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How To Set Up Your Diet: #5 Supplements


#1 Calorie Setting, #2 Macro Setting, #3 Micros & Water, #4 Nutrient timing, #5 Supplements


Cross your eyes, and imagine the pyramid above is one huge, layer cake and the little red blur at the top is a cherry.

Now, if the first four layers are made of mud, shit, snot and sawdust respectively, is that cherry going to make a difference to the taste? – Clearly not, yet this is how the supplement industry wants you to think about your nutrition.

Supplements can be broadly categorised by their physique, performance, or health benefits. How important they are depends on context, but in general, not very.

  1. Supplements can benefit a good nutrition plan, but they cannot make up for a poor one.
  2. Supplements are not needed to transform your physique and in many cases constitute an unnecessary expense.

Any article or advertisement that you come across which contradicts the above is likely aimed at your wallet. So, if you haven’t got the first four parts of the nutrition pyramid in place, please do so before reading any further, because no single supplement is going to have more impact on your diet than getting your diet right in the first place.

Protein powder is convenient, BCAAs are arguably necessary for fasted training, caffeine can give you the right kick to make a more effective workout, and by many standards, fish oils seem to improve just about everything to a small degree which makes them worth considering.

The end.


Anticipated FAQs

Dude, is that it?

Yes.

Why, Andy?! Tell me the good stuff. 

I already told you the ‘good stuff’. You simply don’t want to believe it because you have been seduced by the idea of supplements as shortcuts or as necessity. Trust me bud, I’ve been there. All the best stuff is in parts one to four and that is how I got my clients the results they achieved.

Ok but what about your clients, those results can’t all just be down to food and training, right?

Wrong. I suggest protein powder to people for convenience, insist on BCAAs if someone chooses to train fasted, but everything else is optional and I encourage people to use the minimum.

But come on, surely you can go into more detail, right?

Yes I sure could, but for the rest we’re talking about minor fractions and I’m painfully aware that making any list, regardless of any strong preface to it, will result in people going out and purchasing the list in its entirety, regardless, because that’s just how people are.

Didn’t you forgot to mention creatine?

Creatine is probably the most researched supplement out there. It is safe, cheap, can boost strength and has neuroprotective and cardioprotective properties.

  • 5g a day, taken with meals is fine. Loading is not necessary.
  • The standard creatine monohydrate is the cheapest and just as effective as any other type.
  • Creatine cycling is not necessary. A highly precautions approach would be 2 weeks off then cycle on. (Any nitrogenous compound can stress the liver in theory.)

Creatine causes increased water uptake in the muscles and can cause bloating. In some individuals it can take a full 30 days for this to take effect. So bear this in mind when interpreting your tracking data.

I don’t personally use it as it gives me headaches and diarrhoea.

Tell me more about the fish oils, should I take them?

If you can afford the addition then perhaps consider them. Use the information on examine.com to make your decision. Just watch out for the EPA, DHA content in your capsules as there is a lot of stuff out there with little of that good stuff you want.

What about Yohimbine HCL?

You probably want to get to Scott, Jeff and Phil’s level of leanness before this is going to prove useful (assuming you’re doing everything else right) and even then, cardio comes first.

Intermittent Fasting - No Cardio - Shredded Abs

Why would it be useful then and not before?

Fat loss happens in pretty much a predetermined order. As we get leaner, it gets more and more difficult to shift the fat. The very last places where fat comes off – lower abs, glutes, thighs (for the women) – are like that due to poorer blood flow in those areas (put your hand on your butt, is it colder?) and the alpha/beta receptor ratio.

Yohimbine HCL will help with the blood flow issue to those areas, but isn’t going to do anything to help those areas that already have sufficient blood flow to mobilise fat once it is released from the stores*.

You may see that it’s banned in your country. – This has nothing to do with people taking it for fat loss and everything to do with men mega-dosing with it to correct erectile dysfunction and killing themselves when their blood pressure drops.

(*If that flash of science ticked your fancy, may I direct you to a wonderful afternoon’s reading that is The Stubborn Fat Solution, by Lyle McDonald, which will teach you more about fat oxidation than 99.99% of the population.)

What do you think about supplement ‘x’?

Check out examine.com. It’s an excellent and unbiased resource on supplements.

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

What dosage should I take of…?

Check out examine.com.

