Are there any safe workout supplements?
June 10, 2009 5:01 PM   Subscribe

Are there any *safe* supplements I can take for added muscle gain/weight loss/etc?

I'm only 20 years old... Perhaps I don't "need" supplements but I sure would like to get more out of my workouts without comprimising my health and wellbeing.

I eat clean 90% of the time - fresh fruits, veggies, home cooked meals, etc. I RARELY eat McDonalds or any other kinds of junk food. Currently I make a protein shake after working out... Two scoops protein powder, nonfat milk, and 1 tbps of flax seed oil... Sometimes some berries and banana.
posted by ascetic to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
What are your goals? What are your workouts like, specifically? Not just "30 minutes of cardio, 30 minutes of weights" but what kind of cardio and weights? Interval training? Lots of max-effort days? Machines? Heavy or light cycling?

Be more specific about your diet--what is your macronutrient breakdown? That is, what percentage comes from carbs, what percentage from fat, what percentage from protein?

All of these questions and details are important. Because really, unless you are the kind of person who keeps track of all of these things, who has a specific workout program with overarching micro and macrocycles, who keeps track of the macronutrient content of their diet, then you are not going to notice what benefits do come from supplements like creatine and whatnot.
posted by Anonymous at 5:17 PM on June 10, 2009

Creating really is an effective and safe supplement for adding mass...I have used it off and on during bulk-up periods. The powdered formulas mostly taste like hell and can contribute to diarrhea.
posted by vito90 at 5:19 PM on June 10, 2009

Find a copy of Natural Bobybuilding magazine. They are usally 52% adds and 48% repetition of "eat eggs and drink whey and take creatine!" Take it from someone who did it.

This book is great, though.
posted by jefficator at 5:32 PM on June 10, 2009

UGH! Creating should be "CREATINE"
posted by vito90 at 5:59 PM on June 10, 2009

Just so you know, that 10% of random crap in your diet can totally undermine whatever progress you might be making otherwise. Read up on nutrient timing and get serious about logging what you're putting into your body and when.

Don't forget the simple supplements: extra C and a B-complex (along with a good multivitamin/multimineral) will go a long way toward optimizing your metabolism.

For what it's worth, I felt really, really gross on creatine: bloated, waterlogged, cranky, dyspeptic, and enduring the double hell of being constantly thirsty and walking around with a perpetual alkaline aftertaste in my mouth. But then, I'm a woman so YMMV.
posted by aquafortis at 6:07 PM on June 10, 2009

I took creatine while playing rugby in undergrad and quit after I left the sport behind. For me, the enhancement appeared to be significant. As an example, after I quit taking it but continued the same workout pattern, my highest bench set dropped from 315x10-12 to struggling for 315x5-6 and has stayed there for the past year despite my best efforts to get back up. Similarly, my weekly rowing times have taken a hit, and so have all my other exercises except power clean, which has increased slightly for whatever reason. My weight has dropped from hovering around 265 to hovering around 245. I actually, I think, look a lot better without it; I have a lot more definition even though I'm not nearly as "meated out."

I'm not going to speculate as to whether creatine is "safe" over the long term, but it was certainly effective and didn't bother me at all over the short term. Get the basic stuff and add your own sugars in the form of juice; buying the expensive "complete" stuff is a waste of money.
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 6:12 PM on June 10, 2009

There has been a ton of literature and studies on Creatine and they've found it to be safe. There were some hinky companies getting their Creatine from bad sources and there is speculation some problems that have popped up are due to that. Other problems may have been due to taking diuretics along with the supplement. I get all my supplements from a company I trust, in my case that's Biotest. I'm not sure what you're specifically looking for and has been said you didn't mention your goals. That makes it a bit harder to recommend something.
posted by P.o.B. at 10:14 PM on June 10, 2009

Creatine worked for me. A few people mentioned the taste and the grittiness, but I put it in green tea with honey and I don't notice it at all.
posted by Who_Am_I at 7:09 AM on June 11, 2009

I tried creatine once early in my working-out years (about 10 years ago). It gave me MASSIVE headaches, and I was guzzling tons of extra water - no matter how much water I drank I still felt dehydrated and thirsty. I'm not knocking it for others because clearly it agrees with some people and works well, but for me it was a complete fail.

Since then I've stuck with protein powders and basic vitamins and healthy eating. I've tried glutamine supplements for a while, but I can't say they made any noticeable difference.
posted by dnash at 8:00 AM on June 11, 2009

Of course, omega-3 fatty acids and branch chain amino acids will probably give you the most results for the money, along with zinc and magnesium supplementation.

Charles poliquin goes into a lot of detail on why these are effective in his columns on t-nation, but in a nutshell: we're all deficient in omega-3 fatty acids because we don't eat enough fish, and what we do eat (beef, chicken) is fed on corn which is very high in omega-6 and low in omega-3. Branch chain amino acids attracted attention at some point in the 1980's when athletic trainers realized they were being used in burn units to prevent victims from wasting away to death, particularly by preserving muscle tissue. Leucine in particular seems to be important in stimulating protein synthesis. He also mentions testing all his athletes for zinc/magnesium deficiency and noted something obscene like 80-90% deficiency.

That said, if you're not eating 1-2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight a day, that should be your primary supplement.
posted by zentrification at 4:06 PM on June 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

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