As a strongman competitor, Darren has pulled 50,000 lb trucks and dead lifted 805 lbs. As a competitive bodybuilder, he has won Provincial Super-heavyweight & Overall titles. As President & CEO of FREAK Fitness, he has coached his clients to hundreds of Novice, Provincial/State, National, and IFBB Pro titles. Having been involved in the sport of bodybuilding for over 20 years, Darren has his finger on the pulse of the local and international bodybuilding scenes, and will be keeping you informed through his column, “Freak Fitness."
My Good & Bad Supplement Picks
In my 20-plus years in the sport of bodybuilding, one thing has always remained the same: Everyone wants to gain muscle faster and lose body fat quicker. Along with nutrition and training being the foundation, supplements have now become a big part of helping us achieve those goals.
In this column, I want to list, in my opinion, the top useless supplements: supplements that I’ve found okay, but that need to be used correctly.
There’s no denying that a strong cup of coffee can give you a boost in performance. Countless studies prove the ergogenic benefits of caffeine. But over time, our bodies adapt and build up a tolerance, so to continue getting the same stimulating “buzz,” the user must increase intake. There does come a point of diminishing returns, and if taken at too high a dose and for too long, it could be detrimental. These problems can get worse when the athlete takes things to the next level and introduces something like ephedrine. Again, in small doses, ephedrine is a great ergogenic aid, but as the dosage increases, so does the risk of adrenal fatigue and burnout. If you choose to use stimulants, don’t start your prep with them. Only introduce them if energy drops off or your progress plateaus.
Weight Gainer Powders
To gain size as fast as possible, many athletes will resort to consuming these high-calorie supplements to “bulk.” A weight gainer does provide an easy and convenient way to add extra calories to gain size. The unfortunate issue is that many of these weight gainers supply 1000 to 2000 calories per shake, and in many cases, athletes consume two or three shakes a day to replace meals or add extra meals. What happens then is that total caloric intake far exceeds what’s really needed to gain muscle, and more fat is gained. If an increase in muscle mass is your goal, take it slow and steady, not fast and sloppy.
Because we live in a fast-paced world, convenience often takes precedence over quality. While riding this fast merry-go-round, many of us resort to “meal replacements” instead of food. With that, protein bars seem to be a good idea—no cooking required, high in protein, and low-carb. Most protein bars contain sugar alcohols in place of actual sugar. The two most common sugar alcohols found in protein bars are maltitol and erythritol. They contain few calories, taste sweet, and have minimal impact on insulin levels. If you consume them in reasonable amounts, you’ll probably be fine, but if you start having multiple bars each day, you can start to experience stomach problems. The reason the sugar alcohols register as having few or no calories is because the body doesn’t absorb them, and they pass through the digestive system almost intact. Sugar alcohols are poorly digested and/or metabolized, and if consumed in excessive amounts, they can cause stomach discomfort or even worse, diarrhea. That’s too big of a price to pay on leg day, if you know what I mean! If you’re looking for convenience, prepare meals in advance and eat real food.
As you’ve probably gathered now, in most cases, when using these supplements—and most others, for that matter—moderation and correct application is key.
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