Your resource for health, happiness and Physical Activity
Jacob Tanz
12:38 PM

Popular Supplements, are they worth or a Waste of Money


The 3 Popular Supplements that are a Waste of Money

Fat Burning Supplements

The human body is a finely tuned machine, having developed the ability to store extra calories as adipose tissue (fat) for times when food is scarce. Metabolism and fat burn are controlled within fairly tight parameters. So it’s no wonder that few legal options exist to burn any substantial amount of body fat.

Even the handful of mildly effective fat burners (such as caffeine) lead to much less weight loss than eating a bit less each day, or taking a daily walk. Fat burners are also fairly like to have side effects such as sleep disruption (which can mean higher stress and overeating … make you even heavier!) and cardiovascular effects.

Bottom line: most fat burners are a kitchen sink equation, full of things that have zero proof that they work (and may actually set you back by messing up your sleep).


Don’t mistake supplements that don’t work for nutrients you don’t need. Calcium is an important mineral for bone health, but supplementing it is usually a waste of money. Calcium is found naturally in dairy products, including protein supplements. Just one serving of casein protein provides 60% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of calcium!

Supplementing calcium by itself does not substantially improve bone density. You have to take it with other nutrients like vitamin D, vitamin K, and magnesium need to be taken alongside calcium to benefit bone health. The combination of all these form a stack, which is when supplements work together towards a common goal (don’t worry, I’ll discuss stacking in the future).

Calcium deficiencies are rare, and can be easily fixed by slightly modifying your diet. Calcium supplementation is largely unnecessary.


Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a molecule made by the cells to help the body produce energy. It is a very popular supplement because it’s marketed as an antioxidant, is supposed to be heart-healthy, and is claimed to have ‘bioenergetic health effects.’

CoQ10 is a very important molecule for people that have suffered a heart attack, since CoQ10 supplementation can reduce the risk of a second heart attack. It also may be useful for those on statin therapy, because certain side effects may be caused by statins reducing CoQ10 levels. CoQ10 may have an antioxidant effect, but current evidence suggests it is quite weak, making it an unnecessary supplement for people with healthy hearts.

So if you're not taking statins or haven't suffered a heart attack, or don't have increased risk for heart disease, don’t fall for the marketing: skip CoQ10 supplementation.

3 More Supplements that are a Waste of Money

Testosterone boosters

Correcting low testosterone can be a life changer -- sudden gains at the gym, improved mood, once again feeling randy in the bedroom. But T-boosting supplements simply do not deliver on their promises, especially for those with normal testosterone looking to get even higher.

The problem is that supplement companies aren’t outlawed from cherry picking rat study results to fool you into thinking there’s good evidence for their T-boosters. Some T-boosters can in fact increase libido, but have no effect on your actual testosterone levels. So you may feel like something is happening, but it they’re not actually increasing your testosterone levels.

Even the rare supplement that has an effect on testosterone will have very minor effects. Prescription testosterone products from a physician can double or triple testosterone, while an effective supplement might increase T by 30% or so. So to maintain healthy testosterone levels, stick to what’s shown to work: steady doses of sleep and weightlifting, and enough food and fat to support hormone levels.


Glutamine is an essential amino acid that plays a variety of roles in the body. It’s found in muscle tissue, so meat products have high levels of glutamine. Adding glutamine to a muscle cell causes the cell to grow.

Unfortunately, supplementing glutamine doesn’t work for building muscle. The glutamine never makes it to the muscles because the intestines absorb the glutamine and only release a bit to the muscles (and only as you need them). So even if you supplement a lot, the intestines end up hoarding it for themselves!

So supplementing glutamine for muscle gains does not work. Supplementing glutamine IS good for gut health! Still, if your goal is to improve gut health, just supplement whey protein. It has high glutamine levels and is cheaper than just buying glutamine itself.


Branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) are three amino acids that marketers claim improve muscular endurance and growth. The main amino acid is called leucine. There is evidence that suggests supplementing leucine in a fasted state (meaning you haven’t eaten) can improve muscle protein synthesis, which is part of the process of building muscle.

People interested in building muscle will experience more benefits from eating a high protein meal instead of supplementing leucine. Protein contains BCAAs anyway, so unless you are specifically training fasted, whey protein is a far more effective supplement than BCAAs.

BONUS: Carbohydrate Supplementation

Supplement stores are filled with fancy carbohydrate supplements promising enhanced glycogen replenishment. It is marketed that faster glycogen replenishment means better muscular performance … except that most studies don’t find much benefit from glycogen replenishment supplements.

Rest days should be a part of any workout program because glycogen will naturally replenish during rest. Unless you’re an extreme endurance athlete who prefers gel carbohydrate supplements to liquids, a simple sports drink will render a fancy carbohydrate supplement unnecessary.

3 Supplements that Absolutely Work

Fish Oil

Fish oil is a popular supplement because it provides a variety of health benefits. Inside your cells, you have a ratio of omega-6 fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids. The standard western diet is high very in omega-6 fatty acids, so supplementation of fish oil (a great source for omega-3 fatty acids) can balance the ratio, which improves overall health.

