WHAT IS A SUPPLEMENT
Well … a supplement is just that. Supplementary to a well-structured lifestyle and health regime.It isn't a quick fix.
It isn't a magic pill or a band aid for a crappy diet.
WHAT YOU’RE GONNA LEARN
- Why getting the right supplements won’t mean jack unless your big picture is in place.
- Why there is no magic pill.
- Are there any supplements you really need for weight loss success?
- Do fat burners even work? Are they safe?
- The supplements I actually recommend
- Do you really need to take fish oil if you already eat lots of oily fish?
- The lowdown on creatine
- Free, impartial, science-backed supplementation resources
SUPPLEMENT MINDSET MISTAKES
THE BIG PICTURE
I only want you to keep reading if you ingrain the following into your brain.
Long-term, sustainable weight loss is multidimensional and complex. There is no “one size fits all” solution that will fix it for everyone.
The big picture includes:
• Having a winning mindset to smash life.
• Developing habits that optimise life and happiness.
• Choosing meals that are made up from 80-90% whole food.
• Eating with mindfulness
• Staying hydrated.
• Getting enough sleep.
• Managing your stress.
• Staying active.
• Building and maintaining strong muscles.
Got it? Reread that again, then be my guest and carry on reading.
Why is this so important?
The most effective supplement in the world will do nothing, unless you have the basics down.
Now you’re thinking big picture, let’s continue.
"MAGIC PILL" THINKING
If it looks too good to be true ... it probably is. #BodyPhi
Think about it logically … if there were actually a pill to rid you off excess body fat ... was legal and had no harmful side effects – don’t you think every man and woman would be in amazing physical condition?
It would be so easy. In fact, there would be no need for a “diet industry” to even exist! You could just pop this magical pill and voila … shame it doesn’t work that way huh.
DO YOU KNOW WHAT’S ACTUALLY IN THE BOTTLE?
Please also be aware that the supplement industry is not regulated.
That means you and I, right now, could fill a tub full of sugar, get some fancy labelling on that bad boy, market it as a fat burner and guess what? If it sells … it sells – we have done nothing illegal.
In fact, this is how the vast majority of supplements are sold. Using sexed-up marketing and endorsed by athletes, whose livelihood depends on them promoting them (despite them never having used the product in the first place).
If you're a recreational gym-goer, with all the best intentions in the world, not doing your research could at best leave you taking something which has far less active ingredients than the label states, and at worse contain something which is illegal and actually harmful to your health. 
They often get away with hiding what’s actually in the bottle by using the term “proprietary blend.”
Their argument is that they don’t want the competition knowing their secret formula, when in actual fact under-dosing and contamination issues are usually behind the phrase.
The only time companies are forced to pull a product from the shelves is if it is deemed to be unsafe for public consumption. A fact that sometimes gets found out a little too late down the road.
There was a popular supplement out on the market a few years back which I won’t name. People were reporting the best workouts of their entire life, energy through the roof and even a feeling of euphoria for hours after.
On closer examination, the company had laced the supplement with amphetamines! No wonder you got a buzz.In fact, some poor girl unfortunately died at the London Marathon that year and when they examined her blood – she had been using this product.
Stop with this magic-pill thinking.
No matter what amazing marketing tactics are out there that tug on your hopes of there actually being a quick-fix solution … a magic pill doesn’t exist and you need to get that into your head.
QUICK-FIX OR ”DIET” MENTALITY
The main reason I’m so against the whole supplement, detox or 8-week transformation way of thinking is that it does nothing to address long-term behaviour change.
A topic I’m incredibly passionate about at BodyPhi™. Look through all the articles on the site … they are big-picture, life-changing concepts.
Nailing them will change your health and body shape for the rest of your damn life! Not until the contents of the bottle run out!
Don’t get me wrong, some supplements can certainly be beneficial for health, muscle building and fat loss.I just don’t want to see another dude get scammed by the same muscle mags and awful trainers that I did when I was younger.
