Prices And Progress
Sometimes I feel like a consumer watchdog, corny as that may sound. I've been around this industry for a large part of my young life and I've seen a lot of promising people come and go. Don't let anyone fool you though, this is an industry worth a few billion dollars and that tends to change people. I've always had this thing about bodybuilding and money.
I love the game, and that's why I always find it hard to charge for advice or help, even though my empty wallet tells me the opposite. I actually have to try to consciously make myself aware that I need to ask money if the work I do surpasses what I deem to be fun. I mean what could be better in life than making a living doing what you love?
That seems to be the stance of a great many people. The promising people I mentioned, have all moved on and are already established professionals in this industry, or on their way to becoming established professionals. With due right, the people I speak of are people I enjoyed working with, debating with, conversing with in the past.
But then you learn what the downside is, and for a few seconds I don't regret the fact that I don't make heaps of money from this. It appears, that everyone has a price. And having a vested interest worth a lot of money, soon shows for just how little people will sell their soul. Many of the friends I had are now involved with one company or another.
I'm still doing my same old thing, doing the research, helping people out and offering opinions with people's best interest at heart. But low and behold, if you dare even mention anything that could hurt sales of a product, ever so slightly, you will soon discover you shouldn't venture in this business to make friends.
Whilst I am quite flattered that these people think my opinion could cost them so much money that they would sacrifice a friendship, I really don't understand it all.
First of all, in this industry, 90% of supplements work. I'm giving you that here on black and white. My beef is rarely that a supplement does not work. But they work to varying degrees, and they sell at a highly varying cost. Therein lies the inherent problem when offering people the best advice.
Do they need the supplement? And above all, do they need to spend that much to achieve something or is there a cheaper or more effective alternative? Few, if any supplements will offer noticeable changes in body composition compared to placebo over the course of a few weeks.
The now exempt ephedra based fat loss products and soon to be exempt prohormones being the notable exceptions. Not even creatine, to me still the greatest breakthrough in supplement history, will offer a significant increase in size over 8 weeks time. These are a supplement to your daily nutrition, and as such only have as much impact as your nutrition.
Since nutrition will vary highly as well, this makes a lot of sense. If you keep that in the back of your head that makes it easier to relativate these so-called second and third generation improvements of existing products and the new line of hypes.
In the first case, the problem is that the increase in efficiency is not that great, and compared to the increase in price, is exponentially smaller. Do they work? For sure. Do they work better? Perhaps. But are they worth the increase in price? Definitely not. Keep in mind that over a course of 8 weeks you will probably not see a noticeable difference.
Do you think it logical then that one would spend 10 times more over that time span for adding sugar to your creatine, considering you get all the sugar you need from your diet?
In the second case it concerns new breakthroughs in medical literature, or the latest new discovery from some lost corner of the globe. These things are usually incredibly interesting for research purposes, give us incredible new insights in physiological functioning and for the researchers among us, many hours of reading well worth the while.
But hey, we know about it, there is a lot of new research about it, why not make a quick buck while the name is hot? I loathe this type of marketing. Initial feedback comes from overzealous enthusiasts experiencing a major placebo effect, who don't know how to judge results and often add more variables such as a change in diet or the use of other products.
Combine that with a glossy ad, a cool name and a list of studies 90% of your audience does not understand and you can make a lot of money. Then two years later, well what do you know, it wasn't the hot shit they claimed it was at first. Remember HMB? Remember GH boosters? Hell, even glutamine has been taken from its pedestal, and mark my words it is still overrated.
Does that mean these products don't work? No, they work, to some small extent, in most cases. But in most cases they also cost a small fortune inversely correlated with the effect it has. Tell me why I should spend 120 bucks to reduce my appetite and rev up my metabolism, if my 15 dollar ephedrine supplement does the same thing better, and gives me more and better fat loss at the same time?
Consider that the next time someone compiles a list of 50 studies and tells you their latest fad is what you really, really need. Don't spread the word, but I was doing just fine delivering international quality athletes to the stage before your phenomenal discovery, and guess what, I will still be doing so in a couple of years, when people start realizing that supplement wasn't all it was cut out to be... It definitely wasn't cut out to be priced like that.
But really, why do these people care so much what I say? I'm just here to serve the best interest of the consumer and have my opinions on that. I take most consumers that take the time to read what I write to be smart enough to make up their own mind with the information I provide. That's why I have been involved in supplement development in the past, and have not received a dime for it.
