Supplement Safety

Supplements are a huge business, 26 Billion dollars a year – their advertisements have shaped the way a generation thinks. They are completely legal but can be very dangerous because they are not regulated and don’t require any testing at all. I’ve been saying this for years and finally I have solid backup from the most respected non-profit consumer advocate groups in existence, Consumer Reports -please read the September 10 2010 issue. Here are the two most important quotes from their article:

  • “Because of inadequate quality control and inspection, supplements contaminated with heavy metals, pesticides or prescription drugs have been sold to unsuspecting consumers”
  • “China, which has repeatedly been caught exporting contaminated products, is a major supplier of raw supplement ingredients”.
My anti-supplement stance is not because I don’t think there are some effective ones but because of safety concerns. Not even simple toxicity tests are required on supplements. I could legally mix aspirin, caffeine tablets, and garden dirt in my lead bathtub and sell my supplement as “megalift muscle builder 1000”. So, what can you do to protect yourself? Be an informed consumer! First and most importantly, only buy supplements with the USP Verified mark. USP Verified is a trusted, non-profit, independent testing organization that verifies the quality, purity and potency of the product. USP verified

Most people decide what supplements to take based on what they hear in the locker room, this is stupid! Don’t waste your money and risk potential health problems for something that wont help you anyway. Learn all you can about supplements from an unbiased source free of hype, this saves you from wasting money on stuff that wont help you anyway. I can highly recommend Bodybuilding Revealed by Will Brink he reviews all the supplements without getting trapped by brand name hype. For each supplement he lists what it is, what the research says about it, and what real-life users experience. Since supplements are unregulated, “truth in advertising” doesn’t exist and wild ridiculous claims are everywhere – this book will help you be an informed consumer.

Let me share with you my own personal experience with supplements. After years of not using any supplement other than protein powder, I decided to see what the buzz about the new creatine nitric-oxide product was about – lots of people seem to swear by it. I decided to give in and try it for a month, how harmful could a creatine product be? Well, it cost me $650 in medical bills to find out. After three weeks of using it I had a routine physical and full blood test which discovered that my liver function was 10X normal meaning that my liver was working overtime cleaning some toxic crap out of my body. After a liver ultrasound and several other expensive tests later, the only possible cause remaining was the creatine product. Although I didn’t go to the expense of having the product itself tested for toxic impurities, I’m convinced they are there. Anyway, shame on my for not listening to my own advice!

Think your supplements are safe because they are from a big reputable company? Think again! Check out this press release (read whole article):

May 1, 2009 — Fourteen Hydroxycut products, marketed as fat burners, low-cost diet aids, and energy enhancers, are being recalled voluntarily by the manufacturer after the FDA received 23 reports of serious liver injuries ranging from jaundice to death.

And that is from one of the most respected companies selling their most popular product! They never confessed what the problem was or how it happened but my guess is that because of lax manufacturing processes coupled with nonexistent batch testing, some heavy metals slipped into a batch and went un-noticed. If a highly profitable and well run company like that can sell toxic supplements, what do you think that all those products from no-name companies who advertise in the back of the muscle mags have in them???

See my whole article on supplements and steroids here.

28 thoughts on “Supplement Safety”

  1. Half of the fighters at the dojo I work out at are on heavy supplements. I can´t take any of them since I´m just a beginner; but I already outwork them. One of many, many, MANY real-life experiences I have that tell me supplements are not required at all. I think it's all a big hoax. Sure, maybe you get 1-5% more drive… but it's actually been proven you can up your drive by 20% by just controlling your breathing alone (something barely anyone has mastered in my experience). Plus, you can up your drive between 10 and 30(!)% by being focussed, motivated and uphold perseverance.

    They have their 5%, I have my all natural determined 50% over them.

    Critisize me all you want with studies and whatnot. Personal experience tells otherwise and in the end all that makes a real difference is motivation, perseverance, focus, well designed workouts, great nutrition, more than enough water, being active and plenty of rest and sleep.

  2. Why do you say that you must buy supplements with the USP Verified mark, even though you use Optimum Nutrition protein powder?

  3. "I can highly recommend Bodybuilding Revealed by Will Brink he reviews all the supplements without getting trapped by brand name hype."

    Scooby, you always say you can provide your un biased views about weight lifting and health on your website, and yet here is an affiliate link to a product from that sure seems biased to me. The proof is when you go the paypall order form you see [affiliate = scooby1961]
    what gives?

  4. but SHOCK! isn't Muscle Tech sponsored by Cutler lol?!

    reading your advice and other websites/magazines and watching Bigger Stronger Faster i decided to just stick to protein. its easier on my wallet too

    i try to stick to eggs, soya nuts,tuna, chicken but always have some powder in my bag for "Protein Time" as my job doesn't really have lunch breaks!

