I'm a firm believer that most supplements are a waste of money. The exceptions depend on the person, but 97% of people can improve their life and results just by eating more vegetables as well as maybe taking fish oil and/or vitamin D.
So I’m never going to tell you what’s the best protein shake (there isn’t one and I don’t drink them), or what pre-workout supplement will spur dem gainz (in which case, address your sleep habits and caffeine intake so you don’t need a pre-workout in the first place).
But there is one supplement I've found to be a vital part of my progress. You can’t buy it, and unfortunately, I can’t just give you some of it either.
What is it?
Consistency. Because consistency is more important to results than stated goals or finding motivation.
This wasn’t something I realized on my own. It was this podcast with Jordan Syatt and Mike Robertson, when Jordan mentions that consistency must be established before you can make goals. And while this idea was originally counter to how I had always thought about motivation and psychology, I agree with him.
Earlier in my career, I made the mistake of dismissing those that didn’t reach their goals as people who just “weren’t ready to change.” And yes, those people do exist, but I think the larger problem is not setting up a routine and a real change in someone’s habits. For example, it’s easy to get to the gym or eat healthier in times of low stress and when you’re in a set routine. But if someone is working on a deadline, traveling, and getting little sleep, what’s that person’s default? Motivation is not enough - you need actionable steps and routines to set you up for success.
For example, I've worked with individuals who had stated, realistic goals but weren't consistent. I've also worked with people who had no goals, but were almost as consistent as the sun.
And which type of person saw more progress and was happier with their results? The latter - those that placed consistency above all else.
Further proof is evident with myself. I wasn’t born inherently strong, athletic, or with any appreciable aerobic endurance. (The fact that all of my winter track events in high school were shorter than 1 lap is proof of that last one!)
But two qualities I do have are discipline and consistency. I've missed one scheduled workout over the past 6 years. And since I’m known for what I can deadlift, let’s focus on that.
From December 2012 to July 2017 (when my wife and I moved from Boston to Raleigh), I never missed a deadlift session. That equates to 50 deadlifting sessions a year, and roughly 225 deadlift sessions during those four and a half years. I never used any assistance exercises or fancy bells and whistles (something I wrote about here). Only deliberate practice and a commitment to getting better.
My consistency drove my goals because as I continually improved, my goals kept increasing. In August 2012, my goal was to deadlift 400 pounds. In August 2013, my goal became 500. In December 2014, it was then 550. In April 2016, my goal switched to 570. Then, finally, in June 2017, I was successful enough to lift 570 and make a new goal of 600 - which I'll be chasing for a few years.
But I could say the same thing about pull-ups, snatches, my quest for the Beast Tamer, or even my own aesthetics. It’s great to have goals because goals help with motivation. But if we haven't established the groundwork for change - which is and always will be consistency and daily habits - any motivation will remain short lived.