If you buy ready-made workout supplements, you could be throwing away hundreds, of pounds every year. Why?
Because sports nutrition marketing is very clever and you’re naïve enough to believe it.
Let’s take a look at the price of a typical post-workout supplement; CNP Pro Recover. A 1.28Kg tub of this costs £24.97 from Bodybuilding Warehouse
If you use this regularly (which you should be if you’ve actually decided to fork out for such a product), you’re going to go through it in no time. Here’s how to make a post-workout shake that’s as effective for much less.
1. Buy a reasonably priced Whey Protein powder
The Cheapest brands on the market are probably MyProtein or MaxiRAW.
You can get 5Kg of product for just under £60
2. Buy some Glucose Powder
500g of this costs £1.29 in Holland and Barret
3. Mix to two together using a 2:1 Carbohydrate to Protein Ratio
Combining these two products (the key ingredients for any post workout shake) will cost you around £72 for 5kg of post-workout goodness.
CNP Pro Recover costs around £100 for the same amount.
BSN Cellmass Costs Around £200 for the same amount
Almost every post you read on the internet, or every page you read in a magazine is motivated by one thing; money. Good advice it may be, but they’ll always be a plug in there somewhere for a sensationally named supplement, be it powder, pills, or liquid that supposedly single-handedly propels you towards your fitness goals than plain old working out or eating ever could.
These adverts or subtle plugs work for two reasons;
You’re naïve and susceptible to advertising
They sound good simply because you want to believe them; after all working out is tough, it’s nice to at least entertain the thought that there could be something out there which helps you achieve your goals more quickly, right?
That’s precisely why your cupboard is full of brightly coloured containers plastered with statements that promise a ‘ripped’ or ‘jacked’ physique, and precisely why you’re still too small, and too fat.
Here are a list of supplements that you shouldn’t be wasting your time and money on, or investing your hopes in;
1. Pre-workout formulas (N.O Xplode, Jack3d)
Most pre-workout formulas include a mixture of nitrous oxide, caffeine, and Taurine which give you a mental boost and a more intense ‘pump’
Why you don’t need it: If you feel you need a mental boost you probably need to go to bed earlier; try it, it’s free.
This is supposedly a natural testosterone booster, reputedly taking it gives you better muscle building/fat-loss potential
Why you don’t need it: Eat healthy fats like egg yolks and utilize compound lifts to stimulate GH and testosterone production.
3. Mass Gainers
Mass gainers are usually powders that mix into a thick drink with a high-calorie content, marketed at people looking to pack on size.
Why you don’t need it: Simply eating more real food is a more effective and cheaper way of increasing calories.
4. Fat Burners
Fat burning pills usually contain a mixture of tea extract and caffeine and purportedly aid the body’s fat burning abilities
Why you don’t need it: You can work harder at the gym and have a coffee before your workout for a fraction of the price
5. Post-workout formulas
Usually a mix of whey protein and some form of simple, fast-digesting carbohydrate to replenish energy stores after your workout
Why you don’t need it: Mixing a standalone why protein with a fast digesting form of carbohydrates is a much cheaper option
A slow digesting form of protein that release slowly into the bloodstream
Why you don’t need it: Cottage cheese does the same job is more nutritionally sound than Casein
You may feel like you do, which is understandable since every time you turn the page of ‘Mens Health’ or ‘Muscle and Fitness’ you are bombarded with colourful, celebrity endorsed adverts for the latest Whey protein powder, but when it comes down to it, this supplement is just that, a supplement, albeit a useful one.
Don’t confuse ‘useful’ with ‘essential’ however, trainers have been building great physiques for years without using a single supplement, and despite what the sports nutrition companies would have you believe, that’s still possible today.
That’s not to say that Whey protein doesn’t have a place in the arsenal of the modern trainer. Whey is a convenient, fast digesting form of protein that’s ideal for pre and post workout meals. Why? Because it’s in liquid form (unless you’re some kind of freak that prefers to snort the raw powder), this means it’s absorbed through the intestine and into the blood stream quicker than whole food, which is what you want, particularly after an intense resistance workout.
The difference to your physique between having a whole food meal and a whey protein shake is negligible, the main issue here is convenience. It’s far easier after an intense workout to add some water to your powder, shake it up and drink it than it is to prepare a whole food meal with comparable protein content.
And so onto cost, many people cite Whey protein as being cost effective, but is that true? Let’s compare;
The price of these ‘Basic’ Chicken Breast fillets from Sainsbury’s are £7.41 per Kg
The price of this ‘Impact Whey Protein’ from myprotein.com (which I’ve found to be one of the cheapest high quality protein powders out there) is £8.00 per Kg.
