Why I Don't Use Exercise Supplements

The world of exercise supplements is full of lies. There’s the obvious bullshit cashing in on pop culture and the gullibility of the masses, like the stuff endorsed by Jillian Michaels or “The Situation.” But there’s also the more subversive lies, the ones that are “backed by science” which sometimes manage to mislead even the most savvy exercise enthusiasts.

We all know that statistics are easy to manipulate, and studies are constantly surfacing that contradict older studies, yet many people still fall victim to misleading claims from supplement companies.

Why?

Because people want a shortcut.

Don’t Believe the Hype
All supplement claims are based more on hype than evidence. The next time you read a positive supplement review, check to see if the magazine or website that you read it on happens to sell the product or receive sponsorship from the product’s manufacturer. As for other claims? Don’t underestimate the power of the placebo effect. A lot of people tend to just see what they want to see. Besides, once you’ve spent your money on a product, it’s harder to admit you were mistaken.

There are a couple of supplements that might actually have some impact on your training (ya know, like, if you’re a pro athlete or something), so let’s take a look at the few that are even worth disputing. The first of them is something most Americans are already using.

Caffeine
Anyone who’s had a strong cup of coffee knows that caffeine can give you a temporary boost. Your heart speeds up, your pupils dilate and you feel a sense of heightened awareness. There are numerous studies that have concluded that large amounts of caffeine can help endurance athletes, but hey, studies can be shown to “prove” just about anything.

I’ve tried using caffeine before running but never observed any significant benefits from it, so I don’t anymore. If I’m putting a potentially harmful chemical into my body, it might as well give me some sort of benefit that I can feel.

Protein Powders
Even though they taste bad and give most people a stomach ache, protein powders are among the top selling exercise supplements in the world. The rhetoric about how you’ve got to get tons of protein to grow is so powerful that it makes most people ignore the taste (and their irritable bowels) while they continue to shovel scoop after scoop of this crap into their bodies. Oh, and if you don’t have your protein shake immediately following your workout, you’ve just wasted your entire life.

Of course you need protein to synthesize muscle growth, but you can get plenty of it by eating real food. A 6-oz. steak has over 50 grams of protein, plus it feels a hell of a lot better in my belly than a shaker full of sludgy water.

Creatine
Creatine is a substance that is naturally found in the body (it’s actually a fuel source used during muscle contraction), by supplementing with it, you’re simply stocking up on extra so that you don’t run out as quickly (I know it’s a bit more complicated than that, but I’m trying to keep this brief). Studies have shown creatine to be effective in producing short-term strength gains and it will give you “the pump” – your muscles will swell up and retain water, making you a little stronger and bulkier.

After the “loading phase” in which you’re directed to take creatine several times a day, you drop down to a simple once-a-day dosage. Even though my chest got puffed up and I added a few pounds to my deadlift while taking creatine, after several weeks when I cycled off (the long term effects of ongoing creatine use are still unknown and potentially dangerous), all of the strength and mass I gained while taking the supplement went away with it. That’s still more than I can say for the other supplements on this list though; at least creatine actually helped my strength while I was using it.

Amino Acids (Glutamine, BCAA’s, etc.)
Amino acids are often referred to as the “building blocks of muscle” so it would make sense that adding them into your beverage in the form of a powder would mean more muscle. At least that’s what I thought when I started supplementing with glutamine ten years ago. However, after several weeks the only difference I noticed was that I had less money in my checking account (it also made my smoothies taste chalky). Remember that steak with its real-food protein goodness? It has all the amino acids you’ll need.

See For Yourself
I came to these conclusions after my own personal experiments with supplements over the years, but if you’re the type of person who just has to see for yourself, there’s no substitute for firsthand knowledge. Obviously there are a lot of people who disagree with my views, as the exercise supplement business continues to be a multi-million dollar industry.

129 thoughts on “Why I Don't Use Exercise Supplements

  • By Steve Weissman - Reply

    Great info Al. What’s your opinion on pre-workout drinks?

    • By Al Kavadlo - Reply

      Thanks, Steve. I like to drink water before a workout. :)

      • By Matt - Reply

        Al,
        Believe it or not, I’ve decided to use this blog string in one of the college speech and rhetoric classes that I teach. I cannot think of a better way to convince my students to think for themselves, rather than just swallow the marketing lines. I also really like the way you do not invite drama and needless conflict as you work to keep the conversation going. Rather, you embrace healthy analysis amidst pasionate debate while discussing a subject we all value – our health.

        Regarding supplements, I am not a professional skeptic, but as I’ve gotten older (50 this year), I appreciate the wisdom that comes from living… and I have seen too many fads come and go. So, thank you, Al, for your sane assessment of the journey we’re all on.

        By the way, I was a faithful runner until I neared 40 (5 miles per day on my lunch hour). But I started lifting instead after I felt the first twinge in my knee because I don’t want to be a fragile 90-year-old without any mobility. Long story – short… I’m stronger than I’ve ever been, can bench-press my teenage son and his friends, gain instant respect from my daughters’ boyfriends, and pass for a bodyguard when escorting important visitors around my campus. (True story – a rumor spread that our VIP visitor brought his bodyguard.. but it was just me.)

        Thanks, Al, for the motivation to keep inventing ourselves without falling prey to the companies that would pick our pockets while telling us we’re not “good enough” yet.

        • By Al Kavadlo - Reply

          Wow – that is so cool! I never would have thought that material from this blog would be used in a college curriculum.

          Btw, congrats on being mistaken for a bodyguard!

