Q & A With Clayton South!

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Note: Opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of this website's publisher or staff. Bodybuilding.com does not condone any form of illegal drug use for bodybuilding or for any recreational purpose. Bodybuilding.com also does not condone abuse of legal drugs for any purpose.

As a writer for Bodybuilding.com I receive many e-mails daily. With the responsibility of writing articles comes the responsibility of answering the questions of my readers and, when necessary, defending or explaining my positions.

Not surprisingly, as a writer I receive a very high volume of e-mail. Unfortunately I am often unable to answer the deluge that besieges my mailbox daily. In an attempt to reduce the volume of mail I receive, I have written articles in response to the most frequently asked questions. Even this, however, has failed to substantially reduce the amount of e-mail. Therefore, from this point forward I will be, monthly, selecting the best e-mails I believe, if answered, will provide the maximum benefit to the maximum number of readers. So, without further delay, I present to you Issue #1 of Q & A.

Hi, my name's Steve. I'm 33 years old and I recently started lifting again. When I was in my twenties I worked out, mostly for fun and to add a little bit of muscle. I ended up hurting my back, and since then I have gotten married and had 3 kids with my wife. My new years resolution was to get back into shape and loose this spare tire around my midsection. What can I do to achieve this? Thanks.

Congratulations, Steve, on your commitment to renewing your body and asserting your health through physical activity. Around this time of year many people begin to realize that they need a change in their lives. You asked me what you could do to lose the spare tire that's been following you around for years and my answer is multi-faceted.

1. Change Inspiration Into Dedication

    You have an identifiable end game. This is a great starting point. Your purpose is not to get huge, but to become healthy and happy with your appearance. Studies show that 80% of all major lifestyle changes fail. This means that only 20% of them work, and those are not great odds, are they? Your goal, as I understand it, is to live a happier and healthier life. This is something important that each of us should be concerned with.

    If You Have Made A Recent Lifestyle Change, Is It Failing?

    Yes, Failing Miserably.
    No, Going Great.
    Time Will Tell.

    In order to make sure that you're a member of the "20% club" I suggest turning inspiration into dedication. Being inspired is a great thing and many people throughout our world's history, when inspired, have done amazing, seemingly inhuman, things. For example, Mother Teresa, the brothers of the reformation, and the fathers of the renaissance who changed the consciousness of humanity. These are just a few examples of the power of inspiration.

    However, inspiration is not enough to ensure sustainable action over a long period of time. In order to turn your own physical and mental renaissance into permanent reality, I suggest that you begin reading on exercise, and doing your own research. Get your mind "into" this thing we call bodybuilding and lifting weights. Familiarize yourself with the jargon and terminology that goes with it.

    Bodybiulding.com is a great place to begin this journey. Many times when a person starts to "work out" they are often very misguided and they fail to understand exactly how much learning is required to become, and stay, physically fit.

    Doing research and acquiring KNOWLEDGE will ensure that after the FEELINGS of inspiration fade, and when difficult times come [which they will as an athlete], you will have the INTELECTUAL capacity to understand WHY you do what you do, DESPITE the fading feelings. After all, on this earth paradise cannot last forever.

2. Dietary Reform

    I would recommend evaluating your current eating habits. What do you eat? WHEN do you eat? With what frequency? When you are in the office do you grab "whatever" when your hungry? As a personal aside, when I worked in the head-office of a multi-billion dollar grocery chain, we had our own cook. It is little surprise that because it was the head-office of a nation-wide grocery chain there was always food around!

    I used to just eat "whatever" without paying attention to WHAT I was eating, the FREQUENCY with which I was eating it, and I did not consider the EFFECTS the food would have inside of my body and on the outside of my body.

    In your situation it would be helpful to consider these things. Do your research here on Bodybuilding.com. You can peruse the vast library of articles, and if you have any questions you can send me or other writers an e-mail. Also, you can check out the message boards. People just like you, with your goals and values, can help you by sharing their experiences, and from this you can pick up tips and insights to apply to your own life.

    It is important to realize that in bodybuilding, just like everything else, there is no such thing as a "one-man-show". Everyone helps, and everyone is like a family. And that's what's great about Bodybuilding.com - its atmosphere. We are all helping one another, and I recommend that you take advantage of this. It will help you realize your goals much faster and with less frustration.

