Which Supplements "Work?!?!?!"
by Phil Kaplan

After years of being asked, "Does This Work?" . . . 

After spending hundreds of hours dispelling myths about "miraculous new supplements" . . . . 

After helping trainers and exercisers alike understand that no supplement will be a solution . . . . I received the following question:

Q: Phil, you have been a great resource for understanding what supplements are scams and why they don't work, but there must be some that you are in favor of.  Do you take any supplements?

In response, I've decided to share a list of the few supplements I personally find efficacious, although not every supplement listed is for everyone.  I do have some of these products available at my Superstore, but always emphasize, they are the "extra!"  You don't "need" any of them.  With a concern for the right nutrition, moderate aerobic exercise, and a concern for muscle, the following can act as aids.  Here goes . . . 

Meal Replacements - Optimal nutrition, both for health and performance, will always stem from supportive ingestion of a balanced mix of nutrients.  Biologically valuable proteins, energy producing complex carbs, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and essential fats.  In the real world, with jobs, families, and obligations, it's not easy to get actual meals as frequently as would be ideal.  A meal replacement powder, containing such a balance of nutrients in a formula free from simple sugars and hydrogenated fats makes adherence far simpler.  The formula I sell the most of is my own EAT! Formula.  Of course I'm a bit biased, but I created the formula attempting to fill in the flaws inherent in many of the commercial products.  When I'm on the road, EAT! comprises two of my daily "meals."

[ More info on Meal Replacements ]

L-Glutamine - L-Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in the bloodstream and in muscle tissue.  It is also highly involved in immune function and gastrointestinal health.  Supplementing with L-Glutamine minimizes the likelihood that if your immune system is called upon, or you suffer any stress, muscle will be broken down to meet systemic Glutamine needs.  If I were rating value in terms of stars, I'd give this one four stars!  I take it in the morning and it's a part of my post-workout formula.  Which leads me to . . . 

Post Workout Recovery Drink - Four star value in terms of supplementation.    The post workout state offers a rare opportunity to replenish muscle glycogen, to re-hydrate the body, to replenish lost electrolytes, and to facilitate greater protein synthesis.  You want a mix of glucose, fructose, amino acids, minerals, and L-Glutamine. The formula I personally use, and the one I sell the most of is my own creation, RELOAD! 

[ More info on Post-Workout Recovery ]

Creatine Monohydrate - This is the only supplement with claims to enhance muscle size and strength that I've ever wholeheartedly endorsed specifically for that purpose.  Oral supplementation with creatine monohydrate can increase intramuscular storage of PC, phosphocreatine, a fuel reserve, allowing for greater muscle performance.  It also has a tendency to attract more water into each muscle cell.  Since muscles are primarily water, this has a muscle enhancing benefit.  Creatine gets a thumbs up.

[ More info on Creatine ]

HCA - Hydroxycitric acid is an extract of the herb Garcinia Cambogia.  Despite some misleading advertising, it is NOT a fat burner. It appears as if HCA can interfere with the enzyme that converts unused carbohydrates (ingested carbs not readily stored as fuel or burned up to meet energy needs) into triglycerides.  This can reduce the likelihood of fat accumulation from carbohydrate intake.  I find it best to use this on a "high carb, high calorie" day, which can really add to the muscle "pump."  Personally, I use it as a "maybe it has virtue" insurance policy on the higher carb days that follow "protein days" in my programs. It is not a panacea and should not be mistaken as license to eat unsupportive carbs (simple sugars), but I believe for those who eat clean most of the time there may be some benefit to consuming HCA prior to carb-complete meals.

