So you're a serious strength/power athlete looking to wring every drop of benefit from your training. You're seeking safe and legal means to gain the competitive edge, whether it's climbing a cliff, smashing an inside fastball, or dunking a basketball.
The big dis
If it's too good to be true, it is. Most of the items you see one store shelves have only a shred of unbiased scientific legitimacy at most. And none of it is nearly as great as supplement companies would like us to believe. Don't take my word for it; go ahead and do your homework and review the literature.
Supplement companies write in their products as a standard foundational element in any and every fitness effort, when in fact they should only be considered as an afterthought. But of course, treating supplements as...well, supplemental to the diet doesn't sale nearly as many precision engineered proprietary formulas.
Sound bitter? In the 90's I fully bought into the oil smooth, sincere sounding words of Bill Phillips. His revolutionary marketing ways have been totally exposed for what they were; details of the way he had us all thinking that HMB and MetRx (among other things) were magic tickets to awesomeville. And of course he had no self-interest in recommending those items.
Dude didn't get this big by taking "power butter" or any other much less stupid sounding supplement. Or by just doing tricep pressdowns.
Lure of the quick fix
Even still, what power athlete doesn't want bigger, faster, stronger output from the same amount of training input? Supplements get an awful lot of attention, but they never will take the place of the real "secrets" to peak performance. Sound nutrition and intense training require knowledge and loads of plain old fashion, disciplined effort. The details of intelligent nutrition and training are beyond the scope of this writing, but I can assure you that the answer is nothing (legal) you can take in a pill or find at GNC.
So we're going to assume that you have a sound nutrition program that includes the basics. You focus on unprocessed foods, at least most of the time. You take in adequate protein (athletes do require more than the "normal" population) and healthy fats. You take in the right amount of quality carbohydrates, depending on your particular energy needs and current goals. You have some fast digesting carbs and protein within thirty minutes after training and competition.
Do you have all that? The last paragraph is a huge assumption. Until those basic nutrition related factors along with proper training are given careful effort and attention, I rarely recommend supplements (or take them myself). Worrying about the "speck" of supplements is a waste of time and money when you carry a plank in your training and nutrition program.
If your a 120 lb. teen looking to gain some lean muscle, I can't comment on casein versus ionized whey protein while your eating Poptarts for breakfast and doing 12 sets of bicep curls. I don't want to debate minutia about the best rep speed for vertical jump height when you're regularly having wings and nachos for dinner.
What You Pay For...
You get what you pay for, in the truest sense. In fact, viewing this issue from another angle, you start to realize the notion that the benefit of supplements may actually be due to the cost and inconvenience. The big plastic can of powder stuff "works" because you don't want to waste your investment in it. Suddenly you start really delivering the goods on your training, nutrition, and rest/recovery.
So yeah, in the big picture, supplements can work extremely well.
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Part two will include some personal insight and five supplements that I do believe have merit for serious strength/power athletes.