    So, consider your diet and make the corrections necessary to facilitate your goal. For more information you can see my article A step-by-step guide for body fat reduction!

3. Weight Training

    With this one I feel like I am preaching to the choir, but I will discuss it anyhow. It is important when trying to reduce bodyfat that you get on some kind of weight training regimen. Weight training strengthens your bones and your heart, and it also helps you in burning fat by raising your overall daily caloric expenditure. In English this means that by lifting weights you burn more calories. It also pays to add muscle because the more muscle you have the more calories you burn.

    When you do get on a weight-training regimen, please consider your previous back injury. And, before you begin any physical exercise program, consult your physician so that you have a better idea of what you are able, and are not able, to do.

    For more information on how to make a program that will suit your needs, please refer to my article A-step-by-step guide for constructing an effective workout!

4. Supplementation

    Supplements play a big role in the achievement of your goals. For your specific situation I recommend that you supplement with BCAA's and a good thermogenic like Xenadrine EFX or Hydroxycut. As mentioned, consult your physician before hand, as you may be sensitive to Ephedrine products. IF you are then you can try Xenadrine EFX or any other ephedrine free fat burner.

    I also recommend supplementing with BCAA's - Branch Chain Amino Acids. Don't become worried about the details, because I'm going to explain WHY they are a good idea to use on a fat loss program. First, BCAA's regulate protein synthesis. They help your muscles repair themselves and grow after working out. They also boost your immune system. In your situation the best thing they do is help you lose bodyfat. I can see a lot of people out there not believing this claim, but let me tell you a bit more about it.

    In research it has been shown that those who supplement with BCAA's lose more bodyfat than those who do not but who are on the same exercise programs (Mourier, 1997). A certain type of bodyfat called visceral bodyfat - located in the deep layers of the body under the subcutaneous fat - is the hardest fat to lose and does not respond well to dieting alone. So by supplementing with BCAA's you increase the rate at which you will lose unwanted bodyfat.

    So there you have it! Consider the elements outlined and you will be on the fast track to the new you! Good luck and please let me know of your progress!

Hey! My buddy and I are trying to settle a debate we got going on. My buddy says that d-bol is the best oral steroid for gains and I say that halo is. What's your opinion? - Micah

First of all, I want to say that I neither condone nor advocate the possession, use or abuse of illegal narcotics, and that what I say here is simply my opinion and not reflective of Bodybuilding.com. I recommend that everyone, with any sanity and a wish to live a long, health complication free life, avoid steroids altogether.

Possessing these compounds and not being authorized through you doctor is a federal offence, and if you and your buddy come together for the purposes of using steroids you are legally committing a conspiracy. I cannot, therefore, recommend that you take these substances. Since I had to say that to protect Bodybuilding.com, and myself and since I have, I will give you my opinion on what I believe to be the best oral steroid.

Your "buddy" contends that dianabol, commonly referred to as d-bol is the best oral steroid out there. You contend that halotestin is the best. Who is right? That depends on what you view as "best" and "worst." If you are speaking strictly of gains I disagree with you both and must go with Oxymetholone, otherwise known as Anadrol-50. I have seen people gain over 20lbs in just a few weeks of being on it.

Of course with any drug you must consider the potential [and often potent] side effects. For example, Anadrol is very harsh on the liver, can cause you to lose your hair and can give you gynocomastia. This is not because it aromatizes to estrogen….it simply has progesterone-like effects once it gets into your system.

And don't even think about using proscar or saw palmetto with this one, because they will not work. You also will suffer from water retention while using this potent drug. It is, however, the "best" for gains, but it is really unsafe and I would avoid it.

Steroids Are Not For Teens, And That's Final!
Here you can learn about safe alternatives without fearing the psychological dangers of steroids.
[ Click here to learn more. ]

The drug you referred to as "halo" is Fluoxymesterone. This drug will turn you into an animal in, and outside of, the gym. It is also harsh on the liver and many bodybuilders that I know use it to harden up for contests. You won't get gyno from it but you may lose some hair if you are not careful. This, or any other steroid, is not one you want to live on year round. I would also avoid this one as you really don't want to be dealing with liver problems, do you?

