Spending money on supplements is easy. Spending money on supplements and getting the best return for your dollar can be a little difficult. I know of guys who spend $300 to $400 a month on their supplement budget. Amino acids, special mineral combinations, pro-hormones, herbal extracts: it can all be a little overwhelming.
But unless you are competing, it's not necessary to have a budget that takes a second job to pay for supplements. I'm going to show you how to get the best value on supplements, on a small budget, and, at the end, give you the inside scoop on the most inexpensive, but most critical, supplement of all: dihydrogen-oxide; but more on that later.
First off, let me say that I don't consider protein a supplement, since it is a food. You eat protein bars, mix protein powder shakes and drink protein drinks instead of food. They are food. I'm defining a supplement as something you eat in addition to food. Protein should come out of your grocery budget. And for those of you who say that I'm cheating, tough. Food is food, supplements are supplements.
I am very frugal (some would say cheap), but it's important to me to get the most for my money when it comes to supplementation. By getting the most for my money, I don't mean buying expired products from the Used Food store, or that I spend hours on web searches to save 14 cents. Time is money, after all. So let see how we can get the best of the deals, for - fifty bucks a month. Impossible? Watch and see.
First off, I'm assuming two general goals of fat loss and muscle building. Your needs may be more specific, and you can tailor the categories to fit your own personal goals.
The heavy hitters in this first category are a well-rounded ECA stack, chromium picolinate and flax. Yes, there are other products that address more specific needs, but we are talking about a general supplementation schedule- something from which everyone can benefit.
ECA stands for Ephedra/caffeine/aspirin and has become a standard thermogenic combination. There are ECA combos available, but, in my penny-pinching opinion, they aren't the best value. Higher Power makes an ephedra extract that's absolutely top notch.
At $13.95 for 200 caps, you can see how combining this with your own caffeine and aspirin is a great deal. One cap, twice a day, with 300 mg caffeine and 162 mg aspirin should do just about anyone a good turn. Cost: 3 months of caps for $13.95.
Caffeine is tricky. There are cheaper products per dose than the Prolab brand that I'm going to recommend, but the Prolab doses are in tabs; you can cut them in half. 200 mg of caffeine just isn't enough for me and 400 is too much. Bust a Prolab cap in half and take 1.5 caps a day with the Higher Power ephedra, and you're on your way to penny-pinching, thermogenics goodness. Cost $5.49 per month.
Aspirin - 79 cents at the drug store for a generic of 100 tabs. Bust in half and take 162 mg twice a day with ephedra and caffeine. Nuff said.
Chromium picolinate will sneak up on you, not in cost, but in effectiveness. When I first started taking it, I thought "What a bunch of garbage. This stuff doesn't work." But I was wrong. It works over time. Stick with it.
One of its main uses (along with Glutamine) is to cut carb cravings—critical if, like me, you are on a ketogenic diet. Use it and give it a chance. Again, buy the Higher Power brand. At $4.95 for two months worth, it won't bust the bank.
Flax seed—Buy it in bulk at the natural foods section of your supermarket. (Oil is much easier to prepare, use and stomach, but its about $20 a month for 3 tablespoons a day. Remember this is about penny pinching). 79 cents a pound/9 tablespoons a day will run you about 9 lbs a month. That's not a typo. The cost will be about $7.00 a month.
This is one of the things you absolutely should not drop if you have to cut something. By the way, you have to grind them. Get a low cost coffee grinder and use that. Grind them fresh every day. Give them a chance to work. The effects will amaze you.
Flax could also go here. The hormone, joint, and muscle benefits of flax cannot be overstated.
Glutamine is one of the supplements in great controversy (see also ephedra and creatine). Stated simply, it works. It promotes muscle growth, helps prevent soreness and enhances the immune system as a bonus. At $17.69 for the PureForm Glutamine, it's the highest priced item that I'm going to recommend. But remember this is about pennies.
I only use a large dose (10 grams) after I work weights. 5 grams after cardio seems to work well, and I use none on days off. A 500-gram jug will last well over two months used in this fashion.
Creatine (unlike Glutamine) has to be cycled and sustained. Load up with 20 grams a day for the first five days, then just 5 grams (1 teaspoon) after that will be sufficient. Buy the Higher Power brand—500 grams for $12.95. That jug gives you over 2 months of: loading phase (5 days @ 20 grams) and 35 days use. Then take 7 days off, 5 days loading again and 25 more day's use before you have to restock.
ZMA is zinc, magnesium and B6. You can buy a combo mix of it, but I make my own. Take it at night to help deepen sleep and release GH (growth hormone) into the body. I use a 500mg/50mg/25mg mix and I spend about $7.00 a month from the supermarket drugstore.
So did we stay in budget?
- Ephedra: $4.65 a month
- Caffeine tabs: $5.49 a month
- Aspirin: 30 cents a month
- Chromium picolinate: $2.50 a month
- Flax: $7.00 a month
- Glutamine: $8.85 a month
- Creatine: $6.50 a month
- Homemade ZMA: $7.00 a month
TOTAL: $42.29 a month!
There's even $7.00 left over for shipping from Bodybuilding.com!
And in case you forgot about the secret supplement: dihydrogen-oxide is available for next to nothing. This stuff is amazing. It increases the effectiveness of Creatine and Glutamine, builds muscles, cuts fat, and helps the body eliminate toxins that could keep cells from growing properly.
Dihydrogen-oxide is, of course, water (H2O), and it's sad how many bodybuilders don't get enough of it. Drink it. Drink it. Drink it.
That's it for now. Shop well, and get the best value for your supplement buck, and you too will make ole Abe come up screaming every time you reach into your pocket to make a purchase.