Honestly I spent hundreds, probably even more, on supplements which had no scientific backing, but worse still, I didn't even know the big-picture concepts I stressed above.
These just weren't there … but my hopes of taking a pill to turn into Arnold Schwarzenegger were.
“NEED” TO TAKE FOR SUCCESS MINDSET
If you’ve ever picked up a muscle mag (which I know you have) you will find that 70% of the content is ads, more often than not about selling a supplement.
The before and after pictures of the chap looking miserable, depressed with a huge gut … then transforming into a handsome, ripped, confident and tanned version of himself are very, very powerful.
They play very well on our need for a quick fix in a society of instant gratification. You're damn right I’m buying ThermoShred70000 if I get to look like the guy in the after picture.
I’m going to go ahead and let you into some dirty little industry secrets that I’ve come across in my time working in fitness.
Before & After Shots
Some of these pictures are taken on the same day. Yep, the same day.With dietary and water manipulation along with some clever lighting and photoshopping you can make a chiseled model look awful and then reverse the process in under a few hours.
There is more photoshop, lighting and other tweaks in there than you would ever realise. Often to the extent that the model bares little resemblance to what they actually look like in real life anymore.
This wouldn't be a problem if the tagline didn't say “Done in 8 weeks with our new product.”
Honesty and integrity are not common characteristics of the supplement industry.
Some models can’t even pronounce the product let alone actually take it.
They often don’t use real people. Instead models in their offseason are used or those who’ve trained and had good dietary habits their entire life, but simply went off the rails for a couple of months.
Tightening up back to their previous physical shape takes no time at all with credit going to the supplement at hand and a paycheque at the end of the month.
If you think the only thing these models are taking is what they are endorsing, you are indeed mislead.
Anabolic steroid use is rampant in the fitness industry and gives people a false expectation of what is achievable.
- You need sleep.
- You need to de-stress.
- You need to resistance train.
- You need to eat whole foods.
- You need to have the mindset of a winner.
You don’t need supplements.
ARE THERE ANY WEIGHT-LOSS SUPPLEMENTS THAT WORK?
This article will focus on legal supplements. There are plenty illegal fat-loss supplements on the market with a myriad of negative health consequences which I wont even bother going into.
So, are there any legal supplements that will enhance your fat-loss results? Well kind off … but it’s mainly due to one ingredient.
You know those fat burners that places such as GNC sell? They contain a bunch of fluff and fillers, not doing a whole lot, but do have one ingredient in them that does actually have a benefit.
A very powerful stimulant used for enhanced endurance, strength, cognitive function and can positively affect your cortisol to testosterone ratio. 
It is classed as a nootropic or brain enhancing substance due to its effects on mental stimulation. What about fat loss though?
Well caffeine can certainly help with fat loss, but does so indirectly.
One of the ways caffeine can help you potentially burn more fat, is it’s effect on increased training performance in the gym, and the ability for you to be able to handle more training volume. 
More training volume means more energy burned, all other things being equal, this means more fat loss.
Caffeine shines as well if you have to train in the early morning due to your work schedule.
It has been shown that probably the optimal time to weight train is in the PM and most world weightlifting records are broken then.If you have to train in the morning, a hit of caffeine can equalise performance at both times. 
I find caffeine shines for me in it’s short-term effects on appetite suppression. This is one of the reasons I find the combination of caffeine and intermittent fasting such a powerful tool.
Like any drug, you can build a tolerance to caffeine-based products very quickly, which isn't great.
It essentially means you need to take more to feel the same effects. It is very hard to do once it becomes habitual, but I highly recommend once in a while taking a full week off caffeine.
Allow your body to resensitize to this powerful stimulant and you will once again reap the benefits when you come to use it again.
If you really want to maximise your training performance and not run the risk of caffeine addiction, I’d highly recommend keeping caffeine ingestion for your pre-workout hit only, and not at other times of the day.
Alternatively, if you do want to have it at other times of the day, start small with your dosage and build up gradually should you need.
200-500 mg may be a good place to start, whilst other researchers recommend 4-6mg/kg of bodyweight.