          • By Sandip -

            woh….guess what i was about to take a supplement thats supermass 600 whey…..but i really have changed mah mind after reading all your 
            comments……thnks a lot 

          • By Al Kavadlo -

            Thanks for the comment!  Glad to have saved you from having to stomach that sludge!

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  • By Lenny - Reply

    Good post. If could have all the money back from the supplements I used I would have tens of thousands of dollars. The stuff just doesn’t work. You are better off drinking a glass of milk after a workout then a protein shake that tastes like crap anyways.

    • By Al Kavadlo - Reply

      I hear ya, Lenny. I spent a bunch of money on this crap before I came to my senses, too!

  • By Darrin - Reply

    Too true.

    I think we guys in particular are far more interested in the “nutritional shortcuts” that will get us nowhere instead of the sustainable solutions that will keep us strong and healthy for the rest of our lives (e.g. eating real food instead of junk).

    • By Al Kavadlo - Reply

      Sustainable is the key, Darrin! Sure taking creatine might make you a tad stronger, but who wants to drink a shaker full of that crap every day for the rest of their life?

  • By Jakjylben - Reply

    Great post , something that I struggle with wondering if it’s worth it.
    I think I’ll stick with all natural :))

    • By Al Kavadlo - Reply

      Thanks, Jakjylben! Keep doing your thing.

  • By Anthony L. Gonzalez - Reply

    You were accurate about most of the supplements on this list. Especially creatine and protein. But what do you think about nitric oxide products ? Like Aakg powder or pre workout drinks like the popular Jack 3 d ?

    • By Al Kavadlo - Reply

      I think those products are rubbish.

  • By Jimmy - Reply

    I agree completely. What do you think about having the Camelbak Elixir (electrolyte replacement, no sugar) post workout?

  • By Jenifermparker - Reply

    i never went in for this stuff (i suppose gals are less prone), and i don’t even do vitamins. unless there is a documented deficiency, and that can’t be fixed without supplementation, you just pee your money. no point! i didn’t even take prenatals. they make most gals sick, and you end up just taxing your system anyway.

    • By Al Kavadlo - Reply

      I agree completely about vitamin pills, Jenifer! What a waste!

  • By Trevor - Reply

    I tried some of this stuff in the past and I didn’t notice any difference. And my experience with creatine is similar to yours. So I just save my money now.

    • By Al Kavadlo - Reply

      Yep – live and learn!

  • By Agc5 - Reply

    Chocolate milk is my post workout drink…tastes good, has sugar, protein and calcium…

    • By Al Kavadlo - Reply

      If you’re gonna have chocolate milk, post-workout is a pretty good time for it as you’ll likely metabolize the sugar quickly. Just watch out for the brands with high fructose corn syrup.

  • By Another Al - Reply

    Al! first of all thanks a million for the great book! I got it a while back and read it from cover to cover. interesting you mention Shunryu Suzuki, I read that same book a bunch of times a long time ago, but then it disappeared while changing homes. and I could never remember the writer’s name, to buy a new copy. now I got one on the way! I totally agree re. your words above. nonetheless, I’d like to hear your opinion re. vitamins and minerals. I take some daily, and I find they help with Sweden’s dark winters and my overall form. zinc and magnesium seem to help me be in better strength shape and sleep better, respectively. and the multivitamins feel like a good complement to my strive in eating good, nutritious, healthy food. the junk food/sodas/alcohol/other weird stuff abuse has never been a problem for me personally. I’m almost 49 and train 40-60 minutes daily. bodyweight and heavier kettlebells. practicing handstands since a while back :)
    respect man, and thank you again so very much for the always enlightening words and videos; damn, you’re strong!!!

    • By Al Kavadlo - Reply

      Hey Al – thanks for the kind words! I feel the same about vitamin supplements as I do about these other supplements: I never felt any benefits from using them. Like Jenifer said in her comment below, unless there is a documented deficiency, you just wind up pissing it out. But if you feel like they are helping you then go ahead and take ’em!

  • By Aaron J Curl - Reply

    I’ll be 37 in a month, so I agree with you on experience. When I started lifting weights in high school I think I tried every supplement known to man. I’ve been eating REAL food for a year now and feel like a 16 year old. Although, I am 100% positive all humans need vitamin d3 especially in the winter. SAD (seasonal affective disorder) whether a made up disorder or not, it no longer gets me down in the winter. Another thing I noticed this past summer with d3 supplementation was I did not get sunburned. I work outside all summer long and have fair skin, so it was pretty surreal. I’m not a d3 salesman…lol…I just know it works and is needed. There is plenty of research….not stories in mainstream media and magazines either…..real research.

    • By Al Kavadlo - Reply

      Sounds good, Aaron – you gotta find what works for you. I’ve never used a D3 supplement, but I also don’t suffer from S.A.D. or burn easily in the sun.

      The point of this article wasn’t just to convince people not to take supplements, but more to encourage people to stop blindly accepting everything the media shoves down our throats.

  • By John - Reply

    It seems like many people below are still trying to get the justification….The Placebo effect is all you need and whatever form that comes in and doesn’t hurt you, should be fine. Me, it was turning 40 and realizing that “Nothing lasts forever” that gave me the lift I needed and of course the reality that nothing lasts till your even 40. I do like the Chocolate milk idea after workouts though…..

    • By Al Kavadlo - Reply

      Why am I not surprised that you like the chocolate milk idea? :)

  • By Rick Seedman - Reply

    Nice message Al. At this point I feel similar to you. I’ve been thinking lately about where we’ve come from. I’m not sure if any of us know what natural really is. I feel it’s really important at this point to think, learn and study where we’ve really come from and how we got to where we are right now. Because what we’ve become are domesticated humans.

