Karen Feldscher, a mom with 30 years of writing and editing expierence.
Muscle-building is a hot topic. There are hundreds of Web sites devoted to all the different ways you can bulk up. Steroids are the most commonly known method (think A-Rod, Roger Clemensand Barry Bonds), even though anabolic steroid use is illegal without a prescription. But there are plenty of other muscle supplements you can get over-the-counter. Ads try to lure customers in with promises like “Gain Freaky Muscle Mass” or “Get Ripped for Summer.”
- Androstenedione, or “andro,” and dehydroepiandrosterone, or “DHEA,” are so-called “natural steroids” that can boost the body’s testosterone (which increases muscle mass). Scientists haven’t found any evidence that these supplements actually boost strength or performance. The down side? They can cause hormone imbalances. Worse, they might cause cancer, infertility, stroke, or heart disease.
- Creatine, an amino acid found naturally in the body, can help with high-intensity sports like sprinting or power lifting. But it hasn’t been found to help endurance or aerobic performance. And side effects can include severe diarrhea, abdominal pain, and muscle cramps. Long-term effects? They’re still being studied.
- Products with so-called “ephedra-like” ingredients claim to boost energy, decrease appetite, or calm stress. Ephedra itself was banned after some people died after using it. But these ephedra-like supplements — which often include caffeine sources such as yerba mate and guarana — can cause some of the same problems as ephedra: high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, seizures. And studies have found that their performance-boosting claims are often exaggerated.