No Bulls*** Supplement Guide
Welcome vid (watch this!!)
One's you probably should be taking
One's that make sense based on you
One's to stay away from at all cost
First things first. Understand this.
You absolutely do not need supplements to make progress and no supplement will change the progress you are not currently seeing
Your progress will ALWAYS be determined by your training style/frequency, energy balance (calories in vs. calories out), and your macronutrient distribution.
The truth is most supplements in the industry are complete crap.
The industry is completely unregulated due to the Dietary Supplement Health and Education act passed in 1994.
Because of that, supplement companies can make absolutely insane claims with little to no supporting research. (How many times have you seen claims like "this pill will literally melt fat off your body" or "you can double your muscle mass in 30 days using this new supplement"?)
A great compass to use when buying supplements is to look at what they're claiming to do.
If any supplement claims to directly make you lose weight, build muscle, or make any direct changes, it's most likely a complete waste of money.
That being said...
I take about 4-7 supplements at any given time depending on my goals in that moment to bridge any gaps not filled through my diet.
And there are a handful of supplements that have more than enough supporting research over decades to be deemed as beneficial in helping you get where you want to go a bit quicker.
In this guide I'll highlight:
What supplements have been proven to work
What supplements make sense depending on your goal and lifestyle
And what supplements are a complete waste of money
Do I only use Legions supplements?
Absolutely not. (as you can see as you read through this guide)
My values line up directly of those of the company and their CEO Mike Mathews enough for this to be the only brand I am comfortable putting my name on.
On their website in bold letters it even states:
"YOU DO NOT NEED SUPPLEMENTS TO MAKE PROGRESS"
Mike Mathews started Legion as an educational company (one of the best in the world - if you haven't read their blog/books - drop what you're doing and go there) and to provide clinically dosed, research backed supplements in an industry lacking just that.
I absolutely do not need money from the discount code for the site. I want to give you the research and the supplements that truly make the most sense for your goals and lifestyle.
So if you read through this guide and decide that one of their supplements make sense, you can use code "BLOOM" at checkout (barf, that sounded like a discusting 2015 influencer selling you fit tea) for 20% off to save money (but I'll link all supplements mentioned to where you can find them cheapest I am in no way affiliated to like Amazon, Bulk Supplements, etc.)
And as always, if you have any questions or are confused about any of this in any way, feel free to shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org so I can help.
Proven to work
Whey, plant based, or egg based
Protein supplements are just isolated proteins from real food products. Your body does not digest or process them any differently than protein found through your diet.
They are a convenient and cost effective way to hit your daily protein goal when you have a hard time meeting it through your diet alone. This is one I have almost every single one of my clients take and one that I take 1-2x a day.
Research is consistent in it's findings that higher protein diets are better at building muscle, holding onto muscle during cutting phases, decrease stress, cravings, and fatigue during diets, increase your thermic effect from food (calories you burn digesting food), help you naturally consume fewer calories, and helps you sleep better. ALL things that are extremely important to your overall health, fat-loss, or muscle building goals.
Based on the individual to bridge the protein gap in their diet
Which to take:
Grass fed and lactose free which means no indigestion, stomach aches, or gassiness, and naturally sweetened and flavored and contains no artificial food dyes or other chemical junk. What I currently use.
Gold standard is a high quality, more cost effective route. Not lactose free and does contain artificial sweeteners but something I have used plenty over the years.
Vega Sport Protein or Legion Plant+:
Plant based is in no way healthier than whey (it actually is a less complete version of protein) but if you are eating a plant based diet for ethical reasons, these are a great choice.
Legion Plant+ is a mix of pea and rice protein, both easily digested, well absorbed, and tastes bomb (the hardest thing I have found in plant based powders)
Vega Sport on amazon is mainly pea protein, and the taste is a bit different. Both great options for a plant based lifestyle.
Creatine is found in every human being alive today stored in muscle and brain tissue (95% muscle tissue / 5% brain tissue). It is an amino acid naturally produced in the body and found in animal sources.
Creatine has many functions in the body but its main purpose is to recycle something called ATP in muscle tissue during intense exercise. ATP is our tissue's quickest and first form of energy.
Supplementing with creatine monohydrate simply increases creatine storage in muscle tissue.
This directly increases strength, power, endurance, and has an anti-catabolic (anti- muscle breakdown) effect which makes it an exceptional supplement during fat loss.
Allowing you to perform stronger, longer, and put your body on stress that you would not be able to put on otherwise. This can speed up progress in fat-loss along with muscle and strength gains.
