If you are anything like the typical 180-pound, soaking wet guy walking around the gym like some sort of mass monster, than you have probably bought a few supplements in your day. I’ll let you in on a little secret, since it’s a recession: The supplement industry is a scam!

The majority of supplements are manufactured in conditions similar to those of your uncle’s old garage and are simply slapped with fancy labels and phony pictures of jacked guys lifting. Long story short, those bodybuilders adorning the labels wouldn’t even touch the supplements. Why would they when they have a steady cocktail of steroids and growth hormones at their disposal that are in fact cheaper than supplements?

According to the FDA, “Unlike drug products that must be proven safe and effective for their intended use before marketing, there are no provisions in the law for FDA to ‘approve’ dietary supplements for safety or effectiveness before they reach the consumer.” This enables supplement companies to get their products from the “lab” to the shelves in no time.

Despite my anti-supplement opinion, there are a few supplements that you should check out:

1. Whey or casein protein: Protein is the macronutrient needed to repair muscles, so any serious athlete must ingest at least 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. The body absorbs whey protein very fast, making it ideal for breakfast and post-workout shakes. Casein protein is digested very slowly, which is perfect before heading to bed or to class. Many products such as Muscle Milk contain both whey and casein proteins, so they can be used anytime. Maximum strength and size gains will come when your muscles are constantly supplied with protein, so make sure to eat enough meat, eggs, milk etc. along with protein shakes throughout the day to accomplish this.

The Punisher Recommends: Biotest Grow! Premium Whey, $22.

2. Creatine: This natural compound increases ATP (energy, Adrenosine Triphosphate) production in skeletal muscles, which allows extra glucose and water to rush into the muscles. Strength and endurance has been shown to increase on 5 grams of creatine per day. Avoid purchasing alternative supplements that contain small amounts of creatine and simply buy large quantities of pure creatine monohydrate or other forms of creatine, such as creatine ethyl ester malate.

The Punisher Recommends: Higher Power Micronized Creatine, $19.

3. Branched-Chain Amino Acids: BCAAs are building blocks of protein that aid in workout recovery and allow for a positive nitrogen balance conducive to strength and size gains. They are generally expensive from any quality supplement company, but unbeatable for muscle recovery. Many pro bodybuilders sip BCAA drinks during their workouts to give their muscles a constant supply of amino acids.

The Punisher Recommends: Optimum Nutrition BCAA 5000 Powder, $24.

Practically all other supplements have either shown no affinity for muscular growth or need to be ingested in such large quantities that they may ruin your credit history before they cut up your chesticles. Researchers at The College of New Jersey recently conducted a study on the fitness use of Beta-Alanine, a non-essential amino acid, and determined that it may be effective in gaining muscle. But New Jersey has been known to fool many a lifter in the past, so you should sit back until more research is conducted internationally.

Now that I have shown you some supplements that do work, it’s time to highlight the ones that are nothing but crap. Here are the supplements to avoid at all costs:

1. Nitric Oxide Products, such as BSN’s NO-Xplode: “The thinking behind these NO2 supplements is that by increasing nitric oxide you’ll improve circulation (probably true), which can help nutrients get to their destination in the body (probably true also),” nutrition and bodybuilding expert Dr. John Bowden said. “But the idea that doing so is going to translate to bigger muscles is voodoo science.” Bowden’s comment certifies what the bodybuilding community had long suspected — NO2 products simply do not work. Sure the caffeine, low grade creatine and BCAA’s thrown into these drinks will affect your body, but NO2 seems to aid erectile dysfunction more than muscle growth. And at $35 or more for fewer than 35 servings, supplements like NO-Xplode pack too much price for too little pump.

2. Muscletech Gakic: Not only is Gakic the most unappealing title of all time, the supplement is little more than expensive garbage. It was once claimed that Gakic could increase endurance and therefore allow gym rats to get more repetitions on any given lift. Bodybuilders everywhere crashed blogs and forums almost immediately to rip apart the product, after experiencing no positive gains. And now the $63 supplement, which requires the daily intake of eight large capsules, stands on the podium alongside some of the worst products the industry as ever seen.

While The Punisher can give you some help when you’re looking to get huge, remember that supplements alone are not going to make you muscular. You must follow a sound lifting program (including bench press, squat and deadlift), eat like a horse and sleep at least eight hours a day in addition to taking supplements. Now get off your ass and go lift!

The Punisher’s prices were found on tmuscle.com and bodybuilding.com .