    • By Al Kavadlo - Reply

      We have become domesticated humans, indeed, Rick. Domesticated and indoctrinated. The word “natural” is being used to mislead people about synthetic products and there is no regulation as to how that word can be used in marketing.

      • By Branl - Reply

        Indoctrinated Al since we were born into a false and corrupt society, money rules over human life were ever you go, as long as the elite rich control the money flow, then there will always be people making profit from anything in this life. It filters down through the system.

  • By AndyFossett - Reply

    But, Al, you’re saying we should just eat food, drink water, and work out! I know it can’t be that simple… Please tell me it’s complicated so I can feel justified when I don’t get the results I hope for.

    Most of the supplement industry runs on placebo, wishful thinking, lies, and poor self-image. There’s also some really good science that happens, but the marketing is usually based on flawed assumptions. The funny thing is that being healthy is not really that hard for most people, but we often seem to reject the obvious when it comes to taking care of ourselves.

    • By Al Kavadlo - Reply

      All true, Andy. Some people seem to want it to be more complicated than it is.

  • By Luca - Reply

    Great article man, I totally agreed; I’ve been taken supplements for years, protein powders in particular, and my stomach has never felt so weak…not anymore, it’s time for a change and recent researches show that milk as postworkout helps much more than commercial rubbish here it is:http://www.performbetter.com/catalog/matriarch/OnePiecePage.asp_Q_PageID_E_263_A_PageName_E_articlemilkmusclemass

    Cheers

    Luca

    • By Al Kavadlo - Reply

      Thanks, Luca. Glad you’ve found a post-workout beverage that works for you!

  • By Anonymous - Reply

    Wow. Phenomenal post. And phenomenal comments. About the word “natural”: There is no established definition for this term. Period. So in the case of vitamins, minerals, and yes, even herbal supplements, when the content is called “natural” (acai, ginger, fish oil, vitamin C, etc), IT’S STILL BEEN FORMULATED AND PROCESSED TO A POINT THAT IT IS NO LONGER WHAT IT WAS IN THE PAST. I eat about 20-25 apples a week; that’s my fucking vitamins.

    As for nutritional supplements, their content isn’t evaluated by the FDA at all (unlike pharmaceuticals for example). And furthermore, the FDA is a completely corrupt organization that specializes in twisting ridiculous boasts into claims that are nice ‘n legal. So what do we do, Al? Just like you’ve said previously on this blog: “eat real food not processed crap.”

    Once again, great post!

    • By Al Kavadlo - Reply

      Thanks for your input, Danny!

  • By Dean - Reply

    Great post Al. I received your book recently and am waiting to read it on my trip to Jamaica next week! Your perspective is inspiring. On a somewhat related note, do you use a rough guideline for daily amount of Protein? How about Fat and Carbs?

    • By Al Kavadlo - Reply

      Thanks, Dean – I’m excited for you to read the book!

      I just try to avoid processed foods and eat when I am hungry. Trying to avoid garbage is hard enough without having to worry about adhering to a predetermined ratio of marconutrients!

  • By Ilan Vardi - Reply

    Hello, I liked this message, but I found the following a bit disturbing: “If I’m putting a potentially harmful chemical into my body, it might as well give me some sort of benefit that I can feel.”

    That remark implies that you would take a potentially harmful chemical if it gave you a benefit. Now, since we’re talking about better workouts and not curing cancer (chemotherapy), I don’t see any reason ever to risk taking a potentially harmful chemical which leads down the slippery slope towards doping, which I’m sure you would like to avoid.

    Secondly, you state this in reference to caffeine, and I don’t see how that can be described as potentially harmful, unless you are talking about losing a little sleep. To my knowledge, caffeine has only temporary deleterious effects such as raised body temperature, blood pressure, etc., and nothing more serious has ever been discovered (in fact, the only correlation between coffee and cancer is with decaf).

    Thanks,

    -ilan

    • By Al Kavadlo - Reply

      Settle down, Ilan – that line was meant as a light-hearted attempt at humor. I’ve never done steroids and I don’t expect that I ever will. I also don’t think drinking coffee is a big deal.

      • By Ilan Vardi - Reply

        Hi Al, sorry for that. I did suspect that you were being facetious, but I wasn’t sure…. I guess it’s because I’m a cyclist and I regularly get accused of doping by total strangers as I am just riding down the street (once it was when I was stopped at a red light with no cars around, now why would I cheat with doping but refuse to run a red light??) and I don’t ever take anything, not even aspirin when I have a toothache!

        All the best to you and your healthy outlook to working out.

        -ilan

        • By Al Kavadlo - Reply

          If you’re getting accused of doping, you’re probably doing something right! Keep training hard, my friend.

  • By abrandao - Reply

    Hi, i’m new here and its the first thing i read from you at all, as my firest comment here, so if i miss some point, don’t take me wrong, i don’t mean it.

    First you have a good point if you are thinking on regular people who exercises themselves to achieve a better and healthy lifestyle, you are absolutely right! But not everyone follows the same pattern.

    Regular people can have everything they want from regular food and recover to the next day and be happy. But athletes and enthusiastic atlhetes (those who trains like pros, but are not professionals) have hard time finding good resources to recover as quick they need, and take the hard amount of training they have.

