Sacrifice the supplements.
by Emma Jarman
I have an entire drawer dedicated to supplements.
It started small, more like a pharmacological junk drawer housed in a manageable tupperware container under the bathroom sink. But through years of bodybuilding shows and powerlifting meets, bulking phases and prep cuts and a few bouts of good old fashioned self loathing it’s grown to now take up an entire towel drawer spanning five feet across and two feet deep, built straight into the bathroom wall above the drawers of extra sheets and pillowcases, and actual bath towels. That cavernous, dry, carefully papered space is full of plastic bottles containing things I was, at one point or another, instructed by a well-meaning (though oft-misguided) coach or friend to take to help with anything and everything from energy levels to muscle growth to cramping to weight cutting. I’d bet money there’s even a bottle or two of something suspicious for “animal testing purposes” ordered off an oddly public “research” peptide site nestled between the multivitamins, vitamin D, vitamin C, protein, calcium, vitamin B, omega-3 fatty acids, lemon flavored fish oils, green tea, garcinia cambogia, magnesium, probiotics, iron, vitamin E, turmeric and hydroxycuts. There are so many they don’t even roll around anymore when I open the drawer, instead held strictly in place by one another, shoulder to shoulder. Hundreds of dollars of pills and capsules fill that drawer and that’s honestly the only reason I haven’t emptied it into the trash bin. I don’t take any of them anymore and I probably never needed to.
I realize now what I didn’t before--when I would run to the nearest GNC or vitamin aisle of Whole Foods every time someone told me this or that vitamin, mineral or herbal supplement would make me look leaner, dryer, more vascular, lessen my physical hunger, reduce the brain fog brought on by months of extreme dieting, make me want to train, burn fat, increase muscle mass, trim my waist, anything--that many “authorities” in the fitness industry still know very little about how supplements actually work, or if they do at all. These self proclaimed advisors are getting just as much word-of-mouth information as the rest of us, and they’re just as susceptible to the predatory and misleading marketing of supplements, too. Throw in the political landscape of the bodybuilding scene were taking something with an influential person’s brand sticker on it could mean a difference in placings and suddenly you have a 5’x2’ towel drawer full of shoulder to shoulder pill bottles you haven’t touched in 2 years but can’t get rid of for nostalgia and an unofficially diagnosed case of the “just-in-cases.” Not only are these coaches reaping the reward of effect while disregarding the cost of cause, but most importantly, a number of trainers and coaches (especially the products of today’s “3 spots left, link in bio, everyone’s an online coach on Instagram” cultural phenomenon) are just as impatient and negligent as the rest of us when it comes to prioritizing immediate results ahead of longevity in athletes and ourselves.
I’d been training for competition nearly four years, had overall wins on stage and top rankings on the platform before anyone suggested I have blood drawn, or expressed concern for my personal health and well-being over the results I could deliver in competition. It frustrated me at first. Ask Tony, he’ll tell you. I’m sure I frustrated him, too. I didn’t want to spend the money on lab work, I didn’t want to wait to jump back into prep, I didn’t even think to care about how what I was putting in my body affected my life in any way other than quantifiable performative output, and I had a towel drawer full of Band-Aids in capsule form that could carry me through. But he cared, and now I do. May everyone have as good an example in their lives as I’ve been given in mine with him. And side note, let me tell you: that blood of mine I finally had drawn was garbage. Sludge. Unbelievably poor quality. I couldn’t rationalize it … what about my drawer?
I still have the towel drawer full of shoulder to shoulder bottles, but I hardly open it, not even to slather on the $60 CBD salve I was told would dampen my interminable elbow pain (it didn’t). I’m more careful now with the things I put in my body. The lions’ share of those bottles have been replaced with whole foods and good habits. I don’t ingest with reckless abandon anything anyone tells me will have an effect, I’ve cut a lot of that noise out entirely. I participate in sport, not industry. I listen to people who have taken the time to do real research and not use their clients as unofficial lab rats so they can sell their results to the next open wallet. I recognize the toll that what I do takes on my body, and choose with selectivity and timeliness the risks I’m willing to take. And would you believe it, I’m still making progress.
Except this kind of progress comes with regular good nights’ sleep, mental clarity, focus and concentrated intention in the gym (not caffeinated, manic, anxiety-induced intensity), holistically fueling myself for optimal performance, and a whole lot less self loathing. I trust where I get my supplements and I trust who recommends them. It certainly helps the guy that made them is the same guy who was the first to really care what I was doing to myself as a person with my choices and behaviors as an athlete. Subject Zero prides themselves on ethical dosage, effective and thoughtful formulas and bridging the gap between science and performance in athletes, so I can pride myself in advocating for this brand.
Subject yourself to no more than you can give informed consent to, with zero exception.