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Supplements Worth Your Money

By Darren Nuzzo on Apr 1, 2024 9:00:00 AM
6 Minutes Reading Time


You’re sixteen and have finally convinced your parents to sign you up for a gym membership. You strut through those doors, still rocking your PE shorts from 6th period, ready to turn your twigs into more respectable sticks. But before scanning in at the front desk, the salesman at the supplement shop lures you into his protein palace.

It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Promises of growth, energy, and pumps are stacked high like castles. In a matter of minutes, you’re convinced that this is where muscle is built. You start crunching numbers. “If I mow three lawns a day for five days a week, I can buy one tub of pre-workout every third Friday. And if I gather all my birthday money from grandma and grandpa from the past ten years, I can buy Kre-alkalyn and L-arginine for the year!”

We’ve all been here. Heck, up until 3 months ago, I was still spending $40 a month on Citrulline Malate, despite it making me breakout in rashes. (Is this a testament to supplement companies’ influential marketing tactics or my stupidity? We’ll never know.) The point is, if you’ve ever felt regret or shame about buying some sketchy supplement from a jacked dude in a GNC polo, know you’re not alone.

Okay, so now that we’ve bonded through our shared experience of punting away our paychecks on branch chain amino acids, let’s take a look at where we should go from here. Instead of peddling conspiracy theories about the immoral nature of capitalism and how companies manipulate our psychology to make sales (which, admittedly, is quite tempting), we’ll just focus on what supplements are actually worth your hard-earned money. And luckily for the freelance writer, whose computer battery is at 7%, the list is not very long.

3rd Party Tested Protein Powder

Okay, so this isn’t the answer you wanted. You probably wish I said some obscure peptide you’ve never heard of that you can start implementing into your regimen and reap maximum gains.

The ubiquity of protein makes it feel less important. It’s so available, studied, and accepted that people forget just how anabolic it really is. If you took just the protein powder from a supplement shop and I took everything else, you’d have access to more muscle-building agents than me. That’s an undeniable fact. Yet, if you just looked at my shopping cart compared to yours, you’d envy me.

That’s the thing with supplements. They play off your emotions. The language, images, and marketing tactics are there to deceive you, not educate you. So, in this sea of deception, try to remember what actually builds muscle. And atop that list is high quality protein powder.

Creatine Monohydrate

Creatine Monohydrate, aka the thing your mom thinks is a steroid, hangs near the top of our list of justifiable purchases.

What is it? Creatine is a naturally occurring compound found in foods like meat and fish, and it plays a crucial role in energy production during short bursts of intense activity. When taken as a supplement, it increases the body's stores of phosphocreatine, which is used to rapidly regenerate adenosine triphosphate (ATP). And if you were playing Pokémon Gold under your desk instead of listening to your 9th grade biology teacher (but enough about me), ATP is the primary energy currency of cells.

What does all that even mean? It means that if we supplement with creatine, we’re fueling ourselves to train harder and longer.

Buying your first tub of creatine has long been seen as a right of passage for any skinny kid trying to build muscle. But does that mean you have to take it? Of course not. There’s not a single (legal) supplement that will transform your physique. In the end, these supplements are here to, well, supplement your diet. But creatine powder is a cheap, studied, and safe purchase that can help you push harder in the gym, and for that reason it lands the second spot on our list of supplements worth your money.


There will always be a lot of debate around caffeine, but the back and forth doesn’t have much to do with science. Large groups of people are anti-caffeine for very valid reasons, but mostly personal reasons. For one, caffeine can mask symptoms of poor health. You might not realize how awful you’re sleeping because you’re always running on Dunkin’. Additionally, you might be of the percentage of people who drinks a cup of coffee and experiences crippling anxiety (Pshh. I don’t need caffeine for that). But no matter where you stand, it’s impossible to ignore that caffeine enhances performance for the vast majority of people.

In regard to supplementation, caffeine can be purchased in a million different ways. So where do you start shopping? I suggest basing your purchase off of purity and quality.

Are you buying caffeine or are you buying a crazy concoction of ingredients that just so happens to have some caffeine in it. I’m not against pre-workout supplements, but I do think it’s important people realize that the caffeine in the pre-work is the thing that’s helping their performance — not the sub-efficacious doses of random herbs, Beta Alanine, and red dye 40. It’s worth considering a few brands and seeing what ingredients they are selling you, so you can buy more of the stuff that works and less of the filler.

Wrap up

Remember, the value of a supplement isn’t etched in stone. It all depends on context. If you eat 9 steaks a day, protein powder suddenly becomes a terrible investment. And if you live in Oregon, vitamin D suddenly becomes an amazing investment. 

This blog isn’t your shopping list. Instead, it’s a blueprint of how to analyze what is worth purchasing.

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Darren Nuzzo

Darren Nuzzo is a writer and performer from Huntington Beach, California. When he’s not authoring works of literary fiction or bombing at open mics, he returns to his roots of health and wellness, teaming up with Mind Pump to bring a new voice to the fitness industry.

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