So very little difference, but the chicken comes out on top.
Bare in mind however that this is pretty much the cheapest you’ll be able to get Whey protein, other brands are far more expensive. Take this Reflex Instant Whey for example, this brand of protein powder wheys in (sorry) at a staggering £19.20 per Kg!
Extortionate even when compared to the more expensive Sainsbury’s chicken which comes in at £8.33 per Kg, and Reflex isn’t the most expensive Whey on the market by any stretch of the imagination.
Now, this is a quite a simplistic way to compare the two. Why? Because the protein content of Whey and Chicken are very different. Chicken is roughly 21% protein, while whey is typically 75-80%, this means you’re getting a much larger protein hit with Whey gram-for-gram. Or, to look at it another way, you need a lot less whey to get the same amount of protein as you would in chicken. On the face it of it, this makes it much more cost effective.
More important however, is the issue of substituting real food for whey. Whey protein is a man-made product, and while the convenience and cost effectiveness is undeniable compared to real food, the nutritional benefits pale in comparison. Humans have been eating food like chicken, beef and lamb for centuries, and to simply look at the protein percentages is entirely narrow-minded. Protein for animal sources don’t only contain protein, but also essential fats, and micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals which will actually help the body absorb and utilise the protein.
Not only does whey lack the qualities of real food, it can also have some undesirable additions that could contradict your goals. Take BSN Syntha-6 Whey for example, this has a relatively high sugar content, to make it taste good. High sugar intake is very closely related with fat gain, so if you’re taking in a lot of this kind of product then you could be unknowingly sabotaging your own goals. Always read the labels.
Another problem is that people become enamored by the glamourous image and grandiose promises made by these supplement companies and don’t just purchase Whey powder, but other supplements like BCAAs, Glutamine. Testo Boosters and other weird and wonderful pills which will only be of any use if you’re competing at the VERY TOP level.
In fact, the guys at the very top of their game, whether that game is Bodybuilding, Powerlifting, Weightlifting, Strongman or Crossfit probably don’t even use Whey protein. Yes, they’re paid top dollar to promote such products, but because they earn so much, their need for a cost-effective protein source is negated, they can afford to get the BEST sources of protein, and that’s always going to be real, whole food.
Put it this way; if you’re missing workouts, not training as intensely as possible and don’t have spot-on nutrition, you’re wasting your money on these kind of supplements. Anywhey (you can just leave if you want), back to Whey protein;
Is Whey protein cost effective? Yes.
Do you need it? No.
Should you get some? Probably.
Even if you don’t use it on a regular basis, it’s handy to have some Whey in the cupboard in case you need a quick hit, or if you find yourself unable to eat whole food protein. Whatever you do, DON’T be under the illusion that Whey is some kind of magic powder that will pack on slabs of muscle with little effort. Get some, use it as part of a great diet, don’t spend fortunes on it, don’t rely on it.
Let’s be honest, if we could take a magic potion that somehow turned us into 18 stone, ripped beasts, we would. Unfortunately, in bodybuilding, as in any sport, there are no shortcuts. The nice people at BSN who make a range of nutritional supplements however would have you believe that veiny vascularity is just a scoop of fluorescent green powder away in their ads for NO-XPLODE, a pre-workout formula which allegedly yields skin-tearing pumps. Or something.
Having used NO-XPLODE on a few occasions, I can confirm that I haven’t turned into the Juggernaut from X-Men after being given a wet willie, no the formula didn’t make my veins course to bursting point, what it did do however, is make me want to work hard, really hard.
For me, the benefits of NO-XPLODE were far more mental than physical. Minutes after ingesting the sharp, acidic, bile like substance that’s created when you mix NO-XPLODE with water, I felt a distinct, almost overwhelming desire to hit the gym and throw some heavy stuff around. This is likely due to the near pharmaceutical quantities of Taurine, which has a similar effect to caffeine.
The question is, is the £30 odd enough to pay for a tub of chemicals that are quite possibly doing you as much harm as they are good? Well, if you’re one of those trainers that believes in all the gimmicks and likes to live with the illusion that supplements will do most of the work for you, yes.
If you’re more measured and intelligent in your approach, then NO-XPLODE is a handy tool in the locker that gives you that much needed boost when lethargy sets in. The toxic looking concoction has varying effects on different people, so the best advice is to try some for yourself, I’d take it easy on the dosage however, one of my initial over-enthusiastic three-scoop mixes resulted in me depositing most of the calories I’d ingested that day into the sewage system.