- Supplements are only meant to supplement a diet, so you can build ripped muscle without them.
- Your main focus for fat loss should be on diet, training, and sleep.
- Very few sports supplements actually have scientific evidence that proves they work.
I know the feeling. You walk into the store and get hit by a pungent perfume of protein powder. Your heart trembles, and not just because of pre-workout. Supplements!
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Truth is, you don’t need supplements to build ripped muscle (or reach any goal), as they only supplement a good diet and training plan, hence the name.
So, which ones work for building muscle, and which ones don’t?
What Classifies As “Supplements”?
“First canned tuna, now your protein powders — what’s next?! Creatine?!”
My mom, sometime in my teens
Despite all the trash, we spoke about our parents behind their backs because they didn’t want to buy us a tub of creatine that was clearly on sale, a lot of supplements simply don’t work. There are a massive amount of tricks these companies use to get the most amount of money in their wallets.
But what exactly classifies as a supplement?
According to the FDA, a supplement can be described as “…to add to or supplement the diet and are different from conventional food. Generally, to the extent a product is intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent diseases, it is a drug, even if it is labeled as a dietary supplement. Supplements are ingested and come in many forms, including tablets, capsules, soft gels, gel caps, powders, bars, gummies, and liquids.”
As you can see, that description is quite broad. For the most part, when it comes to fitness enthusiasts, the most commonly known supplements are protein, creatine, amino acids, fat loss supplements, fish oil, and pre-workout.
These all “serve” different purposes, and you can use them to help you gain weight, lose fat, or even lower your overall stress levels. Or so they claim…
Unfortunately, a lot of companies have mastered the cunning art of marketing products to make you think you might be getting the edge. But in reality, you have a bigger bill, a bit of a placebo boost, and that’s about it.
Before we get into meticulous myth-busting, let’s answer the main question posed by this article.
How Long Does It Take To Get Ripped Without Supplements?
I’m not gonna beat around the bush — You don’t need any single supplement to reach your goals. Unless your goal is to compete in World’s Strongest Man or Mr. Olympia or manage to stay ripped all year round, in which case you might need them.
Remember, a supplement is only there to fill a hole in your current plan or to supplement a diet plan that is lacking in something.
For instance, vegans would supplement with vitamin B12 because they have to since plants don’t produce any vitamin B12. Supplementing can’t make up for a diet full of low-nutrient junk food, either.
Thus, you can get ripped in 10 – 12 weeks — granted, you’re relatively lean to start with. The more fat you have, the longer it’ll take for you to get ripped.
But rather than asking how long it’ll take, we can do the reverse to calculate how many weeks it will take me to lose “x” amount of weight.
A good guideline for weight loss (and weight gain, to be honest) is losing or gaining 0.5 – 1.0% of total body weight per week, depending on what your goal is.
Let’s look at an example.
Josh is a male, 34 years old, 200 lbs, 6’0’, and has 20% body fat. He wants to be under 15%. Thus, a loss of 5% body fat is needed.
5% of 200 is 10 lbs, meaning if he lost 0.5 – 1.0% per week (1 – 2l bs), he could lose his 10 lbs in 5 – 10 weeks.
Will everything come from fat? Debatable, but at least 90% will if he follows these tips:
- Train with resistance and practice progressive overload.
- Eat a high-protein diet of at least 1.2g of protein per pound of body weight.
- Sleep and recover like it’s his second job.
See how supplements weren’t even mentioned? That’s because they aren’t needed, but as my mom would describe them, “they’re a want, not a need.”
Can You Get Shredded Without Whey Protein?
Whey protein is actually a waste product from the cheese-making process. Yup, that’s right. You’re paying for waste. That might be an oversimplification, as they do need to refine and purify it, and that’s why it’s so darn expensive.
Whey protein (or any protein powder) can be used to help you reach a protein goal during the day. They don’t have a magical power that allows you to build more muscle mass, and they certainly don’t have anything “more” anabolic about them compared to food. They have very high bioavailability, though. (If you want to be a science nut, read this study.)
We know that protein can help with fat loss, and there are numerous studies proving this.
But the question we need to answer now remains, is whey protein going to help you lose weight?
The protein in the protein powder might, but so would chicken. Fish. Beef. Tofu. Hell, even a seitan would help! The magical “bullet” here is protein and not protein/whey powders.
Yes, you can get shredded without whey protein, but you cannot get shredded without protein! This is because protein will allow you to:
Retain Muscle Mass
Protein is the only food source we can eat that actually drives muscle protein synthesis or muscle growth.
When you’re in a calorie deficit, the body might use muscle tissue as energy unless you eat enough protein and train with resistance.
