Supplements that Actually Work

The supplement industry is a massive machine that makes a ton of money with products that are constantly promising fat loss, muscle gain, more energy, boosted strength and endurance, etc. Often times consumers don’t even think twice after reading the label. The issue is that the claims made on supplement bottles are NOT regulated by the FDA, and can be blatantly false.

Supplement bottles can literally say whatever they want, and there is a whole lot of pseudoscience going on with their claims. Some of them may even be HARMFUL to consume. Quit waisting your money on supplements that do absolutely nothing for you, and put your focus on those that have actual scientific evidence backing up their claims. In regards to muscle growth, let’s look at what supplements have real scientific evidence, which ones have inconclusive evidence, and which have absolutely zero scientific support for their alleged benefits.

Much of the information in this article is taken from the outstanding Instagram account  Wod_Science – and more specifically from this study.

Supplements with Scientific Support

  • Protein: Protein in foods or in powdered supplements is proven to improve muscle protein balance. Suggested serving is 0.8 – 2.0g per kilogram of body weight per day. Our favorite is Ascent.
  • Creatine: In powder or tablets, creatine is proven to increase energy availability and therefore aid in increased training volume at 3-5 grams per day. Creatine Monohydrate is the cheapest form.
  • Caffeine: Caffeine helps to stimulate the central nervous system and reduces pain perception in training.
  • Nitrates: These can be found in leafy greens or beet roots, they have been proven to increase muscle efficiency and blood flow.
  • N3 Poly Unsaturated Fatty Acids (Omega-3 Fats): When taken in tablets of 800-1200 mg per day, PUFAs N3 are a proven anti-inflammatory and also improve muscle protein balance.

All of the above supplements have scientific evidence that suggests they safely help build muscle and, in our opinion, are worth purchasing if you want to use them as part of your training.

Supplements with Mixed or Unclear Evidence

  • Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs): These are taken in powders and are said to improve muscle protein balance. Most studies of BCAAs suggest Leucine is the most beneficial.
  • ATP: It is proposed that ATP will improve neurotransmission and neuromodulation, as well as increasing blood flow. Some evidence supports its use during repetitive fatiguing movements, but more evidence is needed.
  • Citrulline: Taken in powder or tablets citrulline is argued to be an arginine precursor. Some benefits have been found for Citrulline Malate, but not for L-Citrulline.
  • HMB ( Beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate): HMB claims to improve muscle protein balance and also aid in recovery. However, the benefits were only found for untrained individuals.
  • Minerals (Magnesium, Zinc, Chromium): Claims to promote hormone function. These benefits were highly dependent on the individual’s base mineral levels.
  • Vitamins (D, C, E): Claims to improve mitochondrial function and muscle repair. Only reported to be beneficial in individuals who have vitamin deficiencies.
  • Phosphatic Acid: Claims to improve muscle protein balance. All evidence of benefits in humans is scarce or unclear.
  • Arginine: Claims to increase growth hormone secretion, promote creatine synthesis, and promote Nitric Oxide production. Some benefits were found with long term supplementation, most of the studies have insufficient evidence.

The above supplements are either unclear in their benefits or are only beneficial in particular cases. We suggest these supplements should be secondary to those listed in the first group.

Supplements with No Scientific Evidence

  • Glutamine: Claims to support muscle protein balance. Insufficient or negative effects were observed when taken orally.
  • CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid): Claims to improve muscle protein balance. Studies show mixed and conflicting evidence.
  • aKG (alpha-ketoglutarate): This is the nitrogen free portion of amino acids, sold claiming to improve strength and endurance. Some adverse cardiovascular effects have been detected and no studies have been performed that show long term or lasting benefits.
  • Ornithine: Ornithine is an amino acid that claims to improve athletic performance. There are no studies that support its short or long term effects on muscle mass.

These supplements have no conclusive evidence that show that they work, we suggest not purchasing these.

What is a bit disheartening is that in the research process for a lot of these supplements I found numerous blogs and articles all over the internet explaining their extreme benefits, even those that don’t actually have any scientific backing. I hope this list helps to combat those articles that are making people buy products that aren’t actually helping them. Be careful with what you’re consuming and always be suspicious of the claims on supplement bottles and websites!

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