    When i’m training less like 1 or two hours a day, i can easily find everything my body need just by eating real food and everything else. But as now days that i spend about 5 hours training per day (including weekends) i feel so wasted if i don’t take some supplements, that i can only keep the routine for 1 or 2 weeks, till my body completely fail and i can’t barely walk. Supplements without real food are actually nothing, thy are just a “plus” to help you recover better and avoid some injuries.

    I’d rather take a protein shake right after training, so i had an enormous amount of quick absorption protein to recover, and then time enough to cook my meal and eat everything i would eat anyway.

    Why take protein after training than some chicken or stake? eg. Whey protein, is a high biologic value protein without a high amount fat, sodium, and few other stuff you can’t avoid from real food.

    Whey protein has also glutamine, bcaa, vitamin b6, tons of other amino-acids and the body absorb it in few minutes, differently from stakes and regular food.

    Its just an example, but people sometime get some benefit from supplements, i try to look for recovering factor instead of “instantly performance peak” when i use supplements.

    nice website!

    • By Al Kavadlo - Reply

      Thanks for your comment and welcome to my blog, abrandao!

      If taking whey protein gives you a positive effect, then you have my blessing to continue using it. However in my personal experience, that has not been the case.

  • By GETfizzYcaL - Reply

    Excellent post Al. I love this – “Oh, and if you don’t have your protein shake immediately following your workout, you’ve just wasted your entire life.”

    • By Al Kavadlo - Reply

      Haha thanks!

  • By Fritzy - Reply

    Great post, Al!

    Love the comment about people being paranoid about missing a protien drink right after a workout. This fear is a meme that continues in the fitness community totally unsubstantiated by sound science. Thanks to evolutionary selection, our bodies are quite adept at holding onto muscle mass in the face of famine. The body actually produces growth hormone for a period of time after after a bout of heavy lifting. This increase in growth hormone production slows down for the most part once you consume enough food to produce an insulin spike. So actually, fasting for a period of time after a workout has it’s benefits in terms of muscle production.

    As far as supplements–I’ve always thought they were a gimmicky way for some bodybuilders to feel like they are standing out from the “crowd”–the crowd being those of us naiive enough to think that real food is sufficient. But I’m glad to have someone I look up to in the fitness world confirm my beliefs. Thanks!

    • By Al Kavadlo - Reply

      Thanks, Fritzy! Interesting point about post workout fasting – there are two sides to every story!

  • By Sean - Reply

    Amen brother. Happy to see I’m not the only one anti-supplement.

    • By Al Kavadlo - Reply

      Hey Sean – It seems there are quite a few of us out there!

  • By gunn parker - Reply

    Hi Al
    How do you feel about fish oil supplements?
    Thanks

    • By Al Kavadlo - Reply

      The same as I do about all other supplements – not interested!

  • By JST Books - Reply

    grt

  • By JST Books - Reply

    Deficiency of magnesium can result in not using the calcium you all ready have. Other symptoms may include heart spasms, nervousness, confusion, muscular excitability, and kidney stones, constipation and headaches. calcium and magnesium

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  • By typedeaF - Reply

    I suspect this to be your most controversial post 😉 I have many questions and concerns about what was stated.

    First, A colleague of mine eats almost nothing but Whey powder, oatmeal, and egg whites (sometimes from powders as well.) I mean nothing but. He shovels scoops in about every 1-2 hours during the day. He was a semi pro body builder from his home state, and held his states title. The guy is big, like 70’s big and strong as an ox. He has done his research and explained to me, much of which I forgot, but the main point was that whey and egg whites where the best proteins for the body of absorption and digestion etc. The guy is definitely proof that these powders are not just smoke and mirrors. I myself find it a chore to eat. Seriously, I hate eating. It bores me because its all the same. So, for me, substituting a “real” meal with a MRP is a god send. To get a good steak here, I either have to be seated and wait 30 min to be served and pay >$25 a meal, or I have to visit the grocery store daily for fresh beef.. and if theres one thing I hate more than eating, its cooking. With all this in mind, is it possible that you might be oversimplifying the protein powder “epidemic”?

    Secondly, I agree 100% that none of it is “needed”. Take top body builders for several generations, say Arnold, Reg Park, Sandow, and Haney. Eugen Sandow had a magnificent body and tremendous strength, and clearly he never used any supplements. I read parts of his book and he talked about how he stayed up until 2 am almost every night, he smoked cigars regularly, he drank on occasion, and he ate whatever he wanted to eat. Reg Park, magnificent physique. At that time, their idea of healthy nutrition was something like: steak, potatoes, eggs. I have read old articles where he recommended eating pie or custard as part of the diet. Clearly it worked for him. Arnold, about the same story as Reg, except by his time Weider protein shakes were part of all serious lifters diet… and steroids. Again, Arnold ate huge meals. Finally Lee Haney. A lifter from the “science of body building age”. The guy is stupidly huge. He is the Secretary of Fitness (right?) and he recommends protein powders and several other products (that he endorses). So yeah, theres plenty proof that none of the supplements are necessary, but theres also evidence that even before it was a marketing ploy, it was considered beneficial by top body builders. If these supplements were free, would that change your stance?

    Finally, I am a skeptic and I prefer to use my own judgement and experiences versus the wisdom of others. It’s not a trait I am proud of, but it has its merits. Where I live, N.O-Explode was on like everyones grocery list. I figured I needed to try it because I am 35 and I don’t get the pump like I did when I was 18. It elevated my heart rate, period. I tried several other brands, and finally found one called SSINJuice. Don’t know whats in it, kinda don’t care, but this stuff gives me wings. I went off it for a month+ and tried another brand that was supposed to be “better”, nope. It doesn’t make me stronger, per say, it hits me like drinking an energy drink, and it gives me great vaso dialation/blood flow.

