Do Muscle Supplements Work?

Shakes and body building supplements promise to pack on pounds of muscle — but do they work?

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Health foods and fitness stores stock many kinds of shakes and body building supplements that promise to pack on pounds of muscle. But can these really help you get the body of your dreams?

First, consider the source of the product’s claims. Supplements aren’t regulated by the Food & Drug Administration like medication. Manufacturers’ claims are not approved by the FDA and do not have to present double-blind, peer-reviewed studies before they make claims. They must be safe and contain the ingredients they claim — that is all.

“The idea behind the supplement industry is to supplement a good diet,” said Vincent Mangione, certified personal trainer, certified sports nutrition specialist and owner of Kenmore Barbell & Fitness in Buffalo. “But the industry is very good at convincing people that ‘X’ product will give you 20 pounds of muscle in a month. Your diet has to be on point.”

He thinks that if clients eat protein from natural sources, they won’t need supplements, though quality supplements — not off brands — can help.

“You don’t know what they put in those generics just to make a quick buck” Mangione said.
Instead of relying solely on supplements, Mangione suggests eating whole foods such as eggs, poultry and meat. Vegan or vegetarians can choose nuts, seeds and legumes-including peanut butter and beans-along with vegan or vegetarian protein powder.

He recommends .8 to 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight for most people who are strength training or participating in sports.

The diet overall should be balanced with sufficient whole fruits, vegetables, and grains, along with protein sources and traces of plant-sourced fat because “you can’t out-supplement a poor diet,” Mangione said.

Justin Draper, certified personal trainer and owner of Jada Blitz Training, Inc. in Williamsville, sells a supplement line, Core Nutritionals, which he recommends to his clients.

“If you’re looking to be more anabolic state, it has whey protein that will break down faster into amino acids and really supply the body with the right protein components,” Draper said.

He added that supplements of branched chain amino acids — leucine, isoleucine and valine — help with recovery and that anyone strength training should supplement with them.

These acids make protein within the body and provide muscles with energy. Chicken, fish, dairy products, whey and eggs are all good sources of branched chain amino acids.

To support overall good health, Draper also recommends taking a good quality fish oil and multi-vitamin daily.

Using kettle bells, tubing, free weights and weight machines represent a few ways to perform resistance training. Instead of just stressing one movement, such as raising the weight, men should lower the weight with just as much care to work both muscles-push and pull movements.

Use the maximum amount of weight that can be lifted in good for about 10 to 15 repetitions. Perform another 10 to 15 repetitions and then move on to another muscle group. Exercise each muscle group twice weekly, but not two days in a row. On “off” days, engage in aerobic exercise.