Creatine is one of the most studied supplements of all time. It has repeatedly been shown to significantly increase strength during weight training, increase aerobic power and capacity, aid in building muscle and losing fat quicker, having an anti-catabolic effect, and even has preliminary research being done on depression, mental health, memory, intelligence, and reasoning.
5g per day
Timing or method does not matter
No need to cycle or take breaks
Creatine's effects are not acute. You have to be taking it consistently for at least 2-4 weeks to saturate muscle tissue to start noticing a difference.
Which to take:
The one I have taken for years. 120 servings for $20 on Amazon. Just as high quality as any on the market.
If you have a little extra money:
Legion's creatine brand is more of a total recovery product which is packed with 2.1g of L-Carnitine L-Tartrate and 10.8mg of Corosolic Acid aiding in insulin resistance while reducing exercise-induced muscle damage and soreness..
Fish Oil / Omega-3
Omega-3 Fatty Acids are the "good fats" found in most fatty fish. This is also found in supplement form in Fish Oil or in some plant based Omega-3's from Chia, Hemp, and Flax seeds.
What we want out of Omega-3's isn't just the fat though, it's the EPA and DHA content in the fat.
That is what provides us all of the incredible benefits of fish oil. And the problem is, most supplements are loaded with fat, but not EPA or DHA.
These awesome fatty acids are found in fish and in our diets. The problem is it is nowhere near the doses that we would want for all of the added benefits. That's where a supplement can help. When EPA and DHA are dosed correctly, it accelerates fat loss when paired with exercise, have an effect on muscle protein synthesis aiding in building muscle, improving cardiovascular health, moderating inflammation, and have an incredible link to mentally debilitating disorders like depression and Alzheimer's.
Fish oil truly sounds magic. And has research to back it. It has repeatedly been shown to increase cardiovascular health, accelerate fat loss when paired with exercise, have an effect on muscle protein synthesis, combat depression, and so much more.
1.5g+ of EPA and 1g+ of DHA
The only thing is the effects from fish oil are not acute. Meaning you have to be taking them consistently for at least 4-6 weeks for your body to start changing.
Which to take:
Best overall (tie):
This is one of the higher dosed EPA/DHA fish oils on the market with 500mg of EPA and 250mg of DHA per pill (about 4 pills to hit daily goals)
Legion's brand is also one of the highest dosed fish oils on the market with 1.5g of EPA and 1g of DHA per serving.
The sunshine vitamin. Vitamin D is typically produced by our own bodies when exposed to direct sun light. Also found in fish, red meat, egg yolks, and a few more food sources.
Supplementing with Vitamin D3 has been studied to have the largest impact on raising blood Vitamin D levels best when compared to Vitamin D2 supplements.
Vitamin D levels are at an almost epidemic level low. The reference range in healthy adults for Vitamin D is typically between 30-80ng/mL. Today in the USA the AVERAGE Vitamin D levels are 20-25ng/mL. (lower than the lowest end of the reference range).
Vitamin D has more and more research supporting it's roll in depression and anxiety, immune function, testosterone and endocrine function, fat-loss/muscle building, cardiovascular health, and so much more.
If your Vitamin D levels are low, it's going to make things hard.
Vitamin D might be paired with fish oil for supplements that truly change your life, and also has research to back it. It has repeatedly been shown to increase testosterone when deficient, combat mental health implications like depression, improve immune system (especially in COVID-19 cases), accelerate weight loss, and accelerate strength and size gains when deficient.
1000-2000IU per day
Vitamin D3 is a fat soluble vitamin so is best taken with a meal
Which to take:
Best overall (tie):
I take this one from Amazon. $13, high quality liquid gels, and enough tablets to last an entire year.
If you don't like taking a pill daily, this is a higher dosed Vitamin D3 soft gel you can take weekly to hit your total recommended intake.
We know what this is. Let me say pre workout is 100% a personal preference. There are many different kinds, the main workout enhancing ingredient being caffeine (although there are stim-free versions) that increase your workout intensity.
If you workout extremely early, work long hours, or if you just have low energy/motivation when it comes to workouts.
Stim-free versions typically aid in the "pump" or blood flow during your workout, focus, and strength.
Caffeine is the main performance enhancing ingredient. Caffeine supplementation actually has been shown to improve aerobic endurance, muscle strength, muscle endurance, anaerobic power, power and speed during training.
1 Serving Daily
30 minutes before training
Which to take (w/ caffeine):
This is my favorite moderate dosed pre workout with 200mg of caffeine. It's got sea salt and a decent dose of Citrulline Malate (for pump) and Beta Alanine for muscular endurance and the "itch" that gives people a tingling sensation under the skin.