Dianabol, otherwise known as Methandrostenolone, is obviously really popular. Many bodybuilders used it, allegedly even the first Mr. Olympia. Chances are your going to get gyno on d-bol if you are on a high dose, but you will get really good size and strength gains, and it's a bit more kind to your liver than Anadrol-50. Do you value your hair? Well, if so then this is one you want to steer clear from as well.

As I said above, I really don't advocate the use of illegal steroids, and especially because of the black market. Now days when trying to get steroids you assume a lot of personal risk. How do you know if what you are getting is real? Is your "seller" trying to set you up so he can get out of a lengthy sentence? Is he working with the feds? What's REALLY in that "test" ampoule? How was it smuggled in? Is that real Clenbuterol or fake? Is the steroid going to cause an abscess when you inject because it is not sterile? Is it all testosterone or is it sesame oil?

In my view there are just too many risks and uncertainties associated with steroid use, and there are much better alternatives out there. While TALKING about steroids is great fun and debating their chemical nature is a great intellectual exercise, DOING them is another matter. It is playing with fire. I, personally, see no need to use them, especially when there are great prohormones out there that will give you awesome results, so long as your exercise and dietary regimens are sufficient for your desired goal.

We are all not cut out to be Mr. Olympia. That's why it is not called MISTERS Olympia. There can ONLY be one Mr. Olympia at any given time. If you want to be a bodybuilding "top dog" then you're going to have to juice it for all you are worth. For the other 99.99% of us, however, leading a long and healthy life is the goal, and in youth steroids have no place.

When your old and your natural hormone levels drop, see your doctor. If you're young and are inclined toward intelligence to the slightest degree, I recommend avoiding steroids all together. I hope that answers your question.

Learn more about steroids, click here!

I'm 17 and I read all the magazines. I always see this creatine called Cell-tech Hardcore. Is it any good? Thanks.

Cell Tech Thank you for your question regarding creatine products. As a writer for Bodybuilding.com if I am looking for a guinea pig for any product I use myself first. In this situation, however, I did not have to.

When I first began bodybuilding and looked into getting supplements, I was skeptical, as I can see you are. The first thing to remember about what you are reading is that those are ADVERTISMENTS, and their purpose is to SELL the idea that this product is the latest, greatest, thing. They are attempts to shape and influence consumer behavior.

They are designed to COMPELL you and to SELL you! And another thing to consider about these so-called "special reports" is that the writers are virtual no-ones. I have yet to see anyone with any verifiable academic professional standing put out a magazine article on cell-tech.

This does not mean, however, that it is not a great product. From personal use I CAN say without a doubt that it is the BEST creatine product I have ever used. I know many bodybuilders who use it and get great results, as I did when I first started bodybuilding. Although I have made no attempt to hide my contempt for the sleazy advertising for this specific product, I do like Cell-Tech Hardcore very much and use it when I am bulking up.

While Cell-Tech can, and will, help you get very strong and will assist you in gaining muscle, what I do NOT like are misleading claims like "Gain 10lbs in 7 days." They are misleading. Many people will ASSUME that we are talking muscle gain, when in fact much of it is WATER retention. Now, increased muscular hydration can and will lead to muscle gain, but I become irritated when I read things that I KNOW are misleading half-truths. Make no mistake, Cell-tech works. But also, don't make the mistake of believing it will turn you into the guys in the ads.

I will not get into the specifics on how creatine works, as you will find many articles here on Bodybuilding.com that delve into that more specifically, but not all creatine products are created equal. I have used Prolab creatine and I really like that one also.

Try things out and find out what works best for you. You will find that for muscle gains, however, it is YOU who will have to be doing the work. Nothing can turn average-joe into Mentzer or Yates overnight. I hope that helps.

Creatine Super Feature!
This will be an introduction and first of seven parts regarding misinformation surrounding the very well known supplement, Creatine. See what the experts have to say.
[ Click here to learn more. ]

Hello I am new to bodybuilding and found your article What Supplements Should you Take? Interesting. I have only been working out for about 2 weeks now. But before I started going to the gym I was using my Bow-flex. I have read in a bodybuilding book the importance of amino acids, whey protein, creatine, and a multivitamin.