The most noticeable results from fish oil supplementation include benefits for severe depression, joint pain reduction (when supplemented by athletes in high doses), and a powerful triglyceride reducing effect. Fish oil’s effect on triglycerides is so potent that it is also sold as pharmaceutical grade fish oil, under the brand name Lovaza.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D supplementation can improve mood and provide long-term protection against cognitive decline and bone deterioration. It stacks very well with vitamin K and magnesium. Stacking means that these supplements, when taken together, have a more powerful effect than taking the supplements individually.

Vitamin D’s effects are sometimes exaggerated, but that doesn’t mean it’s ineffective - it simply went from underused to overhyped. While it is not a cure-all, vitamin D is cheap, safe, and effective for long term supplementation. People in cold places or overcast areas should particularly take it.


Creatine is one of the most popular supplement among weight lifters, and for good reason. It’s basically a source of energy for your cells. Extra energy for your cells help you power through intense activity while also increasing the rate of muscular growth.

Creatine has a lot of evidence to support its safety (it’s found naturally in food), plus it’s cheap and can be supplemented indefinitely. Creatine is a compound with a variety of health effects, including benefits to physical performance, muscle growth, and liver health. Even better, research is indicating that because it’s a source of energy for your cells, it may even have neuroprotective and other helpful benefits!

BONUS: N-Acetylcysteine

N-Acetylcysteine (NAC) stands out from the crowd of antioxidants on the supplement store shelf because it’s actually effective when supplemented. NAC is needed to produce the antioxidant enzyme called glutathione, which exerts a general protective effect on the body.

NAC can also be supplemented for a variety of cognitive benefits, which include the treatment of drug addiction, reducing irritability and obsession, and protecting against cognitive decline.

NAC is also one of the few supplements that might actually remove heavy metals from the body. Though many detoxifying supplements are claimed to have this effect, NAC is one of the few that delivers.


Jacob Tanz
1:15 PM

Five Most Frequently Asked Questions

1.    What’s the truth about sweetener? 
Are substitutes healthy or not?  The human body doesn't require sweetener to survive or thrive.  In fact, when we take in too much or try to trick our systems with artificial sweeteners, we actually interfere with normal metabolic function.  Which of course leads to cravings for more sugar along with weight gain and disturbances in appetite regulation.  The artificial sweeteners are no better.  Both artificial and real sweetener, have been shown to lead to increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, dementia and many other subtler imbalances I refer to as the spectrum of diabesity.

2.    What’s the deal with eating big fish?
 In moderation, are high mercury fish ok to eat? No!  That's like saying, in moderation, cocaine is ok to take a line of…  Toxins are toxic to the body – period. Refrain from eating shark, king mackerel, tilefish and swordfish and focus more on lower mercury fish and seafood such as sardines, salmon, cod, sole or shrimp.  For a guide on mercury levels of seafood.

3.    What are the most common food allergies?
 Many people don't realize that they have sensitivities to foods most prevalent in our SAD (standard American diet).  The more we eat volatile foods, the more risk they pose to our immune system.  Eventually, if we over consume some of these foods we may develop a low grade response to them which causes systemic inflammation.  The most common are gluten, dairy, eggs, corn, soy and yeast.  Peanuts and nightshade vegetables are fairly common too but seen more in people with autoimmune disease.  The biochemical response is different than a true food allergy which is actually more acute and immediate.  Because a food sensitivity tends to be delayed it can be quite difficult to nail down.  

4.    How important is eating organic on my long term health?
Ultimately it would be great if we all ate all organic foods.  Pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides or fungicides are not natural and furthermore, pose a great danger to our health.  Many of these chemical agricultural inputs may be carcinogenic or have unknown longterm effects that we just don't understand yet.  Unfortunately, eating 100% organic is very expensive which is really too bad – it sends the message that being healthy requires wealth which it most certainly does not!  The goal is to eat a variety of plant-based foods with a big focus on antioxidant rich vegetables.  Do the best you can to select as many organic foods as possible.  For a list of the most important foods to prioritize when shopping for organic produce, you can check out the 

5.    GMO-How bad is it for my long term health?
  When a plant is genetically modified, genes from one species of a plant (or even animal) are transferred to another, hoping for a more robust crop.  Our immune system is set up to attack that which is foreign or unrecognized.  And because these GMO crops are not natural and were synthetically altered in a lab, our bodies essentially never got the memo.  So, they may set up an attack against the proteins in these foods when they encounter them in the bloodstream.  The main thing I'm concerned about is how this immune reaction, or attack, impacts the gut of our health.  Over time, if we continuously bombard ourselves with GMO foods, our gut can take a hit and we may develop what’s known as leaky gut.  The main idea here is that what causes leaky gut can play a role in the onset of obesity, diabetes, allergies, autoimmune disease, and all the other issues that I refer to as diabesity.   And because we don’t know the long term consequences of eating these foods, it is best we don’t subject ourselves to the risky business of agricultural research