Supplement Review!

It seems today everyone is writing a supplement review. Bill Philips' has his in which isn't half-bad, Prosource does theirs, and of course you got the magazines.
What works?

It seems today everyone is writing a supplement review. Bill Philips' has his in which isn't half-bad, Prosource does theirs, and of course you got the magazines. The problem with all these is that they all have hidden motives. Obviously Phillips pushes EAS, Prosource pushes Cytodyne Technologies, and the magazines tout just about anything as the greatest supplement ever. Well, if you've been ripped off before (and I know I have), curious about some of new supplements out there, or just looking to try something new, and want to know the facts; then keep reading. Oh yes, as always, these reviews are dedicated toward teens like you.

Since it's winter (or at least up here in the Northern Hemisphere) and most people are looking to bulk up, this week I'm going to discuss mass gaining supplements. Well, enough introductions, let's get into it.

Protein powders:

Obviously if you've read some of my past articles, you know that protein is the building block of all muscle cells. Without enough quality protein there's no way you can build muscle, and it's hard to get enough protein from diet alone. You'd spend all day in the kitchen cooking, and tuna and egg whites start to get lame after a while. This, and the quick absorption time make protein supplements a must, far more important than any other supplement. Along with protein powders are MRP's. Some good brands to buy powders from are Prolab, Optimum, HDT, EAS, Designer, and AST to name a few. In my opinion, the best MRP, both taste and quality, is EAS's Myoplex.

Importance: Highest
Effectiveness: High
Side effects: None

Multivitamins:

Many people overlook the importance of vitamins and minerals. A lot of bodybuilders and athletes today are fooled into thinking that they get enough from diet. The truth is that you cannot get an optimal amount from diet, especially in today's food. Soils are often deficient in nutrients, and thus your food will be too. Also, a lot of people over look these micronutrients because they don't think it will make a big impact on gaining muscle. The truth is that vitamins and minerals regulate thousands of chemical processes in your body, so if you are deficient in just one, these processes will be thrown off, throwing off your results. There are many good brands of multivitamins on the market, just make sure you choose from a reputable company like Prolab, AST, or Twinlab.

Importance: Highest
Effectiveness: High
Side effects: None

Creatine Monohydrate:

Creatine is one of the most popularly used supplements today, and for good reason, IT WORKS! Creatine is naturally made by your body, and directly involved in the conversion of ADP to ATP (your main source of energy). In anaerobic exercises like weightlifting, it is used up quick. Supplementing with creatine will give you more energy and endurance during your workouts, allowing you to lift more weights. But wait, there's more! Creatine also speeds up your recovery time and volumizes muscle cells by sucking in more water, allowing for a better anabolic environment. And to add to this, there have been over 20 double blind studies done on creatine that prove it to be both safe and effective. My favorite kind is Prolab's Creapure, but AST and EAS also make good creatine. As for weather or not to get the sugar already mixed in (like Phosphagen HP), that is up to you and your wallet.

Importance: High
Effectiveness: High
Side effects: None

L-Glutamine:

Glutamine makes up the bulk of the free amino acid pool, 60% to be specific. When you workout, you release free radicals and actually lower your immunity. Tissues involved in the immune system use glutamine as cellular fuel. When their stores are depleted, they immediately take glutamine from your muscle cells. Glutamine also plays a role in reducing cortisol, the main agent in breaking down muscle cells. By supplementing with glutamine you reduce catabolism, strengthen your immunity (no one can workout if they're sick), and increase growth hormone. Along with all this, glutamine volumizes muscle cells (though to a less extent of creatine) creating a more anabolic environment. I swear by Prolab's Glutamine, but AST, EAS, Optimum, and Twinlab all make good glutamine powders.

Importance: High
Effectiveness: High
Side effects: None

Weight Gainers:

I've never had a problem taking in enough calories. I'm always hungry, but for the hardgainers out there, who just can't eat enough, a weight gainer may be the solution. Back in the 80's and early 90's weight gainers were quite popular, but not very effective. Many are packed simply with sugar, and while they'll help you to get enough calories, it certainly isn't very beneficial. When looking for a weight gainer, try to find one with a good amount of protein (at least 40 grams per serving) and low in sugar. I think the best weight gainer is by far N-Large II by Prolab. Following close behind though is Twinlab's Gainers Fuel Pro and TKE's Monster Food.

Importance: Mediocre
Effectiveness: Medium
Side effects: None

4-AndrosteneDIONE:

This product is one of the least safe prohormones on the market today. Not only does it only slightly raise testosterone, but it also raises estrogen and DHT. Why companies still sell it is beyond me, no wait, I know why - $$. In any case, I would avoid this and products containing it like the plague.

Importance: None
Effectiveness: Low
Side effects: Too many to list

5-androsteneDIOL:

While 5-AD raises testosterone levels quite well, it is also easily aromatized. You can expect high DHT and estrogen levels when taking this supplement. So along with good gains come bitch tits and hair loss. In no way do I recommend this to teens.

