Many “experts” write off the significant gains made by supplement users as the result of either training itself or the placebo effect. A recent study compared training and taking a high-calorie, high-protein supplement to training without taking one. The subjects were untrained men, randomly assigned to one of the following groups:
1) Performed three sets of weight training and took a high-calorie, high-protein food supplement
2) Performed five sets of weight training and took a placebo that lacked the protein and other nutrients but contained the same number of calories as the supplement in group 1
3) Performed five sets of weight training with no supplements
The goal was to examine the effects of the protocols on bodyweight, percentage of bodyfat, fat weight, fat-free weight, one-rep-maximum leg extension, maximum-endurance leg extension—how many reps could be completed—one-rep-maximum bench press and maximum-endurance bench press. The exercises were done three days a week for eight weeks, using 80 percent of one-rep-maximum weights.
The study found that those doing three sets and using the genuine supplement experienced the same strength and weight gains as those who did five sets with the placebo and five sets without any supplement. The results imply that using a supplement high in calories and protein enables you to make muscle gains that would otherwise require a greater volume of training.
Mielke, M., et al. (2008). The effects of a calorie dense, high protein supplement on exercise performance and body composition during resistance training. J Str Cond Res. 22:29.
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