The Scoop on Supplements

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I get a lot of questions about supplements: What do I think about this one? Does this one really help you lose weight? I’m pregnant (or nursing)—can I drink this dietary supplement? Can I take this one if I have {health condition}? And so on…So I figured the time to talk about this is now!

First of all, what is a supplement? I turned to the experts at the FDA for this one:

A dietary supplement is a product intended for ingestion that contains a “dietary ingredient” intended to add further nutritional value to (supplement) the diet. A “dietary ingredient” may be one, or any combination, of the following substances: a vitamin, a mineral, an herb or other botanical, an amino acid, a dietary substance for use by people to supplement the diet by increasing the total dietary intake, a concentrate, metabolite, constituent, or extract.

So now that we’re all on the same page, and to keep things easy, I’m going to refer to all of these simply as Supplements.

Now to the nitty-gritty. I’m sure those of you who’ve asked me about supplements haven’t been too excited when I’ve answered something like, “Please consult with your healthcare team before taking any dietary supplement.” I know—you wanted to know what I think, or if you should take that particular supplement, or if it would help you with this or that. You wanted THE answer, and I don’t blame you. We’re bombarded on a daily basis with info about supplements that claim to be able to do magical things for us, or we’ve had a friend or family member who’s had great success with a particular supplement so they preach it from the mountaintops, and since we all want to be healthier and feel better (and maybe have those muscles that “he/she” has), we take these supplements blindly, hoping they will perform their magic on us and help us reach our goals!

Here are the reasons I always give this supplement disclaimer (and they’re pretty darn important!):

  1. Supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA like prescription drugs are, so you never really know if a supplement is safe, or if it actually contains the ingredients the label says it does in the amount stated, or even if those ingredients are pure.
  2. Supplements can interact with other supplements and/or prescription medications in a dangerous way.
  3. The science backing up a particular supplement might not really be true science, or might not have undergone the correct testing.
  4. Manufacturers don’t have to go through any processes to prove their supplements do what they say they’ll do or disclose any side effects (even when they know they exist).
  5. Some supplements can be dangerous if you have a known or unknown health condition.
  6. What works for one person might not work for another, or might even be downright dangerous based on #2 and/or #5 above.
  7. Your healthcare team knows your health history, any health issues you have, and any medications and/or other supplements you’re already taking.

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Now…the two questions I’ve been asked a lot since I first shared my competition prep (aka “booty building”) journey: “Heidi, what are you doing to build your butt?” And, “How are you getting ready for your competition?” Well, while the entire journey could be a book in and of itself, here’s a bit of it for you, relating to supplements at least: I was making great progress towards reaching my goals through a ton of hard work and more food than I’m used to eating (my coaches have had me eating up to 2700 calories a day!), but I felt like my gains were slowing down after a while. I figured my body was simply adapting to my new way of eating and training. After a lot of research, consultation with my amazing coaches (who I LOVE because they advocate the healthy way to achieve my goals), and a lot of thought, I chose to start taking some supplements that have been tested, tried, and proven by some of the world’s best athletes. Trust me when I say I was hesitant to start taking anything! I’ve always been of the train of thought, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and “Play one card at a time…not your whole hand at once!” So to me, the thought of taking a supplement or pre-workout only made me laugh! For real…I teased Chris all the time for his reliance on his “pre” for a good workout!!! LOL. And the only supplements I’ve ever taken are a multivitamin and fish oil for overall health. That’s it. So this was a huge decision for me, especially since I feel like a lot of so-called supplements on the market are incredibly low quality and are really just a waste of money. It was also a big decision for me because I knew I’d have to eat my words and apologize for all of my teasing toward Chris for his supplement obsession—ha!!

A bit of sciency stuff first so you can better understand my decision. The supplements I take are made up of Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs). BCAAs have some incredibly important roles and functions in our bodies—including building and repairing muscles. And since building muscle is at the heart of my goals right now, supplementing with some BCAAs seemed the way to go. Here’s some great info on BCAAs:

  • BCAAs can treat some diseases, prevent fatigue, and improve concentration, as well as improve exercise performance, help keep protein from breaking down during exercise, and help muscles retain more protein.
  • BCAAs can also help increase glucose levels, which can help make your workouts more effective.