Long term caffeine use has been associated with a lower bodyweight.  Just to put that into perspective, a single Nespresso shot of coffee contains roughly 60mg of caffeine.
So save your money on that ridiculously overpriced fat burner and do a double espresso before your next workout.
“Ok cool, I’m on the caffeine thing … anything else that can boost my fat-burning results?”
Not really … yes I could list things such as ephedrine or yohimbine, but since neither I, nor my clients have ever used these substances to get into tip top shape, I don’t recommend you do either.
The only other fat burning strategy I recommend, is increasing your protein intake. Reason being … it has such a great affect on appetite suppression and satiety. 
If a protein shake helps you to achieve that 0.8/1 gram per pound of body weight I recommend, then go for it.
If you are going to use a protein shake for the benefits of appetite suppression, I highly recommend choosing casein over whey due to it’s slower digestion time. 
INSTEAD FOCUS ON SUPPLEMENTS FOR GENERAL HEALTH INSURANCE
PRIORITISE REAL FOOD
Our current obesity epidemic is fuelled by easy access, super-tasty, highly-rewarding and high-calorie food options.
The supplement industry has picked up on this and is so quick to offer quick-fixes rather than address the real issue.
If you never buy a supplement in your life, choose meals that are made up from 80-90% whole food and kept an eye on portion control – I absolutely guarantee you will see ten times the results of a person who buys the best supplements in the world but doesn’t nail the basics,
Saying that, there are a very small handful of supplements which I do recommend in very specific scenarios if
A) You have the fundamentals down
B) You have the finances to be able to splash out on supplements since they are by definition non-essential.
I must also state that the following list is subject to change with new research coming out, and will more than likely need updating in years to come.However, the following are pretty tried and tested.
Think of a multivitamin as an insurance policy or safety net. When you are looking to lose body fat, and thus eating less, you are more at risk for having nutrient deficiencies.
You wouldn’t think it, but zinc, magnesium, iron and calcium are quite common deficiencies for many hard training people. 
A multivitamin is a good way to ensure your bases are covered, especially as common weight-loss diets are often void of some essential vitamins and minerals. 
The research to date suggests that a good multivitamin is safe and may offer benefit to long term users. 
Dosage is usually one tablet per day taken with a main meal.
If I actually went on to list the benefits of omega-3 fish oil supplementation, you’d think I was having you on. 
Reduced risk of many diseases, reduced inflammation, benefits to mood and brain health, and new research has even suggested it could be a contributor to increased muscle mass. 
It’s a no-brainer. Dosage you are looking for here is 2-3 grams of combined EPA/DHA per day.
I’d also recommend taking this with food as to avoid some of the unwanted fish burps that can happen on an empty stomach ... not exactly what you want first thing in the morning.
I will say that if you do a good job of including oily fish in your food plan three plus times per week, then supplementing with omega-3 may be redundant for you.
Generally though, this is not the case and so supplementation becomes a good option for most.
Another no-brainer, unless you live in a hot and sunny country. I can certainly attest to the health benefits of vitamin D3 after supplementing with it for over a year now.
I don’t want to jinx it, but I can’t remember the last time I had a cold which makes sense as vitamin D3 is responsible for a helping us maintain a healthy immune system. 
Low levels have been linked to negative mood alterations, hormones not working as they should and even depression. 
Oh, and if you want optimal muscle mass as well, you’d do well to supplement with Vitamin D.  Many in the UK are vitamin D3 deficient without even knowing it.
Luckily it’s easily cured. Depending on how deficient you are, 2000-5000 IU’s daily will do the trick.
This has been a personal game-changer for me over the past 6 months. We all know how important sleep is right? Well, this is where magnesium has really shone for me. 
Magnesium helps to calm you down by relaxing your central nervous system, helps reduce stress levels and may even increase free testosterone, alongside a well thought out resistance training plan. 
It’s worth keeping on top off, as even in developed countries there is a large amount of magnesium deficiency as most people generally don’t get enough froom food. 
