Will Brink is the creator of the popular Bodybuilding Revealed system, one of the most comprehensive and complete muscle building programs on the Internet. Will has been a contributing writer for Muscle Mag International for as long as I can remember and I have been reading those columns, it seems, since the “good old days” of bodybuilding (I think I might be revealing our age here! But what I’m trying to say is, Will has been doing this a long time!) Will Brink is a wealth of knowledge and I feel privileged to have been granted this interview because Will is a busy guy who does NOT give a lot of interviews.
In part one you will hear the latest scoop on supplements: fish oil versus flax… prohormones - are they drugs or supplements, or something in between?… The latest news on new creatine formulas… insights into supplement research… the truth about optimal water intake… the dairy product controversy and more. This interview is packed with valuable info! Read this one in slow study mode for sure and then watch for part 2 coming soon!
Tom Venuto: Will, I’ve been following your work for ages and consider you an expert in all areas of bodybuilding, nutrition, and training. Your knowledge base is very broad. You’re also a stickler for science and a no-BS straight shooter on all these subjects, which is why I’m here and glad to share this info with my readers. In my opinion, your knowledge of supplements in particular is one of your strongest points, so I hope you don’t mind if we start with some questions about supplements. It’s actually as much for my own edification as it is for my readers – I’ve been wanting to pick your brain for a while.
So first question… I’ve noticed that not only are supplement companies pushing their new versions of creatine like Creatine Ethyl ester, but also combining creatine with other ingredients like beta alanine and glutamine. What are your thoughts on combining creatine with other ingredients? Any new research on this subject we should know about?
Will Brink: That’s more difficult to answer than it might seem on the surface. The problem is, companies mix all sorts if stuff, some times based on some study, but usually for marketing purposes. Many times what they are mixing into a formula with creatine makes no sense at all. So, it’s really formula by formula to see if what’s being mixed has any merits. The missing link in that equation is dose: not only does what’s mixed need to make some sense, it needs to be in a dose that has actually been shown to have the effects we want. It’s not at all uncommon for a company to do the former (mix creatine with something beneficial) but fail to do the latter, which is use a high enough dose to have any effects. It’s what I call “label decoration” where the company lists dozens of ingredients on the label, none of them in doses worth a damn, which is a very common strategy I am sorry to say. In both my Fat Loss Revealed and Bodybuilding Revealed (FLR and BBR respectively) programs our goal is to teach people to recognize the differences and thus save money in the long run.
Tom Venuto: Why is that sometimes one or two studies look promising, but researchers don’t follow up with more research to replicate and confirm the findings? I wouldn’t recommend a supplement on only one study, would you?
Will Brink: Generally no, I would not recommend a product on a single study, but there are exceptions. If say a product contains 5 ingredients and each of the 5 has 10 solid studies behind it, the product uses the doses of each that where found in those studies to be effective, and the product itself has one study, I may be perfectly happy to recommend it, even though the product in question has one study. However, if it was a new ingredient; call it compound X, and compound X has only one study supporting its use, I would probably not recommend it. It also comes down to the quality of the study. One well done study published in a respected journal is still better then 10 poorly conducted study published in some minor journal coming from a country we know has very poor standards of research. So, it’s not really a black and white issue there. This is why there is so much confusion out there, most people don’t know the finer points of science or what can be subtle differences and other issues that marketers use to confuse people. The ad might say “study shows 90% increase in muscle in 90 days” but the study was done on a single rat in Cambodia by a “researcher” who sells the product and was published in a journal owned by his brother…
Why don’t they follow up on a study to replicate the findings? That’s a tough question to answer. I agree, it’s curious. You get a study that shows supplement X has benefits and it seems like a no brainer to follow up with additional studies to confirm it. Studies are expensive, but for every dollar spent, 10 comes back, if the study is used as a marketing platform correctly and it’s a decent study. Every company I do consulting work for I always push the benefits of funding real research, vs. the garbage that often passes for research found on many web sites, etc. This is a topic I can rant about all day, so I will stop here. Let’s just say, the general answer to your question comes down to the usual suspects: greed, ignorance, short sightedness, lack of money, lack of interest, etc.
Tom Venuto: Ok Will, here’s the big debate over the last few years. Most experts are saying fish oil over flax oil these days. First, are you still as bullish on flax as you were 6, 7, 8 years ago? Any thoughts on using both – either at the same time, or alternating?
Will Brink Big questions! There’s a lot in that one that could take up a lot of space! As you may recall, I was the guy who introduced flax oil to the bodybuilding/fitness industry by writing the first articles on the use of flax for fat loss in the magazines “back in the day” as they say. Actually, I have recently altered my diet recs to be more fish oil oriented and less flax oil oriented. To back up a bit, one major reason I was so bullish on flax vs. fish oils was the fact the quality of fish oils at the time was very poor. Tests found it was common for fish oil supps to be rancid, and contain toxins such as PCBs, mercury, and other toxic compounds. However, the quality of fish oil supplements across the spectrum of products has improved greatly in the past few years with the use of processing techniques such molecular distillation and others, which produces very high quality fish oil products standardized for their “active” lipid content. So, I no longer have the above concerns and reservations for fish oil supplements, which is a good thing, considering how useful and healthy these products are. Thus, my diets in FLR for example now favor more fish oil and less flax.
Personally, I still use both, but my own diet is also higher in EPA/DHA from fish oils and lower in flax than it was a few years ago. Flax is still a great healthy source of fat calories, and can still be part of the diet, but does not need to be the sole source of Omega-3 fatty acids in the diet. No real reason to alternate them. I keep my fish oil intake steady but will rotate my other oils, such as flax and more balanced oil sources such as Udo’s Choice and others such as hemp. There’s no hard and fast rule to that per se. People should shoot for approximately 30% of total calories coming from fat, of which a third to a half should come from healthy fat sources such as fish, flax, hemp, etc.
