Home Posts tagged "Supplement-Goals Reference Guide"

Supplementation Without Evidence: How to Approach Things that *Might* Work Intelligently

Today, we've got a guest post from Kamal Patel on the ever-controversial topic of supplementation. Kamal was instrumental in creating the great new resource, the Examine.com Stacks Guide. Enjoy! -EC

Science is a process used to uncover the truth, or at least get as close to the truth as possible. It isn’t the only option out there, but it is definitely the best one currently available to us and has served humanity very well.

Thing is, with all the praise science gets (deservingly so), people sometimes forget it is a process. Just because something is “unproven” does not mean it’s crap - it just means that enough research hasn’t been conducted. People are too quick to think that “proven” is synonymous with “effective” and that “unproven” is synonymous with “not effective.”

Consider creatine. We all know that it works for increasing power output because of the mountain of evidence and anecdotes for it, but what if we went back in time to 5 years before creatine had human evidence? What if we also took a few kilograms of our favorite white powder with us in this time machine; would the fact that no evidence existed at this point somehow render the powder completely useless?

No. Things work whether you like them or not, and things fail whether you like them or not. Science just shows us which is which, it doesn’t make them so. The only real difference is in the questions left unanswered.

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These ‘unproven’ supplements can still be really good, but they have to be approached differently from other ‘proven’ supplements. In the end they are both potential options for your usage, but the body of evidence needs to be considered.

How to approach unproven agents for yourself

When you come across a supplement which looks promising but doesn’t have much evidence for it, ultimately the choice of whether or not to use it is up to you. You can honestly run out and buy anything if you want, but at the least: look into the toxicology of it.

Take something like arginine - if you overdose on it, the side effects are diarrhea. Then you take something like Thunder God Vine, where the side-effect is gradual death of the immune system. Big difference!

How to responsibly approach unproven agents for others

It is difficult to recommend unproven supplements for others because unproven supplements tend to also have less safety data. There’s a difference between modifying your own body and recommending something to someone else. It’s something to approach cautiously.

You can easily tell somebody to “just take 5 grams of creatine a day and forget about it” - since it’s well researched that’s a safe statement. In the case of unproven supplements, you need to read over the evidence with them and let them come to their own decisions. A lot more prudency is needed here.

In the end though, unproven options could be amazing. Take cissus for example (which we’ve talked about here before): the one study on it was conducted in men with work-related muscle and joint soreness (a rare population to get studied in regards to joint health, almost everything is in osteoarthritis) and it has a very good reputation with athletes. It is a prototypical “unproven supplement that could be great but we do not have enough evidence yet.”

Stacking the known and the unknown

It is clear that stacks should be focused primarily around what is known to work and is known to be safe, but given the possibilities out there for personalizing your own stack, you can be smart about it. At the very least learn how to approach these things so you remain safe, add in new compounds so you can clearly attribute what supplement did what, and use a trial and error approach to find what works for you.

Eric said that the question he hates being asked the most is: “What supplements should I take?” That’s pretty much the same question we get: “What supplements should I take for ______?”

And that’s why we created our Stack Guides. It’s not just about “take this” and “don’t take that” - it’s a lot more subtle than that. There are promising supplements out there (like cissus), and you need to be a bit more nuanced than that.

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We’re an independent, 100% transparent and unbiased source. Since we don’t sell any supplements, you know that our recommendations are all based on sound science, not us trying to make a quick buck.

Each stack also includes:

  • Stacks catered not only to a goal (ie. fat loss) but also demographics (ie. for people who cannot easily tolerant stimulants)
  • Nonsupplemental tips to help maximize efficacy
  • Practical considerations when dealing with the components, like how to easily avoid minor side-effects of inconveniences
  • Safety information on possible drug-drug interactions (although not all could be mentioned, referring to your medical doctor is still mandatory)
  • Tips to help future supplement additions
  • Free lifetime updates - as new research comes out, the stack guides will be updated accordingly

Note from EC: I've reviewed the resource and it's fantastic. I really could have used something this incredibly thorough when I was an "up and comer"in the industry and blowing far too much money on supplements that simply didn't work. If you're someone who purchases supplements regularly, I view this guide as an investment and not an expense; it'll actually save you a lot of money (especially since it's on sale at an introductory price this week). Click here to learn more.

About the Author

Kamal Patel is the director of Examine.com. He has an MBA and an MPH (Master of Public Health) from Johns Hopkins University, and was pursuing his PhD in nutrition when he opted to go on hiatus to join Examine.com. He is dedicated in making scientific research in nutrition and supplementation accessible to everyone.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 3/17/14

Happy St. Patrick's Day!  Here's something to read while you're enjoying a pint of Guinness:

High-Protein Diets Linked to Cancer: Should You Be Concerned? - The good folks at Examine.com tackle this question that has come up in light of some questionable research that has recently been making the rounds in the mainstream media.  Also, as an aside, the Examine guys just put their Supplement-Goals Reference Guide on sale to celebrate three years since they were founded.  I'm a big fan of this resource, and at just $29, it's a tremendous resource.

