Fitness Supplements: Do They Work?

Almost every time I log on to social media, I have advertisements pop up. The one I see the most is fitness supplements.

Most will have a catchy similar line like "discover the muscle-building secret" or "get bigger, faster, and stronger with this product." The fact is, almost all fitness supplements produce minimal results. The only two supplements that work and continue to work are Creatine and Protein.

Creatine and Protein

Creatine is found in most pre-workout products. Creatine is part of an energy system in the body called Adenosine Triphosphate Creatine Phosphate (ATP-CP). This energy system lasts for up to 15 seconds because the body has low amounts of ATP-CP. The body exhausts the Creatine first and then exhausts the ATP (stored energy in the body). But if you take in more Creatine, you will prolong the exhausting of the ATP. This will allow you to complete more reps when lifting weights.

Protein is the building block of amino acids. Amino acids repair the muscles after working out. The problem with Protein is that it takes a while to digest and there is a 40-minute window after working out that the Protein has to digest in the body. Also, on most days we don't take in enough Protein to repair muscles. Luckily, these supplements are in a drink form and can be consumed before and after workouts.

Other Supplements

I've read through many articles during my time in graduate school and other supplements don't significantly produce results. In one study, they looked at two groups of children and adolescents. One group had performance enhancing supplements and the other did not. They studied Human Growth Hormones, Nitric Oxide, and Pro-Hormones. They found that there was no significant difference between the groups in muscle or strength. 

Most of the advertisements I see today are about Nitric Oxide. The advertisements claim that Nitric Oxide builds muscle and increases strength. The companies are stating this because Nitric Oxide will increase Growth Hormones during exercise. However, studies reveal that Growth Hormones don't have anything to do with building muscle and increasing strength.

Bottom Line

Don't be fooled; most of the fitness supplement advertisements are fake. Taking a supplement pill or drink will not cause you to gain massive amounts of muscle and strength. It takes hard work and effort in the gym, eating a nutritional diet centered around your workout, and rest.


Written by John Broadway, Health & Wellness Director, Downtown St. Louis YMCA at the MX


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