Tom Venuto: What about prohormones? I have to admit I’m still somewhat confused about pro-hormones myself. I never did much research in this area. Do we classify them as supplements? Drugs? Some gray area in between? What are pro-hormones exactly? If I took them, would I still be “natural?”
Will Brink: of course most of the pro hormones, such as Androstenedione and others that followed were banned, so it’s somewhat of a moot issue. Although not technically interchangeable terms as far as science is concerned, one can think of the pro hormones such as Androstenedione as precursors to more powerful hormones, namely testosterone. Androstenedione, a precursor or ‘pro hormone’ converts via enzymes to the more anabolic hormone testosterone. That’s the super simple explanation, but it’s more complex of course. Various pro hormones followed the original “andro” supplement, some of which were more effective than the original, and were then banned. As always, banning one thing only lead to something stronger and (potentially) more dangerous. I refer to what’s often called “designer supplements” such as the original Superdrol and others. These “supplements” are modified versions of existing steroids/hormonal analogs, and we don’t know their pharmacology in terms of efficacy, side effects, etc.
A certain amount can be figured out from the chemistry (e.g., its potential to convert to estradiol, etc.) but make no mistake, small changes in hormones and hormone analogs can have profound changes on their pharmacology that are not discovered from a simple look at their molecular structure. Make no doubt about this, these newer compounds are NOT pro hormones but true designer steroids of unknown pharmacology. For that reason alone, I recommend people avoid them. You are not using any sort of normal pro hormone, but a true designer steroid here with all the known-and more important-unknown effects - good and bad. How can this possibly be legal you ask? Due to loop holes and poor language in the current law, it’s not legal per se, but it’s not exactly illegal either, and as expected, banning the true prohormones only led to more effective and potentially more dangerous gray market “supplements.” In some respects this too is a moot issue as these products were banned also for the most part, but all manner of steroidal compounds find their way into the market, mostly via the ‘net, so it’s a crap shoot out there.
Hard to really comment on the “natural” issue as it’s really a distinction science can’t make. It’s not “natural” to fly, but it sure beats walking! Most tested sports events have banned such products, so people need to see the list of banned substances if they compete in tested events. As mentioned, I simply recommend people avoid these products and they get a big thumbs down in my BBR ebook.
Tom Venuto: Dairy products. We have some alternative health gurus on the net spreading the word that they think dairy products have no place in the human diet; and not just referring to the lactose intolerant, but to everyone. I just read a peer-reviewed paper that said milk has more bioactive compounds than we previously thought and that fermented dairy products have their own functional properties. What are your thoughts on the milk and dairy debate in both health and body fat loss contexts?
Will Brink: I think the anti milk crowd supply very little quality objective data to support their position and rely more on objective non science reasoning. They make claims they either cant back up or attempt to back up with less then quality “research.” Dairy products have a place in a healthy well balanced nutritional plan, and like most things in life, there’s potential for too much of a good thing. It’s a non-issue in my book.
Tom Venuto: The big pastime of the last several years is debunking stuff that was accepted as the standard advice for decades. People love myth busting. Here’s one that caught my attention. A couple of nephrologists took to task the 8 glasses of water a day advice and said they couldn’t find any evidence for that recommendation and said we don’t need as much water as we thought. Funny enough, I saw TWO studies published right after that one; one showed a correlation between higher water intake and weight loss and another showed increased thermogenesis. So now that we are thoroughly confused, how much should we really drink? Are we wasting tons of money on bottled water, not to mention all the trips to the bathroom?
Will Brink: Much of this probably comes down to the issue of adequate vs. optimal. Can people survive on less than the old maxim of 8 glasses per day? Sure. Thus “need” which is equal to adequate is very different then optimal. As with many old recommendations, 8 glasses or less might be perfectly adequate for some, while not sufficient for others, depending on body mass, activity levels, temp, and other factors. Anecdotally speaking, it’s a very common theme that people report better weight loss, performance, and general well being when they drink plenty of water.
Will Brink is a columnist, consultant, and writer for various health/fitness, medical, and bodybuilding publications. His articles relating to nutrition, supplements, weight loss, exercise and medicine can be found in such publications as Lets Live, Muscle Media 2000, MuscleMag International, The Life Extension Magazine, Muscle & Fitness, Inside Karate, Exercise For Men Only, Body International, Power, Oxygen, Women’s World and The Townsend Letter For Doctors. He is also the author of Priming The Anabolic Environment, Fat Loss Revealed and Brink’s Bodybuilding.
See Will’s ebooks online here:
A complete guide to bodybuilding supplements and eating to gain lean muscle
Fat Loss Revaled
A review of diet supplements and guide to eating for fat loss
BRINK’S BODYBUILDING – NEW EXPANDED EDITION
Independent Researcher Known For Brutal Honesty Reviews Popular Bodybuilding Supplements and Reveals How To Build Solid Lean Muscle Without Drugs
If you’d like to see an independent expert’s review of popular bodybuilding and muscle-building supplements, and you’d like to learn which one’s really work and which ones are complete hype, and if you are interested in a science-based muscle building system, then I highly recommend Will Brink’s NEWEST e-book, Brink’s Bodybuilding. Like myself, Will is an independent bodybuilding & fitness writer/researcher who is not affiliated with any supplement company. What’s more, Will is a stickler for the facts and for the unbiased reporting of research. Click here to find out more:
Published on 07 February, 2009