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Body-building Supplements: They’re Not as Safe As You Might Think

Updated: Jul 20, 2021

One of the first questions people ask whenever I prescribe a medicine for them is, “What side effects should I be watching for?” Many patients avoid medicine for fear of their potential side effects. It’s no wonder; advertisements on television, in magazines and online require manufacturers to disclose the side effects of the body building supplements, along with all of the touted benefits, these disclosed side effects are not necessarily mild.

If you’re hitting the gym to get in shape, taking a bodybuilding supplement might seem like a simple way to gain muscle faster. But according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), some of the products could be risky even deadly.

Know the risk: The side effects of taking anabolic steroids include some serious health risks, such as liver failure, dangerous changes to blood cholesterol levels and an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Men can experience breast enlargement, testicle shrinkage and hair loss. Women can become more masculine, getting increased body hair, disrupted menstrual cycles and a permanently deeper voice. Children who take them risk stunted growth. For example, Herbal extracts and supplements often are metabolized in the liver, and some may have a direct impact on the metabolizing of prescribed medications.

In addition to the physical health risks, taking performance-enhancing drugs can also seriously impact mental health. People who use steroids regularly can display extreme irritability, delusions, paranoia and jealousy. Taking excess testosterone can make people feel invincible, leading to seriously impaired judgment and risky behavior.

How can you know if a supplement you want to take is safe?

Even the FDA says it can be hard to tell. You can check the current list of tainted supplements at FDA website, but even it includes a disclaimer that just a fraction of the potentially hazardous products with hidden ingredients marketed to consumers.

I would say it’s a good idea to be wary of any supplements claiming success for weight loss, body and muscle building or sexual enhancement. Ask yourself if the claims seem too good to be true, and be skeptical about any personal testimonials in the product’s marketing. And if you have doubts or aren’t sure if a product is safe and reliable, get your doctor’s or dietitian’s opinion.

So what can you do to safely build muscles and make the most of your workouts?

According to me there are three essential components to building muscle:

  • Do resistance training consistently

  • Eat the right foods at the right times throughout the day

  • Get enough rest to allow your body to repair itself and grow

I recommends finding a personal trainer to help you establish the exercise routine that fits you best. If you want to try a workout supplement, consider natural proteins like egg, chicken and whey protein. Consulting your physician may help determine potential interactions. Often, asking the pharmacist about any specific concerns you have about a new supplement is worthwhile, too. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

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