“There is evidence that magnesium exerts a positive influence on anabolic hormonal status, including testosterone, in men.” 
Yes, you can get magnesium through your diet with plenty of spinach, dark chocolate and beef, but I can’t tell you the difference I noticed in sleep quality when I started regular supplementation despite eating these foods regularly.
Dosage? You are looking at taking the magnesium citrate form to the tune of 300-500 mg per day about 30 minutes before bed.
Curcumin, the active ingredient found in turmeric extract, is an interesting one. It seems to have some promising anti-inflammatory effects in the body, making it a great one for all round health. 
These anti-inflammatory effects seem to be quite protective against some form of cancers. Not to mention that is has positive effects when looking to be anabolic aka muscle building. 
The main thing to watch out for with curcumin – it’s poorly absorbed by the body. Black pepper extract is often used to enhance bioavailability.
If you are going to supplement, make sure the product contains black pepper extract so that you’re actually getting the full benefit.
750mg per day with a meal along with 5mg of black pepper extract will do the trick.
Like I say, most supplements will have the two combined but make sure you keep an eye out for that.
You should be eating greens and fruits with pretty much every single meal. I‘m fully aware of life’s stressors though and even I do not get in as much fruit and veg in as I’d like on a meal per meal basis.
A greens powder can be a fantastic way to supplement your already healthy meal plan to ensure you are getting the benefits of a wide spectrum of micronutrients, vitamins minerals and phytonutrients.
Yes, these products don’t taste the best but get on with it, it’s a small price to pay for improved health and longevity.
One scoop in water or as directed by the label will do you a world of good if you happen to be one of those guys who thinks an apple is your quota for the day.
Creatine monohydrate is one of the most tried and tested supplements of our time. It has been used by athletes for years.
There are over 70 studies that show creatine monohydrate increases strength and physical performance. 
It does so by topping up your naturally occurring levels of creatine you have already in your body. It is by far your most cost-effective muscle builder.
The benefits of creatine monohydrate however do not just stop at increasing muscle mass and strength.  Creatine has been shown to:
Decrease fatigue so that you can train harder for longer. 
Improve brain health and cognitive function. 
Increase free testosterone. 
Lower the risk of heart disease. 
A damn impressive list if you ask me!
Is creatine safe? Yep.  But as I say, use creatine monohydrate, not some other form you might see advertised heavily.
Creatine monohydrate is the most tried and tested version of all the other variants, many of which have been proven to be inferior. 
Ignore all “loading” protocols the tub may encourage you to take. Five grams taken per day will be enough to saturate your cells after about four weeks of supplementation.
Creatine can be taken at any time of day as it’s effects are chronic and not acute. Just remember to take it each day!
This is a real “nice to.” If you have the money, are optimising literally everything else then yes citrulline malate is proving to be pretty popular with the bodybuilding crowd at the moment.
It’s sour as hell so make sure you have it with something, and the idea is to take it pre-workout as it has been shown to increase muscle pumps and blood flow in the gym and exercise efficiency and tolerance. 
I am notably less sore from my training when this is part of my pre workout stack.
WHERE DO I GO FOR GOOD SUPPLEMENT ADVICE?
Examine.com is an impartial collection of human research with regards to pretty much every supplement known to man.
No marketing, no hidden agenda and no trying to sell you anything. It has a sliding scale of just how effective a supplement actually is so you can discern whether or not it is worth purchasing.
The site gives you a wikipedia-like search on the supplement in question, the dosages, discrepancies, chemical compounds and side effects etc.
This is your go-to site, not Men’s Health magazine.
IN A NUTSHELL
• A supplement is just that – a supplement to a well-structured lifestyle and health regime.
• Focus on the big-picture strategies first – then consider supplements.
• There is no “magic-pill” for weight loss.
• The only sustainable fat-loss strategy is a long-term one – there is no quick fix!
• You don’t need a supplement for weight-loss success.
• Supplements that may help: caffeine and whey protein.
• Structure your meal plans to contain at least 80-90% whole foods.
• Consider the following as good safety-net supplements: