Today I am going to discuss a certain category of supplements. Often marketed as supplements capable of changing body composition, this group is on the riskier side of supplementation.

Changing body composition is often a slow, daily process. It’s not surprising that there are products on the market that categorize themselves as magic bullets. They promise to build muscle, burn fat, or increase performance quickly.

Anabolic Steroids

Supplements of particular interest are involved in enhancing protein synthesis. These supplements include testosterone and testosterone precursors. Testosterone is a hormone that influences muscle protein synthesis. Anabolic steroids are nearly identical to testosterone. It goes without saying that the self-prescribed use of anabolic steroids is illegal, associated with substantial medical risks, and particularly dangerous for females because of their irreversible effects. The use of anabolic steroids by females may result in changes in menstruation and reproductive organs, lowering of the voice, and growth of facial hair. Men can experience development of breast tissue, reduced testicle size, and accelerated baldness. All users increase risk of cardiovascular disease due to increases in blood pressure and low-density lipoprotein concentration and decreases in high-density lipoprotein concentration.


As an alternative to anabolic steroids, many who are looking to increase muscle mass will turn to prohormones. Prohormones are precursors to testosterone. There are many compounds involved in the synthesis of testosterone. The main reason for pro hormones is to elevate testosterone and consequently protein synthesis. However, studies have been inconclusive. Although pro hormones show some increase in testosterone, this increase isn’t correlated with improving muscle size, strength, or power. In fact, pro hormones such as androstenedione increases estradiol, not testosterone. This results in development of breast tissue in males.

Certain supplements are marketed as weight loss products. Any dietary supplement that claims to improve fat burning or accelerate this process will be popular amongst dieters. However, these supplements show little clinical significance in improving fat weight loss, particularly over the long term. You’ll notice that there are a seemingly endless amount of weight-loss products on the market. That’s because dietary supplement manufacturers do have to prove their effectiveness, or safety before a supplement is sold.

Ephedra, ephedrine alkaloids, and ephedrine

Often used interchangeably, ephedra, ephedrine alkaloids, and ephedrine are not the same. Ephedra refers to a botanical derived from a genus of plants. Some of these species contain ephedrine alkaloids in the stems and branches. One of these ephedrine alkaloids is ephedrine. Any dietary supplement containing ephedrine alkaloids is referred to as ephedra. The safety of ephedra has been controversial. Adverse effects are related to increases in heart rate and lowered perceived exertion. The increased energy associated with caffeine and ephedrine containing supplements is due to masking fatigue. Ephedrine combined with caffeine has shown to delay time to exhaustion by as much as 30%. Although ephedrine-containing supplements show some short-term weight loss, there is little known long-term weight loss. Adverse effects include headaches, fatigue, drowsiness, depressed mood, irritability, and inability to concentrate.

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