I don't want to have a vested interest that will corrupt my soul like these former friends. A loss of revenue hurts, and people tell me I'm stupid for doing such things all the time. Well it would hurt me a lot more if I sold my integrity for a little money. So yes, the lot of you can go back to saying you care so much about accurate information, if you don't mean it, don't spit it. If you meant it you wouldn't comment with snide remarks because I offer a valid opinion.
And really, what impact do I have that it causes people to get so upset with what I say? I often regret the lack of impact of what I say. If my words were so detrimental to your sales, MuscleTech would have been out of business three years ago. I stick around to help those who want to be helped.
The majority doesn't want to be helped, they want to be dazzled by information they don't understand and the promise of a magic bullet. And that 5% that tries, do you really have to corrupt them too?
My dream is still to make money doing what I love. And I will pursue that goal, forever no doubt. But I will never sell my soul for a fistful of dollars. What is intelligence worth if you don't have credibility?
And this industry progresses so fast. At least that's what everyone says. But do you honestly believe that? The only thing that progresses fast in this industry, is the revenue being made. Be honest for two seconds. Did the revolutionary new supplements you bought this year (prohormones not included) get you that much closer to your goal than last year's supplements?
Is it that fat suddenly started dropping from your frame? Or that bulging muscle upon bulging muscle sprouted from your once so thin frame? That you had to work so much less at your physique than previous years? That where you sweated to make it work last year, this year you don't even have to work out anymore? I doubt it.
You want to see an industry that advances, go to Silicon Valley. You think the industry advances because everyone and their brother realizes this is a quick cash opportunity and wants a piece of the pie. People don't want to hear me say that I think B-vitamins and ZMA are essential, cheap supplements that will enhance your results long term more than most supplements.
Why would they want to hear that if that product with the cool sounding name makes promises it can't keep anyway?
This is what it comes down, its time for a reality check. For the consumers, but for the companies as well. Gentlemen, I knew you when you had so much potential, when you were young upstarts ready to change the world. Now look into your soul, and tell me what has changed except the numbers on your bank accounts?
You pride yourself so much on providing studies that support that your product MAY be just a little better than the next guy's, but you can't even supply basic information needed to keep your customers safe. Maybe if we made a little effort in that regard, they wouldn't have banned ephedra, and they wouldn't be looking to ban prohormones. But that, perhaps is a topic for a later column.
One revolution of the new millennium seems to be topical localized fat loss. I have issues with this type of supplementation as well, at least from a bodybuilder's perspective, but that is entirely besides the point. I don't find them useful, but in spite of that I do know that they work.
Avant Labs gave me the opportunity to try the original Lipoderm formula, some considerable time ago, so I know from experience that they work.
Back in those days Par was already planning on making his Lipoderm Ultra formulation, and the topic came up of which compounds would be well suited for this purpose. I named forskolin as the most likely candidate. I would like to say it was a stroke of genius, but there was no way for me to know that at the time, I had just hopped the forskolin bandwagon and at the time it had not been around long enough for me to establish the credibility of the supplement.
In this case, time proved me correct. Next to the age-old ephedrine/caffeine combination, I find forskolin to be the most worthwhile addition to any diet.
Now recently I came across a study, from 1995 no less, that compared several substances with regards to efficacy at reducing girth in the thigh. They applied the product(s) in the same topical solution each time, to a single thigh, using the other thigh as a control.
Forskolin, yohimbine, aminophylline and a mix of all three were tested in combination with a diet and regular walking. They also tested 0.5%, 2% and 10% aminophylline solutions. The conclusion was that ALL METHODS EXCEPT YOHIMBINE ONLY clearly reduced girth as opposed to control. Now, as I already stated, the original Lipoderm worked, and that was yohimbine only.
That makes me at least wonder, with this study being dated 1995, why yohimbine was the chosen compound and more importantly why forskolin, which I was touting for this very purpose nearly two years ago was never used. Now some people say it is because stubborn sex-related fat is often linked to a high density of alpha2 adrenoreceptors so blocking those makes the most sense.
But that makes no sense at all, forskolin would work primarily, at least on a local level, through increasing cAMP levels in the cells, independent of the density of the adrenoreceptor subtypes, making it more applicable in ALL area's, including stubborn fat.
Now that Lipoderm ultra is available, I see lots of things added with doubtful efficacy, but still forskolin is being overlooked for this purpose. Are we ignoring the obvious here?
An interesting note on the side is the effect of the various aminophylline solutions. At first one would imagine that the girth loss is primarily because of the diuretic action of the compound.
