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No one wants to think that they are taking something that could potentially have nasty side effects, and there are many different bodybuilding supplements that have come onto the market only to be removed again due to potential health risks.
So which ones are safe and which ones aren’t? What are potential side effects you should be aware of?
Firstly, it’s important to consider that if you take too much of anything it can have an adverse effect.
Too much vitamin C can cause diarrhea, but that doesn’t mean that it is dangerous if you have too much, it just means the body creates a ‘symptom’ in order to flush the excess out of the system.
That being said, there are common supplements used on a daily basis that can be dangerous if you take in excess.
Vitamin D for example, in large doses can cause hypercalcemia which can result in all sorts of unpleasant side effects.
Side effects of bodybuilding supplements
Testosterone boosters, fat burners, creatine and pre-workout supplements are often associated with bad side effects.
Testosterone boosters come in two forms, pro hormones or anabolic steroids, and natural plant supplements. The natural plant supplements work to unbind bound testosterone already within the body, or work at increasing the levels of testosterone the body is producing.
You may have already heard of some of the side effects linked to steroids and prohormones, such as:
- Hair loss
- Testicular atrophy
- Acne and oily skin
- Increased mood swings and aggression
- Enlarged breast glands (gynecomastia)
- Elevated levels of red blood cells (polycythemia)
- Increased estrogen levels
Surprisingly the natural plant supplements, such as; avena sativa, fenugreek extracts, longjack and others, can produce the same side effects to a lesser extent.
Fat burners approach weight loss a number of different ways, including; thermogenics, diuretics and stimulants.
As with all supplements, the dosage and frequency of using them, will ultimately impact on the severity of any side effects. Fat burners can cause side effects such as:
- Jitteriness, nervousness
- Increased heart rate and palpitations
- Frequent urination
- Loss of appetite
Many fat burners direct you to take them on an empty stomach, but often if you experience symptoms such as lightheadedness, jitteriness and diarrhea, you can reduce them by taking it after a light snack so that the stomach is not empty.
Fat burners should be avoided by anyone with pre-existing heart, digestive or hormonal conditions.
Creatine has often been associated with kidney damage, including interstitial nephritis, as well as altering the liver function, which could be dangerous to anyone with preexisting liver conditions. Yet recent studies have shown little or no impact on kidneys or liver from taking oral creatine supplements.
Pre-workout supplements are basically individual or combined bodybuilding supplements and often contain stimulants, creatine, nitric oxide precursors, and BCAAs.
Stimulants can cause side effects similar to those mentioned for fat burners, and we have already looked at some of the side effects for creatine.
Nitric oxide precursors, can cause a range of side effects when taken in excess, including:
- Reducing blood pressure and oxygen utilization
- Impairing mitochondrial energy production
- Stimulating inflammatory chemicals such as cytokines and prostaglandins
- Indirectly or directly cause cell death
BCAAs can cause side effects such as; fatigue and loss of coordination, and should not be taken for longer than 6 month periods.
When taking bodybuilding supplements it is important to always follow the directions and make sure you are aware of any possible side effects for the product you are using.
If you notice any adverse side effects it is important you stop using it, and check with your GP.