Posts Tagged ‘supplements’

It is in vogue to simply recommend products to people.  However, this is inherently biased for a number of reasons and to begin with, I’m going to avoid it.  It is also time sensitive and I don’t wish to have this entire concept become outdated in short order.   So for Part 1, I’m going to equip you with the tools to evaluate products yourself.  If you want to try your mettle, you can argue with my product recommendations in Part 2.

There are several ingredients that may appear in pre-workouts you’ll first want to consider that I don’t categorize as “pre-workout ingredients” since they do not need to be dosed pre-workout.   The ones that I expect you to see that I have already covered in my Your Guide to Supplements – Part 2 article are:

Creatine and Beta-Alanine

With no further ado, ingredient recommendations along with dosage suggestions:

Nitrates:  These are surprisingly well-studied and have benefits for just about any kind of athlete.  This is the one ingredient that is actually an exogenous source of nitric oxide.  Yeah, that buzzword from the 1990s…finally, nitrates are the ingredient that deliver it.  Benefits include maximal strength gain, endurance increase, and sometimes intense pumps.  Depending on what kind of workout you follow, you should notice at least one if not all of these effects.  Too high of a dose Word to the wise: you cannot buy something that is simply nitrates.  It is not stable in powder form, so it is typically bonded with an amino acid or creatine.  1 gram of creatine nitrate yields a roughly ideal dose of nitrates (be aware that it does not yield enough creatine, so you will need to purchase extra creatine from somewhere).   There are also a few products that bind it to leucine, beta-alanine and others.  Look for something ending in nitrate.  Finally, don’t buy a product that has a plant extract for nitrates.  The most popular extract is beet root and it takes 100s of grams of beet root to yield an effective nitrate dose.   Nobody can possibly dose it properly in a preworkout powder.

Citrulline Malate (or just L-Citrulline) : Citrulline malate is not abundantly researched in humans but does have one study in particular that showed very nice results and there is enough animal study, common sense, and anecdote to recommend it.  This works through nitric oxide as well, though it is endogenous and therefore has a theoretical limitation compared to nitrates.  Using them both in conjunction seems ideal.  Malic acid (the malate) has its own endurance benefits as well.  The sourcing of this is more straightforward than nitrates, but the ratio of citrulline to malic acid is a worthy question to ask.  What we’re beginning to see is companies selling citrulline malate products that are almost all malate, the cheaper ingredient.  You want a 1:1 ratio preferably.  If you’re looking to buy in bulk, buy from SNS and no one else. Dosing: 2-8 grams of 1:1 citrulline malate

L-Carnitine-L-Tartate (LCLT): This is a form of the famed carnitine that actually works.  L-carnitine in its normal form doesn’t do much of anything, but some of its altered forms like LCLT do in fact do something.  LCLT, when taken pre-workout (preferably hours pre-workout, but normal timing is okay) can increase both intra-workout and post workout recovery.  I don’t think these benefits need any extra explanation, you want those benefits if you can get them. Dosing: 1-2 grams 

Creatinol-O-Phosphate:  First of all, no, this is not a form of creatine.  The naming similarity is just coincidence.  Not all of the methods of action are currently known, but there is good research backing this supplement.  This shares some similarities in effect to nitric oxide supplements like the aforementioned, but has a different method of action.  It increases the amount of ATP (the basic unit of cellular energy) in the muscles which allows for greater strength, greater endurance, and even better intra-workout recovery.  Sounds great, right?  Well, to date there is no pre-workout product that doses it effectively.  Why?  Well, it is fairly expensive.  If you see it near the end of a proprietary blend, you can rest assured it is underdosed and just there to catch your eye.  Moreover, Patrick Arnold has tested almost every mainstream supplier and found that most are selling a bunk product.  If yours reacts with baking soda by fizzing, it is okay.  If not, you have a problem.  The only legitimate brand I know of is SNS at this point.  Dosing: 2-3 grams

Nootropics: Some of these work, but they are incredibly user dependent and there are just too many to name.  Some to look for include: glucuronolactone, DMAE, rhodiola rosea, l-theanine, ginkgo biloba, ALCAR, and countless others.   These are different than stimulants and are usually added to a caffeine-based focus blend to help enhance the effects of caffeine, especially to remove the jittery effect of caffeine and oftentimes to add to a more focused and/or euphoric feeling.   It will likely take some experimenting to figure these out if you want to know which you like and which you don’t.   These can be used in non-stimulant formulas, but the chances of a felt effect are drastically reduced. Dosing varies greatly

Ingredients with less clinical backing, but strong user feedback and may reflect well on the formulator of a product

AgmatineThis is an ingredient that is unresearched in humans for exercise but has some intriguing physiological effects that may extend beyond the scope of exercise.  User reports usually note the pump effect along with some other ergogenic benefits and a few users note better overall well-being or nutrient partitioning.  These claims are hard to verify anecdotally.  It is not a terribly expensive ingredient, however, and may be worth a shot to see how it works for you.  Dosing: 500mg-1 gram

L-Leucine: A quick dosing of leucine preworkout while in a fasted state follows the protocol of the studies that led to mass use of BCAA supplements.   I do not suggest BCAA supplements but if you are fasted (like training first thing in the morning), the correct dose of leucine before you work out can trigger MPS (muscle protein synthesis).  You want that.  Dosing: roughly 4 grams

That’s it for now.  I may expand this list at a later time if research and innovative formulations come about.  If you think I can’t possibly have gotten them all, well, I probably haven’t.  However, there really just aren’t many ingredients that work.  Beware of products with a million ingredients.


