Share this page:
Dietary Supplements

Beware the Risks of Dietary Supplements

Often, people take supplements that promise muscle building or fat burning benefits, and likely don’t know that these products may have an adverse, or even dangerous, impact on their health.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) categorizes supplements in a different class than conventional pharmaceuticals, which means supplements are not subjected to FDA testing and approval before sale to consumers. Be sure to educate yourself about the health and safety risks associated with any supplement before including it with your exercise regimen.


Reconsider these common muscle-building supplements:

Testosterone Boosters
The hormone testosterone plays an important role in how your body stores fat and creates muscle mass. Testosterone boosters stimulate your body’s production of testosterone to support muscle growth.

The short-term effects of testosterone boosters are minimal; however, the long-term risks are still unclear. Short-term side effects of testosterone boosters may include acne, sleep disturbances, mood swings, and aggressive behavior. Some studies suggest that the long-term use of testosterone boosters may lead to kidney damage or even heart disease.

Pre-workout supplements are composed of a variety of stimulants that provide additional energy for high-intensity exercise. These stimulants can include caffeine, creatine, beta-alanine, B vitamins. Short-term side effects of pre-workout supplements can consist of cramps, headaches, anxiety, high blood pressure, and chest pain.

Pre-workout supplements often contain high amounts of caffeine. Some supplements contain as much as 400 mg of caffeine—the equivalent to approximately four cups of coffee. Excessive caffeine intake can worsen pre-existing heart conditions like arrhythmia, which can lead to cardiac arrest.

Protein Powder
Protein is a necessary element to any diet. Your body needs protein to build and repair cells, and to build healthy muscles. However, most Americans already consume healthy amounts of protein in their regular diet. Excessive protein consumption can lead to adverse side effects.

A 2013 study of protein intake found that increases in protein led to significant calcium loss through the urine. Calcium is an important factor in maintaining strong bones—excessive protein intake may negatively impact your bone health. Long-term, high levels of protein consumption may also increase your risk of kidney stone formation.

While many supplements may help increase your immediate work-out performance, the long-term effects of these supplements have not been rigorously tested. Consider utilizing natural food sources in lieu of supplements, such as fruits and vegetables, milk, eggs, and red meat. Make sure to fully understand the health benefits and side effects of any supplements you take. Talk to your doctor if you are unsure if a dietary supplement is healthy for you.

This article first appeared in the May 2017 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.