“Yes, please!” to all of the above! ☺

Curious as to what I’m supplementing all my hard work with? Here you go:

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  1. Metabolic Nutrition Tri-Pep : Loaded with amino acids and other vitamins and minerals, stimulates protein synthesis, and increases performance, muscle cell volume, and mental focus. It surprisingly tastes really good too! I drink this a few times a day with meals…ensuring to take before and after my workouts.
  2. Evogen EVP : Loaded with BCAAs, helps with recovery and amino acid concentrations in the blood, increases glycogen levels and protein absorption, limits muscle tissue breakdown, and helps increase endurance, strength, and muscle size. I take this once a day at the same time I take the RSP (below).
  3. RSP AgmaGen : Contains Agmatine Sulfate , increases the oxygen supply to the muscles for max workout capacity, helps support a healthy immune system and combat free radicals, increases workout endurance and recovery, and helps with muscle build, recovery, and repair.

So, the million $$ question: Are these supplements working for me? It’s only been two weeks, but I do feel like I am making some good, solid muscle gains. However, I have changed up my training and my nutrition just a bit since my last competition, so it’s hard to tell if these gains are due to the supplements, the training and nutrition, or a bit of both. But as with anything, consistency and trusting in the process are the keys. So for now, I am simply listening to the pros and trusting the process. And I promise—there will be a follow up post to come!

Before I close, I do want to address one more thing that I think many women might be thinking as they read this, or even thinking about supplements. By taking these, you won’t “blow up” as I used to think and have heard other girls fear as well. Women seem to have this phobia of “getting big,” and I was one of them back in the day! What I didn’t realize was that by increasing the size, strength, and capacity of my muscles, my body would be more efficient at burning fat, and my jeans would actually look better! 😉 As for the number on the scale—yes, as your muscles grow, the number will rise, but why do we need to let the number on the scale stop us from health, happiness, and our best body yet? Why is it so hard for us to truly grasp that muscle weighs more than fat and just because someone may weigh 100 lbs doesn’t mean they are fit. But please trust me when I say I have in no way, shape, or form “blown up” since taking these. I actually feel leaner and denser muscles.

Time to get back to my kiddos, but here are some general takeaways from this fire hose full of information:

  • Do your own research, chat with your healthcare team, look to professionals who advocate healthy habits and practices, and then do what is best for YOU!
  • Supplements are not a “magic” pill. They can be a supplement to a great nutrition plan and regular exercise to help you reach your goals.
  • If you’re not sure about a certain supplement, or if it sounds to good to be true, then it probably is. I say better to be safe than sorry—don’t take it.
  • Remember—the “proof is in the pudding.” Look to those who have similar goals to yours who have done it the healthy way. Ask what they did, and then follow suit! That has been my recipe for success. 🙂

Xoxo,

Heidi

Want to learn more? Here are some lists of dietary supplements, including uses, dosages, effectiveness, and drug interactions. But PLEASE talk to your healthcare team first (am I sounding like a broken record yet?):

Want to learn even more? Check out these sites:


61 Comments

  1. Caroline - December 15, 2016

    Was a follow up post published yet? This was written in 2015, and only 2 weeks after Heidi started this supplement protocol. I would like to know if she still recommend the same supplements now, and if she gives some credit to the supplements for her results or if she could have the same results without and why (energy level, muscle gain, recovery etc.).

    Thanks!

  2. christine - December 12, 2016

    Is it safe to take Alkalete pill? 🙂

    • Team Powell - December 13, 2016

      Hi Christine: It’s best to discuss any supplements with your healthcare team. 🙂

  3. Alina - December 9, 2016

    Hi Heidi
    Thanks for the great article! My husband and I admire you and Chris! I will also consult my OB on this, but we are looking to get pregnant and I’m wondering what, if any, protein or BCAA’s you took while pregnant?
    Thanks again for being an inspiration!

