Athletes and fitness fanatics alike are all too familiar with the supplement industry. Powders, shakes, formulas, capsules, tablets — anything that can help you get that extra edge in your workout. Everywhere you look on the web and in magazines, you’ll find advertisements screaming about the magical results of these miracle products. All too many of these claims are, unfortunately, bunk. And unlike those activities you’re trying to get a competitive edge in, this is not a game.
The nutritional supplement business is a multibillion dollar industry which continues to grow each year. Every day, companies are turning out their latest and greatest products that will “boost your energy,” help you “build muscle,” and, of course, “burn fat.” That’s the bait, and people are falling hook-line-and-sinker. Granted, there really are some dietary supplements which can effectively do any one of these things in the right doses and under the right circumstances. But in many cases, these claims are merely marketing ploys which manage to dupe people into putting horrible, harmful substances in their bodies.
One of the primary recommendations from the “experts” is to thoroughly research any product before you hop on the supplemental bandwagon. However, even this is not always enough. Take Jareem Gunter, now in his 30s, a young baseball up-and-comer who was looking for the extra spring in his step. Gunter testified before Congress in 2009 about his horror story. He claims to have researched a substance called SuperdRol for “three to four weeks” before taking it. Still, after just a month of being on the product, Gunter wound up in the hospital with life-threatening liver failure. Research is not always enough; the age of the internet makes it hard for the average Joe to separate fact from fiction.
Likewise, young athletes are especially susceptible. Constantly under pressure from parents and coaches to be the best at everything always, kids as young as middle-schoolers will turn to powders and other products. And speaking of horror stories, just ask some of your friends who were high school athletes if their coaches ever nudged them to try one of these products. It is one thing if adults make the conscious decision to take nutritional supplements. It is another thing entirely to feed them to kids before and after practices.
Many who share my concerns will insist that the nutritional supplement industry is entirely unregulated. Not true. The Food and Drug Administration has hefty guidelines for these companies. All the while, they estimate that nearly 70 percent of them do not abide by basic quality control standards. Therein lies the problem. Not new laws, but enforcement of existing ones, is the immediate solution. Your best bet, if you’re interested in a boost for your diet or workout, is to always talk to a doctor before taking anything. Sticking to a regular-old healthy diet would be even better.