How To Vet Your Supplements
It’s no secret that one of the most questionable elements in one’s bodybuilding lifestyle is the supplement element. Every single bodybuilder I’ve spoken to, from young beginners to seasoned veterans, has at some point brought up to me what supplements they take, be they over-the-counter GNC supplements, or AAS and other “dark side” things.
The most common question I hear unfortunately, particularly from those using over-the-counter supplements, is “does the supplement I’m taking work?” Rather than answer this question for every single supplement in existence, I’m going to propose a system by which everyone can examine their own supplement stack and decide whether what they’re taking is something they really need and whether it works. I’m going to call this “the three question supplement exam”. If you cannot get satisfactory answers to all three of these questions from a supplement you’re considering taking: don’t take it.
1. Is there scientific evidence to back the claims being made of the supplement?
Obviously, not all of us are pharmacologists or physicians, so the extent to which we can “check the scientific literature” on our own supplements and make an accurate assessment is limited, but it’s still pretty easy to weed out a shocking amount of claims just by checking whether a reputable scientific source has ever written anything about this.
For the sake of brevity I’m going to define “scientific” right now. A person is not scientific literature no matter how accredited they are. Wikipedia is not scientific literature, though if you look at the references at the bottom of wiki pages you can usually find some real “scientific literature” there. Yes the science matters, and if you don’t think that what people studying these compounds for a living have to say about them is important then you may just be too stupid for an effective supplement regimen.
A very simple way to check if your supplement or compound in question does what you expect it to do is to simply use Google Scholar, Examine, or a similar search engine for scientific and scholarly sources and search up whatever it is you’re thinking of taking as a supplement. If you have a supplement but the manufacturer or seller swears up and down will increase endurance, but when you search all the published work on this compound you cannot find a single mention of it increasing endurance, you should probably dismiss what that person told you.
This isn’t to say that I think writers in the bodybuilding community who are doctors or who have degrees in chemistry and nutritional science aren’t qualified, but a lot of the time they are selling something, so using accredited writers as a sole source of information is a bad idea; however, if you follow bodybuilding writers that are very scientific in their approach, you’ll probably be able to find a few references scattered throughout their articles. Always look for at least something published in a scientific journal that mentions your supplement and whatever it is supposed to do in a positive context.
2. Does the effect of this supplement apply to me?
Even though we can pretty broadly generalize the effects of the human body, we can’t dismiss individual variances with regards to any sort of supplements or PEDs. I can’t tell you how many guys I’ve known that avoid, say Deca, because they’ve heard that it can cause bad prolactin issues, but that have never bothered to try and figure out whether they might be one of the people susceptible to those issues or not.
The fact of the matter is that everyone does not respond to every chemical introduced into the human body identically, so some discretion has to be used when deciding whether something might work for you.
In a previous article, I mention the fact that a lot of natural testosterone boosters really only apply to “special population” individuals. This basically means that you might be able to find scientific studies that support vitamin D raising test levels, but the study was only performed on people that were already vitamin D deficient. This means that if you aren’t vitamin D deficient you probably won’t experience the same benefits that are vitamin D deficient person has when this imbalance is fixed.
Whenever considering a supplement, part of your consideration should be whether the answer you got to question one is applicable to you personally. Even if a supplement does what you want it to do, you need to make sure either through the scientific literature, or through careful experimentation whether those effects apply to you as an individual.
3. Are the doses that I’m going to be taking within the active dosage range of this supplement or PED?
It sure doesn’t take a scientific genius to figure out that if a medium dose of testosterone enanthate is 500mg per week, if you’re taking 50mg per week you may not get the results you expect. This is also very common with over-the-counter supplement. The most effective ingredient unfortunately also tends to be the most expensive, which is why you see supplement companies hiding behind proprietary blends and extracts a very in concentrations in order to advertise that their product has a ingredient that doesn’t work, but then conveniently leave out the part in which each serving of the supplement only contains 1/10 of a normal dose of that supplement.
This is probably the easiest of the three questions to answer. Simply check whatever literature you used to answer questions one and two and see what the dosages in question are. You might find out exactly what dosage you should use to get the results you want just from looking at the study, or you may even discover that your initial assessment of the study was wrong because a typical dose is much higher than the one used in the study so maybe the answers to Q1 and Q2 you got aren’t necessarily accurate.
This question is the one in which I think experience has the most value; no one can tell you better what effective doses of tren are then a bodybuilding veteran with a lot of experience with tren. There aren’t exactly a lot of human studies on the topic, so once you verify the basic scientific foundations of the effectiveness of the supplement you want to use, it would be wise to seek the advice of someone that has used it before to determine what an accurate does it. This is particularly true if you are dealing with a compound that has no or very few human studies done on it. You might find a study done on chimpanzees that suggests that a supplement will work, but unless you’re an expert on chimpanzee to human dosage scaling, you should probably have a talk with someone who’s tried the supplement in order to determine a minimum effective dose.
A minimum effective dose is the smallest dose at which you are getting the results from the supplement that you want, and this is the point at which you should always start. Particularly with regard to compounds that have potential he bad side effects, it’s always safer to start low and then increase the dosage if you need more.
Now I’m not claiming to have multiple PhDs and to be able to tell you 100% that if the answer is you get to these three questions are positive you will achieve all of your bodybuilding goals and become Mr. Olympia; however, I can tell you from my personal experience that this three question exam will weed out 95% of the useless crap.
This article is the sole opinion of Nick Trigili. Generation Iron Brands LLC does not condone, support, or advocate any form of illegal drug use.
Nick Trigili is a respected IFBB Pro bodybuilder and trainer. Check him out on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook for more informative content. Also make sure to visit his official personal training website – World Class Trainers.