Might Help With Hunger
Most contemporary studies found that there is actually no difference in how full foods make you feel. However, most overall studies show otherwise. The vast majority of people anecdotally report that protein tends to fill them up more and help them feel less hungry.
Protein Might Help With More Fat Loss
When we talk about how food digests, we talk about the thermic effect of food or TEF. This is a very small consideration. However, it still makes up around 10% of your total calorie expenditure.
Protein has the highest TEF, and by a large margin. This means you get much less energy from 100 calories of protein vs. 100 calories of carbs or fat.
Another thing to note is that protein is (excuse my French) incredibly sh*t at being used for energy. Like… Imagine if you hired Micheal Bay to direct Titanic. The boat would blow up in the harbor before even leaving.
We know from studies published in 2014 and 2015 that protein will hardly ever turn into fat, even if you massively overfeed on the stuff. So, eat more protein, fewer carbs/fat, and — boom — you have a more fat loss (in moderation, of course).
Best Supplements To Get Ripped
I know, I know. You’re just rearing to ask, “ok, bro, so, like, which ones should I take?”
Well, my little aggressive friend, here’s a list of ones that work and you can use in your endeavor to either gain muscle, lose fat, or improve recovery:
Whey Protein (Fat Loss and/or Muscle Gain)
Whey protein can help you increase your protein amount for the day. This can help with fat loss and muscle gain.
Creatine (Fat Loss, Muscle Gain, and Recovery)
Creatine is known to increase adenosine triphosphate (ATP) stores in the body, which is the fuel source we use for short and intense activities like lifting. Creatine can help with fat loss, muscle gain, and even recovery.
The only people who should avoid creatine are those that suffer from pre-existing kidney issues.
Caffeine (Fat Loss)
You may have heard influencers say that if caffeine were discovered today, it’d be banned. This is probably true. See, caffeine can help with energy, fighting fatigue, and possibly even fat loss as well!
Pre-Workout (Energy, Fat Loss, Muscle Gain, and Recovery)
This dubious concoction of caffeine and other boosters is something that gets a lot of flack, but in reality, there are a few things commonly found in pre-workout that do work.
Citrulline increases nitric oxide, which boosts muscle endurance and strength. Caffeine does what it does. Beta-alanine acts as a buffer against a buildup of lactic acid, meaning you can train for longer.
Amino Acids (Recovery)
Amino acids are some of the most commonly used supplements on the market. Sippable, refreshing, and loaded with those sweet, sweet aminos that build muscle.
Well, they could help you retain muscle mass when you haven’t eaten in a while, but they won’t help with fat loss at all. Also, EAA (essential amino acids), not BCAA (branch chain amino acids).
So, Do You Have To Use These?
No, and to be honest, I wouldn’t spend money on any of these unless there was a need. You can get everything you need with a good diet, proper sleep and recovery techniques, and a proper training plan.
* Note: There are some other supplements that haven’t stood the test of time and might have some benefit, but the scientific verdict isn’t out on these fully yet. These include green tea, ashwagandha, and nootropic pre-workouts.
** Seconds Note: Before you take any supplement, make sure you are healthy and that your medical practitioner has A-OK’d you to take this particular supplement. It’s unlikely that whey will do you harm, sure, but rather safe than sorry.
Which Supplements Do I Need To Avoid?
Without stepping on too many toes, let’s look at some tips you can use to tell a bad supplement from a good one:
With most supplements and drugs, an effective dose is needed. For instance, 20mg of caffeine won’t do much. 200mg? That’s another story.
Supplement companies will often say, “contains compound ‘X.’” However, when you flip the bottle, you’ll be disappointed to learn it only contains a fraction of what an effective dose is.
These aren’t necessarily bad. However, I prefer knowing what goes into my body. Proprietary blends don’t have to say how much of each ingredient is in the supplement.
If you react badly, how do you know which ingredient caused it?
No Government Markers
This goes without saying, but look for the proper legal markers and information on any supplement to ensure you are getting good quality products.
Doing research on the company and reading reviews will also help. Read what specific ingredients do, how they work, and what you can expect from them.
So, Do You Need Supplements To Get Ripped?
No, not at all. No supplement company has ever made that claim because they can’t, and they know it! There are companies that’ll try and make you believe this is what you need, but in reality, you don’t.
That said, there are some that do grant a benefit:
- Protein powder can help you increase your protein amount, which can help in the dieting process.
- Creatine is known to increase strength, size, and even recovery as well.
- Caffeine can give you an extra boost and help combat hunger.
- Pre-workouts can also give you an extra boost.
- Amino acids may help with recovery if you undereat protein.
Apart from these, there really aren’t many supplements that’ll make a massive performance shift. That doesn’t mean anything else is bogus, but they haven’t stood the test of time, and they haven’t been proven to work again and again in studies.