Fitness Friday Presents: Supplemental Failure

Michael Dodge

Nothing is more desirable than to be released from an affliction, but nothing is more frightening than to be divested of a crutch. --James A. Baldwin

On a good day, I can log a solid 90 minutes at the gym. That's broken up into a 15-minute warm up, followed by 45 minutes of weight-resistance training, topped off by 30 minutes of cardio.

If I can hit those marks, then I don't feel as guilty about sitting on my ass for the remainder of the day, click-clacking away to keep the masses informed (and hopefully entertained) right here at MMAmania.com.

I like to put my time in at the gym earlier in the day, because it's a great incentive to stick to my healthy eating plan. On days I've exercised in the afternoon, I've been more tempted to veer of course, thinking, "Meh, I'll burn it off at the gym."

But the A.M. pump?

I'm mindful of everything I eat for the rest of the day, while placing my diet on equal footing. I'm not hung up on numbers, despite the general consensus that you'll shrivel up and die if you don't ingest X number of grams of protein.

I know I get enough protein, without a calculator, because I eat a balanced diet (almost) every day.

In addition to meats, I also make sure I have a fair amount of healthy fruits and vegetables, like blueberries, sweet potatoes and dark, leafy greens. If you can find it on the back of a vitamin bottle, chances are I've already had it in one of my meals.

I want my nutrition from my food, not from a lab.

That might sound contradictory coming from a guy who promotes the ViSalus line of products, but it's actually one of the reasons I'm so happy operating under their umbrella. Their products do exactly what I want them to, they supplement my meals, instead of replacing them.

That's why I ignore criticism that my post-workout shakes don't have enough protein.

Enough for what?

Earlier this week, after wrapping up my duties on the Stairmaster, I was washing up in the locker room next to a guy who was scarfing down a bagel, while taking intermittent sips of an unidentified brown goop housed in a stock shaker cup.

He looked at me sheepishly and said, "My one hour window is closing."

He was referring, of course, to that one hour window following a heavy workout session that could put your body into a catabolic state, unless you practically drown yourself in liquid protein. But make sure you suck down a pixie stick to help coat the runway with simple carbs!

Blech.

There are all sorts of studies, statistics and stats out there about the one hour window, muscle loss and blah, blah, blah. You know who does all those studies? Supplement companies, who prey on the insecure male ego with scare tactics and manly-sounding names like "Animal Pak."

Rawr!

After all, you don't want to jeopardize your muscle gains and look like a pussy, do you?

There was a time in the not-too-distant past when I was a supplement guy. But what I found peculiar is that no matter what supplement I was taking, it was never good enough. I started with the protein shake after a lift, and dutifully drank it within 60 minutes.

"Bro, you're not taking Creatine?"

Shit, I was missing out on gains. So I started taking Creatine.

"Bro, you need to stack that with a hemodilator like NO2."

So I started taking NO2, because I was missing out on gains.

"Bro, you aren't taking glutamine to speed up recovery?"

There was a point in my life when I was spending upward of $200 a month on pills, potions and powders, because I was somewhere, somehow, missing out on potential gains. Then one day I woke up, trudged into the kitchen and looked at those horse pills and nearly gagged.

I scooped it all up and threw it in the trash, and spent the extra money at the supermarket on real food.

Thank god.

When you eat enough quality food, at regular intervals, you will never be in deficiency. Most of us are not training for Mr. Olympia and aren't out to break any powerlifting records, so when we need to supplement our diets, we need to do it in a sensible fashion.

Three days a week at the gym does not require you to take second mortgage on your house to pay for your supplement habit. And how long are you supposed to stay on this junk? Forever? I need a sustainable plan, to which my meathead friends counter with, "Just cycle off from time to time."

Uh huh.

My idea of "cycling off" is more like, "Geez, I'm getting kinda tired of eating almonds every day for my 4pm snack, maybe next week I'll switch it up and go with walnuts." That reminds me, check out this awesome nut chart (tee hee) I found on Greatist.

Even if you gave up supplements altogether, I'm not sure most folks would even notice a difference, something I refer to as the "Steve Principle."

I have a close friend, we'll call him "Steve" (since that's his name), and he was into fitness like I was. But we had busy jobs and couldn't get to the gym as often as we wanted to. Then one weekend, Steve went out with his "other" friends and did something stupid.

Stupid enough to get him 10 months in the pen.

I went to see him about six months in and when I saw him, I was shocked. He was jacked! I asked him how the hell he got so big and ripped and he told me there was nothing to do in the clink except read and exercise (and avoid dropping the soap).

But here's the kicker.

Steve, like a lot of guys doing time, built his body with prison food. He didn't have the luxury of taking pills, or slamming shakes after his workout. All he had was basic free weights, three squares a day and plenty of time to rest.

In most cases, that's all you need.

Steve's biggest complaint was that he would get hungry at night. To that I was sympathetic, because he didn't have ViSalus like I do. I use their products in conjunction with my healthy eating plan and on a day when I'm on the road, I can have a Nutra-cookie to keep the hunger pangs at bay.

Gap filled.

If I spend a Saturday at the beach and come home having eaten nothing but funnel cake for the past eight hours, I'll suck down a Vi-Shake or have a Vi-Pak to make up for the stuff I missed during the day. For me, that's the true essence of nutritional supplements, to help fill in the gaps between healthy, balanced meals.

How and why supplements became more important than diet, and sometimes even training, is troublesome.

Eat right and eat often, and fight the psychological dependency created by million-dollar supplement companies who need you to feel inadequate. If you didn't, why would you buy their products? You wouldn't -- though I've had friends criticize me for eating grass fed, organic flank steak at lunch, as they nurse a bottle of chemicals designed to make them superman.

That's what makes ViSalus different.

Their mission is to help you lose weight and get in shape (see how it's done here). For those folks already in shape, there's a variety of products to help maintain that shape, without forcing you to cheat on your real food. No scare tactics, no dependency.

Just the right amount of supplements to help you fill in the gaps.

As for the one hour window, I like to have a post-workout shake just like the rest of you. But when I need more protein on a day I go heavy, I don't add more powder. Instead, I add a cup of plain, greek yogurt. Simple carbs come in the form of frozen fruit and boom, glycogen restoration and protein synthesis are bagged and tagged.

Cool pills, bro.

Fitness Friday is sponsored by ViSalus. Opinions expressed are solely of the author. For more information on the ViSalus line of products click here.

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