The Truth About $upplement$

Many people spend big money on supplements to get as big, strong or fast as possible… but it may not be as good of an investment as one might think. What the majority of the population doesn’t know is that there is VERY little regulation of supplements. The FDA does not even require supplement manufacturers to be registered. Unfortunately this inhibits the safety of consumers and allows supplements to be marketed with very little or no evidence-based support.

This is what is required to show on supplement labels:

  • Must be labeled as a “dietary supplement”
  • Must show the net quantitiy of contents (example: 100 capsules)
  • Must provide a Supplement Facts panel describing a serving size and the amount and percent of daily value of each ingredient
  • If a supplement contains a proprietary blend, the net weight of the blend as well as a listing of each ingredient in descending order of weight must be provided.
  • The part of the plant used if it is an herbal or botanical supplement
  • Manufacturer information
  • A complete list of ingredients by their common name
  • Safety information that is considered “material” which is determined by the MANUFACTURER…not the FDA
  • The Food and Drug Disclaimer

Oftentimes supplements could be effective, but it is difficult to measure exactly how much of each ingredient is in a supplement if not specified. Also, there usually isn’t enough of an ingredient in a supplement to have an effect. If you would like to experience the benefits of a supplement it is probably best to get whatever ingredient it is you are looking for in its pure form instead of a mixture. It’s also probably a heck of a lot cheaper. Below is an evidence-based review of some of the ingredients in supplements that I have come across. I will likely be adding on to this in the future.


I figured I’d start with protein because it is probably the most consumed supplement out there.

Sometimes athletes and bodybuilders ingest enormous amounts of protein up to >2.8 g/kg body weight a day. The recommendation for adequate protein intake is 0.8 g/kg body weight a day in sedentary people and slightly increases with activity level. The NSCA recommends a protein intake of 1.2-2.0 g/kg body weight a day for athletes. Another thing to consider with protein supplementation is age. Older adults require more protein to promote muscle protein synthesis (about the 1.2-2.0 g/kg of body weight) than younger people. The truth is, it is difficult to say what the optimal protein intake is to support muscle growth and strength. There are many factors involved that would determine what is optimal for an individual. After all of the studying I have done on this topic, I would say that 1 gram of protein per lb of lean body mass is a good place to start for the average Joe. People generally have a tough time even meeting this range of protein per day so it would be a good idea to start here and increase as you become familiar with the process and as is needed for your goals.

BCAAs (Branched-chain amino acids)

The three BCAAs are leucine, isoleucine, and valine. They have been shown to decrease muscle damage in endurance and resistance training athletes (Greer et al., 2007; Howatson et al., 2012 ). Effective dose recommendation is 10 grams twice a day of a 2:1:1 ratio of leucine, isoleucine, and valine respectively. Be warned that these taste like ass unless you get the flavored kind. Use caution when getting the flavored kind and pay attention and do your research to what else is in it.

Beta Alanine

When used correctly, it might help improve endurance (Bellinger et al., 2014; Ducker et al., 2013; Smith-Ryan et al., 2014) . The recommended dosage of beta alanine ranges from 1.6-6.4 grams a day based on body size. It is recommended to start at the low end and gradually increase the amount.

Important note: Caution should be taken as doses larger than 800 mg (8 grams) have been found to be accompanied by moderate to severe symptoms of paresthesia.

Caffeine Anhydrous (Caffeine)

This is often a major ingredient in “Pre-workout” and is probably the only contributor in pre-workout supplements that gives you that extra burst of energy for workouts. Caffeine has been shown to significantly increase power for exercises lasting at least 60 seconds in duration (Graham, 2001). It has also been shown to increase endurance in serving sizes of 5 mg/kg of body weight for up to 3 hours after ingestion in habitual caffeine users and up to 6 hours after ingestion for non-habitual caffeine users (Douglas et al., 2002). [That is a lot of caffeine….for a 170 lb. man, that is 386 mg… there is about 95 mg of caffeine in an 8 oz. cup of coffee….so about 4 cups of coffee…best to work your way up to that amount or stick with about 200 mg a day]

Important note: Caffeine ingested in amounts of 200 mg or more may cause adverse side effects including: Insomnia, nervousness, headache, tachycardia, arrhythmia, and nausea. (Higgins et al., 2010)

Side note: Pre-workout supplements can be pricey and often it is impossible to know exactly how much caffeine you are taking in since it is usually mixed up with a bunch of other stuff. Drinking coffee is a cheaper alternative and provides consumers with a closer representation of how much caffeine they are taking in. Also, you can purchase caffeine pills (about $3 for a box) that display exactly how many mg of caffeine are in each pill and do not have other ingredients.

