By now, you probably know my stance on supplements in general and how to get the most out of those potentially helpful products. So far, we’ve covered muscle builders, multivitamins, fish oil, pre-workouts and fat burners, but the truth is that there are many other classes of supplements we haven’t covered yet.
Even though it’s not fair to discuss all the remaining supplement types in one post, I don’t think much emphasis should be put on them which is why I am only writing ONE article. Such types of supplements include but not limited to test boosters, nitric oxide precursors, intra-carbs and glutamine. Are they effective? If so, which ones are worth investing into?
Test boosters / Testosterone boosters
Test boosters are mainly herbal supplements that aim to increase your natural production of testosterone, the male hormone. Testosterone boosting supplements are essentially built on herbs and plants that have been proved to increase testosterone levels in humans or have at least been used in certain cultures. Those traditional herbal remedies may not always be backed by science, but I speculate that if a certain culture has been using a certain herb to boost testosterone levels for centuries, then it most likely works.
Test boosters are not for everyone, though. Ideally, gentlemen above the age of 35 will reap the most benefits. Test boosters are a great way to help you feel “young” again without any side effects. In fact, test boosters have been associated with the following benefits:
- Increase sex drive
- Increase total and free testosterone levels (depends greatly on the herb used)
- Increase strength levels
- Enhance mood due to higher testosterone levels
- Improve sleep quality
- Improve pumps in the gym
- Potential increase in muscle mass and decrease in fat loss due to higher testosterone levels and increase in strength
For any young man below 30 years old, you will probably not notice anything from using a test booster due to your testosterone levels already being high. The only time you would notice a significant increase is if you had low testosterone levels to begin with!
Some ingredients to look for are:
- DHEA – works in men over 40
- Stinging nettle root – mainly increases FREE testosterone levels’
- Mucuna pruriens
- Maca root
- Rhodiola rosea
- Tongkat Ali (a.k.a. eurycoma longifolia / long jack) – This is also a potent semen volumizer
- Arimistane – this is OTC aromatase inhibitor, however, it increases testosterone levels through blocking conversion from estrogen to testosterone
How to take test boosters?
Simply follow the product’s directions, however, as a rule of thumb, you would want to run testosterone boosters for 8 consecutive weeks for maximum benefits. This is due to the ingredients kicking in full at the 2 to 3 weeks mark, which is usually 1/2 to 3/4 way through the bottle, and by that time you will have one week left of full benefits (a bottle is usually 30 days’ supply). Instead, add a second bottle to increase the duration of full benefits to 4-6 weeks.
P.S. if you are young, don’t mess with test boosters. You do not need them and they may even harm you.
Nitric Oxide supplements
Nitric oxide supplements are also generally referred to as vasodilators or pump products. N.o. products simply act as non-stimulant based pre-workouts, they amplify the gym pump and give you a little edge without stimulants. They also increase blood flow to muscles which “theoretically” enhances endurance, recovery and overall performance. Many people believe they will gain muscle mass off nitric oxide supplements, but clinical research suggests otherwise.
In fact, real world experiments also back up the scientific literature. I mean, when was the last time you saw someone get big off a pump product? Exactly. So, they pretty much don’t do anything. However, they are a good way to get a nice pump, boost endurance and strength a bit and slightly delay fatigue which can indirectly elicit favorable body composition, but don’t count on it.
Some ingredients to look for in a pump product are:
- L-citrulline malate
- Agmatine sulfate
- Nitrates / potassium nitrates
- Glycerol monostearate
Glycerol monostearate is also a cell volumizer, which will help you get a few more reps on your lifts. Not bad for a natural supplement.
How to take nitric oxide supplements?
This highly depends on how much of each ingredient a product contains, but generally, aim for 4-8 grams of citrulline, 3-8 grams of glycerol and 2+ grams of any of the other listed ingredients. Consume your dosage(s) approximately 30-60 minutes before your training session.
If you have read my post on ideal carb intake -which you should’ve done- you will know already that intra-carb supplements are mainly good for performance and blood flow. They will amplify the pump, give you more energy, and improve performance, but you won’t gain any muscle or lose any fat because of them.
Any carb source will work in this case, but some ingredients to look for are:
- HBCD – Highly branched-cyclic dextrin
- Potato starch
- Dextrin (glucose)
Also, intra-carbohydrate supplements often have some nutrient partitioning agents and nitric oxide precursors in addition to enhance delivery and uptake by muscles, which should theoretically push more nutrients into the muscles and improve recovery.
Glutamine is yet another highly-debated supplement in the fitness realm. Some claim it works, others swear its garbage. As usual, things are not always black and white. Both groups are actually correct to some extent. Glutamine DOESN’T do anything for muscle mass or fat loss. This is backed up by both scientific literature as well as real world experience. However, glutamine does improve recovery a bit.
Wait, what? But if it improves recovery, wouldn’t that mean it builds muscle? Not necessarily. This is because recovery is a very broad term. To some, recovery is synonymous with muscle gain and fat loss, but to others, recovery is merely the feeling of being recovered after feeling fatigued. The latter can be vouched for by bodybuilders who have used glutamine while dieting down for their competitions. During that stage, you need every bit to feel and look better. Don’t expect wonders from glutamine, but it can improve your subjective feeling/perception of fatigue.
With that said, this doesn’t mean glutamine is completely useless. Glutamine has another highly underrated benefit; improve digestive health! If you have digestive problems, glutamine can relieve constipation and greatly improve digestion which will in turn improve nutrient partitioning, sense of well-being, and nutrient uptake. Those benefits will also augment your muscle building or fat loss endeavors.
Congratulations, you have made your way through the free customized diet series and you are now qualified to design an effective and intelligent diet plan for yourself and/or other people. The next post will be merely a “wrap-up” of everything we’ve discussed.