The supplement industry is a billion dollar industry, it’s no wonder the average American spends $30 a month on supplements while some dish out hundreds. The source behind this frivaless and at times, completely useless spending are supplement companies and their pipeline of promoters and distributors. It’s pretty difficult not to come across an advertisement for a dietary supplement these days with claims of “massive weight loss.” These companies share just as much advertisement space as most other billion dollar industries. From billboards to bus banners, supplements are right in front of us everyday. Perhaps, the biggest promotion of dietary supplements comes from individuals, not corporations. Could be your average Joe at the gym telling you how “big” he got from taking an embarrassingly narcissistic sounding supplement, or it could be an “expert” recommending you try a certain product because, unbeknownst to you, she’s getting kick-backs from the company that makes it.
From a trainer’s perspective, it’s hard not to associate with supplements. They are a big part of the fitness industry and for as many corrupt and potentially harmful supplements on the market there are a handful of supplements that are trustworthy and can be beneficial. Recently I came across an article in the NY Times about the popular supplement “Jack3d” made by USPLabs. The article explains how the military is banning sales from the company on their bases and subsequently cutting any ties to the company. This comes after two soldiers died from heart attacks after taking the supplement, which contains DMAA, a dietary supplement with characteristics similar to the drug speed (an amphetamine). Consequently, USP Labs issued a Response, albeit offering very little defense.
Personally, I think it’s important for consumers to realize the potential dangers with supplements. The dietary supplement industry is not regulated by the FDA. As one can imagine companies like USP Labs can get away with a lot. There are a few, however, that are morally responsible in creating their products. Companies like NOW and Source Naturals that make reliable supplements. You won’t find any artificial additives or unnecessary fillers in their products. Another safe supplement that I like is The Ultimate Meal.
In closing, if for one reason or another whole food isn’t doing it for you and you are determined to include supplements in your diet, I suggest treating your supplement intake the same as your whole food intake. In other words, look at the ingredients for potentially harmful ingredients like DMAA or even artificial dyes and additives for tastes. If a supplement resembles nuclear waste it shouldn’t be in your body. Also, pay attention to how you feel after taking a supplement. I’ve talked to countless people after taking “Jack3d” who told me their face itched, or their heart started racing. As someone who has taken many different supplements it is scary to think about the ramifications related to obvious supplementation. When it comes to supplementation, be smart, use your head and don’t underestimate the potency of these unregulated substances.