EDIT: This story has had further developments, which I have attempted to conclude at this link.

Anyone that is involved in the supplement industry is aware that Driven Sports Craze has been one of the biggest talking points in the supplementation world for a little while now.  Many users reported unparalleled focus, mood boost, etc.  A few users have had negative side effects and another few have just had no effects.  I personally was somewhere between no effect and bad side effects.

The gist of the following lawsuit found first at (not familiar with the website, but I have seen the court documents which tell me this must be a real thing) is mainly alleging that Craze is spiked with amphetamine or perhaps an analogue.  There is no evidence produced but I hope no legal firm would go forward with this unless there was a lab report somewhere.  I do not have info on Aaron Karmann, the plaintiff, but I’m looking to see if he’s affiliated within the industry.  There have been rumors of this nature since the release of Craze, but to some extent that comes with the territory when you have a supplement that works differently/better than predecessors.

Other parts of the lawsuit include complaints that even the listed ingredients are not legal due to red tape within FDA regulations.  I am not sure how valid these claims are and frankly don’t care much unless Dendrobex is what contains this amphetamine analogue.  Driven Sports claims Dendrobex comes from dendrobium, a long used Chinese medicine ingredient.

A couple things of note:

1. PEA, a perfectly useful and legal stimulant that is on Craze’s label, is technically an amphetamine analogue.  I doubt there will be a legal case to be made if it turns out that the plaintiff is simply anti-PEA.

2. There are no tests offered among the legal documents.  It is possible that the plaintiff plans to produce the tests in court, but at this point it would be unfair to simply assume that DS has spiked the product.

3. This is NOT an FDA case.  This is a lawsuit, as in seeking MONEY.  That doesn’t necessarily make it less legitimate, but there is zero involvement from the FDA at this point and it is simply a man suing Driven Sports and will let other California residents that purchased Craze split the compensation should the lawsuit win.

4. The court date is set for September 2012.

UPDATE: I’ve done a little more digging on the plaintiffs.  Look here for details.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (CN) – A diet supplement maker is selling a mislabeled amphetamine with claims that it is “safe” and “helps put you in a fantastic mood,” a man claims in a class action in Superior Court.
Lead plaintiff Aaron Karmann sued Driven Sports, claiming its Craze diet supplement contains amphetamine, “a dangerous ingredient which is regulated as a controlled substance and a dangerous stimulant in California and thus cannot be lawfully included in a dietary supplement.
A visit to Driven Sports’ website on Tuesday found this ad: “Imagine having something available that helps you train BEYOND YOUR LIMITS. Imagine endless energy. No weight is too great and no personal record is safe. That something would give you unmatched results, where others have failed. That something is Craze”!, the ultimate in pre-workout power!”
But Karmann says: “Defendant claims that the product is a ‘dietary supplement’ which is legal, safe, and efficacious. In reality, the product is intentionally tainted with amphetamine, the illegal and dangerous controlled substance that is not declared as an ingredient on the product’s label.”
He claims that defendant’s product “is intentionally tainted with amphetamine, the illegal and dangerous controlled substance that is not declared as an ingredient on the product’s label.”
The complaint adds: “Defendant makes representations regarding the efficacy, safety and legality of the product which are false, misleading and deceptive. These include, without limitation, that Craze is ‘safe,’ that it ‘helps put you in a fantastic mood and enhances your focus,’ that it is ‘designed to enhance your workouts and enhance your progress,’ and that it can be used by students for studying.
“Plaintiff and members of the class relied on defendant’s misrepresentations and would not have paid as much, if at all, for the products but for defendant’s misrepresentations. As a result, defendant has wrongfully taken millions of dollars from California consumers. Plaintiff brings this lawsuit to enjoin the ongoing defrauding of thousands of California consumers by defendant, and to recover the money taken by its illegal practices.”
Karmann seeks an injunction, costs, restitution, disgorgement, and punitive damages.
He is represented by Scott Ferrell with the Newport Trial Group, of Newport Beach.

It’s time to talk about where to buy your supplements if you choose to use them.  For what it’s worth, this article applies to USA only.  I honestly don’t feel like doing the research for each and every country.

Brick and mortar stores (GNC, Vitamin Shoppe, Complete Nutrition, others) – I’ve yet to see any chain store that is worth going to.  They are overpriced vs online retailers by as much as 50% for just about everything.  Unless you need something ASAP and are willing to overpay, there is literally no reason to go to any of these places.  Selection is generally terrible and restricted to the many huge brands that don’t make very effective products.  I haven’t even run into a sale that is worth dealing with.