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Baseball Injuries: What to Expect in the Coming Months - I wrote this piece two years ago, but the injury patterns haven't changed - aside from getting slightly worse!  You'll look at baseball injuries differently after reading it.

Love of Game, Family Fuels Seratelli's Quest - If you're looking for a guy for whom to cheer this season, make it Cressey Performance athlete Anthony Seratelli, who is in big league camp with the Mets.  This is a great story that keeps getting better with each passing year. Anthony actually lived with my wife and me for the month of January while he was up here training.

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The Best of 2013: Strength and Conditioning Product Reviews

To wrap up my “Best of 2013″ series, I’ll highlight the top product reviews I did at this site in the last year.  Here they are:

1. Bulletproof Athlete - I firmly believe that Mike Robertson created the best "beginner lifter" resource available on the market today.  This resource is an awesome start-up program that'll prepare novice trainees for a program like you'd find in my High Performance Handbook.  I wrote up a detailed piece on training beginners when I reviewed Mike's resource; check it out: 5 Mistakes Beginner Lifters Make.

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2. The Supplement-Goals Reference Guide - At a price of only $39 and with over 700 pages of content and lifetime updates, this resource is a game-changer, thanks to the folks at Examine.com.  I explained why in this post: The Question I Hate to Be Asked.

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3. Post Rehab Essentials 2.0 - I love reading Dean Somerset's stuff.  A lot of people "think outside the box" because they haven't mastered what's inside the box in the first place.  Dean has a great foundation of knowledge, and it gives rise to some innovative ideas and a forward-thinking corrective exercise approach.  This article is a perfect example.

4. Off the Floor: A Manual for Deadlift Domination - This was Dave Dellanave's first foray into the world of product development, and he crushed it!  It's a great resource not only for learning deadlift techniques, but also because it provides a great program for improving your pull. Check out my review here.

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5. The MX20V3 Training Sneaker - This was my pick for training sneaker of the year in 2013.  Full disclosure: I'm a consultant to New Balance, but that relationship was in part established because I was such a big fan of the original Minimus!  Since then, they've taken sneaker prototypes for test-drives with our staff at CP, and done focus groups with our athletes to make sure that the products get the job done.  Check out this commercial I filmed for the MX20V3 in August to learn more:

There were certainly some other great products I encountered this year, but these five proved to be the most popular with my readers.  Obviously, I also introduced some new products of my own in 2013, most notably The High Performance Handbook. However, Functional Stability Training of the Lower Body and Understanding and Coaching the Anterior Core were hits as well.  Hopefully, there will be plenty more to come in 2014!

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Cissus Quadrangularis Supplementation: What You Need to Know

Today's guest post comes from the guys at Examine.com, who take unbiased looks at all sorts of topics related to health and fitness.  They'll be discussing a supplement of which you may have never heard, but should be aware. This post is timely, as their popular Supplement-Goals Reference Guide is now on sale to celebrate their hiring of new researchers to kick out great new content.

Cissus Quadrangularis is a traditional medicine used to reduce inflammation and accelerate post-fracture bone regeneration. It is one of the "go-to" recommendations for athletes struggling with joint pain.

However, many authorities have not taken official positions on cissus because, despite the vast collection of anecdotal benefits, there have been few human studies on the supplement.

Studies published in eastern journals have suggested cissus speeds up bone healing, but the dosage amount was not disclosed. Also available as evidence is a documented failure to ease hemorrhoids and a study suggesting cissus can reduce weight in obese people. Researchers in the second study had funding issues and dosed the supplement in the form of gum, taken with water before a meal. Gum and water before a meal will reduce food intake, regardless of the kind of gum taken. Not very compelling evidence!

There is good news, however. The first preliminary human trial on joint pain in adult athletes and cissus has finally been published and results are promising. Adults with nonpathological joint pain due to exercise took 3,200mg of cissus daily. After eight weeks, subjects reported a reduction in joint symptoms by about a third.

The study lacked a placebo control, and cissus was not tested against a reference drug, so more evidence will be required determine cissus’ true efficacy.

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Muscles and Joints

Cissus has a few properties that may benefit the musculoskeletal system. The following has been observed in rats:

  • Cissus is anti-inflammatory agent, though with questionable potency.

  • It is a painkiller with a quick onset.

  • It has minor muscle relaxant and sedative properties, which occur within 30 minutes of supplementation.

Due to its mild sedative effect, high doses of cissus should not be used as a preworkout.

Effects on Bone

Cissus increases IGF signalling in bone cells, which promotes mineral retention and growth. These effects have been observed in low concentrations, which suggests oral supplementation is a suitable way to take cissus. Rodent studies have shown that cissus promotes bone growth, mineral density and increases the bone’s ability to withstand force.

There are numerous studies published in eastern journals that support cissus’ positive effects on bone regeneration, but methodologies vary and actual evidence is scant.

Other properties

The sedative effects associated with cissus supplementation are not well studied, but it has been observed to enhance sleep time in benzodiazepine-induced animals. This suggests that cissus might best be supplemented before bed.

