Performance Supplements: Get Ripped or Just a Rip Off?

Depositphotos_5772828_s-2015Well, the answer depends on which brand you choose. Performance supplements can definitely boost your health and fitness. But, not all supplements are created equal.

While many performance supplements do utilize effective ingredients, many of them also contain a toxic soup of synthetic additives.

In addition to potential health risks, your body requires energy and nutrient resources to eliminate these toxins. And if your detoxification pathways are overworked, other systems may begin to suffer. Definitely not a recipe for optimal health.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the common artificial ingredients used in performance supplements…

Artificial Sweeteners

sweetnersArtificial sweeteners are often found in energy drinks as well as protein powders. The goal is to offer a sweet taste without any added calories. It sounds good in theory. Especially because most consumers are seeking to lose weight, burn fat and build muscle. But unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

Surmounting evidence suggests frequent consumption of artificial sweeteners actually increases your risk for weight gain as well as metabolic dysfunction, type 2 diabetes and heart disease [1].

Research also suggests artificial sweeteners may trick the brain and prevent us from associating sweetness with calories. Thus, we begin to crave sweets over more nutrient rich foods [1].

To avoid artificial sweeteners, be on the look out for products containing sucralose, aspartame, saccharin, and acesulfame potassium (ace-K). Instead, seek out performance supplements with more natural alternatives, such as stevia.

Artificial Food Dyes

Artificial food dyes are abundantly found in supplements, including capsules and tablets. But their only role is to make products LOOK more appealing.

dreamstimemedium_10489247For example, you probably wouldn’t expect a “berry” flavored pre-workout drink to be clear or white. Which is why you’ll find dyes such as FD&C Red and FD&C Yellow among others in many performance products.

Food dyes are synthesized from petroleum. A crude oil used to make gasoline, kerosene and diesel oil. As you can imagine, this has been a concern of health advocates for decades. And many studies have been performed, but mostly on mice and rats because human testing would be unethical.

Existing research suggests food dyes may cause allergic reactions, induce tumor cells and trigger hyperactivity in a subset of children. They may also be contaminated with other potentially harmful chemicals [2].

So don’t judge a product by it’s color. Effectiveness is what you’re after.

Synthetic Fillers, Binders & More

There are many other synthetic ingredients added to supplements to make processing easier and cheaper. They also provide bulk, prevent caking, hold tablets together, preserve freshness, and make capsules easier to swallow among other things.

While additives are sometimes necessary, many are chemically made and associated with potential health risks ranging from allergic reactions to cancer.

A few risky ones to watch out for include:

  • Hydrogenated oils (a.k.a. trans fats)
  • Carrageenan
  • Palmitate
  • Polydextrose
  • Maltodextrin
  • Sodium benzoate
  • Titanium dioxide

Get Ripped. Not Ripped Off.

In order to make an informed choice, you must take ALL of the ingredients listed on a supplement label into consideration. Not just the active ingredients.

The potential risks of synthetic additives almost always outweigh any benefits. Especially if you’re looking to optimize your health and maximize your performance.


[1] Swithers, S. E. (2013). Artificial sweeteners produce the counterintuitive effect of inducing metabolic derangements. Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism,24(9), 431-441. doi:10.1016/j.tem.2013.05.005

[2] Kobylewski, S., & Jacobson, M. (2010, June). Food Dyes: A Rainbow of Risks (Rep.). doi:

TJ Hoban is a Leading Expert in the fitness industry and Bodycor CEO. His
passion to perfecting nutrition and training techniques have lead being one of the most sought after coaches in the world. He's also graced the cover of hundreds of FItness Magazines, worked with greats like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Joe Weider and many more.