Poisonous potions – Workout supplements decrease performance.
I’ve been there.
I know the feeling of wanting to pour that magic potion into your body and instantly add muscle, burn fat and add 50kg to your bench press.
Maybe you’re not so naive that you expect a superhero transformation of 20kg of added lean mass in an instant.
But, for sure, you can expect to add 2kg of lean mass and another 10kg on your bench this month, and the next, and the next, if you just ensure you’re taking the right pre/post/intra workout supplements along with all the other powders and potions being force-fed to us by fitness magazines and commercial gyms, right?
How could these magic potions be killing your gainz, bro?
- Look where you want to go!
Even steroid-guzzling athletes at the top level know that they must train the right way to get big results. Sure, steroids will change the rate of adaptation of the body, but ultimately no matter what you’re putting into your body, you’re going to need to give it the right stimulus.
Working with elite athlete from rugby league and other sports it’s the first thing most of them want to talk about: what supplements they should be taking?
Hang on a second, big guy. Let’s step back and nail the basics:
– Do you drink clean water or toilet water (tap water)?
– Are you getting to sleep before 10pm?
– Do you eat greens with most meals?
– How many pull-ups can you do?
– What’s your deadlift?
I don’t need to take my shoes off to count digits for the athletes and average Joe’s who answer these questions to a standard where I feel we need to talk about supplements to improve their performance. It’s about getting the basics down first.
We know from behaviour change research that humans have a finite amount of will-power and ability to change habits at any one time. If you’re focussed on getting your post-workout shake in but you’re weak and living on junk food then you need to be looking in a different direction.
If you want to keep it simple use the RealSTRENGTH Method, the most effective way I’ve found to bring accountability into your training. Increase the amount of volume you can tolerate. Eat RealFOOD, drink clean water, sleep. Amazing things will follow. Then MAYBE we can talk potions.
- Workout Supplements / Poisonous potions – ADRENAL FATIGUE
Just like in the computer games you may have played in your youth, there are good potions and bad. Most of the stuff that’s being sold to get you quick gains is actually full of crap which is almost drug-like, both in terms of chemical composition and addictiveness, but not in the “steroid like” way the marketing often suggests.
If your Pre-Workout potion is loaded with caffeine consider this: overdosing on caffeine when you’re already chronically stressed can negatively affect adrenal function. Caffeine hits are fun every now and then, but if you’re taking them all the time and feel tired without them, don’t up the dose, STOP. You will get a training and health boost when you STOP taking caffeine. I’ve seen energy increase from a few weeks without caffeine many times.
When adrenal function is diminished, reducing caffeine consumption frees up more hormones for gains and recovery. We can either use pregnenalone for cortisol or DHEA / Testosterone . When you’re deciding whether to supplement with caffeine, consider these pathways and beware of the recommendations of those who are supplementing their hormones! .Often they are playing by rules that run contrary to what Mother Nature intended.
If you no longer feel any effect from coffee then you may have done some damage already and be suffering from adrenal fatigue (chronic stress). Other symptoms include excessive dribbling, low sex drive, poor muscle tone, scratches that stay white rather than turning red quickly, lack of ability to maintain pupil dilation (even with a light on the eye) and poor training recovery.
I’ve been through adrenal fatigue. It’s not great, but you can get through it if you create the right environment. (Caffeine is not the only cause of adrenal fatigue, chronic over-training, food allergies, poor thought-management are other causative factors.)
BOTTOM LINE – If you screw your adrenals getting pumped up for a session of 100kg squats and bench presses then you’re probably pushing for a 1% gain on the day and taking away from 50%+ improvement you can have in the long-term if you train smart, recover and then go back to the bar fresh for the next session.
3.Workout Supplements / Poisonous potions – INSULIN RESISTANCE
If you eat like most people you’re probably already somewhat insulin resistant. There is a continuum of resistance that at some stage approaches pre-diabetic or diabetic levels. Whilst these labels are arbitrary,a lot of damage can be done a long time before these levels are reached.
Think of insulin as a storage hormone. You can potentially store sugar and amino acids in muscle when you have more insulin in the blood. Sounds good, right?
The problem is that all hormones depend on the receptor sites. What if the cell isn’t able to receive the hormone because it’s been overloaded with it and has decreased the number of receptor sites, or because the cell membrane is damaged by glycation (sugar) or lack of quality fats and phospholipids? Then your sugary drink is actually going to just increase the problem, causing a spike and subsequent crash in blood sugar that makes you tired half-way through your workout, messes with your concentration and ends up being stored as fat. All of a sudden, it doesn’t sound so good, huh?
Once you’ve gone too far down this path it can be a long way back. I read a research paper in Uni that I interpreted to report that excess carbohydrate is just as effective as excess protein for muscle gains. I didn’t really care about the type of carbs at that time and started drinking massive amounts of cordial -bad move!
The result of this “experiment” (that I repeated a few times) was dizziness, sweats and nausea.. Since then I’m able to recognise the symptoms of poor blood sugar management whenever they’ve cropped up since, which is far less frequently since I consciously stepped away from magic potions and powders. Excessive inflammation also leads to greater fluctuations in blood sugar.
