I was driving through town the other day and saw another new nutrition and supplement store. Normally I would not have given it a second thought, but on this day I thought “Okay, that is my next article.” On this day it irritated me and shot a flash of thoughts through my head. Now, I am not knocking someone seeing an opportunity to open a business in a field they enjoy. I am not completely knocking the nutrition and supplement industry because they are just trying to make some money too. Supplement companies do end up giving some back to athletes and sports in the industries, not so much in powerlifting but it is gradually improving. All these supplements are just the tip of the iceberg, though. They reveal and exploit a whole way of thinking that so many people have.

Throughout my life and lifting career, I have seen and experienced so much. I have been everywhere from the bottom to the top and everywhere in between, kind of like my experiences in school from moving so much. I have been the new kid, I have been the popular kid, I have been the picked on kid, I have been the chubby kid, I have been the strong kid, I have been the last kid picked, I have been the smart kid, I have been the dumb kid, I have been the one bullied, and I have been the one pounding the bullies. So I don’t feel like a hypocrite when I say the things I do because most of the time what I say is because I have done or experienced the things that give me my opinions. I am not just talking out my ass. I have over 30 years of experience lifting weights and training strength. On top of that, I have a wide variety of things I have had to overcome or deal with to reach the top levels. Plus, let's face it, I am hardheaded as hell, so a lot of times I have to try something to decide if I agree or not. All this leaves me with a ton of knowledge not acquired from a book but from actual life experiences in lifting and strength.

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So what is it that sets me off so much by seeing one more supplement store opening up? Very simply it is that the vast majority of supplements on the market are bullshit. If they do happen to actually work, they do not work at anywhere near the level that is claimed. All those supplement companies out there know this, too. Yes, they may put some research and development into it and they have some proof it works, but again, it is not really regulated by anyone.


Photo credit:  Vereshchagin Dmitry ©

What really pisses me off is what these companies really know and exploit: that people want to believe in a miracle. People want to believe a powder, pill, or drink is the key to losing weight or gaining muscle. They want to believe eating or drinking something will get them the body they dream of. It does not work that way. Still other people out there work hard but do not get the results they want, so they immediately assume they must not be taking the right supplement and they start dropping all kinds of money trying the latest and greatest ones. Again, it does not work this way. I have never known anyone my entire life that got amazing results from supplements.

Like any business, the supplement industry is there to make money. And they do make a ton of money. There are usually pretty amazing margins in supplements. I am willing to bet many of them spend more on marketing than on research or quality control. They are selling a dream more than a product: a dream of what their product can actually do. In so many cases that dream is so outrageous that it's hard to believe anyone buys it. It is a dream so many people want so badly that they are willing to try it because it is easier than hard work and the discipline it actually takes.

These companies will put multipage ads presenting their information in very official and scientific ways, complete with before and after photos. Again, there are no regulations on any of this. One of my favorites is when they hire top athletes and especially bodybuilders to sponsor their products. I have yet to meet a top athlete that actually got there by using supplements. In some cases, the companies will be new and hire an existing athlete, so the athlete could not have gotten that body or performance level by using those supplements. Same thing when an athlete switches to another company. These companies are getting rich exploiting people's dreams and hopes, but they are not forcing anyone to buy their products.

It is still not the companies I am most frustrated with. This is America and we are capitalist. It is how our country works. Yes, I would like to see them have some higher morals and be more honest about what their products can actually do. Some supplements out there are horrible and some actually do work. They rarely work to the level that is usually claimed, though. I have had supplement sponsors throughout my career and have agreed with their products, the biggest of which focused on protein, protein drinks, meal replacement, and hydration drinks. I did use their supplements, which helped me achieve my level of strength, but at the same time agree I could have gotten the same benefits from quality food.

Personally, I found it hard to eat enough quality foods and the drinks were much easier for me. I think most of the pre-workout or energy drinks do what they claim and can help increase energy for training. Once in the fat loss, muscle-building, and even recovery categories, it begins to get even shadier, with claims that really are not possible. To some extent, I think the designer protein claims at better muscle-building are out there as well. These companies will not change how they do business as long as they continue to make money like they are. What I would love is for more consumers to see through all their bullshit and utilize their money to actually get closer to their dreams.


