Bodybuilding Supplements – Quick Overview

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Performance Aids Marketed to Strength Athletes (Weight Trainers)

Many active people use nutritional supplements and drugs in the quest for improved performance and appearance. Most of these substances are ineffective and expensive, and many are very dangerous and illegal.

Some dietary supplements are as potentially dangerous as potent prescription drugs. But because dietary supplements have a different classification, manufacturers do not have to prove they are safe and effective before being sold; the FDA can, however, take action against any unsafe supplement product after it reaches the market.

Nutritional authorities agree that most athletes and young adults can obtain all the necessary ingredients for health and top athletic performance by eating a well-balanced diet and training appropriately. No dietary supplement outperforms wholesome food and a good training regimen.

Despite the impressive marketing claims by sports supplement vendors and pro bodybuilders who are sponsored by them, most sports supplements sold to bodybuilders (also called bodybuilding supplements) simply do not work.

The only way to determine if a supplement really works is to perform carefully controlled research on human subjects. Testimonials from individuals who claim to have benefited from the product don’t count. Few dietary supplements have undergone careful human testing, so it is difficult to tell which of them may actually work.

Bodybuilding Supplements – Quick Overview

SUBSTANCE: Protein, amino acids, polypeptide supplements

CLAIMS (SUPPOSED EFFECTS): Increased muscle mass and growth hormone release; accelerated muscle development; decreased body fat.

EVIDENCE (ACTUAL EFFECTS): No effects if dietary protein intake is adequate; may promote protein synthesis if taken immediately before or after weight training.

MOST COMMON SIDE EFFECTS: Can be dangerous for people with liver or kidney disease; substituting amino acid or polypeptide supplements for protein-rich food can cause nutrient deficiencies.

SUBSTANCE: Creatine monohydrate

CLAIMS (SUPPOSED EFFECTS): Increased creatine phosphate levels in muscles, muscle mass, and capacity for high intensity exercise.

EVIDENCE (ACTUAL EFFECTS): Increased muscle mass and performance in some types of high intensity exercise.

MOST COMMON SIDE EFFECTS: Minimal side effects; long-term effects unknown.

SUBSTANCE: Amino acids

CLAIMS (SUPPOSED EFFECTS): Increased muscle mass.

EVIDENCE (ACTUAL EFFECTS): No effects if dietary protein intake is adequate; consuming before or after training may improve performance.

MOST COMMON SIDE EFFECTS: Minimal side effects; unbalanced amino acid intake can cause problems with protein metabolism.

Performance Aids Marketed to Strength Athletes

Performance Aids Marketed to Strength Athletes

SUBSTANCE: Adrenal androgens, such as dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), androstenedione

CLAIMS (SUPPOSED EFFECTS): Increased testosterone, muscle mass, and strength; decreased body fat.

EVIDENCE (ACTUAL EFFECTS): Increased testosterone, strength, and fat-free mass; decreased fat in older subjects (more studies needed in younger people).

MOST COMMON SIDE EFFECTS: Gonadal suppression, prostate hypertrophy, breast development in males, masculinization in women and children; long-term effects unknown.

SUBSTANCE: Chromium picolinate

CLAIMS (SUPPOSED EFFECTS): Increased muscle mass, decreased body fat; improved blood sugar control.

EVIDENCE (ACTUAL EFFECTS): Well-controlled studies show no significant effect on fat-free mass or body fat.

MOST COMMON SIDE EFFECTS: Moderate doses (50–200 μg) appear safe; higher doses may cause DNA damage and other serious effects; long-term effects unknown.

SUBSTANCE: Energy drinks

CLAIMS (SUPPOSED EFFECTS): Increased energy, strength, power.

EVIDENCE (ACTUAL EFFECTS): Increased training volume.

MOST COMMON SIDE EFFECTS:Insomnia, increased blood pressure, heart palpitations.

SUBSTANCE: Ephedra

CLAIMS (SUPPOSED EFFECTS): Decreased body fat; increased training intensity due to stimulant effect.

EVIDENCE (ACTUAL EFFECTS): Decreased appetite, particularly when taken with caffeine; some evidence for increased training intensity;

MOST COMMON SIDE EFFECTS: Abnormal heart rhythms, nervousness, headache, gastrointestinal distress, and heatstroke; banned by the FDA.

SUBSTANCE: Beta-hydroxy beta-methylbutyrate (HMB)

CLAIMS (SUPPOSED EFFECTS): Increased strength and muscle mass; decreased body fat.

EVIDENCE (ACTUAL EFFECTS): Some studies show increased fatfree mass and decreased fat; more research needed.

MOST COMMON SIDE EFFECTS: No reported side effects; long-term effects unknown.

SUBSTANCE: Prescription appetite suppressants, such as diethylproprion, phentermine, sibutramine, rimonabant

CLAIMS (SUPPOSED EFFECTS): Weight control, weight loss.

EVIDENCE (ACTUAL EFFECTS): Weight loss; typically prescribed only for short-term use.

MOST COMMON SIDE EFFECTS: Restlessness, anxiety, dizziness, depression, tremors, increased urination, diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, high blood pressure, swelling of legs or ankles, insomnia, seizures, fast or irregular heartbeat, heart palpitations, blurred vision, rashes, and difficulty breathing; can be habit-forming.

