Imagine you are shopping at Nordstrom in search of a new outfit for an upcoming job interview. You tell yourself that looking the part is the key for a successful interview. As you are making your way through the store, your keen eyes spot a stunning black leather jacket perfect for a stylish professional such as yourself. Three hundred dollars later and the designer leather jacket is yours. You feel confident that your ensemble will land you a great first impression at the interview.
Making your way to the interview, rain begins to pour from the sky. The only parking spot open is three blocks from the company’s building. Briskly walking your way to the front doors of the company building, you make it there in fairly good condition- not too wet.
As you are sitting in the lobby waiting to be summoned by the interviewing staff, you begin to realize that black stains are beginning to appear on your white blouse. Confused and agitated, you take off your jacket, and the leather you thought was real begins to peel off. Worse off, the dismantling jacket ruins your shirt, leaving black streaks all over the front. And just like that, the feeling of healthy confidence is replaced with unhealthy stress.
Not only do you look like a lost zebra, your self-assurance begins to plunder which leads to an interview that could not have gone worse. Fumbled words and mis-answered questions were the main impressions you left on the interviewers. All because of a wardrobe choice.
You see, sports supplements are like the Nordstrom leather jacket. The expensive price tag and celebrity endorsements must mean it is a top-quality product. However, unless you read the fine print, you have fallen victim to a uniformed purchase that leads to extreme disappointment when you are relying on it to enhance your success.
The false sense of quality in sports supplements does not just materialize superficially like the consequences of the fake leather jacket.
The effects of cheap sports supplements set back your chances of reaching your athletic capacity.
Just like how the leather jacket seemed to be a smart purchase because of its expensive pricepoint, the large majority of athletes who think they are buying sports supplements to enhance their strength are actually investing in supplements that reverse athleticism.
In other words, most pre-workout drinks and post-workouts protein shakes are doing more harm than good.
If you are thinking to yourself, “ I’m sure glad I bought the brand that advertised that it is the highest quality!”, you are just like the other 99% of Americans who think their sports supplements are quality.
This is because literally every protein, creatine, amino, or electrolyte supplement advertises itself to be made with the “purest, most scientifically proven, highest quality, clean and natural ingredients”.
This bold rhetoric makes you think that what you are buying is an investment into your health and fitness when in reality, you are wasting your money and delaying fitness gains.
Just like how mindful eaters read the ingredients label of packaged foods at the grocery store to ensure there are not any harmful ingredients in the product they are considering, it is essential that athletes are practice the same habits when it comes to choosing supplements.
The ingredients label is what tells you the truth about the supplement quality, not the boastful claims on the front packaging.
To support my accusations against the world of sports supplements, an objective view of the three most common ingredients found in sports supplements should be examined.
Found in most pre-workout drink powders, artificial food coloring adds zero nutritional value and its role is to trick your brain into thinking that it adds flavor to the products.
For example, if your regular pre-workout drink is flavored blue raspberry, companies add blue dye to the product to accentuate the taste by changing its appearance.
However, the addition of food dyes into supplements triggers much more than a changed perception of what you are about to drink or eat.
Derived from petroleum, artificial food dyes not only increase your chance of cancer and autoimmunity, they are now known to significantly impair mitochondrial function1.
Mitochondria are responsible for generating ATP; the body’s cellular fuel that powers every physiological action. Impaired mitochondria results in a body that is dispositioned to harbor health and incapable of excelling athletically. Athletes who are looking to heighten their strength and further their endurance should be looking to feed their mitochondria so that their mitochondria mass increases.
Denser mitochondria equates to a more dominant athlete.
Artificial food dyes lead to smaller, dysfunctional mitochondria which culminates to a weaker athlete.
A motivated athlete looking to potentiate his strength and become the best athlete he can possibly be must avoid synthetic food dyes at all costs.
Artificial flavors are developed in a lab to replicate the taste of natural foods. Each artificial flavor contains dozens of unnatural ingredients, the most frequent components being synthetic chemicals derived from petroleum, solvents and preservatives such as BHA, propylene glycol, MSG, and parabens.
Nutritionally void, the biological response to artificial flavors does not just stop at the taste buds. Artificial flavor consumption can lead to DNA mutations and neurological failure.
Furthermore, artificial flavors disrupt hormone regulation by mimicking estrogen which leads to lower testosterone levels in men2.
Irregular hormone fluctuation makes muscle growth impossible. Hormones are delicate. They necessitate certain nutrients and are dismembered by most unnatural compounds such as artificial flavors. For optimal athletic performance to be reached and maintained, hormone homeostasis is paramount. Contribute to your hormones by shunning artificial flavors.
View artificial flavors for what they are called; fake.
The names of the most common synthetic sweeteners include sucralose, aspartame, acesulfame potassium, neotame, saccharin, erythritol, and xylitol.
Advertised to be low or zero calorie sugar substitutes, synthetic sweeteners are anything but metabolically neutral.
Apart from leading to weight gain and liver failure, synthetic sweeteners alter the gut microbiome in drastic ways.
A dynamic microbiome has a diverse ecosystem of bacteria, viruses, fungi, yeasts, and parasites.
These organisms are the foundation to human health and wellness and our dietary habits directly dictate the condition of these organisms.
Moreover, synthetic sweeteners have been repeatedly shown to negatively reshape the gut microbiome by destroying beneficial microbiota colonies and promoting the overgrowth of other species.
A study conducted by Harvard investigating the athletic enhancing effects of bacteria found that there are in fact certain species that upregulate athleticism3. Furthermore, these same species are heavily influenced by synthetic sweetener consumption4.
Meaning that athletes who are looking to promote the growth of the athletic-enhancing bacteria should keep clear of synthetic sweeteners.
Do not be fooled into thinking that zero calorie sweeteners have zero consequences. To the contrary, synthetic sweeteners' damaging effects are much greater than the results of eating natural sugar.
It all goes back to money.
Akin to the fake leather jacket, companies substitute natural ingredients for these athletic-deteriorating ingredients because it is the cheaper option. They do not care about your goals to run fast or lift heavy.
The false advertisement promoted by sports supplement companies is misleading eager athletes into buying products that degenerate strength and diminish endurance. Your athletic success is being stunted by most sports supplements.
It is crucial that gold victory-seeking athletes are going beyond the key words of the front packaging and looking at the ingredients label to ensure that the product is made with only the highest quality ingredients.