We’re in a take a pill, get healthy mindset in our society, even in the bodybuilding community. I see people who want to take short cuts without putting in the time and effort to get the best possible look and fitness level. I’m here to say there are no short cuts and there are side effects of supplements that may promise quick success. While you can improve your results by working smart and eating healthy, supplements alone won’t do the job. That doesn’t mean all supplements are bad. It does mean that depending on them alone has consequences that aren’t good.
Protein powder is a popular supplement that’s often abused.
One of most popular supplements is protein powder. It’s often used in shakes to help improve cellular function and contains all 20 amino acids. Increasing protein in your diet can help you burn fat, feel fuller longer and lose weight. Protein powder can be abused and can lead to bloating, cramps, fatigue and headache. Taking too much can put a strain on your kidneys, as well. While protein shakes aren’t bad for you, you need to make sure you get enough protein, but not too much. Make sure you track all your protein intake if you’re supplementing with protein shakes.
If you don’t take creatine, you probably know someone who does.
Creatine is a very popular substance used by many bodybuilders because it’s supposed to build lean muscle mass and improve athletic performance. If you’re doing high-intensity workouts for short periods, there is research that it does help improve performance and potentially may increase the resting testosterone levels, which leads to bigger muscles. One huge drawback is it causes water weight gain, abdominal pain, diarrhea and muscle cramping. Choose healthy foods loaded with creatine, such as wild game, fresh fish and red meat instead.
Prohormones are often used but don’t show any benefit.
You may have heard of the prohormones for testosterone, androstenediol, androstenedione and DHEA—dehydroepiandrosterone. The prohormones occur in the body before the actual hormones and allegedly convert to those hormones, which would provide the same bodybuilding effects as anabolic steroids, if they worked, but there’s no evidence that they do. While some prohormones are illegal, just like steroids, others aren’t and to some, it’s a window for a short-cut technique to fitness. Each of these prohormones has a side effect that ranges from liver damage, male enlarged breast tissue and hair loss to acne.
- Taking glucosamine may be one of the few things bodybuilders and seniors have in common (except maybe taking protein powder). Glucosamine is for the joints and helps build cartilage. Some research shows it may help osteoarthritis, but it also causes heartburn, diarrhea, nausea and constipation.
- Glutamine is produced naturally in the body and is important for a healthy immune system, digestion, removing excess waste and brain functioning. Bodybuilders often take it to improve recovery and boost muscle growth, but the side effects can range from mania, seizures and increasing damage from cirrhosis.
- There are a number of exercises that boosts the body’s production of nitric oxide, so I question why so many bodybuilders take pre-workout supplements that have L-arginine, which converts to it. It can inflame the airway, make asthma worse, produce blood abnormalities and low blood pressure.
- Caffeine supplements can cause irritated stomach, nervousness, vomiting, increased respiration and heart rate, plus more side effects. While a little caffeine can improve performance, it only takes one cup of coffee to do that, why take a supplement?