Blood loaded with sugar and even BCAA’s (branched chain amino acids) might directly or indirectly make you fat if you don’t inject insulin in the way many pro-bodybuilders do. Before you run for the insulin to get that bicep to 13 inches be aware that this is a potentially deadly habit; is more muscle going to improve your experience of life by that much that you should risk life itself?
BOTTOM LINE – I don’t need insulin that much. More muscle isn’t necessarily going to do much for me and I can get enough without playing at the extreme end of these games.
- Workout Supplements / Poisonous potions – FOOD ALLERGIES
I know there are probably hundreds of millions of dollars being invested in the next ‘wonder potion’, but what if it’s actually stimulating an immune response more than an anabolic response. Good food allergy experts recommend that your protein sources should be rotated. To get an idea of what I’m talking about you could read Eat Move and Be Healthy from Paul Chek, and, while you’re there, youtube ‘The Dirt Facts’, by far the best presentation I’ve seen from Paul.
One of the questions I’m asked most commonly by trainers is “ what gut health books do you recommend?” Is it for them or for clients? I suspect it’s 50-50. We will go through gut healing in a separate blog for now check out the Bone Broth blog to get a headstart.
Fast forward to elite sports or the fitness industry and you’re going to see strength coaches, athletes, PT’s and clients taking the same protein powder for years and years, whether it’s whey or casein could make a big difference for the individual but it’s hard to say which will be better for you.
It’s important to know your protein. I’m going to leave the discussion of WPI vs WPC, hydrolysed casein vs BCAA’s, rice / pea / hemp etc. for another time. For today I want you to consider that all of these are potentially damaging and should be used with caution. They may promise big things and trick you into feeling nourished but for most of the people I’ve worked with I’ve seen both performance and body composition improvements from STOPPING their protein supplementation, rather than maintaining or increasing it
Food allergies trigger immune, inflammatory and stress responses. Your ability to gain muscle is proportional to your immune function. You’re not going to add muscle while your immune system is fighting chronic allergies and infection. You may however gain mass quickly. In the same way the cattle at the feedlot I worked at did. Give cattle foods they don’t digest well, pump them with estrogens and anti-biotics and watch them grow. Sounds like too much like a professional rugby team for my liking!
Believe me, I’ve been there.
If you’re getting gas, bloating, diarrhoea or other gut symptoms from a supplement then you can be 99% sure it’s not for you (excess magnesium is one of the exceptions here which directly relaxes the bowel causing loose stools). Labels like leaky gut, IBS, coeliac disease and others are wheeled out when gut function reaches-measurable dysfunction. Consistant gut dysfunction, however, is significant and will decrease your ability to get what you want out of your training and probably life in general.
Note that if you develop an allergy to your protein powder you will increase scale weight. The weight will be mostly fat and water retention as the body tries to ward off inflammation and toxicity.
Will this make you stronger?
100% more weight and pressure around the joints is why many elite powerlifters choose to get fat and eat crap. It’s also the reason why many of them are unable to move as well as an average teenage boy despite being world-class in their sport.
Remember that your gut is the biggest interface between you and the outside world. It’s where your body gets a lot of its information about where it is. This is one of the reasons why it’s good to eat locally and why eating small amounts of soil attached to food was part of the process for gut health for our ancestors and other species. If most of the info you’re giving your body about the local environment is junk mail and spam then you can’t expect optimal performance as a result.
Nobel peace prize winner Eli Mentchnikoff said “Death begins in the gut” and he was right.
BOTTOM LINE – Look after your gut. You have one and it can be hard to fix if you mess it up badly. If you have an iron gut charge on and hope it persists. If not then realise that you can get great gains and performance in the gym without magic potions that may be holding you back.
- Poisonous potion device – DEPENDENCY – (No PWO, no point training!)
Probably the worst thing about magic potions is that they make the process of success feel external. Success is an internal process. It’s your thoughts, habits, feelings, and actions. Your mind that ultimately will determine the life you live changing your gene expression and interpreting your environment as needed. Never give that away. For sure, learn from those around you. Find great mentors, training partners and food suppliers. But never let your success depend on someone or something else.
Least of all on your supplements!
Whilst there may be some benefit to some supplements, they will never probably be tested over a significant enough time period among trained athletes against an organic nutrient dense traditional knowledge based diet for us to really be able to say what works best. My experience and feeling is that the basics (that almost nobody is doing) work much better than the potions that the flacid masses are paying big bucks for.
Real view – Training should be a path to a higher degree of personal freedom. We become physically more capable through consistent training for higher levels of skill, strength, joint and tissue resilience. Knowing we can get improve when we apply ourselves consistently is half the battle. Physical freedom is the result of training success. Being reliant on a certain song, supplement, gym or anything to be able to express your physical freedom is self-defeating. Dependence is a cage that thousands of companies are trying to put you in. MovementFREEDOM should not be caged.
I don’t need to name names here but most of the world famous athletes I’ve worked with have boosted their performance and longevity by using this simple innovation: RealFOOD, no (less) poisons.
Don’t let marketing change the way you train. What worked for the Greeks and Romans will work for you. Build volume tolerance and movement quality, eat RealFOOD and great things will follow.
At RealMOVEMENT seminars and 12 month mentorships you will learn about an approach to nutrition focussed around the methods tested through centuries based around real foods and methods for performance when performance meant life or death. You’ll also learn about the detoxification methods used with the Sydney Roosters and Alastair Day to take