It seems like not a single week passes by without someone e-mailing me questions about expensive supplements.
Frustration escalates as the bank account goes down, but, the reasoning goes, if this is how little progress I make NOW, imagine how things would go if I DIDN'T take all these expensive supplements! To sum it up: Relax.
Money Grubbing Supplement Companies
The marketers of the supplement companies make a living conveying the idea their supplements are the difference between a worm and a hulking Greek god. Oftentimes the ads are accompanied by the most ridiculous claims ("20,000% increase in testosterone - the natural way, and without side effects! No, make that 30,000%!") and pictures of professional bodybuilders who probably just laugh at the supplements they're promoting. Usually the bigger the company the more expensive they are! GNC is at least 30-40% more than Bodybuilding.com!
Here's the deal: Hard training and good food will take you 90% of the way. People got buff 50 years ago, before the supplement market was a gazillion-dollar industry.
That's another 7-8 percent of the way. Now, the last 2-3 percent is where you can get an "edge" by adding more supplements. Personally, I only use Glutamine, since it's relatively cheap (1000 grams for $49, which lasts me over 2 months) and is proven effective.
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The Gray Area
Just speaking for myself, I don't trust the various barely-legal hormone compounds out there anyway. They're generally expensive, have little to back their claims in terms of real-life benefit for your average bodybuilder, and if they would indeed turn out to be effective, then that's your cue to get concerned about side effects.
In other words, it's a gray area with little upside and big potential downside - except for the supplement companies, who pull in millions of dollars hawking the stuff.
But let's not get sidetracked here. The issue at hand is people who go broke trying to keep up with all the latest and greatest supplements that hit the market. If you're a millionaire and know what you're doing, by all means, knock yourself out. However, the average guy can't buy everything in the store (or he'd REALLY go broke!) so he has to make a choice.
Unfortunately, it seems like many people make the choice of going with the latest hyped-up supplement rather than a simple can of protein. This makes no sense for the same reason that it's folly to spend all your money on a cool car stereo when the engine is busted and needs repair. If you don't have the car in running condition, why blow the money on details?
My advice is to focus on getting the basics in shape before bothering with the details. You probably train hard already, but if your current diet includes McDonalds and Wendy's, your first priority is to give your basic diet an overhaul.
You can never fully compensate bad eating habits with supplements. Secondly, get a good protein powder and have a few protein drinks per day. This does not mean the super-advanced, hyped protein formula that is three times more expensive than the old boring once.
Granted, it may be a teeny bit more absorbable or have a few points higher biological value, but let's get real - unless you're a professional bodybuilder who calculates every calorie you eat, the real-life difference you'll see hardly motivates the price.
Then add creatine and glutamine as you see fit, but it is not a mandatory requirement to get buffed. If you can't afford it - don't sweat it! If you got the basics in order, you'll do just fine. Likewise, you can't buy supplements to make up for not training hard enough or eating enough good food. Stick with the basics.