I have been drinking protein before and after workouts. Also I have been using liquid creatine. I read in your article its no good, I still have a full bottle left though. I spent $35 on it. I am not gonna let it go to waste. I also take Xendrine Efx for fat loss. I was advised not to take products with Ephedra. It has caused heart attacks.

I was taking the met-rx meal replacement protein shakes, but they got kind of expensive. Actually ridiculously expensive. I am now trying the Designer Whey brand. I am even thinking of taking the GNC brand because it is cheaper and you can get buy one get one 50% off at my local store. What do you think about this? I do everything by the book, and before I even went to the gym I went and got a book about bodybuilding. Its called "Bodybuilding 101".

I want to learn from other peoples experience and do things right the first time so I don't screw up my progress. Like for example I was doing cardio before my workout [I am and endomorph]...Now I read online not to do it on your workout days...So now I am gonna only do it on days off....Also what do you think about stretching out before a workout? Is that necessary before a workout or should I do 10 min of cardio for a warm up? Any help For this new guy would sure be appreciated. Thanks! - Steve

Well, Steve, let me give you some pointers. In your message you raise some issues that I think would be most appropriately addressed in this column.

The first issue you raise is regarding liquid creatine and that I do not like it. Actually, truth be known, I believe the CONCEPT of liquid creatine to be sound, but with micronized creatine being put into liquid solution prior to consumption, very unnecessary. You see, the idea behind liquid creatine is that if the creatine can be ground to small enough particles it will be digested more easily by the gut. Also, if it is "pre-mixed" it will save the consumer the inconvenience of having to take the powder and do the work manually.

So, part of the concept tailors to science and other to the fact that people are too lazy to want to actually do anything by hand these days.

The issue of producing a creatine molecule small enough to ensure optimal absorption by the gut has already been solved by utilizing current technology in the manufacturing process. Many reputable companies such as MuscleTech, Prolab and EAS are on top of their game in this respect.

As for the idea of saving consumers the effort of mixing creatine themselves, this too is a no-starter. Creatine has a LIMITED LIFE when in a liquid suspension of any kind. Said another way, when introduced to a liquid environment creatine does not survive very long. We are talking hours here, not days and certainly not two or three months.

So, that extra jar of liquid creatine you have should go back for a refund. I would not open it and would return it, or exchange it for a quality creatine monohydrate powder. What is in that container of liquid creatine will do NOTHING for you in terms of muscle gains. Creatinine [creatines inert waste product] does not have any muscle building or muscle enhancing properties.

The second issue you raise is regarding products containing Ephedrine. You mention that someone told you that Ephedrine CAUSES heart attacks. In response to this claim I remind you that it is very important to be cautious of information "some guy in the gym" presents you. Many studies have shown that Ephedrine is safe for use when used in specific dosages, and when used by adults free from medical conditions.

You know, I once had a friend who would take an ephedrine based fat burner before going to a club to drink alcohol. Against my advice he would take the product, but would take 3 times the amount, just so he had energy to dance on the dance floor. This mixture of caffeine, ephedrine and alcohol was NOT good for his health, and I told him as much. The long and short of it is that he was rushed to the hospital and almost died.

The lesson here is that anecdotal stories we hear in the news or from "second-hand" sources are not always told correctly. Further, from isolated incidences we cannot be certain exactly WHAT caused the situation. For example, in my friend's situation STUPIDITY seems to be the underlying factor of his problems, as when he went by the directions he experienced no negative side effects.

"However, it is my constitutionally allowable opinion that GNC is VERY overpriced. I avoid them for this reason and get my supplements exclusively from Bodybuilding.com."

This does not mean that one SHOULD take ephedrine-based products, however. In my situation the laws of the country that I currently reside in prevent me from legally using ephedrine based fat burners. However, from experience I can say that I have tried Xenadrine and Hydroxycut [both with Ephedrine] and like the diuretic benefits the ephedrine provides. I don't, however, like the jitters resulting from ephedrine's use, and therefore elect to use an ephedrine free fat burner like Xenadrine-EFX.