Anything else to share?

  • Protein powders are a cheap way to hit your protein targets but food is going to keep your fuller. Food is thus better when dieting, powder can be helpful when bulking. Whey in the day, casein at night (if you can).
  • BCAAs can taste terrible depending on the brand. Check out some online reviews regarding the flavour of any product you are thinking of buying first. Scivation’s  Extend gets good reviews and I like it. BSN’s Amino-X supposedly* tasted good too. (*If not, you can blame Michael H., a client of mine in Denmark. Mail me and I’ll give you his address so you can pursue a refund.)
  • Good video by Eric Helms with more info on supplements here.

You could have just written all of the above in a traditional article.

A tongue-in-cheek conversational FAQ was the only way I could overcome my apathy to write an article on supplements.

So what are your thoughts on pre-workout supplements then?

You can’t supplement to cover your own lack of mental focus, yet this is what I see a lot of.

Switching your phone off, putting some headphones in so you don’t get drawn into conversations, and visualising your next set going perfectly during your rest times will do more for your workouts that any supplement can.

Feeling tired? Have a cup of coffee.


Questions welcomed in the comments. – Andy


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Arthur van der Meulen
Arthur van der Meulen

Hi Andy,

Thanks for the great content!

I used to be a very light sleeper who did hours of ceiling-staring before falling asleep each night. I had already cut down to 1 cup of coffee each morning for about a year – no other “uppers” like Coke. It didn’t help much.
Four years ago, I decided to quit coffee completely to see if it would make a difference. After about 2 weeks, I fell asleep easily and waking up feeling more and more rested. Also, heart palpitations I had experienced for years diminished rapidly.

I’ve repeatedly tried drinking coffee again, with the same result: bad sleep after 2 weeks, good sleep 2 weeks after quitting.

I cannot believe I’m unique in this respect?

Abdulla
Abdulla

Hi Andy,

What are your thoughts about Laxogenin and Epicatechin for building muscle ?

Thank you

Phillip Clark
Phillip Clark

Andy,

I very much enjoy your writing style, and am grateful for it. Straight info delivered in a very straight forward manner. Thank you for all the amazingly helpful information. I am a NOOB to the lifting/serious training and your site and your site has been tremendously helpful to me (Especially the IF and Big 3/5 x 5) because there is a lot of crap out there.

This is probably the most helpful section, as there are so many ‘Magic Beans’ promises out there is is easy to blow a LOT of cash for nothing more than colorful piss.

I am just starting on the BCAA’s with my fasted training (week 3) and look forward to seeing how it comes out.

Thank you again. I hope to start training with you one day (soon!)

Kim
Kim

Do you recommend women take creatine when trying to drop body fat/weight? If so, what dosage? I’m 5’5″, 119 lbs, but need to drop a lot of body fat.

Mike
Mike

Hey Andy ! I bought a BCAA supplement in pills, https://www.bodybuilding.com/store/gat/bcaas.html, how can i know how much pills i have to eat to reach the 10 grams of dosage that you recommend it ?

Mike
Mike

Thank you Andy, In serving size, 6 capsules, the amount per serving is Leucine 1.5 gm, Valine 1,3 gm, Isoleucine 9.6 mg. A powder of BCAA for 10 grams the amount per serving is: Leucine 2.5 Isoleucine 1.25 Valine 1.25. I think that i have to take 6 pills before a workout 🙁 Thank you !

Kraig Keeling
Kraig Keeling

I am glad I found your site, thanks for all the info, IT IS GREATLY APPRECIATED, it has cleared up many things for me. I am very excited to put this into practice, lost 14 lbs so far but stuck at current weight.

My questions…1) I work nights 3-4 days a week, should I follow the same model as prescribed ( skipping breakfast as soon as I awake) & just follow the same plan for my night shifts, ( as day plans)?

Also, I have seen 2 different theories of exercising for night workers, sleep being more important than training on those night work shifts and either no training or only a short intense workout or walking for those days I work.. 2) Thoughts? no training or limited training, train but don’t go to extremes or walking only?

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Wegs
Wegs

Hi Andy,

I’m sure you’ve covered this, so sorry if this is a repeat. I have always been told that you should have a protein shake post-workout with 2:1 fast carbs. So if I workout at 6:00 in the morning fasted, should I skip this shake and just do BCAAs? Or wait until the feeding period at 11:00?

