Is That a Steroid in My Supplement? The Dangers Lurking in Your Pills and Powders

Do you know what could potentially be lurking in your supplements? Even supplements, powders and pills containing effective, beneficial ingredients can be contaminated with additional ingredients that pose a hazard to your health.


Let’s explore some common contaminants and ingredients that could be in your favourite fitness supplements.


  1. Artificial Colors


From the vibrant pinks of your berry-flavored preworkout to the caramel shade of your protein shake, many supplements, vitamins and pills are dyed using ingredients like FD&C Blue, Green, Red, and Yellow. While they’ve been approved as safe by various health authorities, there is a growing link between excessive artificial food dyes and health problems like reduced immune system strength and an increased risk of ADHD in children.


  1. Illegal Steroids


One company recently did lab tests on 103 popular health supplements, including creatine and branched chain amino acids.[1] They found that 18 percent of the tested products contained traces of illegal steroids and stimulants, such as testosterone.


One creatine supplement had so much steroids in it, the illegal substances showed up in athletes' urine samples after just three days of supplementation.


  1. Hydrogenated Oils


You might find them lurking in protein shakes, meal replacement bars and vitamins. However, hydrogenated oils have been linked to health problems like cardiovascular disease, and they can lower your ability to absorb healthy substances, such as essential fats.


  1. Titanium Oxide


This substance is commonly used as filler to bulk up powders and capsules and vitamins. Unfortunately, it’s a carcinogen that’s also been linked to allergies and autoimmune disorders.


How to Make Sure Your Supplements Are Safe


Unhealthy ingredients may sneak into your supplements while the supplements were being manufactured in the factory, or they may have been purposefully added by the manufacturer. The most important thing to do is to read the ingredients label. When possible, buy the purest supplements that have no “extra” ingredients.


For example, instead of a fruit punch-flavored BCAA powder, which likely contains artificial dyes, sweeteners and flavors, buy pure BCAA powder.


Additionally, the following organizations test and certify supplements for purity and being free of illegal steroids:

  • NSF Certified for Sport
  • The United States Pharmacopeia's verified supplement list
  • The Natural Products Foundation, funded by the supplement industry
  • Labdoor, which sells and tests supplements
  • Consumerlab, another independent group


For more information about understanding how to find the best protein powder for you checkout "How protein helps performance."

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