But, and thanks to nandi12 for pointing this oversight out, the diuretic action of aminophylline occurs systemically, which would have caused equal girth loss in the control thigh. Perhaps I should recant my earlier statements on topical aminophylline until I have more data.
EPA or eicosapentaenoic acid is an omega-3 fatty acid that seems to have beneficial effects on cholesterol and other factors related to cardiovascular factors. Omega-3 fatty acids in small quantities are an essential part of our diet as well, for maintaining proper health.
Lately however it seems people are using large quantities of EPA with the aim of reducing fat gain, or increasing fat loss. Someone recently asked me for my opinion on this, so I did a little digging. It reduces cholesterol, so chances are it has PPARalpha agonist actions in the liver, which would increase fatty acid oxidation hepatically.
Poly unsaturated fats have been known to bind PP activated receptors, so this is not unlikely. An initial medline search confirmed this. EPA not only increases fatty acid oxidation in the liver, it limits the formation of triacylglycerol from diacylglycerols. Coincidentally, the same study also confirmed that DHA, another omega-3 fatty acid also sometimes used for such purposes, is devoid of such activity.
A more in depth review of the literature however, revealed that EPA increases mRNA expression of the gamma PPAR 's in adipocytes. This would shed a whole new light on the subject as the gamma receptors will increase glucose uptake, fatty acid synthase and lipid storage. This would be consistent with the fact that poly-unsaturated fats, in comparison to their saturated counterparts, do not seem to affect insulin sensitivity in a negative way.
So the whole story is that EPA will reduce readily disposable visceral fat and prevent its build-up through PPARa agonism in the liver, but would be increasing subcutaneous adipose tissue by activating PPARg. This would reduce performance due to visceral fat depletion, and prevent subcutaneous, visible fat, from being mobilized.
So EPA seems to be affecting body composition as well as performance in a negative way when taken in higher than recommended dietary doses. So while omega-3 fatty acids are an essential part of our diet, and a must have, supplementation with it is not advised unless your diet is deficient. Most people on a standard western diet might do well to supplement a little once in a while, but continual high dose use for purposes of fat loss or maintenance seem to be contradictory.
Berge RK, Madsen L, Vaagenes H, Tronstad KJ, Gottlicher M, Rustan AC.
In contrast with docosahexaenoic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid and hypolipidaemic derivatives decrease hepatic synthesis and secretion of triacylglycerol by decreased diacylglycerol acyltransferase activity and stimulation of fatty acid oxidation.
Biochem J. 1999 Oct 1;343 Pt 1:191-7.
Chambrier C, Bastard JP, Rieusset J, Chevillotte E, Bonnefont-Rousselot D, Therond P, Hainque B, Riou JP, Laville M, Vidal H. Eicosapentaenoic acid induces mRNA expression of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma. Obes Res. 2002 Jun;10(6):518-25.
A freshly published study, hot of the press, that I heard about this week was stuck in my mind. Multiple sclerosis is a particularly ferocious disease that deteriorates the myelin sheath from around nerve tissue, causing problems with the insulation of electrical pulses and affects pulse speed.
The consequences are often dire, leading to paralysis, cramping, etc. Patients usually deteriorate in a fast pace, ending up in a wheelchair and dying at a young age. It's a disease I've always been very concerned with, but have taken even more of an interest now, since someone I know was diagnosed with it shortly before Christmas.
Now we all know that lowering vitamin D, for instance by increasing calcium consumption, can increase fat loss since vitamin D inhibits uncoupling protein too. One of the many reasons I think milk is a very suitable food/drink during a diet. But what about the benefits of Vitamin D?
Well this study at least suggests that supplemental vitamin D may lower incidence of Multiple Sclerosis. People in sunny areas are less likely, statistically, to get this disease. Which caused the researchers to look at Vitamin D, which is positively correlated with the time spent in sunlight.
When supplementing 400 IU daily of Vitamin D, the women tested in this study showed a reduced relative risk of 0.59. Meaning incidences of MS were only 59% of that in unsupplemented women.
It also causes one to continue the train of thought. This could be the reason why women are more likely to get MS than men. Women have a higher incidence of osteoporosis as well, which is also easily linked to a lower level of Vitamin D. So unless you are on a diet, supplementing with vitamin D is probably a wise consideration.
Munger KL, Zhang SM, O'Reilly E, Hernan MA, Olek MJ, Willett WC, Ascherio A. Vitamin D intake and incidence of multiple sclerosis.
Neurology. 2004 Jan 13;62(1):60-65.