Muscle Supplements: Why Most of Them Are Harmful

Sunwarrior Protein 3 PackThe Muscle supplements industry is a multi-million dollar business. Bodybuilders, athletes, weight loss, Sports and fitness enthusiasts are all lured into buying millions of dollars worth of supplements every month, in the promise of gaining muscle mass, increasing power and strength, and optimizing fat loss and performance.

The Law Isn’t Really Protecting You

One of the main issues is that as a a consumer, you’re not really protected from scammers. Did you know that in 1994 the US congress passed the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act? Basically, it deregulated dietary supplements. It stated that from then on, “dietary supplements”  mean to include products containing vitamins, minerals, amino acids, or herbs in single or combination, and weren’t subjected to regulation. In other words, manufacturers of dietary supplements can pretty much claim whatever they want to claim about their product and get away with it.

And that’s exactly what happened.

A study surveying 624 commercial bodybuilding supplements found over 800 claims of “effective muscle building”. The said supplements contained amino acids, choline, carnitine, ferulic acid, gamma oryzanol, boron, chromium, and weight gain powders, along with other muscle-building chemicals. Despite all these ingredients, the supplements’ claims remain unverified by hard evidence and extensive research.

Muscle Supplements’ Harmful Ingredients: Read Before You Buy!

Most muscle supplements and protein powders on sale at health food stores or groceries contain harmful, toxic ingredients (most of which are marketed as good for you) like inorganic chemicals, artificial coloring, artificial sweeteners (saccharin, fructose, aspartame, etc).

Let’s take a look at some of these harmful ingredients.

Harmful Ingredient #1: Artificial Sweeteners

Watch out for these artificial sweeteners:

  • high fructose corn syrup
  • Splenda
  • Aspartame
  • sucralose

Aspartame, when consumed, may cause damage to your nervous system. When aspartame enters your body, it separates into two compounds: formic acid and formaldehyde. Formic acid is an irritant so it doesn’t really mix well with the bloodstream. But formaldehyde? It’s a preservative chemical and is an EPA-classified environmental toxin!

The damage that could be caused by formaldehyde spans various areas of the nervous system, so don’t be surprised if you get migraines, vision problems and even involuntary shaking upon ingesting it. It could affect the optic nerve and the nerve cells that make your body move, along with your brain cells. Why would you want this chemical compound in muscle supplements that you’d regularly consume?

So What Should You Look For Instead of Artificial Sweeteners?

Healthy alternatives to sugar and artificial sweeteners are:

Stevia – extracted from an herb indigenous to Central and South America, stevia contains zero calories and has no effect on your body’s blood sugar. Unfortunately, the FDA frowns on the use of stevia in food and beverage products. But it is legal for nutritional products and whey protein powders to contain stevia.

Xylitol -is a white crystalline sweetener that occurs naturally in berries, fruit, vegetables, mushrooms and birch trees.

If you are going to make your own supplements (which is the safest way of doing it, really), another great alternative is Agave nectar for sweetening your high protein shakes or supplements.

Jay Robb’s Whey Protein Powder, (which comes in chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla flavors), uses stevia as a sweetener.

Harmful Ingredient #2: Steroid-Like Substances

On November 2009, the FDA issued a safety alert and immediate recall of bodybuilding supplements sold through

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned several months ago that some purportedly safe dietary supplements contain either anabolic steroids or their chemical precursors.

On July 2009, US FDA wrote a press release warning consumers about bodybuilding products. It revealed that some over the counter supplement producers are marketing their products to contain steroid-like substances.

Chemists are currently searching for and developing undetectable compounds that have the same effects as steroids. Supplement manufacturers have been disguising androgenic compounds as over-the-counter supplements, without the consumers’ knowledge. Anabolic steroids can be extremely dangerous for your body, since too much of these can cause heart and liver failure and vascular disease. These steroids can even affect your fertility.

If you’re not careful, you could end up ingesting steroids or steroid precursors without even being aware that your choice of supplements contained these harmful substances.

Harmful Ingredient #3: Soy

Soy derived protein is currently being sold as active ingredients in many supplements for bodybuilding. You’re probably even taking soy protein as part of your muscle building diet without knowing it. According to Isabel De Los Rios, author of The Diet Solution Plan, eating soy will actually do the opposite for you if building muscle is your goal. She goes on to say that:

“This is because most soy products on the market today contain phytoestrogens.   These phytoestrogens mimic the effects of estrogen in the body and have been shown to decrease the testosterone levels of rats, monkeys and other animals, including humans.  It has been known for quite some time that soy lowers testosterone to the point that there is an old Japanese wives’ tale that says women punish straying husbands by feeding them a lot of tofu.  Now what do you think that means?

If building muscle is your goal, definitely stay away from any protein powder or protein bar that contains soy or soy protein isolate. Make sure to read labels carefully as it is in more products than you think.”

Still not convinced? Here are some more findings from Soy Online Service :

  • Soy isoflavones and Soy protein isolate don’t have GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) status from the FDA because of concern regarding the presence of toxins and carcinogens in processed soy.
  • Soy foods contain trypsin inhibitors which inhibit protein digestion (and affect pancreatic function) – meaning that soy can actually inhibit your body’s ability to absorb protein.
  • Megadoses of phytoestrogens in soy formula have been implicated in the current trend toward increasingly premature sexual development in girls and delayed or retarded sexual development in boys.
  • Soy consumption enhances hair growth in middle-aged men, indicating lowered testosterone levels. (Read: lowered testosterone levels = decreased muscle building capacity!)

Sunwarrior Protein
The 3 ingredients I have discussed above are just some of the harmful ingredients commonly found in  many weight gain supplements,  bodybuilding  supplements and muscle building supplements.

To make sure that the bodybuilding supplements and protein powders you choose are completely safe for your body, take the time to read the products’ labels and find out what they really are and why they are there . That could save you from health problems you could encounter in the future. But don’t worry, I’ve already done the research for you. For a list of the best Muscle building Protein Supplements that are safe and healthy, click here.

Lastly, I encourage you to think of supplements as something that you should use only AFTER you have already mastered the discipline of successfully applying the right Muscle Building Nutrition practices and the right training programme combined with adequate recovery time. Otherwise supplements won’t really be able to do much for your muscle building efforts, because the foundation aren’t there.

If you liked this article, please sign up to my newsletter (accessible on the right hand corner of this page) so you can receive even more an even better muscle building tips and exclusive bonuses.
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Founder & Fitness Nerd

Founder of Muscle4Hardgainers. Loves to experiment and teach others the best ways to reach their physical goals.

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