I’ve touched on this elsewhere, but their salesmen are terrible.  Most are uninformed, and even more are just plain biased.  They get paid on commission for certain companies and products and will push you to use those more often than not.  Of course, the more things you buy, the more they get paid.  They will make it seem like you need this, that, and the other thing when that is rarely the case.   I’ve seen them give extremely unsafe advice before, to the peril of friends of mine.

Just stay away from these places.

Online Buying

An enormous portion of the supplement industry is moved online.  Up and coming brands as well as some very established ones can only be found on the net.  Even for brands you can find in brick and mortar stores, you’re saving an immense amount by buying online.  Generally, shipping prices are very fair, even on heavy proteins (many have flat rate shipping).  This isn’t necessarily a comprehensive list, but it should cover most of your bases. is a good place to check out, but some of these sites tend to even beat the sales at other sites.

These aren’t listed in any particular order, outside of which ones I expect you may have heard of down to the ones I don’t think you’ve heard of. – This is by far the biggest online supplement retailer (also referred to as for short).  They have a massive selection, good customer service, flat-rate shipping, and a lot of non-supplement items for sale.  The rub is that this is one of the higher priced online retailers, even with the 10% coupons that are always around (check the forum or your email for the current coupon).  They have gone away from almost every company that was involved in prohormone sales since they were raided by the FDA in 2009.  There are some very good and reliable brands that they have elected not to carry due to this, but they sell enough that it just doesn’t matter to them.  I usually don’t buy here unless they have a particularly good sale going on.

NutraPlanet – While there are no official numbers, NutraPlanet may be the second largest online retailer.  They tend to sell for less than, but also don’t have coupons.  They run more frequent and better sales than  Shipping is flat-rate, quick, and customer service is good.  They don’t carry as many brands, but have a better overall brand selection than  There are very small coupons for large orders.

Lockout Supplements – Lockout is a relatively small operation with one goal: to sell everything for less than their bigger competitors.  While they don’t have an enormous selection, it is very solid.  Again, everything is bottom of the barrel pricing and there are always 5% coupons (try “facebook”) around, 10% on holidays.  Be aware, though, that Lockout sells a good deal of prohormones and I don’t recommend these to anyone, really.  Just be careful and don’t buy something that you don’t know what it is.  Look for Lockout’s Deal of the Day, it is often the lowest price you’ll ever see that particular supplement.

Sports Nutrition Online (SNO) – You’ll probably hear some mixed opinions about SNO.  There was some drama several months ago with a company they shared a warehouse with — that company sold prohormones and the FDA raided the warehouse, causing a temporary shutdown at SNO.  This caused some customer service issues and there are now some folks that do not care to purchase there.  What those folks are missing out on is a revamped customer service team and some unbelievable sales.  In part to gain back customer trust, they have been selling popular supplements well below cost.  They will also give big discounts on supplements that are near their expiration date.  There are occasionally 5% coupons circulating, you can ask about it on their forum.  If a reader of an article orders from there has a problem with an order, you can contact me because I have friends at their corporate office.

Get Ripped Nutrition – This is a brick and mortar/online combo operation out of California.  They run a store but move much more online than in-store.   Prices are good, usually falling between and Lockout, but they run great specials and Daily Deals.  Shipping is reliable but not always super quick, unless you’re local.  They’ve had a special on Quest Bars for a while that is unbeatable.  They offer quantity discounts and free shipping, alongside a referral program.  The owner is a great guy that you can’t feel bad about buying from.

SmartPowders – This website shines when it comes to bulk ingredients.  While they have a pretty nice brand selection and run some nice sales, what sets SmartPowders apart is their single ingredient products.  If you’re interested in nootropics, you should already be familiar with SmartPowders.  The owner is a self-proclaimed quality control watchdog of the industry, so you should think that quality control and meeting label claims shouldn’t be a big issue.  You can email their customer service and ask him for Certificates of Authenticity, I’d imagine.


As much as I want to say something about Universal’s amazing labeling, I’ll let it speak for itself.

Moving on…mixing protein and oats, perhaps the best complex carb source, is not a novel idea. Bodybuilders have been choking down homemade protein+oats concoctions for years. A few companies had attempted to pre-package it, with mixed and largely disgusting results. Just recently, a few have managed to make viable products that are both drinkable and contain these two dietary staples. A major contender in this category is Universal Pro & Oats.

