Like 99.9% of lifters (Note: this is a fake statistic. I made it up for comedic effect), I spent my formative years shopping for and consuming as many supplements as possible. Fitness magazines convinced me that the only way to achieve success and score chicks was to swallow a variety of pills and powders on a regular basis. I had a GNC Gold Card and I knew how to use it. What I didn’t have was discipline, a training journal and a firm understanding of exercise physiology and the basic principles of strength training. If only I put half as much effort into lifting as I did researching supplements…
Somewhere in the second half of my 20s it hit me: none of these fucking pills were doing a damn thing. Actually, that’s not true. Two products provided noticeable results. The first was Animal Stak, a popular “non-hormonal anabolic supplement” that requires users to swallow a handful of awful-smelling horse pills every day. Animal Stak wasn’t available in Canada at the time (no idea if that’s since changed), so I had to place an order online and pray that customs would let it across the border. Muscley Jesus must have been listening to my prayers because the shipment did indeed arrive. I followed the recommended regiment for a week. The results? A face and back covered with zits so ripe they’d pop at the slightest touch. Hello ladies!!
I figured it was better to be skinny and clear-skinned rather than jacked and puss-filled, so I stopped taking Animal Stak before I could tell if their claims were legit. I did receive a full refund, so props to you, Animal Stak!
The second product that delivered upon its lofty promises was Gaspari Nutrition’s SizeOn. Marketed as both “the Ultimate Hybrid Intra-Workout Amino Acid & Creatine Formula” and the “King of Creatines”, SizeOn did indeed live up to its billing, though I’m not sure how much of that had to do with its “cutting-edge, amino acid salt L-Ornithine-L-Aspartate” versus it being a straight-up anabolic steroid. A bold claim, yes, and there is no way I can prove this assertion except to say that never in my life have I ever been so jacked as when I was taking SizeOn. Right now I weigh 161 pounds at approximately 10 % body fat. When I was taking SizeOn — 10 years ago, give or take — I tipped the scales at 180 with nearly the same level of leanness. Neither my diet nor my training was as consistent back then, and Gaspari has since discontinued the capsulated version of SizeOn that I was taking, hence my suspicions about this supplement. I can’t recall why I stopped taking SizeOn given that it worked so well. Probably had something to do with it being so expensive.
With age comes a modicum of wisdom. I know now that pretty much everything sold by GNC and their ilk is either total bullshit or totally illegal. I’ve stopped looking for magic bullets and focus instead on intelligent programming and a well-balanced diet, with a few extras thrown in to fill any holes. Today my supplement line-up consists of the following:
- plant-based protein powder
- vitamin D3
- vitamin B12
- Mahler’s Aggressive Strength Testosterone Booster
There is a carefully considered rationale for each of these products, and none are very expensive. Protein powder is simply a quick and convenient way to give my body what it needs when time is tight. Creatine, D3 and B12 are all difficult to obtain on a plant-based diet, so supplementing is essential (the benefits of creatine are well established, though some people respond better than others).
As for the T-booster, well, despite being a left-leaning, bicycle-riding, feminist-loving vegan, I am still a red-blooded dude who grew up under the influence of action movies and professional wrestling. As such, I’m always on the look-out for a safe, effective and affordable way to increase the GAINZ. I’ve been using Aggressive Strength for more than two years and I plan on taking it for many more. I stopped using it over the summer to see what would happen and every one of my lifts suffered. Weight I could usually move for a solid 5 reps became a struggle, and my recovery between sessions slowed noticeably. It could very well be a placebo effect, but so what. The stuff works and it doesn’t cost a lot so I’m sticking with it.
For information on supplements that is based on actual research and not just the opinion and experiences of some random jackass, I strongly recommend Examine.com. These guys have put together a free online encyclopedia that covers everything there is to know about supplements and nutrition.
Also worth checking out is this excellent podcast from No Meat Athlete Radio, in which Examine.com’s Kamal Patel discusses the in’s & out’s of supplements for plant-based athletes.