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Guide To Supplements – The Good the Bad and the Ugly

You need not look any farther than your closest pharmacy, grocery store or TJ Maxx to find a plethora of supplements on the shelves.

Suffice it to say, the supplement industry started booming back in the late 80s and has shown no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Either you jump into the fray and become a user or risk getting trampled by the billions of users around you who run to the market to get their fix.

Although there ARE some folks who are dead set against the use of supplements, there is a higher amount who are not.  In the big picture, there is nothing wrong with taking supplements as long as you have a good understanding of how they work, what they’re for and why you are taking them.

That is the helpful information this guide is going to provide for you. Then you can make an executive decision on whether you want to start using them, continue using them or change what you currently use.

At the end of the day, there really isn’t any reason to unfriend someone just because you found out they’re using protein powder. And speaking of which, that is a great substance to kick this off with.

Protein Powders

It’s pretty safe to say that protein powder is one of the most popular and recognized supplements in the marketplace. In the gym scene alone, you don’t have to walk but three steps into a weight room and hear shaker bottles rattling away with hungry bodybuilders just waiting to slug down the contents.


The first thing you need to know is why would you even want protein powder. Well, protein is one of the three macronutrients, which are nutrients needed in large quantities by the body.

Among one of the most notable functions of protein is its ability to help regenerate muscle cells. Hence, the dudes who like to consume their weight in grams of protein every day.

It’s also important for the health of the skin, hair and nails, and it also has a satiating effect when you consume it. That’s why it is favored by those who are following low-carb diets and looking to shed some extra layers of flab.


There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to protein powder. You may have lactose intolerance and your friend Monica might be vegan. And your cousin Walter might like chocolate, where you like vanilla.

That’s all perfectly fine because there are plenty of protein powder varieties and flavors to go around so that everyone can join the fun. You have whey, egg white, casein, peanut (from actual peanuts), soy, pea, hemp and plant-based blends.

Obviously, since your friend Monica is vegan, she’s going to use a plant-based version. And if she likes vanilla, then she’ll probably choose vanilla too.

On the other end of the spectrum, you have bone broth protein powder, which has recently taken the nation by storm. It is derived from bovine bone broth and is free of gluten and dairy.

This type of protein powder is pure, clean, highly digestible, and it is “complete” because it has all the essential amino acids. If you’re ok with meat, this could very well be your best hookup.

Red Flags

Nothing good comes without at least a little bit of a risk. When you are shopping around for protein powders, there are certain things you want to look for. It doesn’t matter if it’s vegan, freegan, flexitarian, or animal-based protein powder, always go to the ingredient label first!

Never mind the fancy bells and whistles that are written on the front of the container to attract your eye. All of those benefits are completely canceled out if a product contains artificial colors, flavors or sweeteners.

Plus, be mindful of numbers, acronyms and animal-derived proteins that contain hormones and antibiotics. This may sound perplexing but it’s really not. Just follow these rules…

If something has a color, a number, an acronym or a word you cannot pronounce in the ingredient label, send it to the firing squad!

For example, acesulfame potassium, often abbreviated by ACE K, is an artificial sweetener. It’s not good for you so avoid it. Yellow #5, Blue #4 and FD & C Red #40 are carcinogenic additives that give color to your protein powder. Avoid, avoid and avoid!

Do you even know what the “FD & C” stands for? This is a label that means this coloring is safe and used for food, drugs, and get this, cosmetics! Yeah!

So, an ingredient in YOUR protein powder is suitable for cosmetics. Well, you might as well save yourself some money and throw a splash of nail polish in your morning smoothie. 

If a product IS clean and legit, it will say so and the company producing it will have nothing to hide. That’s called full disclosure by the way, and more companies need to have this!

It will likely say on the front that it is all-natural, hormone and antibiotic-free, and contains no artificial ingredients. BUT… still inspect the label to make sure you’re not being lied to because there is a LOT of sketchy business going on these days.

Regardless of your reason for using protein powder, it’s safe to say it has stood the test of time. And if you went for a quick run and raided everyone’s kitchen on your block, there is a good chance you’ll find a tub of it in at least one out of every five households.


Perhaps there is no longer running supplement than a multi-vitamin. If you were around in the early 80s, you can probably remember commercials for several different multi-vitamins that started cropping up publicly.

As the technology age started to blossom, so did the need for additional nutrients in the diet because people didn’t have time to crunch down their daily requirements of fruits and vegetables.

On paper, it sounds like a safe and sound idea to pop a pill or two throughout the course of the day to fulfill the needs of your body that is lacking in your diet. But again, this comes with a rub. Not all vitamins are created equal.

Sure, the front of the label will tell you that they contain 100% of your daily allowance of zinc, boron, vitamin C, vitamin A and cholecalciferol, but there is something the label’s not telling you.

