Bodybuilding Supplements: Fact or Fiction?

If you’re trying to build muscle, you’ve probably noticed the many products that claim to boost muscle mass overnight. Don’t be fooled; it takes time and hard work to build muscle and burn fat. However, bodybuilding supplements can be effective when they are combined with a healthy diet plan and regular, rigorous workout schedule.

General Information

Bodybuilding supplements provide an added boost to diet and regular exercise. Their primary function is to increase muscle mass and accelerate fat loss. Supplements may contain one main ingredient or a combination of different vitamins, amino acids, proteins and other products. Some bodybuilding supplements are meant to replace meals and provide large amounts of protein and fat to accelerate muscle development. Others, like protein powders or shakes, make excellent pre- and post-workout snacks.

Creatine Supplements

Creatine is the most commonly used bodybuilding supplement, according to MayoClinic.com. It is actually a naturally-occurring substance that the human body produces during weight-lifting and other actions that require short bursts of energy. Creatine also helps the body make ATP, or adenosine triphosphate, which provides energy to the body’s cells. The muscles store creatine for later use and the liver eliminates excessive amounts.

Protein Supplements

Protein is another common ingredient in bodybuilding supplements. Getting enough protein is crucial for muscle growth. All of the body’s cells contain protein, which provides energy for muscle development. Bodybuilding supplements may contain whey, casein, soy, hemp or rice protein. Although they are commonly used, protein supplements are not necessary if you get enough protein in your diet. In fact, excessive protein consumption can cause kidney damage.

Hormones

Although hormone supplementation is often effective, doctors are unsure of its safety. According to “The Men’s Health Hard Body Plan,” hormone supplements like DHEA and androstenedione should only be used under the recommendation and supervision of your doctor. Although these supplements provide muscle building benefits, they also pose serious risks, such as irregular heartbeat, liver problems, male breast development and personality disorders.

Amino Acids

Bodybuilding supplements that contain amino acids stimulate muscle growth by activating and increasing growth hormone production. Glutamine is the most common amino acid used in bodybuilding supplements. Other amino acids, like arginine, lysine and ornithine can also be used, although doctor supervision is recommended. If you don’t have low levels of these amino acids to begin with, you may experience unpleasant side effects like diarrhea, bloating and cramping.

Safety and Effectiveness

Use of bodybuilding supplements has become more and more widespread since their introduction in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Although they have become a staple item of many bodybuilders, you should avoid choosing products based on marketing and consult with a licensed trainer or doctor to determine the best supplement for you. Bodybuilding supplements are not regulated by the FDA, and some have been deemed unsafe for regular use. For example, in 2009 Bodybuilding.com announced a voluntary recall of many common bodybuilding supplements, including Androstenedione, Desoxymethyltestosterone and Methasterone.

Conclusion

You shouldn’t depend on bodybuilding supplements to help you gain muscle. However, when they are used in safe dosages and combined with regular lifting and a balanced diet, supplements can give you a head start on building and maintaining muscle. If you have any questions or concerns about bodybuilding supplements, talk to a doctor or other health professional.

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