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Are Anabolic Supplements Safe?

author image Toby Pendergrass
Toby Pendergrass began writing and editing in 1998. He has served as editor for numerous custom health publications and physician journals. His work has appeared in publications such as Hospital Corporation of America's "YOU." He enjoys writing about cardiology and cancer care and holds a Bachelor of Arts in communication from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
Are Anabolic Supplements Safe?
Anabolic supplements might endanger a teen's well-being. Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images

While some athletes take anabolic supplements to gain a competitive edge or to build muscle, the supplements carry risks to your overall health, according to MedlinePlus. Understand the facts about anabolic supplements to ensure your well-being, and talk to your doctor before using any drug or supplement that claims to improve performance.


The Federal Drug Administration classifies supplements as food rather than drugs, so anabolic supplements are not evaluated under the same safety standards as drugs and medications and do not need FDA approval, according to KidsHealth. Most supplements can be purchased without a prescription and come in the form of pills or powder. The two most common anabolic supplements are creatine monohydrate and androstenedione, or andro, according to MayoClinic.com.


Your body uses the chemical creatine to enhance the ability of your muscles to release energy, according to Medline Plus. Your liver produces 2 grams of creatine daily, and meat also serves as a creatine source. Athletes often take a creatine supplement hoping to receive a short-term energy boost. Your adrenal glands, testes and ovaries produce andro, a hormone that normally changes to testosterone or estradiol in both women and men. Although anabolic steroids are illegal, andro can be purchased as a nutritional supplement without a prescription, according to MayoClinic.com. Manufacturers of andro claim the supplement helps you train at a higher level and recover faster from strenuous workouts.


Some research suggests creatine gives athletes short-term energy boosts and can delay fatigue, reports MayoClinic.com. However, there is no evidence that creatine enhances your athletic performance. Research shows that the andro supplement fails to increase testosterone and does not build stronger muscles, despite claims to the contrary by manufacturers.


Nausea, weight gain, diarrhea, and stomach and muscle cramps are common side effects of creatine supplements, according to the website KidsHealth. Excessive amounts of creatine put you at high risk for kidney and liver damage. Some athletes use creatine as a means of gaining weight, although the weight results from water retention rather than muscle mass, and therefore increases your likelihood of dehydration. Men who take the andro supplement might experience acne, shrinking of the testicles and reduced sperm production; acne and baldness are risks for women. Both men and women face a higher likelihood of stroke and heart attack after using andro.


While recommended doses of creatine might be safe for adults, research is needed to determine what long-term impact the supplement could have on your overall health, according to the Mayo Clinic website. The American College of Sports Medicine discourages anyone under 18 from using creatine, although the International Society of Sports Nutrition regards the supplements as an acceptable alternative to steroids when taken in the correct dosage with a parent's supervision and approval.

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