Sport's Supplements: Cut the CRAP! - Part II
In part one we examined certain Supplements we consider a Bodybuilder's best friend......Protein, creatine, glutamine and anti-oxidants.
Sport's Supplements: Cut the CRAP! - Part I
Now, here in Part 2 we will look at several groups of supplements that work, as in they are effective, but carry a cost and we are not talking about money. Please don't read me wrong, these supplements pay my rent many times over and are made by many reputable companies, yet day in and day out, I see the negative results of these products. The views here are this author's only.
Prohormones: Yes, they work! They work so well, in fact, that they’re banned by most competitive bodybuilding associations the IOC, USOC, NCAA, AAU, and most professional athletics. Basically a prohormone, in this sense, is a precursor to testosterone. Your body converts these with enzymes that you possess in the liver into steroidal hormones with various half lives. We have used them beneficially in older men as hormone replacement therapy (HRT). In other “older” men when there have been pronounced androgenic and anabolic effects from the prohormone, we have helped their health care professionals diagnose hypogonadism. Prohormones have been useful in these situations.
However, in younger men we have frequently seen negative side effects with the usage of prohormones. Examples of this range from young men failing to achieve full erection within weeks of prohormone use, to one of our clientele being referred from doctor to doctor, finally being diagnosed by an endocrinologist as permanently hypogonadal at the age of 27.
Let's think about the common-sense mechanism here. The body is receiving exogenous (outside) replacement of a hormone that the body usually produces endogenously (inside). It no longer has to produce it's own testosterone, there exists the potential for testicular shrinkage as the Leydig cells in the testes no longer need to be stimulated by LH (luteinzing hormone) for normal testosterone output. Additionally, this exogenous testosterone converts to the metabolites DHT or estrogens, both having a plethora of side effects beyond the scope of this article.
The point we’re trying to make here is that, for some individuals using an actual steroidal compound or a prohormone, the risks and side effects can be the same. While 99 times out of 100, we rarely see negative side effects of prohormones, and normally a person's own hormonal system switches back on after a “cycle,” are these worth the risk?
Thermogenics: Thermogenics are a catch-all phrase for products that elevate body temperature. An elevation of body temperature leads to a higher metabolic rate, and therefore, more calories are burned. We are using it here to mean the common, everyday E/C/A (ephedrine/caffeine/aspirin) stacks. While the mechanisms of such products are beyond the scope of this article, they are commonly used for energy prior to a workout or during the day, increasing one's metabolism to accelerate fat loss, and, unfortunately, for the simple fact that many individuals have developed a psychological and physiological dependence and cannot function adequately without them.
Having greater energy for a workout is perhaps the only viable use of the E/C/A stack. This can actually be accomplished by ephedrine (ephedra alkaloids), caffeine, or even green tea in place of the whole stack. If the use is infrequent and a person does not develop a tolerance, E/C/A stacks are beneficial in the stress/adaptation process and overcoming plateaus in weight-lifting.
The downside, however, is continued use or abuse. Common sense dictates that the body, being an intelligent organism, if chemically revved up to 110% for 4 - 6 hours, will, in turn, compensate at 90% for an equal amount of time. The net effect to many people's surprise, is zero--especially for people seeking fat loss. However, body weight loss can occur in many due to the appetite suppression characteristics of these products.
The unseen danger that we see on a daily basis in our business is the downward spiral that many individuals incur on these products. Not only do they feel lifeless and non-energetic without them, but hair loss, anxiety, depression and gauntness develop in many individuals. One needs to recognize that ephedra, ephedra alkaloids, and ephedrine are precursors to amphetamines and methamphetamines. All of these products, when overused or abused, severely tax the central nervous system and adrenal function. It is now recognized that a form of chronic fatigue, called “Adrenal Burnout Syndrome,” can partially be attributed to the overuse of stimulants.
Thyroid Enhancers: This is a rather narrow group of products with a single purpose: to enhance or elevate thyroid function. The simple theory here is to boost the metabolism. Such products include
diiodothyronine; and the synonamous TRIAX, TRIAC, tricana, triacol, all forms of triiodotheyroacetic acid. There are four basic thyroid hormones. T3 is derived from T4 (thyroxine), and T2 (diiodothyronine) is derived from T3. T4 is formed by the release of TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone), which is produced by the anterior pituitary.
Now we are back in the same position as with prohormones. Add external, or exogenous replacement anywhere in the pathway, and the body's own production of these hormones can be compromised. It is a well-known fact that many individuals taking these products and pharmaceutical versions of thyroid replacement can deter the thyroid's normal functioning. This then can severely interfere with the body's metabolism, and the individual might incur a tremendous amount of lipogenesis (fat accumulation) upon cessation of usage. Again we ask, is it worth it?
More information on hypothyroidism, Wilson's Syndrome, and iodine deficiency can be found here:
Other: Just a quick mention here on one very dangerous supplement
Usnic acid or sodium usinate has NO practical application for the “Natural Bodybuilder.” It's standard usage is to simulate a drug called 2,4 Dinitrophenol, a common ingredient in bug poison. DNP is what's known as a classic uncoupler of oxidative phosphorylation, The body uses a lot of energy in converting ADP to ATP. Normally, the process is about 60 percent efficient, and the energy that's not converted is wasted as heat, in this case body heat. DNP makes the process only 40 percent efficient by uncoupling the high energy phosphate from the ATP and turning the ATP into ADP, while the energy from the uncoupling is dissipated as body heat. Unfortunately the effective dose is very close to the “lethal” dose, with the individual literally cooking from the inside out. While usnic acid is not DNP, it is, hepatoxic, and also not worth the risks!
We have covered the good supps, the ones every Bodybuilder benefits from, and now, the more questionable supplements - those that work, but at a cost to the body. In the last installment of Sport's Supplements: Cut the Crap, we will look at “Pure Crap: Save your Money!