Photo credit: Viacheslav Krisanov ©

Like I said earlier, I have tried it all and I will not sit here saying I never spent money on crazy supplements thinking I would make huge gains. I have. In my youth lifting weights for sports, I got sucked in and tried different ones. Even in the beginning of my powerlifting career, I tried some different ones. Can you guess what I discovered? Yep, they were all bullshit, and it was an expensive lesson. There simply are no miracle supplements out there. These companies are selling a dream that does not exist. No matter how alluring or appealing their ads seem, it is still make-believe. I do not care if your dream is to lose weight, put on weight, get leaner, put on muscle, or get stronger; it takes hard work and discipline. It is not rocket science, but it takes intelligence to get there. Smart training, recovery, and nutrition are the keys. Thinking supplements will get you there is only setting yourself up for failure.

People need to realize the money they spend each month on supplements is usually a waste and could be used in so many other great ways that can actually help reach their goals. Way too often I hear people say a seminar that cost $300 is too expensive and they can not afford it, when I know they spend hundreds a month on supplements. One seminar with the right athlete or company will do more than any supplements taken for years. That supplement money could be better used for a quality trainer. It could be better utilized buying prepared meals through any number of companies now doing that. It would be better used on nutrition or training books. Hell, it would be better used leaving work an hour early to research training, nutrition, or even going home and taking a nap.

It just seems so mixed up how people will put so much effort and money into making sure to use the latest, greatest supplements while ignoring the most important things that would actually help them achieve their goals. If someone was really sold on supplements, I would say once you have your nutrition down, your training down, and your recovery down, then worry about supplements. The effect of supplements even when they do work is so minimal and their cost is so high. Throughout the majority of my powerlifting career, I took no supplements except protein drinks or meal replacements. I would occasionally do energy drinks or pre-workouts. I know a very large number of other top strength athletes that also did not take any supplements. Some of the sponsored ones would use them, but admittedly said they wouldn’t if they had to pay for them. There are just so many better ways to utilize your money and time to better help you reach your goals.

Q&A: Boost Testosterone Levels Naturally with the Correct Nutrition Strategies

So I know there will be plenty of people wondering about steroids while reading this article. I am going to keep this short. Steroids do work but they are called performance enhancing drugs for a reason — the key word being “enhancing.” Steroids do work, but again, they are not miracle drugs. They will give noticeable gains in weight loss, leaning out, putting on size, gaining strength, etc. It is not just the drugs, though. If your nutrition, training, and recovery suck then they will make you suck less.

I cannot tell you how many people I destroyed that were using steroids when I was still clean. There are lifters in gyms all over the world on steroids that do not look amazing and are not that strong. My high school coach used to say you can put a tuxedo on a turd but it is still a turd. Just like supplements, I think the money is better spent on gaining knowledge through seminars, trainers, coaches, nutritionists, pre-made meals, equipment, books, etc. When you reach the point that your knowledge in all these areas is solid then you can decide about supplements or even steroids. I would again recommend learning about them before just jumping in or following the advice of someone that just thinks they know.

Bottom line: If you want to lose weight, gain weight, put on muscle, lean out, or get stronger, it is going to take hard work and dedication. There is no way around this fact and there is no miracle pill, powder, drink, or drug. It is also not super complicated, but it does take some knowledge. And, of course, the amount of knowledge needed increases with the level you want to reach. Knowledge, hard work, and dedication are the three biggest factors and create the strong foundation that will allow you to reach your goals. This is the best place to put your focus, energy, and money. I think sometimes people get overwhelmed or discouraged at just the thought of goals like this, especially weight loss. This is probably one reason it is so easy for people to believe the dream the supplement companies are selling. It is not as bad or as hard as all that. This is where the knowledge comes into play: actually knowing what it takes and approaching it from an intelligent standpoint. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it takes times. It is more about lifestyle changes and setting small realistic obtainable goals. Hell, if I can do it, anyone can. Instead of believing in some drug or supplement, try believing in yourself!