Dietary supplements for increasing strength performance are a waste of money because they can’t enhance long-term results.
Let’s assume supplement X increases both your muscular endurance and your power output, even beyond the placebo effect: does this mean that X makes you physically stronger?
Well, it depends. In the short term, yes, it makes you stronger, but in the long term, no—because the only thing that matters for lasting results is progressive overload.
Progressive overload means that, over time, you increase the total amount of weight you can lift in a certain period:
- You lift the same weight for more sets/reps in a workout of the same length (higher volume).
- You lift more weight for the same amount of sets/reps in a workout of the same length (higher intensity).
- You lift the same weight for same amount of sets/reps in a shorter workout (shorter pauses).
- You lift the same weight for same amount of sets/reps in a workout of the same length, but you work out more often (higher frequency).
Progressive overload means that you’re getting stronger.
Supplement X may bump up your strength for a workout, but it doesn’t impact progressive overload, it doesn’t affect the process of building strength—hence, it doesn’t make you stronger in the long run, even if it’s the most effective, most powerful, most scientifically backed strength supplement in the goddamn world.
If you can usually lift 500 pounds for 5 reps and then, with the power of supplement X, you pull 510 pounds for 6 reps, you’ve increased your strength, but you haven’t grown stronger. What matters for actual gains is only how much more you’ll be able to lift in a month from now, compared to what you’re lifting today. That’s the principle of progressive overload—the principle of gains in strength and muscle mass. Supplement X can’t help you with that, no matter how effective it is.
Nonetheless, supplement X might be worth the money
- if you use it to win a sports competition (e.g., a powerlifting meet),
- if you take it to achieve a personal record (e.g., a new 1RM), or
- if you need it psychologically to break through a strength plateau.
In all these cases, you use supplement X once for a specific event. If you use it chronically, though, for every single workout, then you’re solely throwing money at the supplement industry. (Of course, the story is different for supplements that improve your recovery, but that’s, well, a different story.)
In summary, dietary supplements for greater strength make you stronger for the moment, but they don’t help you grow stronger over time.