The herb has also traditionally been used to reduce stomach ulceration. Animal studies support this property.

Take-aways:

  • Cissus quadrangularis is a well-known supplement for reducing exercise-induced joint pain.

  • There is a serious lack of scientific evidence for the effects of cissus quadrangularis.

  • It is a potentially relaxing compound, not suited for a preworkout.

  • Cissus quadrangularis has promising but unproven benefits for bone regeneration.

  • It the future, it may be used to treat and prevent ulcers.

Looking for more unbiased reviews of supplements - both popular and obscure - to which you'll constantly be referring for years to come?  Check out the Supplement-Goals Reference Guide; it's a fantastic product that is "Cressey Approved" - and on sale through this Friday at midnight. Perhaps the coolest part is that you get a lifetime of updates, so when new research emerges, the reviews are updated to reflect this new information.

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The Question I Hate to Be Asked

There's one question that I get almost daily, and in spite of the fact that it drives me bonkers, I still do my best to answer it:

What supplements should I take?

The problem isn't that there aren't some supplements out there that can really help.  Anyone who's done even a cursory review of the research can speak to the value of supplements like Vitamin D and fish oil.  And, anyone who has ever reviewed the typical teenage athlete's diet can appreciate that a greens supplement would go a long way.

The bigger issue is that this question is an example of the carriage getting put in front of the horse.  In other words, the people asking the question are usually getting way ahead of themselves and need to focus on proper diet first. 

If you don't know what a healthy diet actually includes, how can you know what you need to supplement (dictionary.com: "to complete") with to get to where you want to be?

It goes beyond that, as the supplement question opens a big can of worms for several reasons:

1. The margins in the supplement industry are absolutely absurd - As a result, there are a lot of unethical people who flock to this industry in hopes of making some serious cash, playing on people's ignorance and insecurities. This is why you see bold advertising claims, doctored-up before/after photos, and - shamefully - products that don't actually make their ingredients list.  Some companies may use cheap fillers to keep their costs down, or include banned substances unbeknownst to the consumer in order to improve efficacy.  As a result of all this, you can't just recommend a supplement anymore; you also have to take the reputation of the brand into account.

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2. It's a dynamic industry - With big money and potentially world-changing discoveries to be made, the game is constantly changing.  New research is published daily, and new products enter the market just as frequently to complement the daily influx of brands.  Plus, new uses for old supplements are always being introduced.  As an example, we once thought creatine was just a supplement for athletic performance, and now it's being looked at as a valuable supplement in treating many chronic disease states. Unless you're reading journal articles full-time and asking around in the industry, it's hard to stay on top of all the new information.

3. Dosing matters - Using the creatine example again, we were once all taught that we needed to load creatine for the initial period - and most of us who did it spent the first 7-10 days on the supplement with gurgly stomachs and diarrhea.  Now, we know that's not really necessary.  And, contrary to what we were told back in the 1990s, you don't need to crush a load of simple sugars to get the muscles to "suck it up." How much you take, when you take it, and what it's taken with all impact a supplement's efficacy.

4. Supplements mean different things to different people - If a person is financially comfortable, he or she can likely afford a new-age and potentially marginaly effective supplement in hopes of some return-on-investment.  For someone else, that $40 might be a huge deal.  What works for one athlete won't matter nearly as much for another, too; the baseball players with whom I've spoken haven't really benefited at all from beta-alanine supplement, but the competitive cyclists and soccer players have thrived on it; the metabolic demands of the sport are entirely different.

Additionally, everyone has a different social perspective on what supplements mean.  I once had a mother ask me about creatine for her son, and she commented that she viewed creatine as a "gateway drug" like marijuana.  This backlash is only getting worse and worse because of the unethical actions of a few professional athletes (blaming supplements for positive tests) and supplement companies (not living up to label claims).

For all these reasons, I really outsource my supplement questions to people who stay much more up-to-date on the topics than I can.  At our facility, I'm fortunate to have a great nutrition guy, Chris Howard, who stays as up-to-date on the research as possible - and also has a great mindset from which to discuss things with athletes, coaches, and parents.

Fortunately for Chris and me, we now have a new resource at our fingertips on this front: The Supplement-Goals Reference Guide.  This downloadable product was put together by Kurtis Frank and Sol Orwell at Examine.com, a 100% transparent, independent organization. In other words, everything they publish comes from peer-reviewed journals and is without influence from supplement companies - so you don't have to worry about "bro science" infiltrating their findings.

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For those of you who don't remember, the Examine guys are the ones who wrote up the article, Sleep: What the Research Actually Says, the most popular guest blog in EricCressey.com history. If you need proof that these guys know their stuff, that article should get the job done!  And, if for some reason it doesn't, just check out the testimonials they've got backing this new resource.

At $39 and with over 700 pages of information (covering over 300 supplements and 180 health goals), this is a heck of bargain, and something I'd definitely encourage you to check out.  It's not something you'll read beginning to end, but rather something you'll have at your fingertips when this tough (and sometimes annoying) question pops up.  Click here for more information.

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