    • Team Powell - December 9, 2016

      Hi Alina: It’s best to discuss any supplements with your healthcare team first while pregnant. We wish you the best! 🙂

  4. C - November 18, 2016

    I have a quick question. Is it okay to take a fibre supplement, such as psyllium husk, on low carb days?

  5. Rese - September 26, 2016

    Hi Heidi,

    Do you mix the Evogen EVP with the RSP AgmaGen, or do you drink each separately?

    Thanks,
    Rese

  6. Ashley - August 8, 2016

    Hi! My name is Ashley and I am wondering if Hedi takes anything or recommends anything for boosting your metabolism?

    • Team Powell - August 8, 2016

      Hi Ashley: I’m not sure which supplements Heidi takes in addition to the ones she mentions in this post, but I do know she recommends using whole foods and exercise to boost your metabolism. 🙂

  7. Natasha - March 2, 2016

    Hey guys, it’s me Natasha again! I hate to keep bugging you with questions but I follow you guys on fb (heidi’s page) and a couple other carb cycling pages. One is chris powell extreme weightloss challenge. Anyway I asked a question there and ghit a rapid response. Actually several within a few minutes. And as much as I want and would love to believe that you guys (teampowell) would get back to me that quick, I’m a tad but skeptical. Then they recommended nutritional supplements from a website for me to try. Now I don’t mean to offend anyone, but I just wanted to double check that this is a legit group and I should look into the suggested product. Thanks So much! Again I don’t mean to offend, I love you guys

  8. Adna - January 22, 2016

    I love Heidi and Chris Powell and I see them as great motivators in keep us healthy and happy.
    Because of that I decided to try the Tri-pep after I saw this article. Unhappiness I had a very bad allergic reaction from this product. I’m not saying the product is bad, however, it is important to know that, people need to be aware of the two types of dye they use. Even tough many products have the red #40, I think the mix between types was what cause my allergic reaction.
    After I read about I learned that they are toxic and can even cause cancer.
    Please be careful.

  9. Robin - December 29, 2015

    Just wondering if you have heard of Thrive by Le-Vel and what you thought of it? It’s a 3-step nutritional program consisting of 2 capsules, a DFT (Patch), and a Lifestyle Mix (shake). There is also a pre-workout product called “Activate.”

  10. Abbey - November 2, 2015

    If I ate fiber cereals for breakfast (example fiber one) then that would mean I have less than half of my carbs the rest of the day.
    I’m a month in to c.cycling right not and I’m writing it down/ I’m counting my grams. So that’s where the question comes from- how can I eat a 28g carb fiber one cereal for my breakfast and have enough carbs throughout the day without going over.

    • Team Powell - November 3, 2015

      As long as you’re following the portion size guide, you should still be okay eating your cereal as the carb part of your breakfast. And that amount of carbs for one carb portion is really not high, especially when you subtract the fiber grams. Hope that helps!

  11. Abbey - November 1, 2015

    Hey guys
    I’m looking for the best way to get my fiber. I used to eat fiber one cereals etc but now using the carb cycling I don’t want to use up most of my carbs on one meal (like for breakfast). Is there a supplement that would best meet my needs. Thanks!

    • Team Powell - November 2, 2015

      Hi Abbey: Since you’ll be eating veggies on both days, those do contain some fiber, so that should help. As far as a fiber supplement, it’s best to discuss any supplements with your healthcare team. And you can still have your cereal as the carb portion of your breakfast if you’d like to, since every breakfast – on both low- and high-carb days – is a high-carb meal. Hope that helps!

  12. Reuben - October 10, 2015

    hey Heidi

    i am so grateful for your support i wanna give a try on once desired supplement

  13. Courtney - October 7, 2015

    Hi! Like so many others, I have been inspired by the show. After buying Chris’ Lose for Life book, I had the tools I needed to get started. I’m on my third week of carb cycling, ( llhllhr)Not sure which plan it is called. In the two weeks, I’ve lost 5.2 kgs, happy with that! As with your program, I intend to divide my weight loss in 3 quarters. I need to lose 44 kg all together and plan to lose 22 kgs after the first three months. How much training do y’all recommend a day? My goal is high, but I hope it isn’t unrealistic. Thanks so much ❤️😊

