Chuck, lots of muscle-building products out there advertise huge results, including the bonus of increased libidos. Recommend any of them? – “Looking for Muscle in Minnesota”
Big claims abound on bottles lining the billion-dollar industry of weight loss and muscle building. And with failed spring diets leading to flabby summer displays, right now the fruit for quick fixes is ripe for the picking.
Since the rise and outlaw of anabolic steroids – synthetic hormones that imitate testosterone and increase muscle mass – marketers have created myriad “natural product” alternatives they claim can mimic their effects and speed safely. But are they really safe?
Among the newer ingredients in these muscle-mojo products are Tribulus terrestris and Eurycoma longifolia, which are herbs pitched as hormone – particularly testosterone – boosters (I even have seen these herbs in teas and coffees). Add a pinch of ginkgo, horny goat weed, arginine and zinc and, pill marketers tout, you’ll become an Abercrombie & Fitch model by the end of the month.
Remember the old adage that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is?
The team of nutritionists who pen the University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter offers some of the most reputable health wisdom and resources.
The nutritionists warned consumers about muscle supplements that contain Tribulus terretris: “Despite the claims, there’s no scientific evidence (Tribulus terrestris and Eurycoma longifolia) build muscle or do anything to enhance performance. As to their safety, Dr. Gary Wadler, associate professor of clinical medicine at New York University, told the Wellness Letter that his concern was not whether tribulus builds biceps, but that the herb has been linked to ‘staggers’ in sheep, a disease causing paralysis and weakness, as well as other disorders. Darin Van Gammeren, an exercise physiologist at the University of Florida, adds that tribulus has no known benefits for athletes, and that no toxicity studies have ever been done in humans. But several studies have shown it to be harmful in animals.”
Even though I’ve read many articles by nutritionists recommending tribulus as a natural aid, Berkeley’s experts label it and other components in these muscle- and mojo-building cocktails “andro (steroid) siblings and look-alikes.” Wadler has watched weight-loss aids be banned by the Food and Drug Administration and then reappear under a similar proxy and disguise.
The problem is that all herbs are not created equal, and some even can be harmful, especially if mixed with other additives and chemical agents, natural or otherwise. Though most herbs bear life-building agents, some can be hazardous to your health. Just because most herbs might have some benefit to particular body organs doesn’t mean they can’t have adverse effects on others, especially if in a chemical cocktail.
And I’ve addressed only tribulus, just one primary ingredient. A while ago, Men’s Health magazine frowned on five other so-called energy- and muscle-building agents, based upon reputable scientific studies:
- Liquid creatine. The magazine called it “one of the biggest shams in supplement history.”
- Chitosan. A couple of reputable studies show claims of this alleged “fat trapper” extracted from shellfish as unsubstantiated.
- L-carnitine. Though some research confirms this amino acid’s benefits for fat oxidation, most studies shows its ineffectiveness as a supplement for energy and metabolism.
- Pyruvate. Though a few studies show its effectiveness to stimulate metabolism, the recommended dosage to do so is too costly and caustic for its benefits.
- Ribose. Though showing some benefit for the cardiovascular system, it lacks luster as an exercise performance enhancer.
Bottom line: Examine every last component and element of any supplement you take. And be leery of any product that says it can produce gigantic results in minimal amounts of time. If product information doesn’t give you a reputable production plant, if its claims are not tested and proved in trustworthy studies by real experts, best to just pass it by.
When we start treating our own bodies like pharmaceutical test labs or lab rats, you can be sure that we’re walking down the wrong nutritional road. Messing with human growth hormone production without professional consultation can be dangerous health business – practicing medicine without a license.
The Berkeley Wellness Letter concludes: “By affecting hormones (such as testosterone), these substances could have serious long-term adverse effects, including blood-clotting disorders, increased aggression, reduced HDL (‘good’) cholesterol, and liver problems. In men, they can also cause breast enlargement, testicle shrinkage, increased body hair, and accelerated growth of prostate cancer. In women, they could cause male pattern baldness, excessive facial hair, deepened voice, and possibly abnormal menstruation and increased risk of breast and endometrial cancer.”
That is why I always say that before adding or adjusting any supplements – including herbs – to your diet, you should consult with your physician, pharmacist or health practitioner. Otherwise, your passion for muscle and mojo could lead to one massive meltdown.
Having shared what doesn’t work, I will write next week about eight muscle-building supplements that do.