You don't need high-octane fuel or nitro if you're only driving a Prius. The same thing applies to newbie lifters and high-octane supplements.
A lot of newbie lifters are in over their heads when it comes to pro-level supplements, but I get it. Beginners want results as fast as possible, but rather than "grow into" advanced supplementation, they want the top-of-the-line stuff right away.
Unfortunately, it's often just plain overkill because of their newbie limitations.
What does it matter if a supplement increases energy levels, strength, insulin sensitivity, or protein synthesis if you aren't taking advantage of the most advanced training techniques or fully comprehend the thousands of other things intrinsic to being a successful lifter?
Besides, most newbies have a muscular growth spurt when they start lifting because that's when nearly anything works. Hell, they can subsist off pork rinds and they'll grow muscle. But I'm talking about the period after that first 6 months of training, when the gains start to slow and they start looking for answers.
That's maybe when they start prematurely grasping for fixes to problems that are often caused by a lack of knowledge, willpower, energy, or pain tolerance rather than a lack of high-powered supplements.
So yeah, there are a lot of supplements that newbies don't "deserve." Here are five they should re-think using until they've grown some calluses on their hands. Now, if you ARE past the newbie stage and you know your stuff, then adding a couple of these will take you to the next level.
1 – Phosphatidic Acid (PA)
You might have heard about something called mTOR in your readings about lifting. It's what's known as a "protein kinase" and it's a regulator of cell metabolism. If you're a weight lifter, you want to "turn" mTOR on both before workouts and during workouts because it controls protein synthesis and the more protein you synthesize, the more muscle you develop.
Several things kick mTOR into action, including anabolic hormones, additional protein intake, and weightlifting itself. Prominent among these substances that turn mTOR on is the supplement phosphatidic acid (sold as Micro-PA®) which has been shown in a number of studies to promote additional muscle size and strength.
For example, one 8-week study found that weight-training men who took PA before and after their workouts gained 2.4 kilos (about 5 and a quarter pounds) more muscle than the placebo group (Joy, 2014). Another found that PA activates brown adipose tissue (BAT), which causes more calories to be burned (Escalante, 2016).
PA definitely works in most people, but as I harped about in the opening paragraphs, you have to know what you're doing, both in and out of the weight room. If you're not training hard enough, or if your protein intake (and diet in general) isn't spot-on consistent, then save the phosphatidic acid for later.
2 – Cyanidin-3 Glucoside (C3G)
C3G (Indigo-3G®) is a polyphenol found in blueberries, grapes, black beans, and pretty much any fruit or vegetable that has a reddish blue or indigo cast to it.
It's a very cool substance in that it has anti-obesity effects (by increasing insulin sensitivity), improves exercise capacity (by activating fatty acid oxidation), and preferentially shuttles off nutrients to muscle tissue (through glucose and nutrient management) so that they can grow.
It's even been found to turn white fat into brown fat (Matsukawa, 2017). This is huge because brown fat is metabolically active fat and it causes you to burn a lot more calories than you normally would, leading to a leaner body. (This differs from the effects of PA in that PA activates brown fat, while C3G causes more brown fat to be formed.)
C3G accomplishes a lot of these things by increasing the body's production of adenosine monophosphate kinase (AMPK) by a factor of 2.88 (Matsukawa, 2017). More AMPK causes a significant up-regulation in a "transcriptional coactivator" known as PGC-1 alpha, which then increases exercise capacity, fatigue resistance, and oxygen uptake, which, if everything else is in order, leads to additional muscle mass.
Of course, it's the "everything else is in order" that's often lacking in newbies, but truth be told, this is probably one top-shelf supplement that even they couldn't muck up. While they might not be doing everything they need to do to tap into the muscle-building capabilities of C3G, they don't have to do or know much to benefit from its fat-burning properties.
3 – Plazma™
Plazma™ probably involves too much work for newbies, so I'm not sure any of them would use it in the first place. You have to mix it up and drink a serving 15 minutes before you work out. Then you have to mix up another serving and drink it during your workout. Most newbies want a single candy-flavored pill, or better yet, someone to wave a wand over their heads.