  14. Tracy - October 6, 2015

    Hi Heidi and Chris – I’m not even sure where to begin. I’ve lost about 100 lbs, and now I’m stuck. I have been for a couple of years now. In the last 3 years, I’ve only managed to lose about 30 lbs. I’m glad the scale is still moving in that direction, but I still have a long way to go (I need to lose about 70 more lbs. I’m 5’1″ and weight 210) I have a very small appetite. When I “diet” I seem to have trouble ending my day with more than 600-700 calories. I try to eat more frequently, but I get full soooo easily. When I try to eat healthier, I barely get any calories in, and I feel sluggish throughout the day. To give an example, a typical breakfast for me (I try to pack in a lot of protein in the morning) is 2 eggs, over easy. (no butter or oil, cooked in a nonstick skillet) along with a serving of turkey sausage, and 2 slices of low calorie multi-grain toast. (sarah lee, 45 calorie bread) I’m at work now, so I can’t look, but I think that is around 290 calories for the entire breakfast. Lunch is either a salad, tuna salad (without bread) or a veggie burger without bread. Dinner varies. Tonights dinner was spaghetti squash, with a little bit of spaghetti sauce. If I try to snack in between meals, then I’m too full to eat at the next meal. I try to drink at least 105 oz of water per day, (about 1/2 my body weight) but when I do, the water makes me so full that I can’t really eat at all. Exercise has become more difficult, because of feeling so sluggish all the time.

    Sorry for the LONG post. What I’m getting at, is that I need some advice on how to incorporate more (healthy) calories, without having to actually eat more food. Is this possible?

    • Team Powell - October 7, 2015

      Hi Tracy: It sounds like you’re definitely on the right track to achieving your goals, and congratulations on losing 100 pounds! That’s amazing! And yes, it is possible to eat healthy foods in the right amounts to achieve your goals. You might be interested in checking out Chris and Heidi’s carb cycling program (exercise and nutrition), and see if there are some things you can add to what you’re already doing. You can learn about the basics of their program here: http://heidipowell.net/9060. Everything you’ll need to know and do is outlined for you, so choose a cycle and go! You can do this!

  15. Suzanne - October 6, 2015

    Hi!

    When during the day do you take the evogen and rsp?

    • Team Powell - October 7, 2015

      Hi Suzanne: Heidi takes some once a day and others closer to her workout time. It would be best to chat with your healthcare team, consult the directions on any packaging of any supplements you choose to take, and then follow their recommendations. Good luck!

  16. Suzanne - October 6, 2015

    I started carb cycling about 2 weeks ago after reading your book. On my low-carb days I have no energy to workout at all. Would BCAAs help give me more energy for my workouts, or would you recommend another pre-workout supplement?

    • Team Powell - October 6, 2015

      Hi Suzanne: You should still be able to work out while carb cycling even on low-carb days. If you work out intensely, you might want to try the Fit Cycle, which has the most high-carb days of any cycle: http://heidipowell.net/2719/carb-cycling-the-fit-cycle/. And double check that you’re getting enough calories – 1200 on low-carb days and 1500 on high-carb day. Hope that helps!

  17. Alondra - October 6, 2015

    How can I contact or email Chris or Heidi?

  18. HELEN LUNA - October 5, 2015

    Holaaa quisiera saber que dieta podria llevar ya que me informaron aproximadamente hace un mes que padezco de hipotiroidismo, espero que pueda ayudarme porque si necesito saber que hacer para bajar de peso. Gracias

    • Team Powell - October 6, 2015

      Hi Helen: Here’s a post from this blog that outlines Chris and Heidi’s carb cycling program: http://heidipowell.net/9060. It will teach you everything you need to know and do to achieve your goals! Please discuss this program with your healthcare team first, and then follow their recommendations. You can do this!

  19. Buck S. - October 5, 2015

    Hi Heidi! I had a quick question for you if you find the time…are there any supplements that help prevent weight-lifting induced stretch marks? I’ve heard that vitamin C helps stimulate collagen production, but wanted to know what you recommended to avoid creating new marks in the future around my arms. Thank you!