    So, you have a great physique and great body-to-strength (or whatever its called). I respect your opinion because of that, and because you don’t have an angle. Because of that, I feel like maybe you should reconsider your statements. I feel like you want to believe that “good old natural” is the way to do everything, and perhaps it is skewing your judgement. If I am wrong, my sincerest apologies. If just seems like you need more supporting data for your argument. Anyway, I love what you are doing, please keep doing it. I stayed up until 4am last night reading your articles.

    • By Al Kavadlo - Reply

      Wow – I think that’s the longest comment anyone’s ever left on my blog!

      You make some valid points and I appreciate your input. Like yourself, my opinions are based on first hand experience. Everyone has to find their own path, I’m just sharing what I have found to be the best for me – and that’s being supplement free. I’m not trying to be a bodybuilder though – if I was, I might feel differently.

    • By Breunor - Reply

      I think Al makes a good point that while the marketing machines of the fitness industry really want you to buy their products, it isn’t necessary to be successful. Things like 6-8 meals a day are pushed by muscle magazines (which are 100% funded by supplement companies), and the easiest way to get that many meals in is by drinking 2-4 protein shakes a day. You’ll also hear the 30g of protein per meal is “ideal”… the amount will vary based on the serving size of the protein powder that the person’s trying to sell you.

      I caution against taking what a pro bodybuilder does as “the norm” or “ideal” for the average person- the pro is going to every possible extreme to tweak an extra 1% here and there while very few people outside of that world come close to reaching their potential from doing the bigger picture things first. 

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  • By Digbyde - Reply

    Having been a huge sucker for supplements I have been slowly coming to the conclusion that most are not needed if the diet is right. If someone is found to be deficient in something, that’s different. Though I expect to keep up my daily multi-vitamin since I’m in my sixties and ate the SAD for too much of my life. A great post. I admire your good sense, as well as your physical acheivements.

    • By Al Kavadlo - Reply

      Glad to hear you are taking better care of yourself and thanks for the kind words! You still have lots and lots of good years ahead if you keep training hard and eating actual food.

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  • By Risto Uuk - Reply

    I am SO GLAD that I found your blog, seriously. I don’t think I’ve ever come across someone who shares my point of view — that all supplements are rather worthless (a few exceptions).

    Whenever someone asks for advice when it comes to post-workout nutrition, I guide them to real food all the time and give my sentiments of protein powder.

    • By Al Kavadlo - Reply

      Hey Risto – I’m glad you found my blog too!  It’s always great to hear from others who can relate to what I have to say.  Keep on spreading the word about real food!

  • By Risto Uuk - Reply

    I am SO GLAD that I found your blog, seriously. I don’t think I’ve ever
    come across someone who shares my point of view — that all supplements
    are rather worthless (a few exceptions).

    Whenever someone asks for advice when it comes to post-workout
    nutrition, I guide them to real food all the time and give my sentiments
    of protein powder.

  • By Nunh - Reply

    Love the article! I am for the most part onboard with the no supplements are worthy with a couple of exceptions. I was recomended omega-3 & omega-6 oils (fish oil & flax seed in my case) by my doctor (I am also not of the opinion that doctor’s are 100% correct). My blood pressure runs high (which has been lowered by some weight loss and tons of movement/ exercise – thank you for your lessons & Ross’s as well). I find that these two have been positive (coupled with a healthy diet and exercise of course). It is possible to get these two fatty acids naturally as well but, I like the convience of taking these every single day and trying to eat a decent diet.

    Anyway – keep up the great work!

    Donald
    nunh

    • By Al Kavadlo - Reply

      Glad you enjoyed this post, Donald!  If you find the pills beneficial then go ahead with ’em!

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  • By Zinc supplement - Reply

    This is why a good mineral supplement makes it to my basic nutrients list. Thanks.

  • By Zinc supplement - Reply

    This is why a good mineral supplement makes it to my basic nutrients list. Thanks.

  • By webmaster solutions - Reply

    Magnesium is a mineral that is present in relatively large amounts in the body. Researchers estimate that the average person’s body contains about 25 grams of magnesium, and about half of that is in the bones.

  • By Anonymous - Reply

    Zinc supplement is used for treatment & prevention of zinc deficiency & its consequences, including stunted growth & acute diarrhea in kids, & slow wound healing.

  • By Gary - Reply

    Great stuff Al and at last someone has the balls to say it like it truly is. Much of what these mega expensive supplements do is all placebo and in the persons own interests they’d be better concentrating on getting their training and diet dialled in before bothering with this expensive nonsense.

    Love your videos and your ideas.

    • By Al Kavadlo - Reply

      Thanks, Gary!  It’s always good to hear from people who know what’s up!

  • By Огњен Јоковић - Reply

    Hey Al I’m new here and I think you’ve got a lot of realy interesting stuff that actualy works.I’m 16 years old and I’ve been going to the gym for about 2-3 months and I’ve been working out with weights,and It did not feel naturaly, so I quit.I’ve been trying to slowly check everything here for myself and It’s great.I also agree with you about these suplements (crap), the strenght you gain from It is not real.I’ve just got one question for you.I’m 1.94 cm tall (6.2 or 3 feet) and I find It harder to balanse than my friend that are shorter.Any advice???

    • By Al Kavadlo - Reply

      Thanks for your comment and welcome to the wonderful world of supplement free bodyweight strength.  As for improving balance, my advice is to keep practicing.  Good things come to those who train.

  • By Magnesium Supplements - Reply

    I agree completely about supplement. It is all good stuff for everyone. I think everyone should take it. 

