From “Muscle, Smoke and Mirrors”
Ben (Weider) wrote in “Muscle Builder” in November 1954 – “When the Weider Company makes a sale, it does not end its interest in you with that sale. It is anxious to see that you succeed in your ambitions, that you make the bodybuilding grade. For this reason did we establish the Weider Research Clinic. For this reason do we offer a free lifetime advisory service to each and every one of our customers, so that at any time when confronted with any particular bodybuilding problem, a Weider Pupil can write us and ask for advice.”
“Some are already aware of the often-told story of 1966 Mr. America, Bob Gajda’s visit to the Weider offices where he opened the door marked ‘Weider Research Clinic’ only to find a broom closet. How many youngsters over the years, this author included, dreamed of being part of that ‘Research Clinic’?”
Supplements – A (partial) short history of everything bullshit.
Back in the day supplement choices for athletes were very limited. There was the Weider range (monopoly) with it’s handful of snake-oil pills, powders and potions that did fuck all and tasted even worse.Marketing methods remained consistent, products came and went (as did companies), consumers had nowhere to turn to for reliable supplement information and billions upon billions continued to be spent on mostly do-nothing products.
In the early 90’s a magazine by the name of Muscle Media promised to remain the unbiased watchdog of the industry, promising readers that would deny advertising dollars from shady supplement dealers and call out the identified shysters. Magazine owner Bill Phillips masqueraded as “one of us” and proclaimed to be an advocate for the “everyman” bodybuilder. He trained. He talked openly about steroids in his mags which until then was totally taboo. He released his own self published guides to which supplements work and which were crap.
We all swallowed the Gospel of Bill never realising that he was pulling one of the biggest scams ever perpetrated in the industry. Long story short – Phillips turned his back on the very people who helped him build his empire, he scammed an entire consumer base with false supplement reports and science, sold his company before it went to shit and parachuted out of the bodybuilding world rich as a mutherfuker! These days, Bill Phillips moonlights as a fulltime cunt and looks like a white version of Michael Jackson’s ballsack.
The various magazines realising the brilliance of Phillip’s scamming methods turned to this business model as standard operating procedure, bombarding the naive consumer with supplement ads thinly disguised as information articles. It’s been the responsibility of the consumer to wade the deep end of the pool to decipher the research into what works and what doesn’t. Basically caveat emptor and no fucking refunds.
Examine.com – A Real Consumer Advocate?
Thanks to Examine.com they’ve made that task considerably easier.
Examine,com does a great job in providing an unbiased reference guide to a range of the most common supplements available on the market. It provides citations to over 36,000 in vivo studies supporting the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of a particular supplement.
A previous section of the site (now archived) that lists stacks for various conditions has been expanded on in separate guides available for purchase. The Stack Guides are meant to be the definitive guide to selecting research supported supplements. The Guides cover the following goals:
- Testosterone Enhancement
- Fat Loss
- Muscle Gain & Exercise Performance
- Mood and Depression
- Heart Health
- Sleep Quality
- Insulin Sensitivity
- Memory and Focus
- Skin and Hair Quality
- Libido and Sexual Enhancement
- Liver Health
- Allergies and Immunity
- Bone Health
- Joint Health
If, for example, your goal was improving your sleep quality, each guide presents supplements meeting the following criteria:
Base Supplements – recommended for the majority of people with the above goal. These supplements have the most research behind them and less drug adverse effects. Magnesium fits here because deficiencies affect the quality of one’s sleep.
Proven Options – supplements with research supporting a particular context only. So for example, Melatonin fits this category because it reduces the time it takes to fall asleep. People who don’t have this problem wouldn’t need melatonin.
Unproven Options – Supplements that could work, but don’t have the solid research behind them one way or another to conclusively say for sure. An example in our sleep example is Valerian because it’s not understood how it influences sleep quality.
Cautionary Options/Overhyped options are ineffective, counterproductive or risky if used. Caffeine is the obvious example here in the sleep quality example.
I won’t give you the entire composition of all the available Stack Guides or the amounts of each recommended – you can pretty much work it out yourself if you’re willing to do the work and read the label on most products. But here is a list of some of the guides pertaining to gaining muscle and losing fat.
Testosterone Boosting and Enhancement
Base – Zinc, Magnesium, Vitamin D, Creatine, DHEA,
Unproven Options – Boron, D-Aspartic Acid, Coleus forskohlii,
Cautionary Options/Overhyped – Tribulus terrestris, maca,fenugreek, stinging nettle
(If you want to read about my experience with testosterone boosters and resultant bloodwork comparing before and afters read this.)
Muscle Gain and Exercise Performance
Base – Creatine, Nitrates (can also be replaced with L-citrulline malate), Protein, Carbohydrates, Beta Alanine, Caffeine
Unproven Options – Nitric oxide boosters, adaptogens such as ashwagandha, Panax
ginseng, and Rhodiola rosea, BCAA’s, cholinergics
Cautionary Options/Overhyped – Testosterone boosters, Sodium bicarbonate, HMB, Glutamine,
Base – Caffeine, White willow bark, Coleus forskohlii, Yohimbine, 5-HTP, L-theanine (to counter the stimulating effect of the other supplements in this stack)
Unproven Options – Synephrine, caffeine alternatives (Guarana and yerba mate),
Cautionary & Overhyped Options – Senna alexandrina, Raspberry ketones, Hoodia gordonii, Green coffee extract,
Supplement Stack Guides Verdict.
To the layman or a novice to the sport, I imagine that these guides would simplify the daunting task of maneuvering through the magazine ads or overcrowded shelves of any supplement store more effectively. I like how they give definitive recommendations along with research tested amounts to use so that the consumer isn’t wasting their money needlessly on things like excess protein powders and vitamins. The recommendations at the end of each guide on specific ways to tailor or adjust each stack for one’s individual needs are also pretty neat.
For the athlete who’s been around the block several times, I don’t know if they’ll personally find anything new here which makes the purchase of this product less appealing. I admit to being pretty underwhelmed when I first paged through them.
I think in order to make the guides even better for all readers, Examine.com could have provided a tremendous service by testing a bunch of existing popular brands to give recommendations which products to buy or which to avoid. Even I wonder sometimes whether the protein powder, ZMA or fish oil I’m purchasing is up to scratch, and it would be good to have a top 5 list of Brands in each category as some kind of benchmark to judge by. I think it would really do a lot to keep the supplement companies on their toes to have this kind of consumer advocate on their back, providing some long time coming, REAL power of choice to the buyer.