Importance: None if under 20
Effectiveness: Medium
Side effects: impotence, deepening of the voice, hair growth, acne, and male pattern baldness

4-androsteneDIOL:

4-AD can raise testosterone levels much more efficiently and safely than the above two, up to 16% higher than regular plasma levels. Side effects are also less common, although certain individuals are more sensitive than others are. Most people get good results with 4-AD, but I don't recommend it to anyone under 20, as teen's T levels are naturally higher than adults who use 4-AD.

Importance: None if under 20, optional if over
Effectiveness: High for those with low testosterone
Side effects: Low

19-NorDIONE:

19-Norandro is much safer for adults than androstenedione or 5-AD, and about the same as 4-AD. It won't produce as drastic muscle gain as 4-AD, but will produce results none-the-less. You can expect to become leaner while gaining strength and muscle while on this product. Again, I don't recommend any prohormones to teens, as the side effects of screwing around with testosterone levels at such a young age far outweigh the benefits.

Importance: None if under 20, optional for those over
Effectiveness: Medium
Side effects: Low

19-NorDIOL:

Out of all the prohormones, this is by far the safest. Does that mean you should take it? Yes, but not if you're under 20. It will produce far greater results than 4-AD and with very little side effects. Studies show that it converts to nandrolone three folds over 19nordione with almost no conversion to estrogen or DHT. For anyone over 20 who is looking for rapid gains, this is the one.

Importance: None if under 20, optional for those over
Effectiveness: High
Side effects: Almost none

DHEA:

DHEA is also a precursor to testosterone and has been shown to elevate T levels in men over 50. Men under that age already produce an optimal amount and therefore added supplementation would not benefit them.

Importance: Only if you have grandchildren
Effectiveness: High in men over 50
Side effects: None if over 50

GABA:

Gamma-Aminobutryic Acid is classified as a neurotransmitter and has many positive effects on the immune system. The reason many bodybuilders take it though is to increase human Growth Hormone (HGH). High HGH levels means more muscle building. Simple. HGH is also associated with the metabolism of fats in the body. I did a cycle of AST's GABA and got great results. (See my AST write up for a more detailed review.)

Importance: Optional
Effectiveness: High
Side effects: None

NAC:

When you workout you heavily tax your body and release free radicals. Free radicals damage and breakdown muscle cells. The only ways to combat these free radicals are with antioxidants. One of the most effective antioxidants is glutathione. This is where NAC comes in. NAC increases glutathione levels in the blood stream thus helping to battle the free radicals. I did a cycle of AST's NAC 500 and found it greatly increased my recovery time.

Importance: Optional
Effectiveness: High
Side effects: None

HMB:

HMB is a metabolite of Lucien and is a very controversial supplement. It works by increasing muscle cell's use of protein, while helping to fight atrophy (muscle breakdown). This leads to an increase in lean mass. Many people use it with dieting to help retain lean mass, but it is also used as an alternative to creatine when you are bulking. Unfortunately, HMB only works for about 2 out of 3 people.

Importance: Optional
Effectiveness: Medium
Side effects: None

ZMA:

Zinc and magnesium are essential nutrients that control over 600 enzymatic functions in the body. Among that, they also are needed for proper testosterone production, and can raise testosterone levels in deficient people up to 30%. Zinc and magnesium are not absorbed when taken with calcium, but most ZMA's today contain no calcium (unlike in multivitamins). I usually don't recommend that teens take anything that messes with their testosterone levels, but since zinc and magnesium are necessary nutrients, I highly recommend this supplement. You may actually be hurting yourself by not taking a ZMA supplement. Make sure to select one from a reputable company that contains no calcium.

Importance: High
Effectiveness: High
Side effects: None

Methoxy:

5-methyl-7-methoxy-isoflavone may be the super pill everyone is looking for. Notice I said maybe. According to studies it has been shown to increase lean muscle mass, fight catabolism, and burn body fat without any of the androgenetic effects of steroids or Andros. It acts as a nutrient partitioning agent by pushing nutrients into muscle cells rather than fat cells. Some studies have been done that show the results to be true, but since this supplement is quite new, there is little evidence. Many people on the message boards though have given them good reviews. I plan on doing a cycle sometime in the near future and will do a write up on it when I do. In the meantime, this is definitely a supplement worth trying.

Importance: Optional
Effectiveness: High
Side effects: None

Tribulus:

Tribulus Terrestris works by increasing luteinizing hormone (LH) which in turn triggers a release of testosterone. The active agent in tribulus is Furostanol sapponins. Many people get mixed results with it, and that is because it is very hard for companies to standardize the amount of Furostanol in their tribulus. It is though worth a try, and is very effective when stacked with Andro. Since it raises testosterone levels and is not a necessary nutrient, I don't recommend tribulus to teens.

Importance: Optional for those over 20
Effectiveness: Medium when used alone
Side effects: Low

And there you have it, a run down of all the mass gaining supplements on the market today. The most important thing to do is make sure you are getting enough protein, multivitamins, and calories. Then move onto creatine and glutamine, and then if you still have money, try out some of the others. In the following weeks I'll do a review of the fat loss supplements. If I've missed any, feel free to e-mail me and I'll tell you what I think of them. In the meantime; eat big, lift hard, and get huge!

Check out part 2 of this article... Fat Loss Supplements! Click here!

Note: Click on the blue links in this article for more information and recommended products.