    • Team Powell - October 5, 2015

      Hi Buck: You might try a good vitamin E or coconut oil, or ask your healthcare team if they have any suggestions. 🙂

  20. Jennie - October 5, 2015

    Hello-
    I wanted to see if you had a recommendation for a good prenatal vitamin? Thanks!

    • Team Powell - October 5, 2015

      Hi Jennie: Congratulations! You’ll want to chat with your healthcare team about this and then follow their recommendations. 🙂

  21. tracy stofko - October 5, 2015

    Hey Heidi my names Tracy I’m 28 from dekalb Il I have two girls ones two and the others seven I’m happily married to my husband Nick. We had recently been laid off are jobs n are bills are Way behind. I couldn’t take not being able to help my family so in turn I made the biggest decision of my life…. Decided to join the us army. It’s something I’ve wanted for as long as I can remember. My dad served in the us navy he passed away when I was ten from alcoholism n my mom passed away four years ago from breast cancer. My down fall with going into the military is im out of shape granted I only need to loose 35 lbs to me that’s alot and I don’t have the mind frame to get it done or do anything. I’m trying my hardest to better my life and better my family’s I need the physical help in doing it. Now once I get the tests done for the army its be November or the first of the yr I deploy. Please please I’m asking for help. I love the show and how many lives have been changed and think wow what am I doing wrong

    • Team Powell - October 5, 2015

      Hi Tracy: You can get all the steps you need to achieve your transformation goals in this post: heidipowell.net/9060. Everything is laid out for you – you can do this!

  22. Jacque - October 5, 2015

    Hello,

    I’m hoping you can help me further. I’ve been reading the book chose more, lose more for life. And it states that on low carbs it should be aprx 1200 cal for women- I was working with a trainer at one point (on my own now- financial reasons) but I am wondering will that be too low for me.

    I’ve lost 1.8lbs this first week on Chris program (turbo cycle) should I stay as I am or should I drop my calories to the 1200.

    thank you for the feedback !

    • Team Powell - October 5, 2015

      Hi Jacque: Those are the calorie recommendations for all women and are a part of the program’s design, so give it a try. And congrats on those 1.8 lbs gone – that’s awesome!

  23. Emily - October 4, 2015

    What do you think about creatine for women?

    • Team Powell - October 5, 2015

      Hi Emily: It’s best to discuss any dietary supplements with your healthcare team and then do what’s best for you. 🙂

  24. Steve - October 4, 2015

    I’m a quality assurance and food safety professional who has worked for a dietary supplement manufacturer. There’s a lot of misconception about the FDA and dietary supplements. It is true that the manufacture of dietary supplements is not controlled under the same regulation as pharmaceuticals. But here are some misconceptions that are NOT true:
    1) it is NOT true that dietary supplements are not regulated by the FDA. In fact dietary supplements have their own distinct FDA regulations in the code of federal regulations (21 CFR 111).
    2) NOT true that consumer’s don’t know whether the supplement “contains the ingredients the label says it does in the amount stated, or even if those ingredients are pure”. The regulation contains fairly strict rules that require the manufacturer to verify the identity, purity, strength, and composition of the product. Manufacturers go to great expense to inspect and test ingredients and finished goods and the FDA is constantly visiting facilities to verify this is happening.
    3) “Manufacturers don’t have to…prove their supplements do what they say they’ll do…” True but misleading. Clinical testing isn’t required of supplements to prove effectiveness like pharmaceuticals. However, the FDA prohibits supplement labeling and advertising from making clinical claims that they’ll do anything other than supplement your diet. The FDA has taken enforcement action quite regularly against supplement companies that make these type of claims because they are not drugs.

  25. Stacy Drummey - October 4, 2015

    Thank you for sharing this info! I recently started working out with weights getting ready for ski season (I live in Denver!). I totally thought like you that I didn’t want to use supplements and made fun of my 24 yr old son for all of his. Then after being sore for 3 days after doing weighted squats and lunges I was desperate for something that would let me workout and not be so sore. He told me about the BCAAs which I started last week. They do seem to be helping.

