Supplements that work?

Is supplement X the best thing since sliced bread? Will amino acid Y allow me to train everyday without a problem?
The answer to these and every other possible question of the sort is a sounding NO. If I had to evaluate all the several factors that come into play to keep us (or help us get) strong, lean with the right weight, properly recovered, ready and willing I'd say it all comes down to Diet, Exercise and Rest.
Supplements should be understood exactly as the meaning you can find in a dictionary: "something that completes or makes an addition" (Merriam-Webster in this case). Supplements should come in when you need extra amounts of something you can't get easily through diet or to make sure you get the nutrients you need when it's just not practical to eat a proper solid meal.
I won't get into supplements that I've fond do not work for me or simply aren't worthy because the list would be extensive. If it's not on the list chances are they're not worth it for me but feel free to ask in the comments.

Protein Powders

First and foremost, the best protein sources you can get are eggs (whole), egg whites, lean meat and fish. And this is coming from someone who has consumed well over 100Kg or protein powder so it's not like I'm a "solid food zealot" or sorts! The body prefers solid meals and of you drink two or more shakes a day and change those for solid meals, you will notice a difference for the better.

Whey Protein Concentrate - This is the cheapest protein around (save for Pea-derived protein powders which, trust me, taste like crap) and of great quality. Accept no less than 80% concentrate and stay away from "whey gainers" and other gainer-like protein powders full of carbs. On the other hand, there is no good reason to waste money on whey isolate/hydrolyzed unless you're on a 100% strict no-carb diet. Reasons like faster absorption have been proved to be of no benefit unless for very specific cases and BJJ is certainly not one of them.

Calcium Caseinate / Milk Protein Concentrate/Isolate - This is my favorite kind of protein powder. It's slowly digested so it'll keep me fed for longer, it's of great nutritional value and it's healthier than whey protein (for the stomach but especially for the gut). Too bad it's 30 to 50% more expensive than whey (depending if you're looking at MPC or CC) so what I usually do is a homemade blend of 50-50 or 75-25 depending on the time of day and type of meal.

Egg White Protein - Never used and probably never will. Everyone says it tastes like crap and it's much more expensive than liquid egg whites. That being said, egg whites themselves are an amazing source of protein so if you're alright with the taste and cost this might be the perfect protein. The absorption speed is right on the money (slightly faster than MPC/CC) and it has the benefit of not being derived from milk, with all the pros you can throw at it.

Vitamins, Minerals and Antioxidants

Multivitamin - This is the basic and everyone should take it. Nowadays you just can't get it all from food and athletes need even more of these. Choose something that will offer you at the very least 200% RDA of everything.

Vitamin C, E, B-complex - These would be the ones to further supplement with. Vitamin C is good all-round and I find it particularly nice for keeping the cortisol levels in check (500~1000mg/day for me). Vitamin E is the best antioxidant that's easy to find (more on this later) and although I take it included in my fishoils I sometimes further supplement with 400IU/day. B-complex vitamins are of such importance that it's not even funny... if you don't know about them then please do and you'll see what I'm talking about.

ALA - Alpha Lipoic Acid is one of the most potent antioxidants available and has many other nice effects such as increased insulin sensitivity. Also, it makes your pee smell funny immediately after you take it.  K-rALA is the best kind of ALA there is, but it's just too expensive for me.

NAC - If your liver has special needs (or you just want to prevent it from having) then look no further, N-Acetyl Cysteine is the best. Tastes like the worst crap ever if you take it in bulk powder (there's also pills and caps around, fortunately) but it's probably the best liver antioxidant and protector you can find. Milk Thistle next to it is child's play.

Magnesium - I use this mainly to improve my sleep when I need an extra help to recover, ie, if I didn't get enough sleep the night before and/or I'm sore from the previous workout. It works pretty well and I'd have to say it's the only part of ZMA worth it - also much cheaper.

Calcium - I use enough amounts of milk proteins that I do not need extra Calcium but sometimes I will take some in the form of Calcium+Vitamin D3 which is about as important as Calcium itself. If you're wondering, the 'two glass milk a day' thing is just yet another Milk lobby made up thing and it isn't even nearly enough.

Amino Acids

Glutamine - As much as studies conclude that it doesn't really work, I've always felt that it really does. I use no less than 8g and will take it 30m before my last meal of the day and maybe first thing in the morning if I'm doing cardio on an empty stomach. There are three kinds of Glutamine powder: L-Glutamine, Glutamine Peptides and N-acetyl Glutamine. The first one is so much cheaper that you can take almost 3 times as much and still don't reach the cost of Peptides (which you're lucky if you can get twice the absorption at the muscle-level) and L-Glutamine is also good for the gut and has other health benefits so it's not like what doesn't reach the muscle will be a complete waste. N-a Glutamine is somewhat rarer and supposedly is expensive and tastes like crap.


I've used both CEE and regular Creatine (mostly Creapure/Degussa) and I have to say I do feel an extra edge while on it but regarding mostly stamina and recovering but not what it's all made out to be. CEE is crap - it tastes horrible (almost as bad as NAC) and I mostly felt nothing at all on it, as studies have show that's because most of it doesn't survive the stomach so their makers can shove the ester and extra cost up their poopers. So, anyway, it's worth it because it's not expensive and does does something to my benefit.

Essential Fatty Acids

Fish oil - This is the best supplement if you're looking for extra Omega-3s and mostly the only one to consider (since the one derived from algae is crazy expensive). Other Omega-3s from vegetable sources will only give you ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) which is the kind that you'll more easily find on food anyway whereas fishoils will give you eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) which were the fatty acids responsible for the development of the human brain as far as human evolution is concerned (or God's creation if that's your cup of tea) and still play the same role during pregnancy (which is probably why only women's bodies can convert ALA into EPA/DHA). Other Omega-3's benefits include cancer prevention, cardiovascular disease prevention, better immune funcion, anti-inflammatory and even fat-burning properties. Also, fish oils are usually a great source of vitamin E but that may change from brand to brand so be on the lookout.
By the way, Salmon and other fatty sea fish are still a great source of Omega-3 though I'd always supplement with extra even eating grilled salmon every other day.


Caffeine - I like love coffee and caffeine rocks. Nowadays I mostly drink it but sometimes I will use caffeine tabs as they can be more practical and do have about as much caffeine as 6 espressos or close to it. Caffeine's effects have been more than documented and are widely known so I'll leave it at that.

Green Tea Extract - Besides being a good stimulant in the same way as caffeine is, it's also got other benefits such as improving immune function and reducing free radicals. In powder form it can be hard to take as it isn't soluble in water and tastes like crap so go for caps/gels/pills. I got an allergy when I tried to drink the same amount coming from actual tea so I aborted that idea. Fortunately the same does not apply to coffee... hmmm...

Brands, Prices and such

I'm a big fan of ordering in Bulk. The quality is top notch, I can get the supplements without unnecessary flavorings and additives (although my favorite shops already offer flavored protein powders of great quality!) and the price can't even be compared with those of brand companies: (use code MP24260 at checkout for 5% off your first order. you're welcome ;))

Some vitamins are the only thing I don't buy in bulk because they don't yet offer what I'm after. As far as brands go, I like NOW Foods which are of great quality and the price is much more pleasant than pharmacy-like brands. Some Optimum Nutrition vitamins (such as their "B-Complex + C") are also great but nowadays I just get everything from NOW Foods and from the same retailer to save on shipping costs. Other good brands include AST (their Multi-Pro is good) and Reflex.

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