Not all supplements are created equally. So in an effort to keep you from wasting your money, here are four who’s hype you shouldn’t buy into.
1. Tribulis – Natural Testosterone Boosters
Natural testosterone boosters are the Holy Grail of bodybuilding supplements; promising a safe and legal way to improve muscle gain, strength and body composition. In other words, they’re a natural steroid alternative – derived from plant extracts, instead of drug-cartel laboratories.
Derived from a spiky, weed-like plant called Tribulis Terrestris, Tribulis is the most popular natural test booster available. Dozens of popular pre-workout brands bundle it alongside their own products; and thousands of aspiring weightlifters part with their hard-earned cash for Tribulis tablets, capsules and powders.
Unfortunately, they’re all wasting their money.
We know that testosterone plays a vital role in the creation of muscle tissue, increasing the body’s anabolic response to resistance training and weight lifting. We also know that Tribulis has no impact on testosterone. Multiple studies have indicated that Tribulis does not increase Testosterone levels, and has no benefits for body composition or strength.
In one study, athletes taking Tribulis even saw a smaller increase in muscle mass and muscular endurance than the control group – suggesting that supplementation with nothing may be an improvement on taking Tribulis.
There is, however, a silver lining.
Tribulis will make you horny. As we should have expected from a plant nicknamed the Devil’s Thorn, Tribulis supplementation has a proven effect on male libido and sexual arousal… and whilst your muscles won’t get any bigger or harder, other parts of your body will.
Not all supplements are taken to boost muscle growth. Glucosamine is a hugely popular fitness supplement, typically taken by athletes to improve recovery and combat joint pain. Unlike most supplements, Glucosamine supplementation is backed by a ton of research; absolutely none of which suggests that you should take it on a regular basis.
Glucosamine does have a proven benefit to joint health, slowing down the degradation of collagen, the protein-based building blocks of human connective tissue. Unfortunately, this effect has only been observed in elderly people… with osteoarthritis. Even then, the impact of Glucosamine supplementation is small enough to be almost negligible:
‘If you increase a car’s efficiency from 40mpg to 42mpg, you can accurately say that its efficiency has improved. But is it really notable? That is the crux of glucosamine – it helps with osteoarthritis, but not by much.’ – Examine.com
If you’re healthy, athletic and young, Glucosamine will have virtually no noticeable effects – aside from increased flatulence and decreased income.
3. Grape Seed Extract – Jack3d’s successor
There’s a common theme tying together our ineffective supplements – they’re usually stuffed into pre-workout products, in order to differentiate each formula from its competitors. Grape Seed Extract is no different, found most noticeably in JACK3D Micro, the successor to USP Lab’s now-illegal JACK3D.
Claims about Grape Seed Extract’s effects vary hugely, but most bodybuilding supplements include it in their formula as a Nitric Oxide Amplifier. Whilst tried-and-tested supplements, like Arginine and Citrulline, have been shown to improve performance through an increase in nitric oxide production, there have been no human studies into the Grape Seed Extract’s effect on NO. So, unless you’re literally a gym rat, I’d suggest turning to other Nitric Oxide precursors before Grape Seed.
Glutamine (or L-glutamine, if we’re getting technical) is an essential amino acid, naturally occurring in eggs, meat and dairy products. It’s a staple supplement in most workout arsenals, taken to improve muscle growth and lean body mass.
Studies have shown that Glutamine can contribute to muscle growth, but only in cases where individuals were deficient in glutamine; typically vegetarians and vegans, and individuals suffering from physical trauma (such as burns and muscular wounds) or muscle-wasting diseases.
In healthy people, Glutamine has shown no significant effect on muscle growth; with no changes to testosterone levels, lean mass or power output and strength.
Glutamine is an important part of healthy nutrition, and essential to muscle growth – but most healthy, active individuals will already be consuming more than enough Glutamine through their regular diet. Glutamine is present in both whey and casein protein – in extremely high levels – and any bodybuilder already taking a protein supplement will be receiving far more glutamine than they actually require. As a result, spending money on additional supplementation is completely pointless, and a gratuitous waste of your hard-earned money.