should you use them?
It's almost Summer and we'd all love to have perfect
beach bods by December, but dieting and exercise can
be a mission. This makes supplements that sound like
quick-fixes extremely tempting. There are an overwhelming
amount of supplements on the shelves that
promise weight loss and muscle gain, but are they safe and
do they really work?
Teenagers and supplements
Teens are easy targets for supplement advertisers as during
high school people tend to feel more insecure about their
bodies than ever. Despite the exaggerated claims, the truth is
that there's little scientific evidence to prove that the
majority of supplements are effective or safe for anyone, let
alone the youth. The effect of supplements on teenagers is
unknown because it's illegal to test on people younger than
18. Many high school athletes take supplements, but doctors
strongly recommend that they don't. Some supplements can
damage your body and also mess with your hormones,
which is the last thing a teenager needs. If you're under 18,
you shouldn't take supplements.
The truth about three common
Creatine: The effectiveness and safety of creatine are
extremely questionable. It affects every individual differently;
some people don't respond to it at all while others experience
unpleasant side effects including anxiety, headaches, severe
dehydration, breathing difficulty and diarrhoea. There have
been reports of kidney or liver damage and heart problems,
and long-term effects are not fully understood. We wouldn't
recommend it to anybody, but don't even consider it if you're
under 18, have diabetes, high blood pressure or problems
with your liver or kidneys.
Protein supplements: The body needs protein to repair and
maintain itself, and people who exercise a lot or want to build
muscle mass might need to increase their protein intake.
However, unless you're a pro-athlete or a bodybuilder,
chances are you don't need protein supplements. It's much
healthier and entirely possible to get all the protein you need
from your diet. Upping your protein intake won't do a thing
18 SACF Vol. 7 No. 2
By Jeanne du Plessis
"There's little scientific
evidence to prove that
the majority of
effective or safe."
unless you're working out intensely, and ingesting too much
protein can damage your liver and kidneys.
Fat burners: Numerous supplements claim they'll boost
your metabolism, suppress your appetite and promote
weight loss. They're called a variety of names including fat
burners, thermogenics metabolic enhancers or body toners.
Many fat burners have been proven to be ineffective and
dangerous, causing numerous unpleasant side effects from
anxiety, heart palpitations and depression all the way to
kidney damage, seizures, strokes and heart attacks. Avoid
them like the plague if you have any heart, hormonal or
digestive conditions, or if you're a highly-strung person.
Ironically, over time fat burners can cause adrenaline
resistance, insulin resistance and a slower metabolism - you
could end up weighing more than you did to begin with.
If you're taking or considering supplements, keep the
following in mind:
* If a supplement sounds too good to be true, it probably
* Many doctors and nutritionists say that if you're eating a
healthy diet and exercising you don't need extra
* Talk to a doctor or sports medicine specialist before you
start taking or combining supplements.
* Tell your doctor about any medication you're taking,
prescription or over-the-counter, as certain supplements
may not be safe for you.
* More isn't better; supplements can be dangerous at high
doses and the dose recommended on the bottle is usually
much higher than necessary.
* Supplements are not substitutes for exercise and a
* While prescription drugs are rigorously tested,
supplements are not. They can be sold with limited or no
proof of effectiveness, purity or safety.
* A range of contaminants, including arsenic, pesticides
and heavy metals, have been found in several
* "Natural" doesn't necessarily mean safe. Many "natural"
supplements have been linked to scary side-effects
including kidney problems, liver disease, nerve damage
and even cancer. n
ME vs the World