from a well-planned workout program and a good diet. VERY few supplements will do anything at all for you. If you have money to spend on your fitness, you are better off hiring a good trainer, investing in a good workout program like MAPS or just buying high-quality food.