Profile: Summary: 190 cals, 2.4g fat, 17g carbs, 7g fiber, 7g sugar, 25g protein

This is one of a few versatile MRP’s out there. I call it versatile because it isn’t loaded with a lot of unneeded calorie sources. In whole milk, you have yourself a nice gainer. In water, you have a meal suited for moderate carb cutting diets. In skim milk, you have a meal replacement that fits in most normal diets. I’m very pleased with the fiber content – people that are in need of MRP’s are often short on fibrous vegetables and the like. As mentioned, oats are as good as it gets when it comes to carb sources. Universal didn’t slack on protein sourcing either: a blend of ultra-filtrated WPC, whey isolate, calcium caseinate, and egg albumin. There are 7 grams of sugar, which is the main chink in the armor in the profile – I’m not sure why it’s there or where it’s coming from. I see honey powder and evaporated cane juice on the ingredients list, so I’m guessing they are the culprits. With 7g fiber and 7g sugar, we have 17g total carbs. Only 3g of complex carbs? I’m not sure what’s going on there.

We see here the scooper, which is cool and I’ll be using it to measure other products as well. It has several units of measurement. The next picture is the powder mixed in water, then in skim milk. Not a huge qualitative difference between the two, visually.

Consistency and Mixability: These two are hard to separate for me. First of all, this product mixes extremely well. It hardly took any shaking to get rid of any clumps, not that I could see any in the first place. The main thing to note is that oats are not made to mix – hence the reason bodybuilders have “choked” them down for ages. Universal did a nice job of grinding them down to an almost insignificant amount. However, there will be settling and I put a picture of that below. You’ll want to periodically shake to alleviate this issue. This did not really harm its consistency, though. There was a slight graininess, but it isn’t bad at all. Just be careful not to let it all settle at the bottom or else your last sips will not be pleasant. 9/10

Taste: It surprised me here the instance it hit my tongue. First of all, it wasn’t gross . Second of all, my reaction my first drink was this is WAY too rich. The flavor is Rich Chocolate, so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. It is very much a dark chocolate, as opposed to milk chocolate. After that first sip, I found the richness to be rather pleasant. It masks completely the inherently bad taste of both protein and oats. Moreover, I like the taste it leaves in my mouth. A lot of protein and other milk products have a poor aftertaste after you’ve finished eating/drinking. This left a nice chocolatey taste in my mouth. This can be important if you are using this on the go, where you don’t have constant access to mouth wash and such. I honestly didn’t note a big difference between the taste in water and milk. This is in fact one of the better chocolates I’ve had, though not the best. 8.5/10

Overall: Very solid product, here. What I haven’t mentioned is the price point, which is under $1/serving. This gives it a huge leg up on competitors, that are often .30-1.00 more expensive per serving. I’d like to see this picked up at more retailers to see how competitive that price gets. This helps amnesty it from the odd issue with the sugars/total carbs and slight settling. Taste is very good and should not be a deterrent for anyone. If you enjoy dark chocolate, jump on this one, for sure. As far as an MRP with a good carb source goes, Pro & Oats is a major contender for best in class. There are a couple issues I pointed out, but it nonetheless may be something that finds its way on my shelf for the foreseeable future. I don’t mean to discourage its use as an every day protein, either – it certainly can do that.

And a huge thanks to naturalguy and Universal for sending this tub out to me to try out. Naturalguy offered to send it to me completely unprovoked when I mentioned that I thought it looked like a good product based on label/price in a thread. This goes to show you what kind of people are working for Universal and the way they believe in their product.

For the forum version of this review, look here for some more responses:


This new pre-workout from Gaspari Nutrition hasn’t hit shelves yet, but I’m lucky enough to have been sent a bottle from them.  I’ve tested out some other products for them (SuperPump MAX and MyoFusion Probiotic) and as a gift, they sent me this as well.  Gaspari is certainly a generous company.  Since this hasn’t hit shelves yet, I thought I’d give a little tease so folks can see the label, etc.  After a few uses, I’ll post my initial thoughts as well.

This is a non-stimmed pre-workout product.  Therefore, I don’t expect interest to reach fever pitch like their SuperPump products or competitor’s products like Jack3d and Hemo Rage, etc.  However, non-stimmed products can be great for people cycling off stimulants (you’ll find an article from me about this topic soon) or just to safely stack with pre-workouts that do have stimulants.

I’m not terribly familiar with some of the ingredients here, but the nitrates in the beet root alone should be good for pumps and endurance.  I’ve seen pterostilbene in more general health type of products before so I’m interested in what it’s function is here.  The NOSPEP is supposedly the star in this formula, and I’m going to have to do some more research before saying much about that either.  Wouldn’t want to keep you all waiting though 😀

Anyways, look for a review coming soon!



As promised, the multivitamin discussion from Part 2 of the Supplement Guide needs more expansion.  Since this is a dietary supplement that has mass appeal across the public, I wanted to address this first.  We waste a lot of money, as a public, on multivitamin supplements.  Are they useless? Maybe not.