SUBSTANCE: Over-the-counter stimulants, such as caffeine, phenylpropanolamine (PPA)

CLAIMS (SUPPOSED EFFECTS): Weight loss; improved endurance; stimulant effect.

EVIDENCE (ACTUAL EFFECTS): Can be used for weight control; may improve endurance; does not appear to enhance short-term maximal exercise capacity.

MOST COMMON SIDE EFFECTS: Increased risk of heart attack and stroke in some people (in high doses); increased incidence of abnormal heart rhythm and insomnia; caffeine is addictive.

SUBSTANCE: Insulin-like growth factor (IGF)

CLAIMS (SUPPOSED EFFECTS): Increased muscle mass; improved cellular function.

EVIDENCE (ACTUAL EFFECTS): Actual effects in healthy, active people unknown.

MOST COMMON SIDE EFFECTS: Similar to side effects of growth hormone; long-term use promotes cancer.

SUBSTANCE: Insulin

CLAIMS (SUPPOSED EFFECTS): Increased muscle mass.

EVIDENCE (ACTUAL EFFECTS): Effectiveness in stimulating muscle growth unknown.

MOST COMMON SIDE EFFECTS: Insulin shock (characterized by extremely low blood sugar), which can lead to unconsciousness and death.

SUBSTANCE: Human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG)

CLAIMS (SUPPOSED EFFECTS): Increased testosterone production; prevention of muscle atrophy during steroid withdrawal.

EVIDENCE (ACTUAL EFFECTS): Increased testosterone production.

MOST COMMON SIDE EFFECTS: Interferes with normal testosterone regulation; banned in most sports.

SUBSTANCE: Growth hormone

CLAIMS (SUPPOSED EFFECTS): Increased muscle mass, strength, and power; decreased body fat.

EVIDENCE (ACTUAL EFFECTS): Increased muscle mass and strength; decreased fat mass; studies show no effect on muscle or exercise performance.

MOST COMMON SIDE EFFECTS: Elevated blood sugar, high insulin levels, and carpal tunnel syndrome; enlargement of the heart and other organs; acromegaly (disease characterized by increased growth of bones in hands and face); diseases of the heart, nerves, bones, and joints; an extremely expensive controlled substance (possession of a controlled substance is illegal without a prescription, and physicians are not allowed to prescribe controlled substances for the improvement of athletic performance).

SUBSTANCE: Green tea extract

CLAIMS (SUPPOSED EFFECTS): Decreased body fat.

EVIDENCE (ACTUAL EFFECTS): Some studies show decreases in body fat.

MOST COMMON SIDE EFFECTS: Insomnia, headache, nausea, heart palpitations.

SUBSTANCE: Ginseng

CLAIMS (SUPPOSED EFFECTS): Decreased effects of physical and emotional stress; increased oxygen consumption.

EVIDENCE (ACTUAL EFFECTS): Most well-controlled studies show no effect on performance

MOST COMMON SIDE EFFECTS: No serious side effects; high doses can cause high blood pressure, nervousness, and insomnia.

SUBSTANCE: Erythropoietin, darbepoetin

CLAIMS (SUPPOSED EFFECTS): Enhanced performance during endurance events.

EVIDENCE (ACTUAL EFFECTS): Stimulated growth of red blood cells; enhanced oxygen uptake and endurance.

MOST COMMON SIDE EFFECTS: Increased blood viscosity (thickness); can cause potentially fatal blood clots.

SUBSTANCE: Beta-agonists, such as clenbuterol, salmeterol, terbutaline

CLAIMS (SUPPOSED EFFECTS): Enhanced performance; prevention of muscle atrophy; increased fat-free weight; decreased body fat.

EVIDENCE (ACTUAL EFFECTS): Used to treat asthma, including exercise-induced asthma.

MOST COMMON SIDE EFFECTS: Insomnia, heart arrhythmia, anxiety, anorexia, nausea, heart enlargement, heart attack (particularly if used with steroids), and heart failure.

SUBSTANCE: Anabolic steroids

CLAIMS (SUPPOSED EFFECTS): Increased muscle mass, strength, power, psychological aggressiveness, and endurance.

EVIDENCE (ACTUAL EFFECTS): Increased strength, power, fat-free mass, and aggression; no effects on endurance.

MOST COMMON SIDE EFFECTS: Liver damage and tumors, decrease in high-density lipoprotein (good cholesterol), depressed sperm and testosterone production, high blood pressure, depressed immune function, problems with sugar metabolism, psychological disturbances, gonadal suppression, liver disease, acne, breast development in males, masculinization in women and children, heart disease, thicker blood, and increased risk of cancer; steroids are controlled substances (Possession of a controlled substance is illegal without a prescription, and physicians are not allowed to prescribe controlled substances for the improvement of athletic performance. In addition, the use of anabolic steroids, growth hormone, or any of several other substances listed in this table is banned for athletic competition).

Summing Up (Conclusion)

Supplements cannot take the place of good training and a good quality diet. The only time you’ll get some desired results from bodybuilding supplements is when your training and diet are both at adequate levels. If you are considering bodybuilding supplements, it should be only after you’ve achieved success in your training and diet. As you can conclude from this quick overview, there are many useful supplements, that, when added to that regimen, will improve your results.

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