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Summing up the supplements market …

“If it works, it is probably banned. If it isn’t banned, it probably doesn’t work. There are some exceptions!!” (Ron Maughan).

There are some fantastic products out there, but there are more that are unlikely to do anything noticeable beyond making our wallet a bit lighter.

So, what are my top three supplements that (currently) aren’t worth the investment …

Cannibidiol (CBD)

What?! But EVERYONE is taking it. And SO many athletes are sponsored to promote it. Yup yup, I know.

There is some solid evidence CBD - when administered in high doses - may improve sleep, relieve pain and reduce anxiety associated with certain diseases. But first, this is very different to it doing the same in a healthy adult who has just gone hard out the gates in the gym. And second, when we say high doses we often mean MORE than a whole bottle of anything you can buy commercially, in a single dose! Equate it to taking 1/50th of a paracetamol when you have a headache …

Yes, many people SAY they feel better when they take it. So maybe there is a benefit that science just hasn’t proven yet. BUT, as we don’t yet have the science to prove or disprove it, we need to weigh up the potential reward versus risk.

The reward is maybe ‘feeling better’. The risks:

1. It is not clear that prolonged use at commercially available doses is safe, and there is some evidence emerging that it may not be.

2. Getting fitter, faster, stronger relies on the body feeling stress during exercise and responding to that stress by building bigger muscles etc. If CBD blunts that stress, who is to say it wouldn’t blunt gains (just like we see with some high dose antioxidants). This hasn’t been studied, but at the moment we have as much reason to believe this might occur as we do to believe low dose CBD might have a benefit, so … !

3. If you are an athlete in a drug tested sport, there are no Informed Sport tested CBD products and there is a high risk of contamination with banned substances as although CBD is no longer banned all other cannabinoids remain banned and it is EXTREMELY hard to isolate just CBD

So all in all, the current consensus is generally to leave it on the shelf.

Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)

Possibly still one of the most popular supplements on the market to ‘build muscle’. But don’t be fooled!

From a training perspective, we need protein in our diet to recover and build muscle. Protein is made up of about twenty amino acids. The BCAAs are three of these. They are essential, we do absolutely need them in our diet to support effective recovery and muscle growth. But they are not SUFFICIENT. We need the rest of the essential amino acids too.

In other words, we need to eat what call ‘complete’ protein to recover from training and build muscle, i.e. protein containing all the essential amino acids and in a sufficient dose. And if we are eating complete protein then we are already getting enough BCAAs. So taking more BCAAs on top is a bit like pouring a bottle of water over your head when you’re in a swimming pool ... it won’t do much!

The only situation where BCAAs might be beneficial is for some reason an individual cannot eat complete protein containing all the BCAAs. This might occur if someone is vegan and cannot eat one or more of legumes or wholegrains or nuts or seeds or corn. And this is a very very rare situation.

Fat Burners

This one is short and sweet, because there isn’t much to say beyond ‘nahhhh’! ANY kind of fat burner that is available legally and without prescription in the UK is not supported by evidence … most are based around caffeine and other stimulants with the (false) logic that the stimulation these give increase calorie expenditure to a degree that will have a noticeable impact on weight loss. Short answer: they don’t!!

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