Thermogenics containing caffeine and ephedrine were oversold, over-hyped, and potentially dangerous.  The danger is in misuse, overuse, and abuse.  These products can be life threatening if administered to individuals with heart ailments, hypertension, or metabolic disorders.  In individuals who are free of risk factors, who have a comprehensive understanding of nutrition and exercise, and who are modifying their nutrition programs to shed fat quickly, these products can act as aids.  They can in fact increase caloric burn and, if used sensibly, facilitate slight increases in fat release.  I am always careful to publicly discourage their use as "weight loss solutions," but, as I've indicated in several other articles at the site, have counseled athletes in careful usage for benefit.  I never suggest anyone use these products for more than four weeks in a row and I always suggest use is limited to three days per week.  Overuse can not only be risky, but it can also nullify the effects.  The body fast develops a tolerance to caffeine and ephedrine.  Sporadic and careful use in pre-screened individuals is, in my opinion, the only efficacious use of these products. After the FDA came down on ephedrine and prevented supplement sellers from selling it as a fat-burner, new ephedra free thermogenics hit the market, many of them containing synephrine. My suggestion is, unless you really understand what's in there and what effects it can have on your body, these are best left on the shelf by anyone seeking true health and fitness.

Vitamin C - the benefits are deserving of a complete article covering Vitamin C alone.  I'll get to it sometime soon.  For now, simply accept that it is a powerful antioxidant, it stands the test of time and research as an immune booster, and is so integral in energy and metabolism it is another supplement deserving of a four star rating.  Usual multi-vitamin dosages are far too low to have impact.  A minimum of 1,000 mg per day is almost a must for athletes or exercise enthusiasts, with some athletes supplementing with up to 3-5 grams per day.

Vitamin B-Complex - A B-complex formula containing 100 mg of Thiamine (Vitamin B1) and a proportionate array of the B vitamins can help offset some of the effects of stress and ensure micronutrient needs are being met for optimal energy production.

CoEnzyme Q10 (CoQ10) - this is an antioxidant that has proven promising both in enhancing athletic performance of endurance athletes and in reducing likelihood of heart disease.  It acts as a free radical scavenger and aids in intercellular oxygen transport.

L-Lysine - since one in six Americans is affected by the herpes virus (not necessarily the sexually transmitted disease - this includes those who suffer regular bouts with cold sores - herpes simplex), I sell a good amount of this amino acid.  L-Lysine seems to be quite effective at reducing the duration of outbreaks, and if taken in time, may prevent outbreaks completely.  For regular prevention, 500 mg - 1,000 mg per day is often used.  If an outbreak strikes, dosages might range up to 2500 mg spread out in 500 mg doses throughout the day.

L-Tyrosine - an amino acid that has a discernable stimulant effect and enhances mental alertness.  This should not be used as a regular every day supplement, but can act as a pre-workout aid on occasion. 

Yohimbe - this is another stimulant that also has properties that can aid in male sexual performance.  For additional info see my article on "Herbal Viagra."

Vitamin E - despite rumors pulled out of isolated research, the benefits of 400 i.u. of Vitamin E per day far outweigh any potential risk.  An antioxidant with proven benefit in resisting many toxins that we are faced with in modern society including both primary and second hand smoke.  After studying the research, I personally am committed to taking 400 i.u. of Vitamin E every single day.

Multi Mineral Formula with calcium as primary ingredient - rather than attempting to "build" food by taking individual minerals (i.e. calcium for bone density), it's best to get a synergistic blend of minerals in valuable proportions to each other.  I've been recommending (and using) Twinlab Multi-Mineral caps since I can remember.  Minerals are actually the framework of the body and are called upon with greater demand in individuals who regularly exercise.  This one is almost up there with Vitamin C as having supplemental importance from the position of optimal health, performance and function.

There you have it!  A complete list without any reference to scams and rip-offs.  With few exceptions, I can safely say the great majority of nutritional supplements targeting the weight loss market, the fitness market, and the aging, are sold based on clever marketing rather than true value.  With the list above, you know your purchases are not going to waste.

Other Pages to Explore:

[ Home ] [ Site Menu ] [ For Fitness Professionals ] [ Superstore ] [ Update Menu ] [ Ask Phil ]
[ Small Group Workshops ] [ Programs ]

This site is designed and operated by Phil Kaplan
Phil Kaplan's Fitness is located at
3132 Fortune Way, #D1
Wellington, Florida 33414
The TOLL-FREE Product Order Line is 1 800 552-1998
The Direct Office Number is 561 204-2014
The Fax Number is 561 204-2184