First thing is first – there is a lot of research out there and you’ve probably read news articles citing some study that says that multivitamins are bad.  There are a variety of problems with some of the research.  For instance, there have been several done on terminally ill people.  I don’t think any of us believe that multivitamins will reverse heart disease or cure already existing cancers.  Moreover, in other studies, researchers have not put testers under any kind of lifestyle constraints.  I think readers would also agree that multivitamins aren’t going to fix unhealthy lifestyles.  An even larger scale problem with multivitamin research is the multivitamins used themselves.  In reading, I usually see that vitamins/minerals used are not nearly as comprehensive as almost any available multivitamin.  An even larger issue is one that even fitness and supplementation veterans don’t know of – there are different forms of each vitamin/mineral, and for this reason, not all multivitamins are created equal.  Dirt cheap, Centrum-esque multivitamins that are using the most inexpensive sources available to spruce up the label are almost without fail what is used in multivitamin studies.

So should you take them or not?  The first suggestion is always to eat a well-balanced diet, rich in fruits and vegetables.  This is always a good start, but not fool-proof and some of us don’t have the resources to buy the best quality foods either.  All in all, it’s likely a good diet will save you from deficiencies.  However, we don’t live our lives merely avoiding deficiency, do we?  You wouldn’t be reading a fitness blog if you just wanted to “get by.”  This is a big part of the flaw in the DV (daily value) that is displayed on nutrition labels these days.  I will quote the Linus Pauling Institute’s statement on the DV:

Similar to food labels, the DVs listed on supplement labels do not reflect the latest recommendations (i.e., the RDA and AI) from the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) of the U.S. Institute of Medicine; instead, most of the DVs are based on outdated recommendations made in 1968 (2). The DVs for vitamin A and biotin are considerably higher than the current FNB recommendations, but supplement manufacturers may include these vitamins at levels similar to the current recommendation and list that a tablet contains only a fraction of the DV. DVs of many micronutrients are significantly higher than the corresponding RDAs

If you look at some of their charts, there is a lot of conflict as to what the lower amounts is.  Also, you don’t absorb/use the exact amount that you ingest, either.  The main moral of the story is that you need not really pay attention to those percentages on the label.  Multivitamins could possibly be insurance to not just keep you above deficiency level, but well into sufficiency. They are considered safe, but as I discussed in my Supplement Guide, there isn’t conclusive evidence in favor of multivitamin use.  I also have told you that the most commonly tested multivitamins are either incomplete or use ineffective forms.

Let’s talk some more about vitamin and mineral forms.  It may not have occurred to you that there is more than one substance that will yield each vitamin and mineral.  Most multivitamins will list the vitamin, then in parentheses, the form.  If it doesn’t tell you the forms, don’t buy it!  If your multi was using good forms, it would want to effectively brag about it by listing them.  I’ll first talk about Vitamin B12 because it is one of the most expensive components of a multivitamin.  There are several different compounds that show up as Vitamin B12.  The most common is called cyanocobalamin.  Cyanocobalamin is the cheapest form of B12 available and breaks down into the co-enzyme form, methylcobalamin, in the body.   The reason this is an issue is because it is rather inefficient, not to mention the fact that it breaks down into cyanide (not enough to truly matter, though).  Better forms of vitamins and minerals are important because cheap forms generally are going to be so inefficient that it ends up being useless.  Methycobalamin is the form that you’ll look for in a better multivitamin because it is generally the most expensive component – chances are that if your multi won’t shell out for methylcobalamin, it won’t have other good forms of vitamins.

In lieu of describing the differences in each and every vitamin form, I thought I’d make a list of superior forms for you to look for when evaluating a multivitamin supplement.  You can look for more description at the Linus Pauling Institute Website.  Not every vitamin and mineral has a variety of forms, so if you don’t see one listed, that’s why.

Vitamin A: retinol is best, beta-carotene is good
Vitamin B1: Benfotiamine
Vitamin B2/Riboflavin: Riboflavin 5′-Phosphate
Vitamin B3/Niacin: Inositol Hexanicotinate
Vitamin B5: Pantethine
Vitamin B6: pyridoxal 5′-phosphate
Vitamin B12: methylcobalamin or adenosylocobalamin
Vitamin C: ascorbic acid, rose hips, magnesium ascorbate
Vitamin E: Mixed tocopherols and tocotrienols or NATURAL Alpha-Tocopherol (sometimes labeled as RRR-alpha tocopherol or d-alpha-tocopherol)
Vitamin K: menatetrenone (MK-4)
Magnesium: Magnesium bis-glycinate or magnesium malate
Calcium: Calcium citrate or calcium malate
Other minerals?  Look for the words chelate or malate at the end, in general.  It’s difficult to make an all encompassing list.

There will be good multivitamins that don’t have EVERY one of those forms, and if you would rather just get a suggestion from me, I will be doing just that now.   If you don’t see any on your current multi, though, then you should probably steer clear.  Given the price of raw ingredients, if you’re buying a 6 month supply for $10 or something equally ridiculous, then the forms can’t be any good (or the company isn’t interested in making money, and I doubt that).

A quick note on tablets vs capsules.  It seems that capsules are the preferred form due to ease of delivery.  It is, of course, more difficult to pack as many substances into a capsule so generally it takes more capsules to get the same amount of “stuff.”  Many tablets are okay, but some tablets use a glue that cause the tablet to never get broken down in the digestive tract.  These will generally be larger than their capsule counterparts, if you have difficulty swallowing.  The last thing to know before we venture into the world of good multivitamins, be advised that you will not see any one-a-day multis.  This is because a well-dosed and well-sourced multivitamin simply cannot fit into a single tablet or capsule that can be swallowed.

