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Please Explain The World Of Supplements To Me

Edith_Bagot-DixEdith_Bagot-Dix Registered User regular
edited October 2010 in Help / Advice Forum
I figure I'll start with the relevant details and just see what people have to say. I'm a 32 year old guy, 6'3" and about 230 lbs. I'm one of those people who have always struggled with my weight. When I was in my early 20s, I was over 300 lbs and decided that I needed to make some serious changes in my life. Since that point, almost ten years ago now, I've been more physically active and had a better diet. By the time I was 25, I was down to 185 lbs and working out every day. A couple of years after that, I got into the video game industry. The combination of stress and long hours led to me gaining about 60 lbs. I got myself out of that industry and got my ass back to gym. For the past two years, I've been in the gym, working out an hour a day, five days a week (at least 80% of the time). I've dropped about 15 pounds, I have much better muscle tone, better energy levels, better mood, etc.

So why ask for advice? Well, I'm still overweight and still have a lot of fat around my midsection. I've been working with a trainer for the past couple of months, but I'm still not really seeing any results - my weight has been pretty constant for the past year or so. So I'm wondering what else I can do. Since I'm in the gym pretty regularly, I have some exposure to the guys who are more serious fitness addicts than I am, and they are all about supplements. I'm on the fence about these, as there's a lot of information out there, and there seem to be a lot of scams out there as well. So I'm looking for advice on supplements (specifically) and any idea on losing that last bit of weight (more generally).

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Posts

  • SmokeStacksSmokeStacks License Number 137596Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    I'd also like to get some info concerning supplements.

    I know a couple of guys who swear by them, but after watching Bigger Stronger Faster* it's hard to believe that they are anything other than a large-scale scam industry.

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  • DarkewolfeDarkewolfe Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    Some (edit: weight loss) supplements don't do anything. The ones that do are stimulants, generally some kind of amphetamine. So, the ones that work aren't terribly healthy for you. Ask yourself whether you want to watch your weight so that you can be more healthy, or whether you just want to be skinnier because it will make you feel pretty.

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  • TychoCelchuuuTychoCelchuuu ___________PIGEON _________San Diego, CA Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    Supplements are not going to make you skinnier. At most they're going to give you nutrients you're not getting in your diet. The only time I've ever heard someone I trust say to take supplements is my dentist recommending Vitamin C. If you want to lose fat then you'll want to eat healthier foods.

  • adytumadytum Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    What kind of supplements are you looking into, like- names?

    [strike]Are you trying to build muscle, or add strength, or lose fat, or something else entirely?[/strike]

    There's a lot of bullshit out there, but there are also proven effective supplements for various purposes.

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  • Jeff210Jeff210 Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    From what it sounds like, at this point for you it's all going to come down to your diet. I was in the exact same situation, working out constantly. Changed my diet, completely new body

  • adytumadytum Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    The old bodybuilding saying is that abs are made in the kitchen, not in the gym.

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  • bowenbowen Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    The world of supplements will not help you.

    Healthy eating and exercise will.

  • AphostileAphostile Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    I have to ask, because you aren't getting the results you want, what are you doing in the gym those 5 days of the week?

    Have you changed your routine at all in the last while? Like a complete restructuring of what you are doing?

    What is your weightlifting like?

    Have you been increasing your difficulty in the workouts or maintaining throughout the year?

    Are you sure you're actually eating a really well-balanced diet right now or just "healthier".

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  • MagicToasterMagicToaster Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    Can supplements make you hungrier? I feel like I'm never hungry.

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  • adytumadytum Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    y2jake215 wrote: »
    adytum wrote: »
    Creatine maek you moar stronger!

    I'm actually on a creatine cycle right now, so if you have any questions other than what Bowen's link answers I'd be happy to try and answer them

    sure! well, i usually just have a spoonful in my gross protein/water mixture, and a spoonful in some water on days when i don't work out. i know you're supposed to cycle, but i have seen so much contradictory information on the subject i never really chose anything. i just do that for a while, missing days often enough, then take a week or so off every whenever-i-feel-like-it. it'd be great to hear your routine, so i can try and emulate it

    edit: looks like i'm doing the "3-10 g for 2-3 months with no loading-phase" variety. not sure the benefits of one vs the other. also, do you take yours pre or post workout?

    Well then.

    First off, cycling. As you've said there's a lot of contradictory information out there.

    Should you cycle? Yes.

    Why? Because!

    Because, all things being equal, if you're a gym newbie (I'm assuming you're a weightlifting newbie?) you're going to get the best results from doing an intense cycle of creatine and weightlifting. Creatine, by itself, won't give you any appreciable gains. Particularly if you're doing everything else wrong. You need to be lifting hard and eating heavy to see the benefits.