Typically when you take higher doses of caffeine you get a crash afterward. But Pulse has 350mg of L-theanine (the calming agent in tea) which gives you the energy and focus without the crash to follow. It's packed with 8g of Citrulline Malate and 3.6g of Beta Alanine, a higher but clinical dose of these ingredients so you actually get what you need.
Clinically dosed stim-free pre workout if you work out closer to bed time or don't need the caffeine boost. Loaded with clinical doses of Citrulline Malate, Beta Alanine, Alpha-GPC (increases power), and Betaine (increases strength and endurance)
One's that make sense depending on your goal
Greens Powder // Multivitamin
Reduce Stress / Fatigue
Libido / Sexual Function
People in extended calorie deficit
People who eat restricted diets
A multivitamin or greens powder a pill or powder supplement with an extended list of vitamins and minerals. Multivitamins are typically synthetic versions of the vitamin (not a bad thing), and greens powders are typically extracted nutrients from plant or food sources compacted into a powder.
You would take one of these to make up for any nutritional gaps not filled by your diet.
If you have a more restricted diet where you're not getting a wide variety of foods this makes the most sense.
The hard part is every multivitamin and every greens powder has a completely different list of ingredients. So knowing which gaps you're trying to fill is essential when picking them out.
Research is limited here because you cannot clearly define "a multivitamin" or "a greens powder" and the research is more based on the individual ingredients. Using trusted brands that do not use proprietary blends (unlisted dosage amounts) and are third party tested is vital here.
Greens powders are extensive and should be looked at depending on what problem you are trying to fix.
For multivitamins - I prefer a gender specific brand since different sexes typically need different nutrients to perform at their best.
1 Serving Daily
(Typically with food)
Which to take (Greens Powder):
This is one of the most trusted brands on the market with an awesome list of adaptogens (which reduce stress) and powerful ingredients like chlorella and spirulina. It's a bit pricy but covers a lot of basis.
I take Genisis not because I have to, but because it has a few key ingredients I want to be apart of my diet. Reishi Mushrooms which help with brain health, immunity, blood sugar levels and more -- and Maca Root for stress, well being, and libido/drive.
Which to take (Multivitamin):
This women's multi has 21+ vitamins and minerals with added Tribulus Terrestris (sexual health + well being), Maca (for libido and drive/energy), and Vitex Agnus-Castus (to reduce side effects from menstruation like cramping and headaches)
This men's multi also has 21+ vitamins and minerals plus Ashwagandha Root (improves strength, immunity, reduces stress/anxiety), Nigella Sativa (lowers blood pressure and may increase testosterone), and COQ10 (reduces inflammation).
If you have a higher protein diet
Gut health supplements range from specific supplements which aid in different parts of the digestion process to pre/probiotics which can help populate the "healthy" bacteria in your gut.
This is based on the individual. I recommend a gut health supplement to most of my clients on a higher protein diet since protein is a bit tougher to digest than carbs/fats.
You may also look into higher dosed probiotics to help populate your gut bacteria after being on an antibiotic medication.
1 Serving Daily
(Typically before food)
Which to take (Digestion):
Onnit nutrition is one of the highest quality products on the market, but come with a price. It comes with a pack of pills you take daily which includes 2 prebiotics, 5 probiotics, digestive enzymes that help with digestion of all macronutrients, and Betaine HCI, a chemical that helps promote stomach acid production to break down food.
One I have been taking since it has a focus on protein digestion. Mentioned above in the protein section, higher protein diets are just better for body composition and overall health. I notice a 2-3 hour period after higher protein meals where I was slowwed down from digestion but this is packed with Bromelain, Pepsin, and Papain which all aid in protein digestion.
For high quality higher dosed probiotics Garden of Life's RAW brand has always been highest tested for live probiotics after delivery and one that I trust if you decide to add a probiotic to your routine.
Cutting below 10% body fat for Men
Yohimbine is a naturally occurring substance found in several plants called an alkaloid (a bitter tasting compound that can cause different kinds of chemical reactions in the human body)
When ingested this affects the body by stimulating the sympathetic nervous system (activating your fight or flight response).
This releases catecholamines (mainly chemicals adrenaline and noradrenaline) into your bloodstream which bind with fat cells and can initiate fat burning.
This is especially helpful when targeting "stubborn" fat as they bind to fat cells that are a bit trickier to get moving.
This only would make sense with two things in place.
1) You're already in a calorie deficit. Yohimbine isn't a "fat burner" and does not defy the first law of thermodynamics. If you're not in a calorie deficit, you're not losing fat.
and 2) You use it in a fasted state. Research shows that the positive effects of yohimbine are negated if insulin levels are higher in the bloodstream (1-4 hours after a meal)
And is best used for fasted exercise.
