We’ve all seen the ads for supplements that promise that you’ll gain 10 or more pounds of muscle in a month. They usually show some jacked pro bodybuilder smiling and looking all tanned, holding a bottle of the product in question.
Well, remember how I said that the supplement industry is basically unregulated? That goes not just for product safety and efficacy, but also for marketing claims. So they can and will promise you things that are not physiologically possible, no matter what you do. I have seen many claims of supplements adding over 10lb of muscle in a month.
Lets put that into perspective, shall we? A study found a bunch untrained individuals who had never used anabolic steriods in their life (pretty much the group that would have the highest possible growth rate due to their untrained and generally unmuscly status), and gave them a pretty significant dosage of testosterone enanthenate – 600mg/week. This is higher than the bodybuilders of a few decades ago were using, and is on the upper end of what is generally recommended for new users.
The lucky guys in this study gained an average of 17lb of muscle mass in 12 weeks. That’s three months.
So, actual legitimate anabolic steroids from a real pharmaceutical company caused completely untrained individuals to gain about 1.5lb per week of muscle mass. Keep that in mind next time you see a supplement saying you can gain 10lb of muscle in a month.
Realistically, it’s just not possible. Our bodies aren’t meant to grow like that. Unless you are already a pretty hefty individual and can consume an absolute ton of food, you would probably have a hard time putting on 10lb of actual mass in a month, fat OR muscle. Neglecting water balance shenanigans of course.
Basically the only thing that is legal without a prescription that has any serious effect on muscle gain is creatine. Cheap, effective, and about as safe as supplements come. Well, creatine and food. Calories are still the best anabolic we have.
And realistically, drugs work, and anyone who tells you they don’t is deluded or selling you something. In that same study, they had some people train, and some do no exercise at all. There were steroid users and placebo controls in both groups. The steroid users who sat on the couch gained MORE muscle than the placebo group who exercised.
There are unfortunately some pretty big issues with regards to steroid use in the average user. One, they’re illegal without a prescription. If you do manage to convince your doc to give you a prescription, odds are pretty good that it will be something around 50mg/week, not the 600 that was used in the aforementioned study. So you’re going to get really minimal effect from it. If you manage to find an underground source, you run a risk of something that is under dosed, over dosed, or not what it is advertised as, or just plan bunk. And I don’t know about you, but if I was injecting something into my body, I would really want to have a pretty good idea of what was in it first. While there is pharmaceutical or “Human Grade” stuff out there, it is incredibly tightly controlled and basically impossible to get.
Steroids also can cause issues in your body over the long term if you aren’t careful with them. Use of testosterone and other anabolics shuts down your natural test production, and all sorts of other fun things. This means you have to take other drugs with them if you want everything to start working again once you stop injecting. The support, ancillary, and post-cycle therapy drugs will cost you probably twice the cost of the actual anabolics, if you want to do it safely. And you probably want to live in your body for at least a couple more years, so it’s probably a really good idea to do it safely.
Pretty much all of the issues that revolve around steroid use are a result of the illegality of the compounds. If you could ever just walk down to the pharmacy and pick up everything you need rather than having to talk to some guy at your gym who could probably bench press a small house, I would say that there probably isn’t a lot wrong with wanting to try a cycle, so long as you’re informed and not still growing and developing. But is it worth losing your job, getting a criminal record, and possibly going to jail just so you can be a bit more jacked than you would otherwise be? I personally lean towards no, but that is a decision everyone has to make for themselves.
Hard work in the gym can take you a long way, if you are training and eating right. It would probably be best if you gave that a shot first. Take a look at the guys who were winning the Mr Universe competitions in the 40’s and 50’s before drugs really became prevalent. Not many people would say that they have substandard physiques.
The drugs will help even if you don’t train right. But I have heard it mentioned by people who really know what they are doing that even with massive anabolic steroid use, progress is still 80% diet and training. The drugs just help with recovery, and allow more work to be done in any given time frame. More work = more growth.
So, to recap. Fat burners: mostly crap, and the ones that work are either minimally effective, or illegal or deadly, or sometimes all three. Muscle building supplements are the same.
I also want to make it clear that I have nothing against drugs that has any specific relation to their legal status or the fact that they’re “cheating” or anything like that. It’s just that the vast majority of them don’t give a big enough payoff for most people to justify the risks, either health or legal. I’m all for improving our lives through science, and tend to have a pretty dim view of the legal system as a whole. If you’re a top-level competetor in basically any field that requires athletics or aesthetics, you are pretty stupid if you’re NOT using drugs. Because all of your strongest competition. And that extra 2-3% of progress that the drugs give you is the difference between a top-3 and a bottom half finish at the top elite levels of any field.
Sorry guys, but for the average joe, even the magic bullet of the best drugs in the world isn’t really that magic, and will still require hard work to utilize them to their full potential if you do decide it is worth it.
Now don’t you wish you had started last week? Do you want to be wishing next week that you had started this week? The only real short cuts are starting as soon as you can, and working harder than the next guy.