The Good the Bad and the Ugly of Supplements

Supplements have become huge business over the past ten to twelve years.   According to the Nutrition Business Journal, sales of vitamins and dietary supplements grew 9.2 per cent to $3 billion in 2010. That’s a lot of supplements!!

We now have supplements that pick us up in order to train, help maintain energy levels while we train, help us recover following training. We also have products that claim to help us sleep, increase blood flow, increase the pump effect of resistance training. There are products that claim to assist weight loss and fat burning potential, while others claim to increase muscle mass. There are hundreds of brands each with the aim of achieving the above goals each with individual products with different ingredients.

As a Personal Trainer I have tried everything over the past 10 years.  From various forms of creatine, glutamine, BCAA’s, whey protein shakes, casein protein shakes, pre workout drinks, dextrose, ZMA…I have tried it all. Some products work and many don’t and many have the opposite effect and make you feel like complete death.

It has become normality for the three times a week gym goer who simply wants to increase fitness and tone up to take pre and post workout shakes to boost performance. I have seen people who have a pre workout drink and post workout drink after steady state cardiovascular workouts. We all know the type of people I’m talking about!! They end up consuming more calories and sugar in these shakes than they are burning off with their workout. They are attending the gym and having a positive calorie intake over that time period!! They would be better off staying at home with their feet up and not having the shakes at all.

The word supplement by definition means:  ‘Something added to complete a thing, make up for a deficiency, or extend or strengthen the whole’. Supplements are there to supple – ment you’re food intake. They should not replace food.

Before introducing synthetic supplements you must get your Nutritional habits on track. If your missing breakfast every morning and taking a mass gainer shake post workout, you really are wasting your time. Instil the basics and build from there.

Now this article isn’t designed to criticise certain products, but more educate. There is definitely a place for many of the products on the market. However those that are in need of them only make up a small proportion of the gym population.  In my opinion Health is the key to being energised for your workouts, Health is the key to great recovery and Health is the key to achieving your fitness goals.

It’s no wonder people are confused; one size does not fit all. For example a high sugar shake such as Dextrose is regarded as fantastic post workout for an athlete for recovery and many also believe it to be great for a body builder to replace and refuel glycogen levels.

 It is also the worst thing you could do for your average gym goer who wants to drop a few pounds of weight.  Sugar produces insulin and if your body is producing insulin you’re not going to be losing weight any time soon. After most peoples workouts of the typical three cardiovascular machines and the 5 fixed machines (3 x 10 reps), you’re certainly not in need of a shake post workout.

If Health is your number one objective, here are five ingredients to stay away from. Make sure they aren’t in your shakes:


Sucrose, Dextrose and Sucralose

These are artificial sweeteners. These artificial sweeteners break down into highly toxic chemical agents that damage important regions of the body. The greater the processing the more dangerous the sweetener can potentially be. Excess sugar consumption is linked to obesity, diabetes and even cancer.

For example; Sucralose was created accidentally when some chemists were trying to produce an insecticide. Do you really want this shit in your shakes?


Artificial Sugars and Anti Caking Agents in Herbalife Shakes


Anti-caking Agents

Anti-caking agents are small chemicals that absorb moisture and prevent other compounds from sticking together . Anti-caking agents are often composed of phosphate, carbonate, silicate or oxide compounds. Many of these compounds contain aluminum, such as sodium alumino-silicate. Aluminum is well-known to be toxic to the body, and high levels can cause damage to the kidneys, muscles, digestive system and bones. High levels of aluminum exposure may also be linked to Alzheimer's disease.

It has also been shown that foods that contain these artificial nutrients increase the rate of which vitamin c degrades (Lisa Mauer and Lynne Taylor, both professors at Purdue University). Again, you don’t want this shit in your shakes!!

Chemical Cascade in  Pre Workout Shake


Acesulfame Potassium ( Acesulfame K)

This is another sweetener that many manufacturers use.

The problem is that there have been no long term studies done on Acesulfame K. It contains contains the carcinogen methylene chloride. Long-term exposure to methylene chloride can cause headaches, depression, nausea, mental confusion, liver effects, kidney effects, visual disturbances and cancer in humans.


Magnesium Oxide

I have first-hand experience of taking a product containing magnesium oxide and it wasn’t nice. After a summer containing a few holidays, lots of beach weights I went back to football almost a stone heavier than I finished the previous season. A friend recommended Maximuscle ‘Thermobol’ capsules and shakes. So I gave it a go. If only I knew, what I do now.

In the case of magnesium oxide, when this is combined with water it forms the highly alkaline and caustic magnesium hydroxide. This not only neutralizes stomach acid inhibiting magnesium absorption, but it also burns the intestinal wall due to its caustic nature. This is why magnesium hydroxide is used as a laxative!!

So this would explain why I was getting severe stomach cramps and a burning sensation in my throat. I was also cramping up after 60 minutes of football – Bad Times. Stay away from this.


Magnesium stearate

This is formed by adding a magnesium ion to stearic acid. The compound has lubricating properties, which is why it's often used in the making of supplements, as it allows the machinery to run faster and smoother, and prevents the pills or capsules from sticking to each other.

Research has shown that stearic acid suppresses T cells—your natural killer cells—which are a key component of your immune system. Again – stay away!!

So this article isn’t designed to put anybody off supplements. I use supplements daily. However a cheap product will normally include cheap ingredients. Be more careful about what ingredients are in your shakes. As this article proves many ingredients are toxic. Speak to a highly qualified Personal Trainer, Nutritionist or Dietician about the products you are going to purchase beforehand.

Sort your Nutritional habits out before supplementing. If you need a hand, then take a Natural Meal replacement shake that contains vital nutrients and has scientifically published research.

Also there is no law about who can sell supplements. Anyone can recommend or sell. If I was you I’d speak to a professional and take their advice.


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