My opinion on GNC? I think if you buy a product manufactured under GNC's own supplement line you are guaranteed quality, no if's and's or but's about that. However, it is my constitutionally allowable opinion that GNC is VERY overpriced. I avoid them for this reason and get my supplements exclusively from Bodybuilding.com.

As for your question regarding stretching, I absolutely think that stretching is a vital aspect of bodybuilding. You can find more information on the health benefits of stretching on the Bodybuilding.com message boards or by consulting the writer's section. Click here for a great article on the importance of stretching!

The Importance Of Stretching!
Most people don't realize how important stretching really is. Or flexing, for that matter (though everyone loves to flex those big guns).
[ Click here to learn more. ]

You can do cardio according to your training phase. When leaning down its not a question of stretching OR cardio, but stretching AND cardio. Both are necessary. When gaining muscle mass cardio is not so necessary and is used as a method of warming up the knees and hips for heavy compound movements.

One more piece of advice for you: Don't do everything "by the book." Why do I say this, you ask? Simply because different books will tell you different ways to do something. So who is right? Bodybuilding is an individual journey. It is a lifestyle where you must find your own way. It is also a science, and this means that you must take the data and experiences from what worked for other people under specific circumstances and test those experiences to see if you get the same results. By following "the book" you can often achieve nothing but overtraining.

To make sure you do things "right from the first time" read articles you find here on Bodybuilding.com. Our staff of writers [myself included] have practical experience and we KNOW what works and what does not. Read and re-read materials that will help you in making the gains you desire. I hope that helps!

I'm going to be taking some bodybuilding pictures soon and I saw this stuff called "hot stuff." From the picture the guy looks really ripped after using it. Is it any good?

It's called a "vasodilatation optimizer." That's a fancy way of saying that it brings your veins to the surface of your skin by increasing your skin temperature.

I have some of this "hot stuff" here beside me as I write this and my experience with it has been OK but not great. In my view this stuff is best used before a competition when your bodyfat levels are REALLY low. So if your bodyfat level is high [above 10%] don't think that it will get you ripped and vascular.

It has a nice cinnamon smell to it, and if you go back stage at any bodybuilding contest you will find guys using it. However, I have used it in times past and I find that it makes my skin really red. The duration of time that it increases your vascularity is also limited.

So yes, it's a good product for SPECIFIC purposes. If your bodyfat levels are too high, I recommend waiting to use this product at another time when they are lower. If, by contrast, your bodyfat level is really low, and you want to take some awesome photos, by all means use hot stuff. It will have you looking more ripped than ever!

Come back next month to see YOUR questions answered! From steroids to supplements, workouts to injury prevention, the answers you want are here!

Do YOU have a question that you want answered? Do you have an opinion you want to share about the column? If so simply send an e-mail to truly_hardcore@hotmail.com and be heard! Say your peace!


Mourier, A. (1997). Combined effects of caloric restriction and branched-chain amino acid supplementation on body composition and exercise performance in elite wrestlers. International Journal of Sports Medicine. 18: 47-55.


The information provided in this publication is for educational and informational purposes only and does not serve as a replacement to care provided by your own personal health care team or physician. The author does not render or provide medical advice, and no individual should make any medical decisions or change their health behavior based on information provided here. Readers are encouraged to confirm the information contained herein with other sources. Readers and consumers should review the information in this publication carefully with their professional health care provider. The information in this or other publications authored by the writer is not intended to replace medical advice offered by physicians. Reliance on any information provided by the author is solely at your own risk. The author does not recommend or endorse any specific tests, products, medication, procedures, opinions, or other information that may be presented in the publication. The author does not control information, advertisements, content, and articles provided by discussed third-party information suppliers. Further, the author does not warrant or guarantee that the information contained in written publications, from him or any source is accurate or error-free. The author accepts no responsibility for materials contained in the publication that you may find offensive. You are solely responsible for viewing and/or using the material contained in the authored publications in compliance with the laws of your country of residence, and your personal conscience. The author will not be liable for any direct, indirect, consequential, special, exemplary, or other damages arising from the use of information contained in this or other publications.

Copyright © Clayton South, 2003 All rights reserved.

Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form, or by any means (electronic mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of the copyright holder and author of this publication.