Supplements are a racket.  Just like the fad diet industry, muscle-building snake oil peddlers make a living (or a fortune) by preying on your insecurities and promising you results that range anywhere from unlikely to utterly impossible.  With all that said… there may still be a place for supplements in your fitness regime, if you’re able to maneuver through the minefield of misleading labels and grandiose claims.  Like a combat operation, I can’t guarantee we’ll all make it to the other side if you embark on this journey with me, but I’ll do the best I can to make sure you’re well equipped for the fight ahead.  The rest is up to you.

The first and most important thing you need to know when shopping for a workout supplement of any type is that there are no laws forbidding “false advertising” in supplements.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is not legally obligated to verify the claims made on those often medical-looking bottles on the shelves in your local GNC, despite the fact that their marketing methods seem awfully similar to the pharmaceutical industry, where the FDA mandates verification of validity.  If that seems impossible, I’ll let the FDA explain it for themselves.

FDA is not authorized to review dietary supplement products for safety and effectiveness before they are marketed. The manufacturers and distributors of dietary supplements are responsible for making sure their products are safe BEFORE they go to market.”

The fact that there’s no oversight over the supplement industry creates two immediate issues: the first is that the ingredients of the supplement you purchase may not actually provide any benefit to you whatsoever.  The second is that the supplement you bought may have proven ingredients listed on the label… but there’s no guarantee that the manufacturer actually put any of that stuff in the bottle.  That’s not paranoia – it rocked the industry a few years ago when lab testing proved that many of the supplements sold at large retailers like Wal-Mart, GNC, and Target were actually just flour pills with none, or very little, of the ingredients listed on the label actually found inside the product.

So as you stroll down the aisle full of pseudo-scientific labels mixed with words like “extreme,” it pays to know that literally nothing you see written on all those packages has been verified by a third-party.

When you hear that, you might be tempted to believe that literally no supplements on the market are what they claim to be – and that may be the safest belief to have – but there are some out there that really offer the benefits they promise, you just need to know where to look.

The first thing you need to do when adding a supplement to your fitness routine is decide on your goals.  If you’re looking for strength building, for instance, you need quite a bit of extra protein in your diet to support muscular development.  If you’re hoping to lean out as you build strength, you may also want to consider the caloric content of the protein supplement you choose.  If mass is your goal, I also recommend incorporating creatine into the mix, though the proper use of it could potentially warrant an article in itself.