    What you should do is plan things out better. Figure out how (or just motivate yourself) to a) start a regimented, proven gym routine b) eat enough to make gains on that routine and c) do a creatine cycle. Think of creatine as a supplement (which it is!) to your strength routine, not as a means to gaining strength by itself.

    As far as the actual cycle, this is where things are muddy! I go by the 4 months on, 2 months off variation. Not for any scientific reason, but because I can't keep up sustained heavy weightlifting and eating for more than about 4 months due to scheduling, work, school, and how taxing it is on the body. Currently I'm going for about 2.5 months, then going off creatine for 2 months and cutting weight. I'll be picking back up in February and going for another 3 months.

    As far as actually taking creatine, it's suggested you take it with simple carbs to help absorption. I have a small glass of orange juice every morning, mixing it in and drinking it. I don't know the effects of missing a dose, but it's definitely better to get yourself into a routine where you're sure you're taking it every day. Before / after workout is much less important than regularly. 5g a day should be all you need.

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  • Dropping LoadsDropping Loads Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    So I'm a biochemist. The biggest problem with supplements is that, as others have suggested, it's an end-around the FDA for unscrupulous bastards to put whatever the hell they want in the bottle. Some of these chemicals can be helpful, some can be quite harmful, including acute liver toxicity with even moderate alcohol consumption. Even if you have a trusted brand, there's always the possibility that they get bought out by another company and change the formula. Creatine is fine, but what else is in that pill you're buying? It's important to really know.

    I very strongly recommend that if you are looking for chemical ways to alter your body that you speak to a doctor. I'm not saying you need a prescription product, but your doctor will know more about what your good options are or chemicals you absolutely must avoid.

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  • Edith_Bagot-DixEdith_Bagot-Dix Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    Aphostile wrote: »
    I have to ask, because you aren't getting the results you want, what are you doing in the gym those 5 days of the week?

    Have you changed your routine at all in the last while? Like a complete restructuring of what you are doing?

    What is your weightlifting like?

    Have you been increasing your difficulty in the workouts or maintaining throughout the year?

    Are you sure you're actually eating a really well-balanced diet right now or just "healthier".

    When I first started back to the gym, I just did an hour of cardio (20 minutes of elliptical, 20 minutes stationary bike, 20 minutes treadmill). The aim would be to have one of these at a sustained heart rate of of between 140 - 150 and the other two at a sustained heart rate of 120-130. I was doing this for around a year before deciding to get into weights instead. When I switched two weights, I'd do 15 minutes of cardio warm up, stretch (5 minutes or so), and then do either a leg day, chest and back day (one of each once a week), or biceps, triceps and shoulders day. Regardless of what day it was I'd also begin and end with abdominal exercises. Each day would be four to six exercises targeting the muscles I was working on that day, with each exercise consisting of three sets of 12 reps. On top of these would be the ab exercises, which I kept building up (started at 12 but it got to the point where 12 sit ups weren't really challenging so I upped it to 15 and then 20, same with the leg raises I would do at the other end of the work out).

    So a typical chest and back day would be something like: bench press, pull ups on the gravitron, dumbbell chest press and lat pull downs. Maybe throw in push ups or a row if I was changing things up or had longer in the gym. Legs would be an inclined leg press, leg extensions, seated leg curls, calf press, that kind of stuff. Arms and shoulders would be barbell bicep curls, rope pulldowns for the tricep, dumbbell shoulde press, preacher curls, perhaps throw in one of the machines targetting those muscle groups if I had more time. On the off days I'd do the same hour or cardio as before. I did this for about nine months.

    Now I had some results from all of these things, but I wouldn't say I was really pushing myself out of my comfort zone too much as, aside from sit ups, I never really increased the weight I was using beyond five or ten pounds here or there. I'd lost some weight when I started regularly exercising again, but after twenty months of working out and tracking my weight, it hadn't really budged from those initial fifteen pounds or so that I'd lost in the first few months. So I decided to bite the bullet and get a trainer. Now, since then, I have had a LOT of changes in my workout routine. I spent the first couple of months with the trainer working on building muscle, and I had a lot of substantial gains in the amount I was lifting, number of reps, that kind of thing. I cut the assisted weight on the gravitron in half, doubled my shoulder press weight, added about forty pounds to my bench press and lat pulldown, etc. I also started adding in exercises I hadn't been doing before - dips and other body weight exercises mostly. This was all focused on building up more muscle.