On to some recommendations, starting with the best (and highest priced).

AOR Orthocore is considered by most to be the Rolls-Royce of multivitamin/multimineral supplements – and the price tag reflects that.  If you have the resources, this is the one to get.

The next highly priced multi I’ve found is the Daily Energy Multiple Vitamin.  I’m honestly astonished at the forms in this multi – it’s really excellent.

Here is THE best multivitamin on a budget.  It’s such an excellent mixture of good forms and price that I wonder how much money is even made on it.  If you’re a man or post-menopausal woman, get the iron-free variety.  Source Naturals Life Force

Controlled Labs Orange Triad is another great choice for those that don’t want to break the bank for a good multivitamin.  Despite the appearance of the labels, I can vouch for the respectability of the brand.  The unique part of this multivitamin is that fully dosed joint, digestive, and immune complexes are included.  One should remember that joint supplements have made my “Supplements That Work” list.

Gaspari Nutrition Anavite is another nice multivitamin that is really defined by its extras.  The forms are very solid, but it also includes Beta-Alanine and LCLT.  Beta-alanine is on my “Supplements That Work” list and I consider LCLT to be a very promising “maybe.”  These are both fully dosed.  This is a little bit more expensive than my other two money-saving options, but if you planned to supplement beta-alanine or LCLT anyway, this will really help with convenience.  Make sure you take 6 tabs (2 servings) per day for full beta-alanine/LCLT dosing.  Sweet looking label too.

SAN Dr. Feel Good is new to the market but is getting rave reviews for its extras as well – a mood/focus enhancing nootropic complex.  It is just a tick below the others in terms of vitamin and mineral forms, but the mind complex may be intriguing to you.  I will warn that it is less price competitive than the past few recommendations, so that is up to you to consider.  This would fall under the category of a multivitamin you should “feel.”

Do I use a multivitamin? Well, I’ve gone through some.  I’ve used several bottles of Orange Triad, which is a favorite because of the joint support.  I’ve discontinued use because Life Force is a bit cheaper and I’m dubious about whether I need the joint support – I’m still pretty young and don’t have any joint problems to speak of.  If I start getting an aching knee, though, I’ll be eating my words!  I also ran through a tub of Anavite, and did enjoy the convenience of the beta-alanine.  I now use the tub as a pencil holder.

This is not meant to be a comprehensive list of effective multis, but this should be a nice start if you don’t want to risk trying to evaluate by yourself.  If you’re looking for the cheapest possible, Life Force is it.  Other, cheaper multi’s are (all the ones I’ve ever seen) all too poorly formulated to be worth taking.  A well balanced diet far exceeds what a poor multivitamin can do.  A poor diet and a poor multivitamin is still without merit.  Do the best with your diet, and get the best multivitamin you can afford, if you want one.

Links for further research:


If you haven’t read Part 1, start there.

Reminder that this will be a fluid list – I will add things I’ve left out and update as more information becomes available. 

Moving on – I’ve left you knowing that supplements are FAR lower on the list of priorities than things like your diet and workout program.  I’ve also let you with some knowledge of where to get your info and where NOT to get your info.  Now I’m going to give you what you probably were looking for in the first place: supplements that you CAN take.  I say can because I can never say you SHOULD take supplements, they simply are not needed.

I’m going to break this down by categories first.  I’m not going to talk specific products here, and only touch on particular ingredients.  Eventually, I will write individual articles on each category and link them here.


PROTEIN: Supplemental protein is the most basic and widely heard of category of dietary supplements.  While you do need to take precaution that a company is reputable enough to meet label claims, it is basically true that protein is protein.  It is always best to try to get all of your protein via diet, but I understand especially well as a college student that this can be both difficult and expensive.  For those times, you have supplemental protein.  Whey, casein, rice, etc. doesn’t matter.  The only one to avoid is soy.  This has been shown to have an estrogen increasing effect in men.  However, don’t worry about moderate soy intake in foods – just don’t make it a primary source of protein and you’ll have no issues.  The final word of advice on these is not to buy the hype that you must take protein immediately post-workout, before bed, or any other particular time.  As I told you in my diet article, there is no evidence that nutrient (protein is a nutrient) timing is of relevance to non-endurance athletes.  As long as you consider protein as a food source and try your best to consume all of your protein via whole foods, I can say that supplemental protein works without reservation.  Just try to find one that tastes good and you enjoy drinking.

CREATINE: Creatine is a supplement that works.  However, it is a very misunderstood supplement so let’s discuss that quickly.  For one, it is completely safe.  Those that associate it with liver/kidney issues are misunderstanding medical signs.  To ease your fears, I will try to explain this – creatine supplementation will increase creatinine (see the spelling difference) levels in your system.  For non-supplement users, raised creatinine levels can be a sign of a medical issue.  Raised creatinine is an effect of a medical condition, not the cause of it.  Therefore, the increase in creatinine from creatine use is harmless.

