Turn on your TV or your radio and it’s highly likely a “miracle” supplement is advertised. It seems as though every week, a new supplement is touted to help you lose fat or gain muscle ridiculously fast with minimum efforts. Well, I hate to break it to you, but illegal anabolic steroids are usually the only thing capable of producing rapid fat loss or quick muscle growth.
Dietary supplements are protected under The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), meaning dietary supplements do not have to demonstrate proof of effectiveness or even safety. Scary right!? Some fat burners have even been linked with inflammation of the liver. That’s not all… A product marketed as a vitamin B supplement was linked with unusual hair growth in women and impotence in men.1 Why? Two potentially harmful anabolic steroids were found in the product.
So just how can you tell if a dietary supplement is a fad? Fear no more, The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has provide you with 10 red flags. Now you have the ability to decide if a supplement or even a diet is credible or if it’s a fad promising to give you a fat burning and muscle building “super powers.”
Here it goes: It promises a quick fix, there are dire warnings of danger from a single product or regimen, the claims sound too good to be true, there are simplistic conclusions drawn from a “complex” study, the recommendations are based on a single study, there are dramatic statements that are disproved by reputable scientific organizations, it lists “good” and “bad” foods, testimonials that are used to help sell the product are present, the recommendations are based on studies published without a peer review, and finally the recommendations from studies ignore differences among individuals or groups.3
Hoofta, give me a chance to catch my breath!
The best approach to a weight loss program includes healthy food choices with exercise, behavior modifications, nutrition education and some motivation. Building muscle requires a gradual increase in energy intake with combined weight lifting to maximize muscle mass gain over fat gain. Finally focus on proper fueling with food rather than dietary supplements.
Once your food is in place, certain dietary supplements can be effective.
Whey protein, creatine, and even caffeine have been proven to be effective in aiding your training. But before whipping out your wallet for supplements, make sure you keep the 10 red flags in the back of your mind to save your health and your wallet talk with a Registered Dietitian.
Gavin Van De Walle is an ISSA Certified Fitness Trainer, a freelance writer on topics of fitness and nutrition, and a dietetic student at South Dakota State University. Once Gavin becomes an RD, he will aim to achieve the distinguished Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD) credential. Gavin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Y Radha Krishna, V Mittal, P. Grewal, Mi Fiel, T Schiano. Acute liver failure caused by ‘fat burner’ and dietary supplements: A case report and literature review. Can J Gastroenterol. 2011; 25(3): 157-160.
2. Food and Drug Administration: FDA warns consumers about health risks with Healthy Life Chemistry dietary supplement.
3. ADA. Position of the American Dietetic Association: Food and nutrition misinformation. J Am Diet Assoc. 2006;106:601.