It wasn't a close encounter at all. It wasn't even a dream. Turns out I had gotten carried away while thumbing through the pages of ______ (insert your favorite bodybuilding or fitness magazine) at the checkout counter at the supermarket. Forget the embarrassment of having been asked "paper or plastic" three times, that was minor; however, the shame of having succumbed to the hyperbole of the great gods of supplement advertising was enough to cause me to shuffle quickly out of the store with my head down and my six dollar magazine tucked under my arm.
Although I have never studied or worked in advertising, I think I can net-out the entire discipline in one statement: Tell people what they want to hear. And guess what folks, the people in the supplement and fitness advertising business graduated at the top of their classes. Before I go any further, I should say that I have used tons of supplements and continue to use at least pounds of them weekly. To listen to my wife, one would think that I alone am keeping some manufacturers in business. The point that I am making is that I believe in the efficacy of using supplements; however, save the rare transgression, I don't believe the hype.
Now that I have clouded the issue with statements that are ostensibly contradictory, I shall clarify. When I see the following words and phrases in the description of a product, especially a new one I have not used, a "red flag" goes up in my mind. I am sure this is some kind of conditioned response I have developed over the years as a defense mechanism to the bombardment of four-page glossy ads for protein powder, countless "before and after" photos, and best of all infomercials. A few examples:
GAIN UP TOâ€¦
This is probably my favorite. "Gain up to 10 lbs of new muscle in 7 days". "Add up to 50 lbs to your bench". And the converse: "Lose up to 10 lbs in 48 hours". "How can they claim it if it's not true?" If I had a gram of protein powder for every timeâ€¦ The truth is that these claims are completely VALID. "Up to" includes anything less than what is specified. Get it? When statements such as these become invalid is when the number is surpassed. Now seriously, who is going to complain that they gained 11 pounds of pure muscle and added 60 pounds to their bench?
IN JUST MINUTES A DAYâ€¦
This phrase is oft heard in infomercials for the latest, greatest ab/thigh/whole body gizmo. I am fairly confident that anyone reading this article recognizes the emptiness of this preposterous claim. Since I do not own a TV, I have never actually heard the infomercials; however, occasionally while I am doing cardio at the gym one will come on the set in front of me and I can read the closed captioning.
Every time I see that damn Bowflex one I do the math: 20 minutes a day; three times a week; for six weeks. I do not pretend to be a mathematician, but I think this calculation is well within my algebraically deficient capabilities. Six hours. SIX HOURS!! And I could have the body of my dreams (not to mention it doesn't say anything at all about staying away from the all-you-can-eat buffets.) After four and a half years of working out 12 to 22 hours per WEEK and following a stringent pre-contest diet for 12 weeks, I finally felt that I looked as good as the guy on that commercial. â€¦If I'd only bought a Bowflex.
I hate to be so cynical, but any time I see this I cringe. First of all, whose lab do you think performed or funded the "test'? Secondly, the information gleaned from these "studies" that is provided on the label is at best incomplete and at worst intentionally misleading. Case in point: Nitro-Tech (I use this product daily and even recommend it to people. I just do not like the claims made on the label.) has two bar graphs depicting clinical results of Nitro-Tech vs. whey protein.
The one on top shows NT to be "2400% better than whey", while the one on the bottom shows NT to be "74% better than whey". That is quite a differential-a factor of 32. I do not have the means to dispute the research, but I really don't need to. Muscle Tech does it for me. The basis for the validity of any scientific research is that its results can be reproduced in subsequent studies. Why they chose two examples with such drastically different results is beyond me.
EASIEST, BEST, FASTEST, SECRET, MIRACLE:
Athletes are always looking for an edge or something to give them an advantage over their competition. Bodybuilders are no exception. Allow me to make a suggestion: If you believe there is a fast, easy, miracle way to be successful, then you either have not been in the game long enough or you do not have very great expectations.
In summary, I would like to reaffirm my belief in the use of supplements. Depending on my training and nutrition cycle I use any of the following: creatine, BCAA's, L-Glutamine, protein powders, thermogenics, multivitamins, glucosamine and chondroitin, protein bars, meal replacements. The point is to keep things in perspective, and don't get carried away with the hype of some new and improved product.