    A couple of weeks ago I ended that phase of the program and started to focus on weight loss. This entailed pretty much completely changing what I was doing, switching to a lot more body weight exercises, more reps, high intensity interval training. There's been a lot of variety these past couple of weeks, but as an example, here's what I did today: warm-up of 20 minutes on the elliptical, followed by 50 pushups, 50 pull-ups (on the graviton at 70% of the assisted weight I used to use), 50 situps, 50 box jumps, 50 lunges (target was to do all these in 30 minutes but I wound up a little closer to 40) and then finished it off with 3 sets of eight bench presses at the maximum weight I've ever benched (I had to have some help from the trainer and basically just did negatives for the last two). I'll do something like that Monday, Wednesday and Friday (well not this Monday as it's Canadian Thanksgiving) and then the usual hour of cardio, though I recently switched out the stationary bike for 20 minutes on the rowing machine. These have definitely been increased difficulty workouts - usually I'm totally fatigued and sore at the end, and then have a surge of endorphins about half an hour later.

    My diet is pretty well balanced most of the time, though watching the portions at dinner is kind off the problem. Here's a pretty average example:
    Breakfast: 2 cups of coffee with milk and sugar (which I probably shouldn't have but I'm addicted), one and half cups of whole grain cereal with half a cup of milk
    Post work out snack: a piece of fruit (usually a banana or apple), protein shake
    Lunch/early afternoon: organic granola bar, protein shake
    Dinner: whatever my girlfriend feels like making, but regular things we have: chicken and chick pea curry with steamed rice and naan, beef stew, baked chicken wings with carrot and celery sticks, whole grain pasta (usually with sausage though, probably not the best choice), baked chicken breasts with either steamed rice or mashed potatoes and vegetables (or a garden salad with balsamic vinegar dressing).

    Sometimes I will have some sort of after dinner snack with my girlfriend, usually along the lines of splitting a bag of microwave popcorn, having a hot chocolate, or maybe something like a bowl of ice cream (if we have it in the house, I try to keep it out). That's not an every day kind of thing - averaging it out, maybe once a week.

    Other than the coffee I don't drink anything other than water all day. Once every couple of weeks I might have two or three beers on a Friday night.

    The problem area, for me, is usually on the weekends. I play tabletop RPGs, pretty much every Saturday night, and the guys I play with eat pretty much what the stereotype suggests - pizza, chips, candy, soda - crap basically. I usually figure that Saturday will be my cheat day, and I don't gorge myself or anything, but it's obviously not helping. The problem is that this has a way of snowballing, as my friends like to do dim sum (Chinese brunch) as well, though I've avoided it for a few months now. Sometimes, if we're really swamped, my girlfriend and I get take out on Friday night, so it can snowball into this trifecta of take-out Friday, pizza and crap on Saturday and then dim sum on Sunday. Haven't had that happen in quite awhile (like four months or more) though.

    Anyway, on to the specific supplement thing:

    Creatine - some one brought it up already. A guy at the gym suggested this because it will (supposedly) let me do more exercise in less time. My understanding, though, is that it's more for trying to put on muscle mass than to lose weight.

    ECA - this one was mentioned several times at the gym. I looked it up and found out it stands for Ephedra-Caffeine-Aspirin, which you take in combination. I found this kind of sketchy as apparently it's banned by the FDA in the U.S. (but I'm in Canada and you can buy it here) and it's banned from competitive sports (don't play any though). I wouldn't even bring it up save that all the guys I talked to at the gym suggested it, and a couple of the regulars are firefighters. They mentioned they had to get their BMI down for some evaluation and they used this.

    Thermogenix (sp?) - a couple of guys mentioned this, supposedly it increases your metabolism. That's about all I know.

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  • adytumadytum Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    Most weight-loss pills boil down to either diuretics to make you shed water or caffeine-like which "give you more energy" and suppress your appetite.

    Neither are particularly great, especially for long term use.

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  • adytumadytum Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    Honestly it sounds like you need to start lifting more weight and watching your diet, not taking supplements. You're eating a lot of carbs in your regular diet and a lot of protein shakes. Why so many protein shakes if you're not lifting heavy? That's a lot of liquid calories that you don't need.

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  • AphostileAphostile Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    If anything it sounds like you'd be undernourished for working out that many times a week, which can definitely help your body in deciding it doesn't want to shed any pounds...

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  • adytumadytum Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    Aphostile wrote: »
    If anything it sounds like you'd be undernourished for working out that many times a week, which can definitely help your body in deciding it doesn't want to shed any pounds...

    Agreed-ish, though I'd still say it's too carb-heavy.

    Re-tooling the diet at a minimum can't hurt. But that's a whole WoT up there and there's a lot of factors interacting with each other.

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  • Edith_Bagot-DixEdith_Bagot-Dix Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    adytum wrote: »
    Aphostile wrote: »
    If anything it sounds like you'd be undernourished for working out that many times a week, which can definitely help your body in deciding it doesn't want to shed any pounds...

    Agreed-ish, though I'd still say it's too carb-heavy.

    Re-tooling the diet at a minimum can't hurt. But that's a whole WoT up there and there's a lot of factors interacting with each other.

    Were these two comments meant for me or y2jake215?

