| Work 'til you're musclebound
|Totally ripped! ...off|
Bodybuilding is a field of endeavor filled with woo. Many bodybuilders don't understand science, and consider anecdotal evidence and personal recommendation good enough to try something out and then advocate it to others if they gained while on it.
Bodybuilders understand "no pain, no gain" and have no problem working hard. The trouble is how to work smart as well.
 Dietary supplements
Dietary supplements include substances like creatine, amino acids and protein supplements, plant sterols (sold as legal purported alternatives to anabolic steroids, which are illegal), packets of high-dosage vitamin pills claimed to have "anabolic" or "metabolic" abilities, and before their inclusion in bodybuilding supplements was banned, mixes containing ephedrine (often as an "ECA stack").
Substances like Clenbuterol and Albuterol are quite popular weight loss drugs now, as they can be bought as grey-market "research chemicals" or through foreign "perscription" websites, have anti-catabolic and mildly anabolic (in layman's terms, muscle preserving and muscle building) properties and are even more powerful than ephedrine. These are powerful stimulants, and come with the general side effects associated with such. Both are banned for any semi-serious sporting competition, and both can be very dangerous if mishandled. However, while dangerous, they do work as advertised, causing huge increases in metabolic function and quantifiable increases in physical endurance, albeit both at a price. Long term use can easily nuke the thyroid, and ODs can be lethal. The biggest problems with these sorts of things for bodybuilding use, however, is that once you go off, the weight comes back, because you're not teaching yourself how to lose weight in a safe, natural manner with diet and exercise, but rather resorting to dangerous chemical stimulants. This means the fat loss seen with these drugs is rarely permanent.
In general, protein powders are effective, in that they do contain high levels of easily consumed protein and calories, which helps in building muscle. Protein (whey, casein, soy, etc.) powders are used for lots of other purposes besides bodybuilding. Mountain climbers carry them, since they are easy to pack and high in calories and protein for their weight. They're also used for the treatment of starvation, as starving people cannot usually digest solid food. However, the claims of these products are often wildly exaggerated, if not outright false. Simply taking a shake a day will not turn you into the Incredible Hulk, but they are cheaper than peanut butter or tuna; two scoops of powder can easily equal the same daily protein consumption of the average person, and a few additives (sugars) can be beneficial in adding quick calories post-workout.
It's worth noting that protein powders are made of regular foods and their byproducts, and therefore the nutritional and physiological benefits are well understood. The same cannot be said about many other supplements.
In the US, they are "regulated" by the FDA as "food," and are thus not required to demonstrate their safety before hitting the market. These products can be found in any health food store, and are often those stores' highest markup and biggest selling items.
A number of people use an ECA stack (ephedrine:caffeine:aspirin)in the order of 1:10:10 or 1:10:15,stack to lose weight faster, however the effects are often small and not much evidence is out there to confirm that it can help you lose fat. It is banned in many countries because too much ephedrine explodes your heart.
Taking creatine supplements does result in temporarily increased muscle size, but does not add any actual muscle mass. Creatine has this effect because it enables the muscles to retain more water, which leads to a temporary increase in size, an effect which goes away as the creatine is excreted. Creatine supplementation can also give small increases to anaerobic performance, allowing more intense workouts which in theory should accelerate weight and strength gains.
On the illegal side, anabolic steroids and HGH can be very effective, but could have serious side effects if abused or if a course of PCT (post cycle therapy) is not followed. Steroids and HGH are the only substances that actually will do what most others claim.
Most of the other supplements might as well be as good as flushing your money down the toilet.
These products also include such things as electronic devices (sold on late night TV infomercials) purported to build muscle. Electrical stimulation is a valid therapy when used to prevent unused muscles from atrophying - such as can happen when a patient is immobilized and otherwise unable to exercise the muscle, but the devices seen advertised on TV will provide little more than minor cosmetic results. Adverts may show models with six-packs that could stop bullets, but they certainly did not get them from wearing an electrified corset. Any electrical stimulation device capable of providing substantial muscle mass and tone would require a painfully high and possibly dangerous electrical current. Also, a sensible diet and an exercise regimen kind of helps. Real bodybuilders don't go near these, but athletes who work out with a TV remote in one hand and in the other a bowl of Cheetos, are the intended market of these devices. From a scientific study
“”Companies claim that EMS is an easy and painless method for improving muscle strength, body composition, and appearance. These claims were unsubstantiated in the current study. Several factors, including the poor quality of the stimulator itself, probably combined to produce the results seen in this study. Subjects tolerated EMS amplitudes that produced discomfort but still were not able to achieve a muscular contraction of sufficient intensity to induce strength gains. Additionally, although manufacturers claim that workouts can be conducted quickly, workouts in the current study averaged 45 minutes in duration. Workouts using units with fewer stimulation channels would take even longer. Thus, EMS used under the conditions studied here does not appear to be a pain-free, quick method to increase muscular strength and is not recommended for the apparently healthy consumer.
There's always a plethora of new and exciting exercise devices hitting the market. While some may be effective, the question we must ask is "what can this do that weights or cardio can't?" The answer, more often than not, is nothing. Money is best spent on some good running shoes and a gym membership.