Yes, it pre-loads growth promoting nutrients into muscle that allow you to train harder and more often, but unless you're beating yourself up in the gym and want to have the recovery powers to beat yourself up even further, you're not going to need Plazma™. It's not for casual sorts.
The product works synergistically via several pathways. It contains an elegant protein blend (a mixture of di- and tri- peptides) that's transported – without requiring any further digestion – directly into the bloodstream. That's coupled with a hefty dose of "functional carbohydrate" known as isomaltulose that causes the body to oxidize fat at a greater rate, thus improving endurance and athletic performance.
Furthermore, it contains citrulline malate and betaine, two noted endurance and performance-enhancing compounds. The net effect of Plazma™ is a huge pump that makes the current workout a lot easier, in addition to allowing you to recover from the current workout a lot faster.
They say it makes you "unbreakable" and that's a pretty apt description.
4 – Brain Candy®
There are energy drinks and there are energy drinks that have a higher purpose, and Brain Candy® is one such drink. It was formulated to allow lifters or athletes to tackle training with not just increased energy, but with increased focus, too.
Newbies who are trudging through their 3 sets of 10 on lat pulldowns probably don't need it to help with their training, but I'm sure Brain Candy would help their brain function and reflexes while playing Fortnite, along with improving mood and reducing social anxiety.
It contains the following nootropic, or brain (and energy) enhancing, ingredients:
- Acetyl-l-Carnitine: An amino acid that increases energy production in mitochondria, stimulates brain cells, improves "processing speed," and even improves learning rate.
- Acetyl-l-tyrosine: A precursor to dopamine, which plays a big part in raising energy levels and increasing concentration.
- CDP Choline: Also known as citicoline, this ingredient is a highly bioavailable form of choline that enhances ATP production, thereby enhancing signaling between brain neurons.
- Dimethylethanolamine, or DMAE: An amine naturally produced in the brain. A favorite of the nootropic crowd, it increases concentration while improving alertness and mood.
- L-Theanine: An amino acid that enhances thinking ability while reducing anxiety.
Lifters and competitive athletes generally take a shot of Brain Candy® in the morning on an empty stomach for all-day energy and mental clarity.
5 – Mag-10®
Mag-10® is a next-gen protein formulation comprised of di- and tri-peptides (along with a very small amount of functional carbohydrate to help drive the peptides into muscle cells) that get absorbed largely intact to the bloodstream without requiring further digestion.
It's hugely significant because a 10 or 20-gram serving stimulates protein synthesis to a greater degree than probably 100 grams of protein from an ordinary protein powder or whole-food source.
This makes it ideal for muscle-building and recovery purposes, but its small-dose, high-impact properties allow it to be used in all kinds of unique physique transformation circumstances:
- For protein "pulsing": This is a strategy that makes the body hyper-responsive to high-protein intake and subsequent muscle growth. Rather than follow the conventional practice of eating a large amount of protein every couple of hours, you use Mag-10® three or four times a day to achieve a large protein "spike" and then allow enough time for protein levels to return to baseline. Optimal times for pulses are 30 minutes prior to meals, between meals that are 6 hours apart (or longer), and post-workout.
- For fasted cardio: Muscle, along with body fat, is vulnerable during fasted cardio, but we want to protect the muscle. That's where Mag-10® comes in. It blocks the catabolism of lean muscle mass without blunting the fat burning effects of cardio and metabolic conditioning.
- For fasting in general: Pulsing with Mag-10® several times a day during periods of modified fasting prevents the loss of muscle while allowing for rapid fat loss. Here's one version of that protocol: Make Cheat Meals Work For You.
- For post-workout nutrition: After a workout, the body's rate of protein breakdown can exceed the rate of protein synthesis. A serving of Mag-10® gets into the bloodstream super fast to squelch any protein breakdown.
While, admittedly, a newbie could benefit from all of the aforementioned Mag-10® benefits, it's probably more than they need in most cases.