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How Healthy Is Your Pre/Post Workout Supplement?

Health drinks are often impregnated with toxic artificial sweeteners (aspartame, crystalline fructose, sucralose), artificial colors, heavy metals (arsenic, mercury, lead, cadmium), and GMOs (glyphosphate). These toxins collect in fat cells causing weight gain, migrate to the liver and give rise to a dysfunctional fatty liver, diminish healthy gut flora, and may even cause multiple organ failure.

Sports nutrition supplements historically have been plagued with episodes of steroid tainted products whose tragic consequences for customers diminished only with increased government regulations.

What we need to know today are the danger posed by other ingredients and the impact they have on the liver, kidneys, pancreas, brain and other critical organs and functions.

Our Role And Responsibility

We have been asked numerous times to analyze leading supplements in sports nutrition and report on their relative safety. We did, and the findings were not good.

The industry is using the most dangerous artificial sweeteners, flavorings, and colors. We learned that leading brands of sports nutrition supplements contained trace amounts of heavy metals. Another concern is that GMOs find their way into these supplements. GMOs are present in protein shakes and those pre and post-workout drinks. Sorry bodybuilders!

All that time spent sculpting those incredible bodies only to consume a drink destroying your body’s organs is not acceptable for good health. We are here to let you know what you are putting in your body.

The Big Four

1. Artificial Sugars

Some commonly used ones are: Aspartame (aka Acesulfame Potassium or Acesulfame K), crystalline fructose, and sucralose (aka Amino Sweet). All these sugars are to be avoided! They have all been cleared by FDA and added to food, but did you know they have not been proven healthy for human consumption?

As obesity rates have increased so has consumption of artificial sweeteners. They promote weight gain and more specifically fat accumulation.

Bodybuilders might be tempted to say, “but not on me.” Though an individual may not have visible body fat, the liver may be infiltrated with fat and other damaging toxins reducing liver functionality. The biggest offenders are pre-workout drinks, but protein shakes are a close second.

a. Sucralose

Let’s take a look at sucralose for example. Approved in 1998, multiple studies were conducted by the maker of sucralose and none of them for longer than four days of human trials. Even more ominous, the study was limited to only reporting on safe levels of tooth decay.

Sucralose has been known to cause cancer in mice, is not accepted by the body and is treated as a toxin. It has been shown to promote fat accumulation and reduce good bacteria in the intestine by up to 50%. This often leads to leaky gut, IBS, discomfort and additional toxin flow into the body.

b. Aspartame

Aspartame is known by many names and you should become familiar with all of them especially if you frequent the GNCs of the world looking for supplements.

It’s chemically made up of aspartic acid and phenylalanine. The latter contains a methyl group that gives it a sweet taste. Unfortunately, phenylalanine converts to methanol and then formaldehyde. Formaldehyde breaks down DNA and other critical proteins. There is a reason people don’t drink formaldehyde for recreation–it’s toxic and strains the liver.

Bodybuilders are already consuming heavy doses of branched chains of amino acids (BCAA) so loading up on additional liver responsibilities is a really bad idea.

Side Effects Of Aspartame

  • Birth defects
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Liver disease
  • Emotional disorders
  • Seizures

c. Crystalline Fructose

Crystalline fructose is a new one, but is much more dangerous than regular high fructose corn syrup (HFCS.) For the health devotees out there, you are not immune.

It can be found in vitamin water and is more efficient in creating type II diabetes as it reduces insulin sensitivity more quickly.

2. Artificial Colors

In the research we conducted many of the leading brands in sports nutrition contain FD&C Red #40. Red #40 is the worst added color, but all artificial colors add an element of risk to our health. They have some of the same side effects as sugar because they are toxins and will migrate to the liver.

3. Heavy Metals

Consumer reports were able to identify arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury in some of the most popular protein shakes. How that was ignored by quality assurance inspection is beyond comprehension, but it speaks to the level of concern or lack of it in this category.

4. GMOs

GMO contamination comes from whey, artificial colors and excipients. Any animal consuming GMO corn will produce glyphosate and other GMO contaminants in their milk. The same is true for most ingredients listed as carrageenan or lecithin typically found in GMO soy.

These ingredients pit the lining of the GI tract, reduce good bacteria and allow toxins to stream into the liver. The fat accumulation is a defense mechanism to store the excess toxins rather than allow them to destructively roam the body.

If you are a toned lifter this accumulation may be focused solely in the liver, compounding the liver’s duties and accelerating fatty liver. Our genes determine where the toxin filled fat cells are stored in the body.

When bodybuilders battle resilient body fat, they will find it easier to reach their desired sculpted body by reducing the body’s toxin load.

When we researched leading whey proteins we find few ingredients, but typically half of them are known toxins or GMO contaminated. Here is a typical example of commonly found ingredients in a leading brand: Protein blends, lecithin (soy GMO), natural and artificial flavors, citric acid, sucralose (carcinogen), FD&C Red #40 (carcinogen), aminogen, and lactase.

Sample Customer Comments

Here is a sample of some comments from customers who have experienced the effects of using sports nutritional supplements.

  1. “I run between 5-6 miles per day 6 days a week and I am looking for a way to easily increase my protein intake following my runs. I cannot tell if the product has an impact on muscle mass because I was only able to consume it 3 times. Besides the fact that it has a very metallic taste (and I mean really metallic like drinking liquid aluminum), I got physically ill all 3 times I consumed it, including bloating and nausea. I tried mixing it with water and gatorade and same result (I don’t drink any dairy, soy or almond milk products). So now I will cook a chicken breast each night and have it ready to eat after my run.”
  2. “Well we used to buy this product as a staple at our house. No they’ve “improved the taste” They added Sucralose, (artificial sweetener), and Cellulose gum, (makes it thick and foams up in the blender). Now it is way too sweet, and if you are sensitive to artificial sweeteners like me, you will get that tell tale head ache right away. Sending this junk back for a refund.”
  3. “I was using the double dark chocolate for a while and it’s been OK. I recently bought the mocha cappuccino flavor and it’s been a bad experience every time. At first I thought it was the milk, so I tried it with water. It’s definitely the powder. Maybe it’s because they use Aminocore now, which improves protein absorption (there’s a peer-reviewed clinical study on it. Google it). I don’t know, but every time I drink this stuff I feel nauseated, I get cramps and bloating.”
  4. “Smells great when you open the bottle, very drinkable texture, will order this again! I switched from other brands that had either too much sugar, or were so natural (no fillers and BS) that they weren’t drinkable due to the taste/aftertaste. UPDATE: discovering that this may be where my heart palpitations and high blood pressure originate from, will be considering an undenatured product; excitotoxins read up on them.”

The trouble with many of these toxins is that they promote slow, but significant declines in health. Sometimes these impacts are difficult to detect at first, but the feedback in just a few of these comments indicate a much more significant troublesome health problem beneath the symptoms.

I have spoken with owners of these companies and brought up these very issues. They say they are responding to their customers. Many of them are former bodybuilders and may not believe the dangers themselves.

The problems exist because many consumers either don’t know how dangerous it is or don’t demand change. Brands are simply giving you what you demand. So demand better.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.

Brendan Gaughran

I was a Pre-Med student and I hold a Master's degree. After graduating I spent time in the pharmaceutical industry before switching to the natural products industry. Since then, I have been an executive for a leading supplements manufacturer and have started two companies, both with the mission of helping to improve quality of life. Nutrition is my passion and knowledge is my gift to you.

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