  5. @BBR11, is Muscle Tech good? Are they USP Verified? No! Why not? I suggest you ask them. While you are at it ask them for research what supports their ridiculous claims. Does that answer your question?

  6. The older I've gotten, the more I've realized that supplements are useless. Protein powder is good, creatine is good, but everything else is a waste of money. At the moment, I can't even afford protein powder and I'm still training and just doing the best I can to get my protein from food and I haven't lost any size anyway.

  7. Hey Scooby, is Muscle Tech Nitro tech good? Because that's what I take. I used to take GNC at first. Which one is safer?

  8. "CREATINE is the most researched sports supplement out there and its been proven to be safe and very effective! look it up its not just hype"

    That doesn't mean all creatine supplements are safe to use though, since there is no regulation on the production process or source of the material.

  9. CREATINE is the most researched sports supplement out there and its been proven to be safe and very effective! look it up its not just hype

  10. Every time I see an add for a supplement I always think of the Romans, Greeks, Macedonians and Vikings…did they have fancy gyms, supplements and ´new miracle diets´ to help them get and stay in great shape? Nope. They lifted heavy objects, wrestled, ran and ate well.

  11. I don't really trust protein powder but I think it is relatively safer than other funny supplements. One reason is, it is often made by dairy companies. Whey is actually a waste from making cheese and yogurt. It is a healthy liquid but not very tasty and often it is thrown away. So I cannot think they substitute some funny chemicals for whey. It's free and they got plenty of it. Just try making cheese at home and you'll be surprised to see how large amount of whey is made just by making a tiny portion of cheese. Maybe they may use some funny chemical in the process of turning the liquid to power but I assume it's much safer than taking actual funny stuff into your mouth.

  12. Hi everyone,
    yes I made the same experience as Scooby.
    I took some "Buffered Creatine Kre-Alkalyn" (U.S. Patent #6,3999,661) which is quite expensive and supposed to be "healthier" as the old the old fashioned Creatine Monohydrate.
    When I went to the doctor for some routine blood check, they discovered that the amount of Bilirubin in my blood was double as hight as normal and they thought I have something with my liver. So I had to do some further checkup, and fortunately they found nothing.
    After I stopped taking this stuff and went for another checkup a few weeks later, all was normal.
    Fortunately all that medical examinations are completely free over here in Germany,
    kind regards,

  13. Hi scooby, congratulations for completing the tour de hans.Can you tell me why you trust the protein powder you use (optimum natural)while it does not have a USP verification?I noticed that not a single company that produces protein powders has a USP verification.How can we be sure that the "X" company doesn't produces it's powder to china even though it claims otherwise?

  14. Hi Scooby, you write about supplements and the possible dangers they might have. Can you write you write an article of what supplements you take like multi-vitamins, creatine, minerals etc?
    Thanks a lot in advance
    Greetings from Greece

  15. i made a website where you can see my body pls help me!!! :*(((!!!

    the website is

    i am 13 year old and i live in the UK.i really really would like 6 pack abs because evreyone knows that girl like 6 pack abs.;)
    pls tell me what to do … as you can see in the images i am not fat….most of ur vdeos are for fat people…i think…;)

    if i get 6 pack abs i will pay u back.


    pls e-mail me at [email protected]

  16. @Budi, not sure where you got that idea. I was simply relating a personal experience that obviously does not apply to all creatine products.

  17. no hailstorm from me Scooby. In fact I agree!

    I tend to think that you need supplements only after you've reached a certain level (beyond intermediate). It certainly helps but for beginners and intermediates I have the opinion that eating properly and working out effectively is all one needs to be successful.

  18. i just hope all the kids in my high school don't hurt themselves with poison from blindly following their friends

  19. Hi Scooby,

    does this article suggest that pure creatine also hurts our liver? can liver vitamin helps?

    thanks for the blog


  20. Hey Scooby,

    I am liftung weights for 1.5 years without Proteinpowder or Supplements. I still have gains and be in Progress. In cause of Bodybuilding i achieved higher results in Rock climbing and Kick Boxing…
    There is no need of this chemical crap

  21. Im with you on this one Scoob, i only use protein powder, but im even worried about this after i seen a story about baby deaths in china related to baby formula there with additional chemicals to give a (false) high reading of protein in their tests. Do you know if there are laws to protect consumers here in the uk?

  22. Scooby,

    I just started using the protein powder you suggested. Do these comments and warnings not apply to protein powders? If not then why?

    Thanks for your site.

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