Workout and bodybuilding supplements have become increasingly popular among athletes and fitness enthusiasts seeking to improve their athletic performance and build muscle mass. However, these supplements often contain many ingredients, some of which can increase the risk of adverse drug interactions. While herbal supplements are often marketed as safe and “natural,” they can still pose risks, including harm to the liver and heart.
One researcher, Dr. Bill Gurley, principal scientist in the National Center for Natural Products Research, warns athletes about the potential harms of herbal supplements, particularly those used for weight loss and bodybuilding. These supplements have been known to cause liver damage and pose risks to the heart and blood vessels.
Gurley explains that the risk of dangerous side effects is higher when a product contains multiple herbal compounds or is used in combination with prescribed medication. Therefore, athletes should be cautious and avoid certain supplements that can be particularly dangerous.
One such group of supplements to watch out for are those with added caffeine. While caffeine itself is generally considered safe, athletic supplements with added caffeine can be problematic. The problem lies in not knowing how much caffeine is being consumed. Taking more than one gram of caffeine can have toxic effects, especially when combined with other compounds that act similarly to caffeine and have cardiovascular stimulant properties. This combination can put excessive strain on the cardiovascular system, which is already under stress during exercise.
Another group of supplements to avoid are those containing “natural anabolic steroids.” Many products labeled as having natural anabolic steroids may actually contain synthetic steroids, as there is little federal regulation in the supplement industry. Gurley warns against the potential liver damage caused by such products.
Black pepper extract, although innocuous on its own, may interact dangerously with other compounds found in multicomponent supplements. This may increase the risk of herb-drug interactions.
Yohimbe, a supplement derived from the bark of the Yohimbe tree, is often touted for numerous purposes, including weight loss and athletic performance. However, it can also be dangerous, causing heart attacks, irregular heartbeats, seizures, high blood pressure, and anxiety. Gurley advises avoiding Yohimbe as much as possible.
It is also important to be cautious when taking multi-ingredient supplements marketed for athletic performance. These supplements often contain a variety of compounds, increasing the risk of dangerous drug interactions. Individuals who are taking prescription medication should be especially careful when considering herbal supplements and should consult with their doctors before trying any new supplements.
Lastly, it is crucial to be mindful of where herbal supplements are purchased. Some supplement manufacturers may not adhere to proper manufacturing practices, leading to contamination and adulteration. To minimize the risk of liver injury, Gurley recommends buying herbal products that are HSP or NSF sport certified.
In conclusion, athletes and fitness enthusiasts should exercise caution when using workout and bodybuilding supplements, particularly those that contain multiple ingredients. It is important to be aware of potential risks, such as liver and heart damage, associated with these supplements. Consulting with healthcare professionals and purchasing from reputable sources can help mitigate these risks and ensure safety during supplementation.