Often times, these cheap, store-bought vitamins contain fillers that make them undigestible. Yes, they claim to have you covered and give you all the nutrients you need, and they contain “X” amount of servings of fruits and vegetables, yada yada yada.

But none of that stacks up to a hill of marshmallows if you’re not digesting it. And that’s what often happens with these fillers. They make the vitamins indigestible and they end up floating around in the local sewer system down the street.

Sorry for the graphic detail, but that’s what happens when you don’t digest something. It basically goes right through you undetected.

Here’s the solution, and it’s the same with protein powders. Refer to the ingredient label and make sure you don’t see any funny business. Also, look for an all-natural vitamin that is organic, and ideally derived from whole foods. This will be proudly illustrated on the front label.

Whole-food vitamins break down easier in the body and they can be taken without actual food. To go one better, find one that contains probiotics. These do the complete opposite of vitamins with nasty fillers by actually helping the digestive process.

Liquid multi-vitamins are other good options. You can down them as they are or easily slip them into a bowl of oatmeal or a smoothie.

The take-home message is this. Stick with the clean and natural stuff, and only use a multi-vitamin if you feel your diet is lacking in nutrients.

Greens Formulas

This type of supplement deserves a section of its own because it’s a bit obscure. Greens formulas are not necessarily multi-vitamins, although they often do contain vitamins. They are more like antioxidant formulas that help alkalize the blood.

When you become more alkaline, your immunity gets elevated, you have more energy, you digest food better and you are less likely to get sick. That is the main reason people reach for these.

But in a similar fashion to multi-vitamins, they are also good if you do not get a lot of green vegetables in your diet.

In most cases, greens formulas are more like greens powders. There is an off chance you can find these in capsule form, but it is best to go with a powder. You have better odds of getting more nutrients this way, and capsules never have much fiber in them.

Some greens formulas are just simply powdered greens, while others contain fruits and greens, and still, others contain protein and greens. And you can even find greens added to meal replacement powders that also contain antioxidants, protein, probiotics and a full spectrum of vitamins.

If you are really pressed for time or you practice time-restricted eating windows, an all-in-one type powder isn’t too shabby of an idea. Then you know you at least have all bases covered and are giving your body a hefty dose of nutrition.

Honestly, there aren’t too many bunk greens formulas in the marketplace. These always tend to be top-notch and clean. The only thing you really need to do is try some out for flavor and consistency and go with the one you like the best.

Pre-workout Formulas

The popularity of pre-workout formulas is right up there with protein powders. They come in many flavors and can easily be mixed in a glass with a spoon or you can stir one up in a shaker bottle.

All pre-workout formulas are going to have similar characteristics. First of all, they contain caffeine, which is there to give you a boost of energy and afford you the ability to maintain your energy as you go through your workout.

You will also often find B vitamins, which are known as “energy releasers,” and some varieties contain creatine, citrulline malate and nitric oxide. If you fix your eyeball on the latter ingredient, you might also know this substance as NO2. In theory, NO2 stands for nitric dioxide.

In reality, it is actually fatal if consumed. But you don’t have to worry. It’s actually NO that’s in supplements. The companies that promote this stuff should consider changing their labels though.

This being said, aside from the jolt of energy you get from a pre-workout, it is also designed to increase the oxygen flow to your muscles and help volumize them with hydration.

All of this combined will give you the ability to crank out more reps, lift more weight and work out at a higher intensity. You may even find that you get a nice little pumped feeling where your veins swell up like floats in the Macys Thanksgiving Day parade.

That’s all fine and dandy, but there are precautions you should take. First of all, if you are sensitive to caffeine, forget about it. Unless you can find a stimulant-free pre-workout, you are best leaving it on the shelf because some of these contain a LOT of caffeine.

You also have to read the ingredient labels and make sure there is nothing artificial in there. This is especially the case with the grapes and fruit punches and lemon-limes.

Unless it states clearly that it is all-natural and there are no artificial sweeteners, colors or flavors, it probably DOES have them. And if you haven’t caught on by now, you don’t want this stuff swimming through your bloodstream.

There is one more thing you can look into though if you do not want the jitters, anxiety or risk of toxification associated with general pre-workouts. It’s called exogenous ketones.

Ketosis is a state the body goes into when carbs are depleted, and you burn pure fat for energy. By getting into this state, you lose more weight, your brain function goes up and you are less apt to develop inflammation.

Exogenous ketones are consumed to get your body into ketosis and experience the benefits that come with it. These work well as substitutes for pre-workout formulas. You can get a nice rise in energy without a stimulant effect, plus your fat-burning will be elevated.

Again, it is best to use something that agrees with you and is as close to mother nature as possible.

The Final Verdict

Only you know what’s right for you. Don’t listen to your co-workers or broskis at the gym when they’re telling you about this new pre-workout formula that gave them superhuman strength.

Everybody is abstract and treat yours as such. Do your research, read your labels and always take the most natural path. Safety always comes first. Not just in the weight room, but at the supplement counter too.

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