Moving on from that, creatine is the most studied dietary supplement, ever.  It definitely works and it has become very affordable.  You need to know that there are different kinds of creatine, though.  The most common and arguably best form is creatine monohydrate.  It is cheap, effective, and most proven.  There are other “designer creatines” that vary in their cost, effectiveness, and prevalence.  The one of these to avoid is Creatine Ethyl Ester (CEE) – this has been proven ineffective.  Why use something other than creatine monohydrate?  There is a possibility that some people are pre-disposed to be nonresponders to creatine, and some of these other forms may help non-responders in particular.  Likewise, some good “designer creatines” may help speed absorption.  If you must get a more expensive form, try these: magnesium creatine chelate (MCC) and/or creatine malate.

The last bit on creatine is usage: for creatine monohydrate, the basic guideline is 5 grams daily.  There is no loading phase and there is no need to cycle it.  You will reach saturation after about a month and there isn’t a way to accelerate this (more isn’t better).  Once you are saturated, it won’t take as much to stay saturated but nonetheless it may be simpler to keep going at 5 grams daily.

A warning – this is not steroids.  You will not get some huge 30 pound increase on your bench press in a month or get some notable physique change.  The main effect you should notice is an added rep or so in moderate rep sets (4-6 reps).

BETA-ALANINE: While creatine is the most studied ingredient, beta-alanine is coming in second.  Almost all research shows beta-alanine to be effective at increasing endurance (think the 8-12 rep range).  Of course, it’s clear that a few more reps will be constructive for getting stronger.  You can get beta-alanine in a pre-workout type of beverage, but it doesn’t matter what time of day that you take it.  It is also best if you take it in two different doses.  Research shows it’s effectiveness between 3.2-6.4 grams per day, taken in at least two separate doses.  You may experience tingling of the skin with beta-alanine, but this is harmless and goes away with more usage.  Splitting doses and taking with carbohydrates can help to further alleviate this effect.  As I warned you with creatine, this is not a miracle substance: it will also take several weeks to reach saturation and even at that time you won’t turn into Superman.  We’re talking a couple added reps at the end of high rep sets here.

PRE-WORKOUT STIMULANTS:  One of the most popular categories of supplementation is the pre-workout drink.  The main reason that casual users find these to be effective is the stimulant content of these drinks.  It is definitely true that caffeine has energy, cognitive, and performance benefits.  The newly popular 1,3 dimethyamylamine (DMAA, geranamine, geranium oil/extract) is similarly effective and can have some benefits for those that are used to caffeine usage.  However, there are side effects and tolerance concerns that motivate me not to recommend DMAA.  Likewise, rumor has it that DMAA will soon be banned.  Nonetheless, I can tell you that caffeine works.  I will say that most pre-workout drinks sold in stores are a bunch of junk with caffeine sprinkled on top – but the caffeine is something you can feel.  If you are not informed on common pre-workout ingredients, I suggest you take a caffeine tablet or a cup of coffee for now if you must have something.  There will be more information coming later in this article and in a separate one (click here!) that should help you choose your pre-workouts more effectively.

JOINT SUPPLEMENTS: If you have joint issues, start with Glucosamine, Chondroitin, and MSM.  There are many products that combine the three, including a popular multivitamin.  Another ingredient you’ll want to look for is called cissus.  Also, fish oil may help your joint health (but more on that in a minute).  These are simple and relatively cost effective supplements that can make a real difference in the way you feel, especially as you age.  Also, these can make for excellent prevention (though not foolproof).

FISH OIL (EPA/DHA): First, when you hear about fish oil, we’re talking about the Omega 3 fatty acids DHA and EPA.  The rest of the fat and Omega 3 content in your fish oil supplement is unneeded.  This is important because you will have to look at the label to know how much EPA and DHA there is vs. the total fish oil content.  Research suggests your best dose will be between 2000-3000mg combined EPA and DHA, so you will likely have to take more caplets than the label suggests.  You also need to factor this in when you calculate the cost effectiveness of your fish oil.

So what does it do?  As mentioned before, it does have joint health benefits. It also is known to have some muscle enhancing/anti-inflammatory effects.  More importantly, it has noted heart and brain health benefits that are very important in the long term.  These Omega 3’s are a big part of a healthy diet but are largely absent in American cuisine.


MULTIVITAMINS: This is a can of worms and has warranted its own article for more discussion.  Studies on your run of the mill, one-a-day, Centrum-esque multivitamins have shown them to be ineffective for the most part.  It seems pretty clear that cheap multivitamins that don’t source well (more on that in the multivitamin article) do NOT work though.  If you’re shopping at Wal-Mart for your multi, just save your money.  However, there is research on some individual vitamin and mineral forms that suggest some of them should work.  The main issue here is that you’re not supposed to “feel” a multivitamin, even if it is working.  Also, we’re not generally deficient to a dangerous extent very often in any particular vitamin/mineral.  Finally, there is just not enough conclusive research either way for me to say definitively that they are worth it.

