Muscle building supplements are supposed to help you in the gym, but be careful. There are several negative side effects of workout supplements that may derail your efforts.
Protein Powders Considerations
When you first start experimenting with muscle building supplements, drinking a protein shake after your workout may be one of the first things you try. After all, your body needs plenty of protein to rebuild and repair the muscles you just worked.
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More protein is not always better and likely will not help you build more muscle. The U.S. National Library of Medicine notes that most Americans are already consuming more protein than what's required to build muscle. This may cause the kidneys to work harder and lead to a greater risk of dehydration, calcium loss and weight gain.
Harvard Health Publishing notes that the other danger to be aware of with protein powders is their composition. Some of their ingredients may not be safe. Since protein powders are a nutritional supplement, they are not tested or monitored by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Plus, many brands are milk-based and may cause digestive problems for anyone with lactose intolerance.
These beverages also contain added sugar, which may pose further risks. Nutritech Mass Builder's side effects, for example, are largely related to its high sugar content. Each serving (two scoops) provides 60 grams of carbs, including 38 grams of sugar.
The American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugars to no more than 36 grams for men and 25 grams for women, so a single serving of the Nutritech Mass Builder or other similar products can easily derail an otherwise healthy diet.
Always consult your doctor before taking any dietary supplement.
Creatine Side Effects
Creatine is another common muscle building supplement. It is used in many sports and has been shown to improve performance in young athletes during short, high-intensity activities. It may help improve muscular strength and speed up recovery from training.
The benefits of creatine can be boosted by combining it with carbs. However, these benefits may be canceled out if you consume it with caffeine.
High doses of up to 25 grams of creatine are probably safe for short periods, up to 14 days. Taking a lower dose of 4 to 5 grams is also likely safe for up to 18 months. The U.S. National Library of Medicine notes some potential side effects of creatine include:
- Nausea and stomach pain
- Muscle cramps
- Weight gain from water retention
Creatine causes the muscles to hold more water, which may lead to dehydration. It may also make it seem like you're making gains when in fact you are just gaining water weight.
Furthermore, this supplement may worsen kidney disease and aggravate the symptoms of Parkinson's — if combined with caffeine. It may also worsen mania in individuals with bipolar disorder.
Side Effects of Anabolic Steroids
Anabolic steroids, which are chemical derivatives of testosterone, are prescribed by medical professionals to treat hormone disorders and muscle loss from conditions like AIDS and cancer, states the National Institute on Drug Abuse. They can undoubtedly help you build muscle size and strength quickly. However, in addition to being banned from most sporting competitions, they have some serious side effects.
Steroid use is most common in men in their 20s and 30s, and it's also seen in high-schoolers, although their use may be decreasing among teens. These substances can be taken orally, injected or applied to the skin as a cream or gel.
Unlike other drugs, steroids don't cause the user to feel high. That doesn't mean there are no mental side effects, though. These may include:
- Increased irritability and extreme aggression
- Unreasonable jealousy
- Impaired judgment
In addition to psychological effects, steroids may increase the likelihood of many negative health risks, including:
- Kidney failure
- Liver damage
- Enlarged heart
- Increased blood pressure
- Blood clots
Men may also experience baldness, decreased sperm count, shrinking testicles and breast development (gynecomastia). Side effects specific to women include excess body hair, facial hair growth, male-pattern baldness and changes to the menstrual cycle.
Steroid abuse can be difficult to stop and may cause withdrawal symptoms. Fatigue, sleep problems, decreased appetite, decreased sex drive and cravings are just a few examples.
Side Effects of Testosterone Boosters
Taking anabolic steroids is illegal, so some athletes use testosterone boosters instead. These supplements may contain ingredients, such as DHEA and selective androgen receptor modulators, or SARMs.
DHEA is a hormone that occurs naturally in your body and aids in the production of male and female hormones, including testosterone. The U.S. National Library of Medicine notes that according to the current evidence, DHEA does not improve muscular performance. Its potential side effects may include:
- A deeper voice in women
- Changes in menstruation for women
- Abnormal hair growth in women
- Breast pain and breast growth in men
Taking a high dose of 50 to 100 milligrams of DHEA for a long time increases the likelihood of adverse reactions.
DHEA may also interact with many other drugs and medications. For example, it may decrease the effectiveness of some cancer treatments, including fulvestrant and letrozole. This compound may also interact with antidepressants, causing the brain to produce too much serotonin, which may lead to heart problems and nervousness.
It also slows the speed at which the body clots blood. When combined with other medications that slow clotting, such as ibuprofen or warfarin, there is an increased chance of bleeding and bruising.
Other ingredients found in bodybuilding supplements and testosterone boosters are SARMs. While the long-term effects of these substances are unknown, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns that SARMs may increase the risk for serious health conditions and complications like:
- Heart attack
- Liver damage
One example of a testosterone booster is Mass Pills, which contains both SARMs and DHEA. Mass Pills' side effects aren't listed on the product label. However, manufacturers warn users to not take the supplement if they are women, men under the age of 21, or at risk for certain health conditions, including high blood pressure, depression and heart, kidney or liver diseases.
- Harvard Health Publishing: "The Hidden Dangers of Protein Powders"
- Nutritech: "Mass Builder Nutritional Information"
- American Heart Association: "Added Sugars"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Creatine"
- Line 1 Nutrition: "Mass Pills"
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: "Fda in Brief: Fda Warns Against Using SARMs in Body-Building Products"
- National Institute on Drug Abuse: "Anabolic Steroids"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "DHEA"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Nutrition and Athletic Performance"