  • By Brian - Reply

    All you have to do is look back a few decades. Guys like Atlas werent downing any supplements. They had great bodies and amazing health. What they didnt have was the over manipulated foods from Kraft and Mcdonalds. Whole foods and an active life with a great workout ethic is all you need. Ive been supplement free for 2 months and I feel as good as I ever did. Thanks for the refreshing article. 

    • By Al Kavadlo - Reply

      Thanks for the comment and congrats on going supplement-free!

  • By Dick Kirby - Reply

    I’ve been working out for decades and still use some supplements but nothing compared with the amounts I used in the past. I highly recommend brown rice protein, sun warrior makes one which tastes great and true protein makes a good one also. Some type of flax seed oil or Udo’s Choice is also excellent. I know brown rice protein does not have some of the advantages of animal source proteins but I digest it very well. The funny thing about the oils is that they prevent some inflammation and aid in recovery but they have really helped my skin.

    I love your site and enjoy your videos and information very much and wish to thank you for your contributions to fitness and physical culture.  

    • By Al Kavadlo - Reply

      Thanks for your comment, Dick.  I’m happy to hear you’ve been enjoying my blog.  I’m all for personal preferences – glad to hear you’ve found what works for you.  Keep training hard!

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  • By mineral supplement - Reply

    Thanks, Steve. I like your suggestion. Nutrition supplement help with exercise goals. Get the best resources for choosing high quality angstrom supplements.

  • By Supplements Magnesium - Reply

    Magnesium plays a key role in naturally regulating blood pressure and most people with hypertension are magnesium deficient. Magne-sium supplements and a magnesium-rich diet including plenty of fruits and green vegetables are consistently associated with lowering blood pressure

  • By Justin_P - Reply

    One thing that most people don’t realize:  most supplements are garbage!  No, really!  They are the left-over waste products of another industry. 

    • By A1preece - Reply

      Yes? What industry would that be?

      • By Al Kavadlo - Reply

        Whey protein was just a waste product of the dairy industry until someone figured out that they could make a lot of money by selling it as a supplement.

      • By Justin_P - Reply

        Soy protein was the flour-like material left over from extracting soy bean oil. 

        Fish oil supplements are made from a tiny, bony little fish they find around the Chesapeake Bay area.  They have absolutely no food value but they are oily as hell.  So, they round up these bottom-feeders, feed them into a screw press, and squeeze all of the oil out of them. 

        Creatine is a little different.  It started out life being extracted from meat until someone pulled out their home chemistry set and synthesized it.  There’s nothing natural about creatine but at least  it not some junk that someone saw as one fitness model spokesperson short of a gold mine. 

    • By Al Kavadlo - Reply

      Sad but true, Justin.  Thanks for pointing that out!

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  • By mineral supplement - Reply

    Thanks gray! I agree with your post. How to maintain nutrition health?

  • By Anonymous - Reply

    What I like about protein shakes is, because they’re in liquid form, the body absorbs the protein faster (or, at least that’s what I’ve read). With that in mind, I generally agree with your approach to fitness and I wonder what kind of post-workout meal you would promote instead of something like the aforementioned protein shakes and/or supplements.

    • By Al Kavadlo - Reply

      I’m all about drinking a smoothie after a workout – I just don’t want to add any industrial waste products to it.  In fact, I’ve even got a few smoothie recipes on this site!  There’s one at the end of this post: http://www.alkavadlo.com/2011/04/why-i-love-peanut-butter/

      • By Anonymous - Reply

        Nice. Thanks for the response. 

  • By Joel - Reply

    My humble opinions based on what works for me:

    Advice to replace fish oil capsules-  Sardines, whole canned in water, are affordable, are full of omega 3 fatty acids, protein and calcium, are one of the lowest in mercury of all fish, and one of the most plentiful of all fish in the sea (so it is environmentally sustainable).  
    Advice to replace multivitamin:  Watercress, parsley, dill, or cilantro are good greens to add to the diet.

    Advice to replace or augment pro-biotic capsules- plain kefir (cultured milk) helps me have fewer digestive issues.

    I am not against supplements in principle and try a few here and there.
    I do find a few supplements helpful to me personally- Citrulline Malate helps me feel motivated to exercise by making my muscles feel fuller somehow; I take digestive enzymes and added fiber to address my digestive concerns; occasional shakes with milk-protein powder and oat flour mixed in milk (because sometimes I can’t bring myself to eat enough to maintain or gain weight). 
    Tryptophan, Glycine, and vitamin B6 help me with sleep.  

    My thought is that if someone has the gift of good all around health- digestive health, good sleep, emotional well-being, hormonal balance, no health concerns- then he or she should be grateful for it and not risk compromising good health by messing with too many bodybuilding supplements, especially the riskier ones.  

    Note: Whey is a leftover by-product from the dairy industry. It is a liquid drained from the solids in cheese making.  The whey liquid is dried to make whey protein.  I really doubt that it is appreciably better for fitness than other sources of protein.  I suspect that it started to get popular simply because back in the early 90’s Designer Whey, EAS, and other upstart companies of the day found out that they could obtain the material (whey) cheap.  It offered an even larger profit margin than the old establishment, the Weider and Twinlab traditional milk-and-egg protein formulas. Thus, EAS and others pointed bodybuilding’s peculiar protein fetishism in the direction of whey through their magazines.  Once these companies were able to convince the readers of whey’s superiority, it became accepted ‘common knowledge.’  All the companies and their magazines followed suit and set about sewing and promoting the emperor’s most recent wardrobe.

