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.
In December, the agency warned consumers not to take a supplement called Mass Destruction, which had been sold in retail stores, at gyms and online. The move came after a previously healthy 28-year-old man ended up needing a liver transplant after taking Mass Destruction for several weeks. At least one synthetic (and illegal) anabolic steroid is listed in the ingredients, and the FDA is running more tests to find out what other substances may be included.
This FDA regularly issues warnings about tainted muscle-building products like this one. In fact, the agency says people should avoid any bodybuilding supplements that claim to contain steroids or steroid-like substances. The FDA says the products shouldn’t be considered supplements at all, but instead are unapproved and misbranded drugs.
Know the risks
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.
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.gov,
but even it includes a disclaimer that just a fraction of the potentially hazardous products with hidden ingredients marketed to consumers.
Health experts 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.
Alternatives for building bulk
- 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
Guidry recommends finding a personal trainer to help you establish the exercise routine that fits you best. If you want to try a workout supplement, Sharecare’s Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD, says to consider creatine.
Adding two ounces a day provides your muscles with more energy. And another muscle-boosting protein is probably in your fridge.