Workout Supplements – Friends or Foe?


Far from benefitting your regime, some supplements can actually do more harm than good. MAGAZETI investigates

Whether you want to gain muscles or shed body fat, chances are you might have considered workout supplements to get the body you desire. Well, we can’t blame you. Workout supplements are the in-thing in men’s gym nutrition, and with tons of claims that supplement makers peddle to make sure the dough keeps pouring in for this multibillion-dollar industry, it’s pretty hard to ignore these products.

The question is, with so many supplements flooding the market, each claiming to be the best, how do you wade through the hype and choose which to buy and which to steer clear of? While some fitness claims are so downright absurd they’re obviously bogus (“Get a six-pack with no sweat!”), sometimes it requires some serious brainwork to get to the bottom of the jargon.

A Cause for Concern

When deciding which supplement to use, it’s always best to err on the side of caution. Doing so could even spell the difference between life and death. This is especially important because supplement makers are not required to conduct safety tests for their products before releasing them in the market.

In recent years, workout supplements have gained notoriety due to a variety of safety issues. During the 2012 London Marathon, 30-year-old Claire Squires collapsed and died. Her death was ruled as heart failure caused by exhaustion combined with the stimulant DMAA (or dimethyl amylamine), which she had ingested through the drink supplement Jack3d. The speed-like substance was also implicated in the 2011 deaths, also due to heart failure, of two American soldiers who had a heart attack while exercising. Due to serious safety concerns, DMAA is now banned or restricted in countries such as the US, Canada, Australia, United Kingdom, Sweden, New Zealand and Brazil.

Last year, more than 50 cases of acute liver failure, majority of which occurred in Hawaii, were reported in connection with the fat-burning supplement OxyElite Pro. Authorities pointed to the synthetic version of the plant extract aegeline as the culprit. Aegeline is a new ingredient being added to weight-loss supplements, although its weight reduction effect on humans has not been fully documented. Under pressure from the FDA, USP Labs, the makers of OxyElite Pro, recalled its products from store shelves and destroyed its warehouse stock.

Another sports supplement, Craze, also became a subject of controversy after two athletes who took the powder supplement were banned from competing internationally after they flunked the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) drug tests. Harvard researchers later tested the supplement and found an ingredient that was not listed anywhere on the label – N, alpha-diethyl phenylethylamine, or N,  alpha-DEPEA, an amphetamine-like substance.

Do You Really Need Workout Supplements?

Fitness experts say taking supplements may actually be beneficial to you as they help accelerate muscle growth and help with recovery after a strenuous workout, but moderation is the key. If you are currently taking or considering taking workout supplements, here are a few things to bear in mind.

  1. Check with your doctor before taking any workout supplements, especially if you are taking other medications.
  2. Opt for respected brands. You can check Consumer Lab reviews on how a particular brand compares to others.
  3. Look for “U.S.P Verified” on the label, which proves that the item has passed the inspection of the United States Pharmacopeial Convention. The USP’s standards are used in over 140 countries.

Check out the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism or Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise for research done on dietary supplements.

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