    • By Al Kavadlo - Reply

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Joel!

  • By John Dorry - Reply

    Right on the money Al !
    Thanks for standing up and speaking the truth.

    • By Al Kavadlo - Reply

      Thanks, John!  That’s what I do!

  • By Dlauranceb225 - Reply

    Hey Mr. Kavadlo, have you seen the research on creatine and brain function in seniors? I’ve only seen some it. But it looks very interesting. I know your blog is more about enhancing physical fitness. But brain fitness is a part of the whole picture, don’t you think?
    D Brown

    • By Al Kavadlo - Reply

      No, I have not seen that research, D Brown.  Though in general I am skeptical of most “scientific” studies.

  • By Minataja - Reply

    Protein powder doesn’t magically add any more muscle than any other good protein source. It is simply a supplement, that can aid to increase protein in ones diet without adding too much calories. It isn’t superior to regular food, really. It can help to quickly supplement a meal to increase protein content, but any more than about 2g of protein per kg of bodyweight doesn’t have sizable effects anyways.
    For the price of protein powder you can buy a lot of healthy food. But sometimes people don’t have time or are frankly too lazy to cook something healthy up.
    True thing, none of these supplements are an requirement for optimal muscle gain and fitness.

    • By Al Kavadlo - Reply

      Protein powder definitely isn’t a requirement to gain muscle!  I’d actually go a step further and say that it is a detriment. 

  • By Rich Cook - Reply

    I’m curious what your  opinion is on the supplements, etc. that Tim Ferriss recommends in The Four Hour Body (I assume you’ve read it or at least know of it).  He recommends the PAGG stack and other things and gives lots of anecdotal evidence from his personal experience.

    My other question is born of my skepticism: what if you can’t get (due to work time, cooking ability, etc.) to get the amount/quality of real/good foods. I’ve always heard that supplements fill in the gaps in our diet. I feel like the ‘reasons’ for not getting enough high-quality food are just excuses and laziness (on my part, I mean) but wonder about the validity. What is your perspective on supplements to fill in the gaps in our diet?

    • By Al Kavadlo - Reply

      Hey Rich – I am personally opposed to ALL dietary exercise supplements.  To quote Herman Hesse, “If a man has nothing to eat, fasting is the most intelligent thing he can do.”

  • By Jeremiah Boothe - Reply

    Hey Al!  Great article

  • By Jeremiah Boothe - Reply

    Hey Al!  Great article.  I too have spent way too much cash on supplements thinking they were the key to strength and mass gains only to be severely disappointed and broke.  As another person on here said and I totally agree with is that we have to understand what kind of animal we ar@AlKavadlo:disqus and where we came from and how we ate to really understand the types of food we evolved to handle.  Once I cut out the garbage including the heavily processed supplements and adopted the philosophy of eating almost 100% foods that were pulled out of the ground or came off a tree I have made tremendous gains in strength, stamina, and energy.   Anyway the point is I have spent at least a few thousand dollars or more in my lifetime on supplements and I have no lasting strength or muscle gains to show for it.  All of mine come from when I have eaten the healthiest and truly most natural diet I can.

    • By Al Kavadlo - Reply

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Jeremiah!  Keep eating real food!

  • By Dan - Reply

    If I’m to adhere to the Buddhist principle of believing only what agrees with my reason, I must say that I have no trouble at all believing that glutamine supports strength and muscle mass in exactly the way that various studies claim it does. I took it in 2006 when my sole physical goal was to become as big and strong as possible. It was as if all my hard training and disciplined eating up to that point had turned my body into a well-oiled lock, just waiting for the key that was glutamine. The sense of being borderline-sick that sometimes occurs after a brutal workout was vastly diminished. My muscles stayed sore for a dramatically shorter time than before, and got bigger and stronger more quickly.

    It’s obviously good to be skeptical of studies, especially when those funding them stand to win or lose by the results, but it’s dogmatic and unfair to dismiss any individual study out of hand. I have not closely examined the claims that glutamine supplements inhibited wasting syndrome in bedridden patients, or that it enhanced the strength training program of the University of Washington football team, but based on my own experience, I have little trouble believing these things.

    • By Al Kavadlo - Reply

      Hey Dan – If you feel like you are getting results from glutamine supplementation then you have my blessing to go ahead with it. I personally did not feel any notable changes when I used it.

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  • By Bodybuilder Supplements - Reply

    I really agree with your sharing that exercise supplements is full of lies. All types of exercise supplements use can damage human body at internally and many times it leads to death so anybody can’t use exercise supplements for healthy fitness that’s my suggestion to all people.

  • By Make-a-Difference ;> - Reply

    Congrats on your work here Al! 

    My 2 cents as a fitness nut since 1978  (footballl, powerlifting, MTB, running,  and Kite surfing) + a healthy life coach is simple: Smart training cycles + eating enough good food + enough good rest is about all you need to progress.   

    The most common mistake I see from motivated newbies are over-training & undereating & under-resting:

    ex:new trainees who come into the gym with a 6 day double spit wortkout that they saw in one of the Supplement mags….oooops  I mean Fitness Mags :->

     To gain mass you need more healthy calories than you burn and to allow your body time to recover.

    But wait some say, Mr Olympia (A.ka. Mr Steriod with great gentics 6 hard training) trains 6 X a week…..yes becuase he is on the juice and so recovers faster until he totally f____ks up his hormonal system, gets bitch tits and can not get it up with the ladies.

    • By Al Kavadlo - Reply

      Thanks!  I concur!