Thank you.

Peter
Peter

Hi Andy,

First off, thank you for an awesome site and keep the good work up!

Do you still consider BCAA useful for fasted Training?
Considering there are more and more articles coming showing no or very little effect.

For example:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25886707

And a quote from Dr. Stuart Phillips
“Do you feel that branched chain amino acid supplements are of any value to the typical lifter who already consumes a very protein-rich diet?

In short, no! The evidence on BCAAs is remarkably weak as to their positive effects and they are not anabolic. They may be mildly anti-catabolic if you’re in negative energy balance, however, protein (especially whey) is going to be both anabolic and anti-catabolic. Bottom line, if you’re taking in adequate protein then BCAA are a complete waste of money IMO!”

Frank Espinoza Carreon
Frank Espinoza Carreon

Hi Andrew, quick question about BCAAs. If I fast from 6am to 1 pm one day, and lets say, I can train only from 9:30 to 10:30 am one day. It’s okay to only drink BCAAs at 9:30 am, then again at 11:30, and then wait until 1:00 pm to break the fast, to not lose muscle? I’ve read the similar schedule in leangains, but it says it only for 6 am fasted training and midday training.

Yours sincerely.
Frank Espinoza

MJD
MJD

Hi Andy!

Currently, I’m doing IF (16/8). My eating hours usually starts between 11-1PM and ends at 7-9 PM. I workout at 6PM, so there’s no problem eating a pre-workout meal. However, sometimes, I train at the morning, usually around 10AM. I don’t want to break my fast at 9AM (for a pre-workout meal) since my body is already used to eat at around noon. I don’t have BCAAs or protein powder as I find them expensive (I’m still a student! Haha) and as this article said, eating whole food is way way better. Is there any thing to substitute BCAA or do you think investing on them would be a good idea?

Thank you very much! More power to your site! 🙂

Darvinder
Darvinder

Hey Andy,

I am planning on supplementing myself with Creatine. The info above (and your answers to the comments) are very helpful but there is no specific clarification as to whether I am supposed to take them only on workout days or daily. Examine.com suggests it has to be taken daily but it doesn’t consider the fact whether the person is training 3x a week or 6x.

Since we follow the 3x a week routine as per your guidelines, do you suggest we supplement Creatine only on workout days?

Darvinder
Darvinder

Gotcha. Thanks 🙂

Robert Polanski
Robert Polanski

Hallo Andy. Very good and useful articel !

There is one question I can’t find answer anywhere.

Do you recommend to take any simple carbo sumplement in order to supplement, complete carbo that you have lost in training (carbo in muscles)? or maybe it is unnecessary.

I use for instance first carbo after training and after 10 minutes protein whey in order to improve protein absorbcion and so that protein are not transformed to carbo. Or am I wrong? 🙂

Is it better when I substitute carbo by raisins, dates direct after training? and after that protein whey or better however to use carbo?

Robert Polanski
Robert Polanski

Thanks Andy!
I have read the previous article among others about glycogen replenishment. Very interesting. I didn’t know 🙂 Now all is clear.
Very precious information.
Thanks once more!

Kiko Massaquoi
Kiko Massaquoi

What’s your take on casein protein on a cut? Again, thanks for this info!

Kyle P.
Kyle P.

Andy,

Can’t tell you much I’ve appreciated all your information. I think I’ve read through the site twice so far. So if my questions have been answered previously, I apologize for the redundancy. I’ve got a couple questions:

1. When taking BCAAs do I need to count the Protein intake from them towards my daily protein consumption?
2. If on a rest day and I’m around 14 hours on the fast, can I take BCAAs before the 16 hours if I’m extremely hungry? Will that kill my fast?
3. Do you have a paypal account where my wife and I can send you a “donation”. Your information has been life changing. We are in our 6 month of working out and changing our overall approach to life. We’ve both completely changed our body comps and both are now getting into the Big3 lifts (We’ve both done P90X3 & Body Beast with a lot of success) and have found your information and the information that you link out too amazing. We really feel that we would like to bless you in some way and being able to send you money is about the easiest way to do so being that we are so far away.

Once again, thank you for your time, patience and information. I try to read through the questions and answers at the end of each page. I’ve just about messaged 5 times and was able to find the answers by just reading.

Thanks again.

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