Creatine Monohydrate (CM)

CM has been proven to increase strength and lean body mass after a loading cycle of 20 grams a day for 5 days and a maintenance cycle of 5 grams a day (Herda et al., 2009; Kerksick et al., 2009). However, many supplements do not have enough Creatine Monohydrate in them to be effective and this is best used in pure form.

Creatine alpha-amino-butyrate (CAAB)

According to Jim Stopanni from, Creatine alpha-amino-butyrate is creatine with a metabolite of the amino acid leucine and is thought to help increase muscle protein synthesis and decrease muscle breakdown. There is evidence that 1.35 g/kg bodyweight of leucine significantly increases protein synthesis in food-deprived and diabetic rats (Anthony et al. 2002, Crozier et al. 2005). However, there is no research that shows that leucine decreases muscle breakdown. Also, there is absolutely no scientific research on “creatine alpha-amino-butyrate” or the effects of taking creatine and leucine supplements together and the effects of it are unclear. CAAB probably does nothing.

Raspberry Keytones

Some supplement companies claim that raspberry ketones help with weight loss and promote alertness, nitric oxide production, endurance, power, and vascularity in people. Truth is, there is no evidence that supports these claims. Raspberry ketones could potentially be related to weight loss but there is a lack of research to suggest that it does indefinitely. It’s probably best to save your money and just workout and eat less if you want to lose weight as that has been shown to be effective since the beginning of time.

Moral of the story: Before spending a ton of money on supplements, do your research and make sure you are not throwing money down the drain. Feel free to comment/ask questions! If you are curious about a specific ingredient/supplement that I have not provided, message me and if I have time I will gladly look into it for you.


Anthony, J. C., Reiter, A. K., Anthony, T. G., Crozier, S. J., Lang, C. H., MacLean, D. A., Kimball, S. R. & Jefferson, L. S. (2002) Orally administered leucine enhances protein synthesis in skeletal muscle of diabetic rats in the absence of increases in 4E-BP1 or S6K1 phosphorylation. Diabetes 51: 928 –936.

Bellinger, P. M. (2014). [Beta]-alanine supplementation for athletic performance: An update. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 28(6), 1751.

Bohe, J., Low, A., Wolfe, R.R. & Rennie, M.J. (2003). Human muscle protein synthesis is regulated by extracellular, not intramuscular amino acid availability: a dose-response study. Journal of Physiology, 552(1), 315-324.

Bredsdorff, L., Wedebye, E., Nikolov, N., Hallas-Moller, T., & Pilegaard, K. (2014). Potential adverse effects of raspberry ketone sold as food supplement. Toxicology Letters, 229, 171-172.

Crozier, S. J., Kimball, S. R., Emmert, S. W., Anthony, J. C., & Jefferson, L. S. (2005). Oral leucine administration stimulates protein synthesis in rat skeletal muscle. The Journal of Nutrition, 135(3), 376.

Douglas G. Bell, & Tom M. McLellan. (2002). Exercise endurance 1, 3, and 6 h after caffeine ingestion in caffeine users and nonusers. Journal of Applied Physiology, 93(4), 1227-1234.

Ducker, K. J., Dawson, B., & Wallman, K. E. (2013). Effect of beta-alanine supplementation on 800-m running performance.International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 23(6), 554.

Graham T.E. (2001). Caffeine and exercise: Metabolism, endurance and performance. New Zealand: Adis International.

Greer, B., Woodard, J., White, J., Arguello, E., & Haymes, E. (2007). Branched-chain amino acid supplementation and indicators of muscle damage after endurance exercise. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 17(6), 595-607.

Higgins, J.P., Tuttle, T.D. & Higgins, C.L.  (2010).  Energy beverages: content and safety.  Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 85(11), 1033-1041.

Howatson, G., Hoad, M., Goodall, S., Tallent, J., Bell, P. G., & French, D. N. (2012). Exercise-induced muscle damage is reduced in resistance-trained males by branched chain amino acids: A randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 9, 20-20.

Phillips, S. M. (2004). Protein requirements and supplementation in strength sports. United States: Elsevier Inc.

Smith-Ryan, A. E., Woessner, M. N., Melvin, M. N., Wingfield, H. L., & Hackney, A. C. (2014). The effects of beta-alanine supplementation on physical working capacity at heart rate threshold. Clinical Physiology and Functional Imaging, 34(5), 397-404.

Stopanni, J. (2014, January 1). Creatine 101. Retrieved November 30, 2014, from information here.

Ulbricht, C., Miller, A., Mintzer, M., Nguyen, M., Salesses, K., Catapang, M., . . . Marini, E. (2013). Raspberry ketone: An evidence-based systematic review by the natural standard research collaboration. Alternative and Complementary Therapies, 19(2), 98-100.

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