    My question is that as I started looking at all of the supplements I see that many of them (including these that you recommend) have Sucralose and artificial flavors. What are your thoughts on using products that have those two ingredients?

    Thank you for living your life in such an open way with a positive message as a mom, career woman, and physical fitness professional!

    • Team Powell - October 5, 2015

      Hi Stacy: Great question! While Chris and Heidi recommend stevia and xylitol as natural sweeteners, sometimes that’s just not possible in all products. The amount of sucralose, etc., in these products is so minimal, that Heidi feels that the benefits outweigh any possible risks. I can promise you – she did her homework before deciding to take these supplements. Hope that helps!

  26. Steve - October 3, 2015

    What happened to Vemma? Are you and Chris no longer working with this company selling supplements?

  27. Beth - October 3, 2015

    Yes yes yes!!! Thank you FOR taking the time to write a thorough and clear post on supplements. Great info, GREAT guidance!

  28. Lisa C - October 3, 2015

    Great article, but I hate the term “muscle weighs more than fat”. It doesn’t. Muscle and fat weigh the exact same. Just like a pound of feathers and a pound of gold weigh the exact same, but one takes a much larger surface area than the other. Muscle takes up a lot less surface area than fat so you can weigh the same (or more) with a lot less body fat. Saying muscle weighs more than fat is misleading…

    • Team Powell - October 3, 2015

      Hi Lisa: I hope I can clarify this statement a bit. “Muscle weighs more than fat” is something that Heidi and Chris say pretty often to simplify things, but what they mean by this is if you have a tub full of fat and an equal size tub full of muscle, the tub full of muscle would weigh more since muscle is more dense than fat. I hope that does clarify things a bit. Thank you for your comment!

  29. Connie Conti - October 3, 2015

    Great article.Do you take these supplements all at once or at different times. It sounds like you could mix a couple together. .Are they all for pre-workout or after. Thanks for the great information .

    • Team Powell - October 3, 2015

      Hi Connie: There are directions for how much and how often on each supplement’s website (in the post), and be sure and consult with your healthcare team about what’s best for you. 🙂

  30. Emma - October 3, 2015

    Hi! When do you take the BCAAs? I’ve heard before and/or after workouts.

  31. Scott - October 3, 2015

    So when you say you guys take your body builders word on a product, do they have medical backgrounds to say those supplements are safe?

    • Team Powell - October 3, 2015

      Hi Scott: Heidi talks with her healthcare team about any supplements she’s using, and then follow their recommendations.

  32. Kathy - October 3, 2015

    For your followers like me that are pushing 60 I have found that Thrive by Le-Vel gives me what I need. Helps with mental clarity, joint discomforts and I sleep better. This allows me to push myself a little more each day by giving my body what I am missing as far as nutritional gaps. I love watching EWL every week…gives me hope that it is never to late. I love the Powell Pack!

  33. Julia - October 3, 2015

    Hey Heidi,

    thanks for taking the time to make this great post!
    Do you take any protein powders postworkout – or just your BCAAs before/after?

    Thanks, keep it up 🙂

    Julia

  34. Megan - October 3, 2015

    Hi Heidi!

    Have you ever heard of USANA Health Sciences? Their supplements are pharmaceutical grade. To be honest, I was surprised to not see them on your list. Usana has an FDA approved facility but the nutritional supplements industry is not regulated by FDA, unfortunately. So they can’t make any claims on the bottles, although they would exceed all the requirements. The fact that they are listed in the Physician Desk Reference and they follow GMP standards says it all. It’s more than the FDA approval standards.

    It would definitely be worth your while to look into USANA supplements – they are trusted by over 800 elite and Olympic athletes.

    Thank you for your time!

    Megan

  35. Brianda - October 3, 2015

    Hi
    I’m back at school now and I’ve reached the time where I’m tired all the time it’s difficult to get up and work out and where I take naps after eating. I really would not like to go back to old habits. This summer I lost around 20 pounds and would like to keep embracing my journey of loosing weight. As a college student it can be difficult, is there anything you recommend to take before or after or any foods to cut out ?

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