Saturday, May 3, 2014

Supplements Aren’t Substitutes

After noticing him wandering around the gym from person to person for an hour making small talk with whoever he could corral, with virtually no time spent with a weight in his hands, he walked up to the counter as he headed out the door and spent $200 on supplements.

His routine was not a unique one.

Nothing takes the place of putting in the work and eating intelligently for the workout. Supplements don’t build muscle; the workout does, along with plenty of good healthful food.

From age 13 to 33 I had worked out but was always troubled by my lack of progress. I believed I was working hard at the gym because I worked harder than anyone else — until a true bodybuilder joined, and I witnessed the intensity and focus he invested. He was 21. I was 33. Impressively, he was quiet and sane, not one of the show-off grunters. Most notably, he rested little between sets. My previous problem was that once I began to overheat as I worked out, finding the feeling very uncomfortable, I’d rest, rather than push through.

I approached him, having seen him take on much larger guys than I as temporary workout partners, and seeing these guys buckle under the intensity and flake out on him, I asked if he’d like to take me on. To my surprise he said yes.

I’d experienced nothing like it — the hard work, the gasping for oxygen as I tried to recover from the last set only to have him push me into the next set. I didn’t flake out. I saw it as my do or die opportunity; either I’d push through the barriers I had myself erected to see what was on the other side, or I’d quit.

I kept at it. It killed me for three weeks, as the guy was on a 6-day-on, 1-day-off schedule. Previously I worked out just 3 days a week. I pushed through somehow, driven I guess by the previous 20 years of frustration and feeling that if I didn’t do it now, I never would. Last chance. It wasn’t really, but that’s the attitude I took. And I learned quite a bit about myself in the process. The big discovery was the benefit of pushing through to the next level, of answering that challenge.

I discovered supplements later. Slowly I recognized that supplements were an adjunct to a healthy diet, and except to experiment occasionally, I stuck with whey protein and creatine. The glossy ads and testimonials in the magazines didn’t sway me. I believe that the most that whey supplements do for us is to allow an easy way to ingest a lot of protein. It was good food eaten every 3 hours or so (the classic brown rice/chicken breasts and broccoli/asparagus meal) and an intense 5 or 6 day a week workout routine that was 95%+ responsible for building the muscle and rewarding me with the physique I’d always wanted. Supplements were in no way any substitute for this. Unless you’re working at the gym at full capacity, my advice is to save your money. Supplements are only  for those who are doing everything right when it comes to eating, sleeping and working out.

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