Avoid the ‘roids
© 2009 Roy Benaroch, MD
Mixed news from the world of weightlifting: it turns out that some “supplements” touted to increase muscle mass actually work, but only because they contain dangerous steroids.
The FDA is now warning consumers not to use dietary products that promise to bulk up muscles. These are frequently sold not only at “health food” stores, but also at your local drugstore. They’re often protein powders with manly names like “MuscleMaxx” or “MASS Xtreme” or “GRRR Me Bulky”* sold to …. guess …. males who want big hulky muscles. I used to think these products were just a waste of money, made from waste protein sources, but basically harmless.
It turns out that some of them are laced with genuine anabolic steroids, just like the ones used by your favorite Major League All-Stars. Yes, they’ll bulk-clap-you-up, and yes, they’ll also shrink those testicles down to teeny nubs, make your hair fall out, cause hypertension, osteoporosis, liver failure, and early death by psychotic homicide-suicide. Did I mention the bulky muscles? To some men, apparently, that’s all they’ll hear.
Despite having raided manufacturers and proved that many of these products are made with bioactive and potentially deadly steroids, the FDA has no authority to recall these products. That’s because, you see, they’re not “drugs.” Supplements are a multi-billion dollar industry, complete with their own lobbyists and plenty of money to pay off lawmakers. As long as they don’t claim to be drugs, they’re free from just about any government oversight or regulation. What’s in the bottle? Who knows? How about some toxic heavy metals? Or maybe nothing at all?
If you’d like to bulk up, follow Dr. Roy’s plan for healthy, strong muscles:
- Eat a diet rich in complete protein. Nuts, soy, eggs, dairy, and lean meat are all good wholesome protein sources. Don’t waste your money on protein powder.
- Get into an exercise routine using resistance training—weights! Work with a trainer or coach to show you how to do it right, avoid injury, and come up with a routine that will match your goals. You can’t make muscles bigger without lifting weights.
- Get plenty of sleep. Muscle cells grow efficiently only during sleep.
That’s it. I know especially teenagers like the idea of a powder or supplement that’ll get you looking like this guy (rather than him or him), but there are no shortcuts. You want big? Hit the gym, not the drug store.
* One of these names is real, two are made-up. Guess which ones!