Vitamins, Supplements, and Challenges are they smoke in mirrors? By Dan McCarthy

We have all opened magazines and have seen the sad, out of shape guy, holding a newspaper, and then next to that picture is the “after” picture of him smiling looking shredded as “fuarrk”(thank you zyzz for this word) with two girls on each arm hanging out  in a pool. Of course this would all be attributed to the supplement on the page that the guy is eluding you to believe that it’s what made him look like that. Of course it would not be the Photoshop, airbrushing, possible steroid use, actual hard work in the gym, and very strict diet. If you have seen the documentary “Bigger, Stronger, Faster” you know what I am talking about, and you know for a fact that’s what happens. They even showed us how it’s done!  For those of you who have not seen this fascinating documentary, I want to hopefully help you save money and refocus your attention to where those bodies, or just a healthy body is built, and that would be no other place than the gym, not the supplement store.


The supplement industry facts:

The supplement industry is a 23 billion dollar a year industry, and is currently shares many commonalities to the Wild West. Supplement manufacturers are running wild as the FDA does not oversee it as to ensure the safety and quality of the product like they do our pharmaceutical products. So that “fat burner” you are taking, could very well just be 80% rice powder, or just a ton of overpriced caffeine. In an age when more than half of American adults are taking vitamins and supplements, it is important to look at what we are possibly putting into our bodies and just how these “miracle pills and drinks” may cause you to fall short of your health and fitness goals. This next bit is taken directly from American Aljazeera and states “Most major health bodies – including the National institute of health, The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Deitetic Association, The Mayo Clinic, and Harvard Medical School – do not recommend supplements because their alleged benefits have failed to withstand scientific scrutiny. That last part is extremely important because it preludes to the next part from the same article that states “According to consumer reports, only a third of 54,000 supplements in the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database have any scientifically supported level of safety and effectiveness, and 12 percent are linked to safety concerns or quality issues. Mounting evidence suggests that most vitamin supplements, including the the popular daily multivitamin may be useless — and some could even increase the risk of disease.” One could very easily be playing Russian roulette with a supplement that is useless or one that could increase disease.


What is in these miracle bottles?

In the spirit of American capitalism, I am not bitter nor do I hate the supplement industry, I just simply want to call an ace and ace, and I want people to realize that supplementation is only 2-3 % of what it takes to build a healthy strong body, and chances are, you are not taking the right supplements. Most all supplement companies put a “proprietary blend” on their bottle, this is done to “allow supplement makers to include a number of different ingredients without disclosing the amounts used.” So in essence, your Echinacea supplement that you take to help you with various issues could be in fact 90% rice powder or some other filler  leaving you out the money you spent on it, and without the benefits of the supplement you sought out when you purchased the item. Two other fillers used in supplements are Magnesium Stearate and Carrageenan.  Quoted from Tom Nikkola, “Carrageenan is derived from seaweed; it’s used as a stabilizer in foods, as a fat replacement in protein powders, and in beverages to enhance mouth feel. There is also evidence suggesting that carrageenan can contribute to glucose intolerance and insulin resistance (Bhattacharyya et al., 2012). The use of magnesium stearate is a topic of great debate. Magnesium stearate is used as a flowing agent to make nutritional supplements. Including magnesium stearate in a formula allows the ingredients to flow through tableting equipment faster or allows the two ends of a capsule to be pushed together faster. However, research has shown that magnesium stearate can reduce the bioavailability of nutrients. Although it might not be allergenic, it might compromise the effectiveness of the supplement.”


“Weight loss Challenges” 

In my 12 years in fitness and bodybuilding I’ve seen and tried a lot of things, mainly all the magazine ads of the bottles with the guys shredded as “fuarrk”, (thanks zyzz,) who were standing next to two hot chicks. In the end, none of these bottles worked and I fell victim to overpriced rice powder in a gelatin tablet with some clever marketing. I am all for people looking for lifestyle change, something to spark their interest into finding a healthier self, but once again, marketing seems to be the big bad wolf promoting expensive “Challenges” to make people think they have to have this to lose weight. I am here to tell you, YOU DO NOT!  I am not saying they are bad, but you do not need these items to lose weight, once again, they get celebrities to endorse these things and it’s all a marketing ploy.

Would you like to take the Big Dan challenge? I won’t charge you a dime; all you have to do is replace two meals a day with a cup of Greek yogurt and a banana, and 4 oz of tuna and an apple. Do this for a week and cut out all sugary drinks and bread and tell me how much you have lost. I can mix it up for you with many other sources of protein but hopefully you see what I am saying. As much as we want to buy into a system, we can create a much cheaper, healthier one by ourselves! Fat supplements do not burn fat; they are supposed to increase your ability to burn fat, typically by increasing your heart rate. Not only are these dangerous, but you can get the same boost from a cup of green tea and it is loaded with anti-oxidants.

What should I take to help reach my goals for weight loss?

First, I would recommend a trip to your doctor to do a physical and blood test to check for any thyroid, diabetes, or deficiencies. Once these tests have been completed I recommend evaluating your diet. Do you have a weight loss goal?  If so, I recommend the app, my daily calorie counter. You can punch in your current weight and target weight to determine how many calories you need to achieve your goal weight. To simplify the weight loss process the formula is simple, Calories burned > Calories consumed. Track your calories, write down everything you eat. Try to consume lean protein sources, eat green vegetables and complex carbohydrates and increase physical activities. Avoid starchy foods, sugary drinks, alcohol, and be sure to regulate your carbohydrate intake.  I will get more in detail with this on my next blog.

What supplements do I take?

The only supplements I take as a bodybuilder are Whey Protein and Creatine Monohydrate. Protein is mandatory for muscle growth and to building a lean fat burning body. Creatine is found naturally in the food we eat and his been proven to increase strength, stamina, and aid in recovery. It is critical to drink a lot of water with this supplement. The Dymatize Whey Protein I take is loaded with Branch Chain Amino acids which are the key resources for building muscle.  I have pretty much tried everything else in the stores and can attest that these two products produce results. Looking for a pre-workout? Drink a cup of coffee, in essence, that’s all a pre-workout is. Don’t believe me? Look at the proprietary blend.

In conclusion:

Supplements have convoluted the weight loss process and have changed the chart to read “A healthy body is 80% supplements 10% workout, 10% diet” when in reality, a healthy body is 70% Diet, 29% workout and 1% supplements. If you can keep that mindset and realize the supplement industry is making 23 billion dollars a year on mostly false hopes and quick fixes, then in the words of Zyzz, “We are all gonna make it brah.”


Check out this video that demonstrates the supplement industry disparities:




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