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6 Things To Know About Dietary Supplements Marketed for Bodybuilding or Performance Enhancement

Some bodybuilders and athletes turn to dietary supplements to try to improve their strength, muscle mass, and energy. However, these products may contain ingredients that have not been proven effective, and some of them may be harmful. Here are 6 things to know about dietary supplements marketed for bodybuilding or performance enhancement.

  1. Some products promoted for bodybuilding contain dangerous hidden ingredients. Consumers may unknowingly take products laced with prescription drug ingredients, controlled substances, or other ingredients not listed on the label. Bodybuilding supplements may be adulterated with anabolic steroids—modified versions of male hormones designed to increase muscle mass. Anabolic steroids can boost strength but can cause severe, long-lasting, and in some cases, irreversible damage such as early heart attacks, strokes, liver tumors, kidney failure, and psychiatric problems. Stopping use can cause depression, which can lead to resumption of use.

  2. Liver injury from taking bodybuilding dietary supplements has increased in recent years. Bodybuilding products are the most common cause of liver injury linked to herbal or dietary supplement use.

  3. Products containing the stimulants BMPEA or DMAA can cause serious health problems. Supplements labeled as containing the herb Acacia rigidula often contain β-methylphenylethylamine (BMPEA), although BMPEA isn’t in the herb and isn’t a dietary ingredient. The amphetamine isomer BMPEA may be in present in pharmacologic dosages that lack evidence for safety.

  4. Some ingredients marketed for athletic performance have not been shown to work. These ingredients include glutamine, choline, methoxyisoflavone, quercetin, zinc/magnesium aspartate, nitric oxide, and L-arginine. Results for beta-alanine are mixed but generally do not show that it improves athletic performance significantly.

  5. Creatine supplements may enhance the effects of vigorous exercise on strength, muscle mass, and endurance, but they can also have side effects. Side effects may include fluid weight gain, nausea, cramping, and diarrhea.

  6. Take charge of your health—talk with your health care providers about any complementary health approach you’re using or considering, including dietary supplements for bodybuilding or physical performance. Together, you can make shared, well-informed decisions.