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  • adytumadytum Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    adytum wrote: »
    Aphostile wrote: »
    If anything it sounds like you'd be undernourished for working out that many times a week, which can definitely help your body in deciding it doesn't want to shed any pounds...

    Agreed-ish, though I'd still say it's too carb-heavy.

    Re-tooling the diet at a minimum can't hurt. But that's a whole WoT up there and there's a lot of factors interacting with each other.

    Were these two comments meant for me or y2jake215?

    For you.

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  • Dr. FrenchensteinDr. Frenchenstein Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    Creatine allowed me to work out harder and recover faster, at least it seemed to be helping me do that. I'm not sure how much of that is a placebo effect.

    sometimes if your results taper off, your system could use a shock. have a cheat day (don't go too crazy) where you eat whatever you want. sometimes that can kick your metabolism in the ass.

    I've had limited success with fat burners, i used to be on the Ephedrine one (i forget what it's called)before it got banned, but they are hard to stay on for long, your body gets used to it. It did really reduce my appetite though, i tend to eat when i'm bored, and being an accountant i tended to snack a lot at work. You have to be careful with those though, as they can be dangerous. especially if you drink caffeine anyways.

    Sounds like you could benefit from a more intense workout as well. I've lifted on and off for ten years and my results were far from spectacular, aestetically speaking (i got stronger). i got on p90x for a month, and noticed results very quickly. the high intensity workout is brutal, but i couldn't argue with the results.

  • KakodaimonosKakodaimonos Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    Couple of things.

    Supplements really won't help much with losing weight if you don't modify your diet. I'd suggest looking into maybe a more serious carb-cycling diet, where you avoid carbohydrates except right before and after your workouts. Keep eating clean, no processed foods or junk food or fast food. Just reduce the carb intake throughout the day. And don't do a cheat day. Do at most a cheat MEAL. Once you get up from the table, you're done. If you do a cheat day, you can easily take in 7000 - 10000 calories if you're going all out and gorging.

    Figure out how many calories you're consuming. Knock 250 - 500 off of that. Bingo, you'll start losing 1-2 pounds a week.

    I'd recommend the creatine. It's kinda the biochemical equivalent of topping off the gas tank in your muscles. If you have creatine phosphate available, that can be converted into ATP. It only helps with short-duration, max-effort style work, so it usually helps you put up one or two more reps at the end.

  • Dropping LoadsDropping Loads Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    On the supplements you mentioned:

    ECA: Ephedra, and anything that sounds like "ephedrine" "drine" "dran" "eph-" or the like are all trade names for amphetamines. You really don't want these unless a doctor specifically says you need one.

    Thermogenix: A bunch of root crap in a bottle. This is absolutely the canonical rip-off supplement that has one or two active ingredients and a bunch of snake oil (that may be harmful) that makes it sound like it's attacking the problem from every possible angle. You'd be better off taking caffeine pills than this.

    I know it can be disappointing, but there isn't really something available that's just going to be the perfect utility pill for your needs. Again, go see a doctor if you have a specific need that you'd like to find some assistance with, whether it's weight loss or bulking up.

    And it's not that I'm against supplements. I take fish oil for high cholesterol and glucosamine for bad knees. The pills I take have one ingredient each, and I was recommended them by my doctor.

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  • CircaCirca Registered User
    edited October 2010
    ECA: Ephedra, and anything that sounds like "ephedrine" "drine" "dran" "eph-" or the like are all trade names for amphetamines. You really don't want these unless a doctor specifically says you need one.

    This isn't true. While there is some similarity between the structure and stimulating effects, ephedra and similar compounds are not amphetamines and it would be more accurate to say they are trade names for epinephrine and related compounds.

    Edit: To clarify, Dropping Loads isn't really wrong, but I am fairly sure that when we're dealing with supplements, most of the compounds similar to what he listed aren't going to be amphetamines. In any case I am not sure if you can even get any of these substances without a prescription anymore.

  • Dropping LoadsDropping Loads Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    Circa wrote: »
    ECA: Ephedra, and anything that sounds like "ephedrine" "drine" "dran" "eph-" or the like are all trade names for amphetamines. You really don't want these unless a doctor specifically says you need one.

    This isn't true. While there is some similarity between the structure and stimulating effects, ephedrine and similar compounds are not amphetamines and it would be more accurate to say they are trade names for epinephrine and related compounds.

    You are correct. The common category of those two compounds is phenethylamines, not amphetamines. I certainly appreciate the scientific accuracy =).
    For subby, the point is still valid that it is risky to self-dose ephedra.

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    3clipse: The key to any successful marriage is a good mid-game transition.
  • CircaCirca Registered User
    edited October 2010
    Yes, ephedra and its relatives can be dangerous if you don't know what your doing. You can hardly get it in the US due to its position as a methamphetamine precursor. I'm unsure of its availability elsewhere, but if you plan to take it as a supplement do good research first.

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