Studies have shown that when paired with exercise in a fasted state, you can reduce body fat quite a bit more than when exercising without.
Fasted before exercise
Which to take (Digestion):
A simple yohimbine HCI supplement can work wonders and isn't insanely expensive on its own.
Forge is a supplement that takes it one step further. One issue with fasted training is that your body tends to burn through muscle at a quicker rate without there being protein in the bloodstream from your diet. Forge has the clinical dose of Yohimbine along with 2.5g of HMB (a metabolite of the amino acid Leucine which is incredible at preventing muscle breakdown) and CDP-Choline (to improve focus/intensity during fasted training) so you can lose fat while preserving muscle tissue helping you get where you want to go much quicker. This is what I have used towards the end of each cutting phase.
One's to stay away from at all costs
Testosterone boosters are products (usually pills) that advertise that they can boost a mans testosterone (usually claimed by 100-500%+)
Typical ingredients are Fenugreek, D-Aspartic Acid, Horny Goat Weed, Tribulus Terrestris, and others.
Why to stay away:
They make massive claims in the form of "Match the sex drive you had when you were 18!!" or "Build muscle 3x faster!!"
The only problem...
They don't need any evidence to support those claims to make them.
Testosterone is much more dependent on your overall body fat levels, activity levels, blood vitamin D levels, and how much you sleep.
If you want to increase Testosterone, lift heavy weights, make sure you're getting enough vitamin d, have a healthy body fat percentage, and get your sleep.
BCAA's or Branch Chain Amino Acids are a group of three essential amino acids (leucine, isoluecine, and valine.)
These three are grouped together because they're the only three amino acids to have a chain that branches off to the sid
They are considered essential because the body cannot make them on its own and they need to be consumed from your diet.
Amino acids are the building blocks of muscle (remember though, all protein is broken down into amino acids)
Why to stay away:
The problem is, when looked at in research, BCAA's provide no added benefit to training, recovery, or any measure of progress when you are getting a sufficient amount of protein in your diet.
So you are much better off adding a whey protein shake than BCAA's for cost and effectivness.
The one scenario where BCAA's make sense is before fasted training sessions.
*BCAA's unlike protein, don't break a fast but still preserve muscle during exercise. You'd be better off taking HMB but I couldn't leave out the one potential use of these.*
These are products marketed to "clean you out" or to "detox" you.
They claim that the reason you aren't losing weight isn't because you're not able to stay in a calorie deficit (which is the case) -- but because your "system is clogged up with toxins"
Do these products list the specific toxins they "clean" out?
Because lucky for us, the human body does an impeccable job of cleaning itself out on its own.
Unless you're missing a kidney, liver, colon, or lung, you are more than fine when it comes to "toxins"
The reason people think these products work is because for a short period they essentially starve the individual, run their stool (s*** their brains out), completely dehydrate them, and put them in a massive calorie deficit.
So they lose 5lbs+ (of water weight, stool, and a small amount of fat) and they aid it to the success of the "detox" - not the extreme calorie deficit.
The weight is almost immediately gained back within 3-5 days after the diet returns to normal.
Women's branded protein
These are protein supplements that are specifically branded towards women.
They claim to help "burn fat" and "tone" you up instead of the protein supplements men use.
But there's one problem...
Look at the nutrition label.
They're the same f****** product as any other protein supplement.
Obviously protein is incredible for fat loss, and will help hold onto muscle tissue for a leaner, more defined look.
But this is just a marketing to make you spend $10-20 more on the same protein product with a different label.
(most) Fat Burners
Fat burners are supplements that well.. claim to make you lose fat.
The important thing to realize is that if you're not currently losing fat, no supplement in the world will fix that.
There are 3-4 compounds that when used correctly can help with progress but the majority of "fat-burners" on the market are full of sawdust and are just preying on the insecurities of people struggling to lose weight.
The three that can help when used in the right context:
Caffeine, Yohimbine, Ephedrine, and Whey protein (as mentioned above.)
Yohimbine and Ephedrine are best used to target stubborn body fat and none of these will help shed 20-30lbs+.
The vast majority of fat burners are just loaded with stimulants and ingredients that have been proven over and over again to have to effect (CLA, Garcinia Cambodia, Hoodia, etc.)
The stimulants make you "feel" like you're burning fat although that is something you most definitely cannot "feel".
Want to take a test to find out which supplements best fit your individual goals?
Take one here on Legion's site to find what would help best if you're still a bit lost.