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Interview With Sol Orwell (Examine.com) – Paving Through The Supplement Bullshit

5 Comments | Interviews

sol orwell

I have an awesome interview for you guys today.

I recently got a chance to chat with Sol Orwell who runs the website Examine.com, an absolute beast of a supplement website.

And unlike most shady supplement sites, Examine backs all it’s info with scientific papers.

So if you’ve ever wanted to learn about a particular supplement, it’s benefits, and whether or not you should take it, go to Examine (not Wikipedia).

1) The supplement industry is one of the most controversial and shady industries in the world. What can consumers do to avoid being scammed by the “latest and greatest” supplements on the market?

Well, that is part of why we created Examine.com. There is a lot of hyperbole and studies taken out of context that make supplement X seem amazing and the solution you’ve been seeking.

Really, you just need to be cynical. The old truism “if it sounds too good to be true, it likely is” holds here.

2) We all know that the only sustaining a calorie deficit over time is the only way to lose weight. But are there any supplements that are actually proven to expedite weight loss?

It depends on how much you are talking about. Illegal drugs like DNP and clen can strip away a lot of fat, but if you take them incorrectly, they can literally kill you.

There are two common supplements that do help people who are not obese:

– ECA stack, commonly used by bodybuilders. Read more: http://examine.com/supplements/ECA/  For those in the US, ephedrine by itself is not available, but bronkaid is used as a substitute.

– Yohimbine, which is actually useful when you are lean enough and only dealing with stubborn body fat. Yohimbine helps mobilize the fat, and then you must do some light cardio (eg brisk walking) to actually “burn” that fat. Learn more: http://examine.com/supplements/Yohimbine/

For people that are obese and unhealthy, some supplements that are worthwhile for general health can also help reduce bodyfat (they do not help reduce body fat in people already lean). Berberine is a good example of that.

3) What about gaining muscle? Besides anabolic steroids, what are some useful supplements for building muscular size and strength?

The two most proven muscle builders are creatine and beta-alanine. Creatine works because it gives your cells more (immediately available) energy. This lets you do a few more reps.

Beta-alanine has a more cumulative effect, so that taking it repeatedly over time lets you get in more volume, which again, helps you build more muscle.

While not a problem for most people, having adequate protein intake is also important.

Other commonly touted products like glutamine are useless, unless you are in a deficient state (which is very very rare – most common in burn victims).

muscle building supplements

If you want to build muscle, try taking some cocaine creatine.

4) Increasing testosterone levels seems to be all the rage these days.  What your thoughts on  “testosterone boosting” supplements? Does it actually help you build muscle and lose fat?

Overhyped.

Testosterone boosters like tribulus (very popular) and others have never even been proven to increase testosterone. Some supplements do increase your libido, which people mistakenly conflate with increasing your testosterone.

That is a false assumption – you can increase your libido without your testosterone level increasing at all.

On the flip side, it is not uncommon for people to be deficient in a critical mineral (zinc or magnesium being two common ones in athletic people, vitamin d in the general population), which can decrease testosterone. Increase the intake of those minerals (via diet or supplementation) will take your testosterone levels back to their proper *baseline*levels.

5) Thoughts on different types of protein? In terms of body composition and overall health, are there any noticeable differences between protein sources – whey, casein, soy, rice, hemp, etc…?

Pretty much a non-issue. Most people who lift weights take enough protein that worrying about complete vs incomplete, leucine content, etc is irrelevant.

Far more important would be to focus on keeping stress levels low, getting adequate sleep, making sure you have enough vitamin d, etc…

6) Let’s talk about multivitamins? If one is consuming a nutritionally dense diet, would you say they still need to take a multivitamin?

The quick and easy answer is that supplementing with a multivitamin is not needed.

They are good if you have a horrible diet, but they lost their benefits if you have a solid diet. I personally do not take it.

7) Are there any essential supplements that you believe the everyday man or woman should take simply for the sake of maintaining good health?

In general:

  • ZMA if you are active (if you are deficient in your diet)
  • Fish oil, if you do not regularly eat fatty fish
  • Vitamin D, if you do not live inside the tropics and get adequate sunlight
  • Creatine, if you are a vegetarian

The smart thing to do is to run through your diet and see if you are below 50% of the RDA for anything.

Older females may need calcium (can easily use casein proten for this), and iron is a moderately common deficiency (but best handled by an MD and not supplementation).

8) Most overrated supplement? Most underrated supplement?

Most overrated would be a tie between glutamine (a useless muscle builder) and tribulus (a useless T-booster). Glucosamine is also in the running for joint-health, but we still need to research more.

Most underrated would be berberine. Read about it, it’s quite amazing: http://examine.com/supplements/Berberine/

Also be sure to check out Examine’s Supplement Goal Reference Guide.

Diego - May 6, 2013

I had not heard of examine.com before. I will be checking all supplements on it from now on.

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Ron - April 20, 2013

Great interview. I am always looking for unbiased advice on supplements. This interview and Sol’s site are really helpful.

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Darren - April 11, 2013

Thanks for the interview. It’s always good to get an unbiased review of supplements. And I’ll certainly be checking out examine.com.

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Johnny A - March 1, 2013

Awesome, awesome stuff… definitely need to share this.

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