FAT BURNERS: This is the most tantalizing category for people and I hesitate to even give it the “maybe” status.  A more accurate description would be “doesn’t work as described.”  It’s hard to paint with a broad brush, but most fat burners are stimulant-based.  With the ban of ephedrine and the side effects common to many other stimulants, almost all fat burners feature caffeine as the key ingredient.  The truth is that there is some usefulness to caffeine and a few other stimulants.  For one, there is “thermogenic” effect that will cause a marginal increase in metabolism.  You would literally feel warmer using this type of thing.  Also, some will experience a notable decrease in appetite when using stimulants.  There’s no doubt why that would be useful when dieting.  However, there’s no evidence of any direct fat burning property for fat burners.  Two more things: 1. Fat burners don’t make up for a poor diet – you will only drop fat when in a caloric deficit.  and 2. Stimulants act as a diuretic, so a higher than normal dose of stimulants can cause you to lose upwards of 5 pounds of water.  So don’t fall for the miracle drug because you lost a few pounds of water.

BCAAs: Branched Chain Amino Acids have become very popular in the industry.  BCAAs are very important physiologically.  The real question is whether you need to supplement them directly or if your protein consumption is enough.  There are a ton of people using BCAA products swearing that they enhance recovery and endurance.  However, there isn’t any sound research that tells us that supplemental BCAAs are useful for these functions.  The research out there has been riddled with conflicts of interest.  I invite you to read this link for more discussion on this controversial topic.

OTC SLEEP AIDS: A relatively popular area of supplementation are sleep enhancers.  There are a few that help induce sleep, and many others help with staying asleep.  I say these “might” work for several reasons: some in this category don’t work at all, some will work for some people, and there is also a strong potential for placebo.  For instance, the most popular (and ubiquitous) ingredient in this category is melatonin.  This is only useful for people who have hormonal imbalances.  However, many people take it and since they have peace of mind that they will sleep well, they do in fact sleep well and swear by it.  Another popular sleep aid is ZMA, and this can be effective for some people.  Some others have very averse reactions.  GABA is another ingredient that helps many but causes poor reactions in others.   There are many ingredients in this category and most of the best products use a variety of several to reach the best effect.  In the near future, I will review some to give you more ideas as to specific products.

PROBIOTICS: Probiotics are becoming widely available and are starting to gain interest in fitness circles, especially given the type of diets common to those trying to get high amounts of protein, fiber, etc.  Probiotics are bacteria that aid in digestion, many of which are already present or ought to be present in our digestive tract.  Due to bad luck, diet, or antibiotic use, many of us may be deficient in some of these bacteria.  Supplementary probiotics are surmised to survive the digestive process and form colonies, then performing their function.  The “maybe” part of this is that there are many strains and ways (like methods of encapsulation) to get probiotics and it’s difficult to examine each one.  The research that is out there is mixed.  At their best, you should flatulate less, have more regular and comfortable bowel movements, and absorb nutrients more efficiently.  The rub here, like multivitamins, is that the effects may be extremely subtle if you are not dealing with extreme flatulence or digestive discomfort.


This list is potentially endless, so I’ll only cover some of the most misused supplements to help you save your money.

GLUTAMINE:  Glutamine is an amino acid that makes up a huge portion of all your skeletal muscle.  On the surface, that alone makes one think that you must need it if you’d like to build more of that muscle.  This logic has caused glutamine to be one of the very most popular supplements available, purporting to be a key muscle builder.  Unfortunately, it has been proven rather conclusively that for a non-endurance athlete consuming a protein-rich diet, glutamine supplementation will not increase strength, build muscle, or aid recovery.  It can support the immune and digestive systems, however, so it wouldn’t be the worst thing to help you through sickness.  Otherwise (unless you are a distance runner/biker), glutamine does not work!

ARGININE: Arginine is the prince to glutamine’s king.  Arginine is yet another amino acid that is supposed to aid in strength and increase pumps.  This is the ingredient that gave rise to the “nitric oxide” phenomenon.  This is another substance that it makes sense that it would do what we hope it does, but it just doesn’t.  Orally ingested arginine is effectively useless and is possibly even detrimental.  It has been proven to be a very effective placebo, however.  There are lots of people buying arginine and believing their workouts have improved.  The only usefulness of arginine is in products that also have nitrates (but that’s a different story).

HGH SUPPLEMENTS:  There are a bundle of supplements out there that purport to raise growth hormone levels.  These are completely ineffective.  The best ones are in fact sleep aids, as it is true that a deeper sleep will result in higher growth hormone release.  Most are just complete bunk, though.  Real growth hormone enhancement costs thousands of dollars and is given by medical doctors.

A reminder: this is not an endorsement of the use of any of these supplements. If you want a guide on supplement use, look ahead for Part 3.