Brief Q&A on Supplements

Recently, a friend contacted me with some questions about several different supplements. After emailing him back, I thought that my answers might be of interest to our members. The friend is an avid Crossfit participant and is tall with an athletic/skinny build. See the conversation below.

Original Email:

Jensen,

I am looking into 2 recovery supplements and was hoping to get your opinions on both.  They are Progenex and SFH www.strongerfasterhealthier.com

I know that actual whey is the best but what do you think of these two?

Thanks,

Walter

PS I also want to throw MusclePharm into the mix, not that i am going to use them but I saw it on Tiger Woods Bag at the PGA and wanted your thoughts.

Thanks Again

My Response:

Walter,
I finally got a chance to check all those things out and have some ideas that may be helpful.
First a couple general thoughts on supplements.
1. Supplements are supplements. Sounds simple but think about it again. They are supposed to supplement your current nutrition plan. If your diet isn’t on point in the first place, you should start there instead of adding extra things.
2. Assuming your diet is excellent, supplements can be a great way of optimizing your nutrition plan so that you are properly fueled and recovering well from training sessions.
3. I judge any supplements on several factors: efficacy (does it work), efficiency (how well does it work for the $), and quality (source of ingredients).
The three products that you mentioned are all from major manufacturers and probably have at least average quality. I wouldn’t be concerned about safety or that they would be tainted in any way. The big companies have pretty good manufacturing standards and the FDA has really been cracking down on supplement companies in the last 18 months. With that said, none of them are high quality. They are all probably sourced from the same company and just branded separately. You’re not getting grass fed or organic whey in any of these in case that matters to you. It does to me.
In terms of efficacy, I look for 40g protein and minimal carbs. I’d suggest that, for you, you look for something that is at least 25g protein and 40g carbs. I’m kind of assuming that your goals are to add muscle and strength. If you have more complex goals, there could potentially be different options. These macro breakdowns can be accomplished with the products offered by any of the companies you mentioned. It’s simply figuring out what you want and then using the right number of scoops.
The overall thing about buying from any major company is that you’re going to pay a lot more. They sponsor athletes, advertise in media, and use fancy packaging. All of this costs them quite a bit of money which, like any business, they pass along to their customers. It means that you’re probably going to end up paying about 50-100% more than if you bought it somewhere else. If you buy supplements from an actual store (not online) then you are going to pay even more to cover their additional expenses.
My recommendation would be to buy from a place like proteinfactory.com or trueprotein.com. They are big enough companies to have good manufacturing processes but they don’t advertise and the products come in a sealed plastic bag. They have reduced their overhead and pass along the savings to the customers to compete with the larger companies. We buy and resell protein from proteinfactory at both the gyms and I’ve used their products for years. If you take a look at those sites and find any products that you have questions about, I’m happy to answer more. They are also more transparent about where everything comes from and exactly what is in everything. Don’t ever believe the hype of a major label. It’s all basically about the same.
Side note, I’ve stopped taking any supplements and just started eating a ton more meat which my wife cooks for me in a crock pot once a week. I can go through 8lbs of pork loin, 7lbs of chicken breast, and 90 eggs per week for about $40. That’s a lot better deal than paying $10-$20/lbs for whey.
Jensen