Bodybuilding supplements can increase your muscle mass in a relatively short period of time which may prove to be beneficial or harmful to us.
Supplements are not inspected to the same manufacturing and quality standards as pharmaceutical drugs. Hence the worrying and persistent questions about their harmful side effects are often openly discussed on many bodybuilding forums.
By calling a product a supplement or in fact a natural supplement does not automatically make it harmless and many of their ingredients can cause adverse effects on the human body.
Some of the supplements are made from natural products which when consumed in small amounts will not cause any harm to the body.
However, excessive amounts of these natural ingredients or active ingredients that the body finds difficult to metabolise can place a major burden on the organs such as the liver and kidneys.
The liver is the ‘brain’ organ of the body which helps to detoxify blood, stores vitamins and iron, stores glycogen, breaks down insulin and regulates the fat burning hormones. The kidneys help with waste excretion, water level balance, blood pressure and acid balance within the blood.
You should be able see that by burdening these two major organs could lead to some serious health implications and your muscle building regime would definitely be put on the back burner by your body.
This is a fairly straight forward analogy as the body will shut down what it deems not to be a priority by when attempting to save or fix the major organs.
For the scope of the article we will discuss the side effects of three very popular bodybuilding supplements.
Potential side effects of Creatine
Creatine is one of the most popular supplements consumed and the recommended dosage is between 5-20 grams per day.
Creatine is already present in our muscle tissue and one it of its roles is to absorb water from the blood and then to shunt into our muscle tissue. This may cause muscle cramps and dehydration because shifting the body water away from the major organs into the skeletal muscle is a serious issue.
Long term use of creatine may cause kidney issues and the worst scenario is kidney stones. There is evidence to suggest that creatine can cause nausea and stomach problems but the incidence rates of this are pretty low when assessing the bigger picture!
Potential side effects of Caffeine
Caffeine is a stimulant that is taken by many lifters so that more energy is available to them for working out. It is also used in many fat burning products.
The ideal dosage is between 250-300 mgs on a daily basis but any amount over this recommendation can cause heart palpitations, nervousness, anxiety and diarrhoea.
There is evidence to suggest that over indulgence in caffeine can lead to dehydration, insomnia and restlessness. A lack of sleep can raise your cortisol level which is a catabolic hormone and this also suppresses your human growth hormone level which is vital for muscle gains.
Potential side effects of Whey Protein
We all know of the positive impact that whey protein has on building muscle. However there is some controversy whether excessive protein intake and/or the artificial components that it contains can cause some damage to your health.
Many protein powders contain aspartame, saccharin, fructose and this is combined with a cocktail of more artificial sweeteners.
Aspartame when broken down produces formaldehyde which causes damage to the nerves, liver and kidneys. Many of the sweeteners within protein supplements are artificial and this makes them more difficult for the body to break down.
Always read the label and if the ingredients are difficult to pronounce than more often than not they will cause you more harm than good!
High levels of protein supplementation can produce a huge amount of acids within the body this is caused by the introduction of sulphates and phosphates. The kidneys counteract this increase in blood acid levels by secreting acid.
At the same time the bones release calcium which is unfortunately lost in your urine.
In the long term this can lead to weakening of the bones and osteoporosis.
High intake of protein can place a stress on the kidneys due to the increased levels of ketones. Ketones are a waste product of protein metabolism and if a weakness is already present in the kidneys- a high protein intake can further exacerbate any renal issues.
If you are consuming a high protein diet and not enough adequate carbs (this is a very common scenario for bodybuilders) then your body will be in a state of ‘ketosis’.
This build- up of toxins sends the kidneys into overdrive and in this process more water is passed out as urine. This mechanism can increase the incidence of dehydration and it is further heightened when exercising due to sweat loss. Dehydration can lead to dizziness, sluggishness and in extreme cases heart function.