  • By Branl - Reply

    I always think vitamins are pretty crap, And I also think the sources of the tablets are in it for profit, Nothing beats a nice good meal.  You cant take all the vitamins they like, but a good healthy meals is perfect.
    If you go into Holland and barrett they have shelf fall of vitamins, its a complete joke.  Even cod liver oil in my view is a joke, it pretty crap, I would rather just eat fish.

    The perfect combo- eating, strength training, and some form of raising you heart beat regardless of what it is.

    To many choices in life really cause havoc on our minds. I think we need to take  some learning from the past, old time. 

    • By Al Kavadlo - Reply

      Yeah – those capsules and pills are a waste!  Good ol’ food is all you need!

  • By Branl - Reply

    I used to take protein powder until I learnt what rubbish it was and how I was brain washed by many mags, media, health shops, muscle building video etc
    To be honest I can go without meat for a week and it does not bother my body one bit.  I do take vitamin B, but only due to my mood, and feeling down a lot which is part I think of life, in some people.

    • By Al Kavadlo - Reply

      Good thing you eventually came to your senses!

  • By Rivu - Reply

    what about “The Warrior Diet”, do you think it good for an active individual?????

    • By Al Kavadlo - Reply

      I don’t know much about that program but if it encourages you to eat real food and avoid processed crap then it’s okay with me!

  • By RobertP - Reply

    Al,
    You’re nowhere near old enough yet to discount the benefits of some supplements. As you age, the hormonal and other beneficial secretion processes of the body fade and certain types of supplements will do wonders for you. One example are the digestive enzymes, no point in eating a healthy diet if your digestive assimilation is deficient and the food just sits in your gut and putrifies. You need to be about 50+ before you realize the obvious benefits of that supplementation though. The natural testosterone boosters like tribulus are something that will do wonders for you mentally and physically, it only takes a minuscule t-boost to make a huge difference. Again this is something only the 40-something-plus crowd will notice. There are quite a few others, but I’m not really prepared to write a thesis at this point. The main idea is that when you’r in your prime of life as you are, minimal to no supplementation works, but as you age, you will find more than a few that are truly beneficial in maintaining an active lifestyle and healthy body, and the ones I mentioned don’t cost all that much either.

    • By Andy Fossett - Reply

      Truly, we all have different needs at different ages, and even as our goals change.

      For most “healthy” people, supplements aren’t necessary (though they may offer certain benefits in some cases).

      Glad you’ve found what seems to work for you.

      • By RobbyTaylor - Reply

        Agreed. This post is talking more about supplements that are marketed to increase performance; stuff you would see in bodybuilding magazines and such. Supplements that are for some sort of specific deficiency is a bit different, because, as Andy said, most “healthy” people are just fine without supplementation. I used to take amino acids, but I stopped buying them because the benefits, in my mind, felt as effective as a placebo. I currently take an EcoGreen multivitamin with green superfoods by NOW foods, just to make sure I cover any general bases that I’m missing in my diet, and a Hyaluronic Joint Complex supplement by Source naturals, which I really do feel helps my joints recover and feel stronger. I also give one of the hyaluronic acid tablets to each of my dogs a day; they’re about 10 years old and when they take it regularly they get up and walk more easily and are just generally more playful. I sometimes have a protein shake, not necessarily to try to put on mass (which would require I eat a LOT more), rather simply to get my calorie intake up. I have to eat a lot anyway and it’s just an easy addition, plus post workout it’s nice to have that quick digesting liquid, then I’ll go take a shower then eat an actual meal.

  • By urutu - Reply

    What about taking some honey and black seed oil al? they are all liquid and natural? do you ever get in touch on them or givin a try?

  • By Costa - Reply

    Hi guys,

    Let me give you my opinion on the
    subject.

    You are discussing who is right and who
    is wrong.

    In fact, it may be that Al is right and
    the pharma industry too.

    Let me explain you my point of view.

    I am 57, had been doing a lot of
    calisthenics in my youth without any supplement.

    Now I started again 3 years ago with
    some calisthenics.

    I am trying to get about the volume of
    H.Walker to make it efficient.

    I am a hard gainer, and can tell you
    that if I don’t add some whey supplements, I just burn my beef again.

    As I am MD, I tried to understand the
    stuff better.

    There is some food intolerance in my
    family for sure.

    As to myself, I have a very fast
    transit of small bowel.

    As such proteins are probably gone for
    some portion, without being absorbed, or being processed only
    partially. No true malabsorption, but just a fast transit time.

    This is obviously not the case of
    Herschel Walker for instance. Probably also not the case for Al.

    I love what he says that we don’t need
    any supplements, but in my case it’s just not true.

    Now, of course, it would be different
    if I heeded my food intolerances, and started a treatment.

    But I can tell you, it’s quite
    cumbersome, to avoid all products you are intolerant to.

    To begin with, it’s just a new science,
    and we don’t know yet all the stuff we don’t tolerate.

    It is very common. I suppose most
    people’s digestive system is far from perfect.

    Besides, industry makes the stuff even
    more complicated.

    To give you only one example: commonest
    food intolerance is towards gluten. A protid contained in grains. But
    gluten content of bread has grown tremendously those 30 last years,
    as it is easier to be processed by machines.

    So if unfortunately you are intolerant
    to some foods, as most people are, you can try to do without protein
    supplement. But good luck: it’s really complicated and cumbersome.

    But you can still try it. For instance
    you can cut by 90 % your gluten supply. Eat just rice !

    It has only 10% of the gluten content
    of bread.

    I love calisthenics and all your
    comments !

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