When it comes to working out and getting in shape, it’s easy to overcomplicate things.

Instead of focusing on the fundamentals and staying patient, we get sidetracked by a lot of unnecessary details and look for shortcuts – ways to “cheat the system,” so to speak.

Supplements fall into this category.  

Unfortunately, a lot of men are under the impression that to get an amazing body, they have to make sure their “supplement game” is on point.  

These are the guys that often spend hundreds of dollars per month at CVS and Walgreens stocking up on powders, pills and juices, all in the never-ending quest to find the next great thing.

So, today’s article is all about supplements.  Specifically, we’ll be talking about why most of them are a waste of your money, what you should focus on instead, and how to make smart purchases on the ones that do make a difference.

The 80/20 Principle Of Dieting And Working Out

If you’ve read anything on productivity, you’ve likely heard of the Pareto distribution (or the “80/20” principle). For those of you who haven’t, it states that 80 percent of your results in whatever it is you’re trying to do are going to come from 20 percent of your efforts.

Or, in plain-speak, focus on the few things that matter and don’t worry about the rest.

pareto principle

This applies to fitness and working out, regardless of your specific goals.

So, let’s break it down.  If losing fat is a priority for you, here are the 20 percent of your efforts that will yield 80 percent of your results:

  • Eating fewer calories
  • Lifting weights (so you’ll have muscle when all the fat comes off)
  • Doing moderate amounts of cardio
  • Eat enough protein and vegetables so that you stay satiated and don’t end up bingeing

There you go – four things you need to focus on.

What’s that?  You’re focusing on gaining muscle? In that case, you should:

  • Eat slightly more calories
  • Lift weights (hard and heavy)
  • Focus on getting your extra calories from carbs rather than fat
  • Get enough sleep

Notice how nowhere on this list are fat burning pills, BCAA’s, green tea extract, or any magical muscle gaining powders.

The Point Of Diminishing Returns

Now, with that said, some supplements can be helpful (including a few of the ones I just listed)…but probably not for you.  

Chances are if you’re reading this, you’re probably a regular fellow with a non-fitness related career. 

Sure, you may be in better shape than the general population (or at least working towards it).  

But odds are you’re not making a living off your body.  Because those are the people who supplements are for.  

They’re for people who are already in incredible shape, have already maxed out 95 percent of their results, and who need every little edge they can get because their career depends on it. These include pro bodybuilders, fitness models, and high-end personal trainers.

These are the guys who are already 6 percent body fat and trying to cut to 5 percent.  

Or the ones who already have 70 extra pounds of lean muscle and are fighting to gain that extra 1-2 pounds per year.

You don’t need to worry about any of that.  At the end of the day, for the vast majority of men, having an elite body just isn’t worth it.  

Put it this way – the difference between 20 percent body fat and 12 percent body fat is significant.  The difference between 9 percent and 6 percent is not.

If you just stick to the fundamentals, you can still build a great body, look good naked, and feel amazing.

You don’t need supplements for that.

Which Supplements Actually Work

Now that we’ve trashed the whole idea of supplements as the key to success, let’s take a step back and talk about which ones’ actually work. While most of the garbage you see on the shelves at CVS isn’t worth the plastic it’s packaged in, some basic supplements can be helpful if you know what you’re doing.

Protein Powder: While you don’t need to go crazy with it, most guys could stand to take in a little more protein in their diets, and whey (or casein) protein is a fantastic way of doing that (especially if you don’t particularly like eating a lot of meat).

workout supplements

Plus, a lot of the newer powders on the market actually taste pretty damn good.

Creatine: Creatine is one of those rare gems in the supplement world that actually lives up to the hype.  Mainly used to help lifters recover from their workouts, it’s been demonstrated over the last few decades to be safe and effective.  And the best part is, it’s dirt cheap.   

Take one serving before and after your workouts.

Vitamins And Minerals:  Thanks to our modern processed diet, the vast majority of us don’t get certain essential vitamins and minerals that are (or should be) naturally occurring in the food we eat.

These substances play a vital role in the body.  And if you’re not getting enough of them, taking them in the form of supplements can be helpful.

The following is a list of common vitamins and minerals that most people don’t get enough of:

  • Magnesium (hugely important for proper sleep and recovery)
  • Zinc
  • Vitamin D (common deficiency if you don’t get enough sun
  • Calcium
  • Potassium

Remember, working out and staying in shape is hard enough as it is – you don’t need to make it more difficult by complicating things.  Watch your diet, hit the gym, stick to the fundamentals, and you’ll be well on your way to a killer body you can be proud of.