Supplements: Worth It or Worthless? by Tina de los Reyes

Tina 1Omega-3! Creatine! Whey protein! Glutamine! Green tea extract!

They’re advertised in magazines and in commercials: If you want to lose weight, take some green tea pills… Looking to bulk up your muscles? Glutamine and branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) pre-workout, and more!  In this day and age, there’s a supplement for almost anything, but can these products really give us that extra boost of energy or motivation to reach our ideal body image? Are they more detrimental than helpful? Is it possible that these dietary extracts aren’t being processed by the body as effectively as we may think?  I set out to find the answers to these questions.


First, we need to understand how the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) monitors the distribution of various supplements. According to the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994, the FDA is not responsible for ensuring the safety of a product before it arrives on the market. Products need not be registered with the FDA prior to release, and the information printed on a product label is the manufacturer’s responsibility. Only after there have been official complaints or medical issues filed against the product, does the FDA have the right to intervene. Even then, the FDA does not deal directly with the matter; they instead send a notice to the manufacturer, and the manufacturers themselves — not the FDA — are responsible for investigating the issues. Since the Act has been put in place, the supplement industry has seen a huge economic boom, recording a 2.7 billion dollar profit. If you have experienced adverse effects from a supplement or vitamin, please notify the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088 (1-800-332-1088).

Is protein the whey to go?

The average recommended dietary allowance of protein is 0.8 g/Kg of body weight for persons age 15 and up. If you are looking to gain muscle mass, 1.2-2.9 g/Kg of protein intake may be necessary; this is also dependent upon your body and workout routine. The body can generally absorb 30 grams of protein in one meal. Regarding a protein shake, the body can only process approximately 10g of protein per 60 minutes.  If you quickly consume a protein shake, and the body takes 90 minutes to digest the shake, you would only take in 15 grams of that initial 30 grams!  To avoid this and allow for a longer digestive period, combine the protein with fiber.  Another method to maximize protein absorption is to stagger the shake; drink it over the course of a 30-60 minute period, rather than chugging it, post-workout.

There are two main types of protein that are utilized for supplementation: casein and whey. There are several others, such as eggs, soy, peas, and rice protein, but these are less common. Whey is more easily digested, making it advantageous during the post-workout. Consuming protein within an hour of working out is ideal for muscle recovery. It also keeps the body fueled during the post-workout insulin spike.  Casein is slowly digested, making it more useful for consumption right before bed time. When trying to build muscle mass, it is actually very important — contrary to popular belief — to eat before bed time. The body will draw from muscle, breaking it down to absorb the nutrients and amino acids. Taking a casein supplement before bed will provide a slow digesting protein for the body to break down. Casein can naturally be found in milk, as it comprises 80% of the protein in milk.

Excessive protein intake can be damaging to the kidneys. Be sure to drink plenty of water in order to flush out all of the byproducts from the protein breakdown.  There is no factual evidence that correlates health concerns with the consumption of protein shakes, but be sure to review the product’s ingredients, for protein shakes are filled with excess sugars and various chemicals.  The best way to obtain your protein is through meals and natural protein sources.  However, if time is a factor, grab your shaker bottle and make a shake!


Glutamine is an essential amino acid. It can be found in the same foods you would find protein in, such as meat, fish, legumes, and dairy products.  Like protein, glutamine is essential in muscle support.  When plasma levels of glutamine are depleted, the body will break down muscle in order to obtain the amino acid. Glutamine has been used for nerve pain relief, digestive complexities, strengthening of the immune system, and it can counteract the side effects of chemotherapy.  Glutamine is beneficial to most, but it should be taken moderately.  For those who are trying to maintain weight, or gain muscle mass, a standard glutamine intake would be adequate for your diet, so there would be no need to take supplements.  For those who are trying to lose weight, while still maintaining muscle mass, glutamine supplements may assist in muscle recovery and maintenance.  Marathon runners and other endurance athletes also have been shown to benefit from glutamine supplementation while training.

Although there are few side effects to supplementation, do not exceed an intake of more than 40 grams of glutamine a day.  Most healthy people will excrete of excess glutamine through urination, but still take precaution if you are experiencing mania, are pregnant, are sensitive to MSG, or have liver disease.


BCAAs are branch chain amino acids. These are the basic building blocks of all the amino acids in our bodies.  In the same way that you would obtain all the glutamine you need in adhering to a proper diet, you can obtain your branch chain amino acids by eating right as well.


Naturally produced from amino acids in the body, creatine aids Adenosine Tri-Phosphate (ATP), which assists in the production of the body’s energy source.   95% of the body’s creatine is stored in the muscle. By eating a balanced diet, the average human being consumes about 1 gram of creatine per day. The European Food and Safety Authority, which is more strictly regulated than the FDA, stated that creatine is safe for long-term use in healthy adults at a rate of 3 grams of creatine per day.

Creatine supplementation should be taken in conjunction with a high-glycemic index carbohydrate. While some studies have shown that a large portion of the muscle gained from creatine are due to fluid retention, strong evidence suggests that creatine supplementation has a positive effect on short high-energy exercises, such as sprints and low-rep weight lifts. However, because of the fluid retention in the muscle fibers, it is important to stay hydrated in order to maintain circulating fluids. If you have kidney or liver concerns, consult a physician, prior to starting a creatine supplementation regiment.


Pre-workout is the latest drink to hit the supplement scene. Mostly made up of BCAAs, caffeine, sugar, and some amphetamine-like substances, this neon colored liquid is supposed to provide an energy boost. However, many pre-workouts contain banned substances, which have come to jeopardize many professional athletes’ careers. The caffeine in pre-workout comes in very high volumes, prompting vasoconstriction, which creates a protrusive curvature in the muscles.  However, this can cause problems during high intensity workouts or heavy lifts, when blood pressure is already likely to double naturally. That added vasoconstriction can cause damage to the vessels, as well as increases risk for stroke or heart attack.

Diet Pills

Diet pills are a no-no! They increase your metabolic rate, which in turn burns more calories while lowering your appetite. This sounds like a win-win, right? Not really.  They have shown to only be useful in a low-fat or low-calorie diet, and in order to take full effect, should incorporate exercise.  In fact, little scientific evidence proves the pills’ actual effectiveness.  Both OTC and Rx diet pills are only safe for short-term usage. Side effects include dizziness, seizures, stroke, and heart attack.

Supplements do not save you from unsafe diet practices!

Ensure that you are consuming enough calories, but not too many. Find a macronutrient ratio that fits your lifestyle. For example, 40% carbohydrates, 35% protein, and 25% fat should sustain a healthy diet. Don’t discount carbs if you are going to be running marathons, and don’t forget that there are healthy fats! In a lot of cases, nutrition is only half the battle. Instead of buying diet pills, take that money and sign up for a 5k. A little research, moderate exercise, and excellent eating are key!


Ingestion of whey protein can protect cardiovascular system while increasing lean muscle mass during dieting

Caffeine is useful but not enough conclusive research has been done

Effective b alanine

DMM has no short term negative

Effects, though longitudinal studies are not done yet. It increases blood pressure during activity during the short term

1.2-2 g x kg protein                             4.5-5 kg calories

Protein after, amino acids before

cyclone significantly improves performance

Commentary: it may be dangerous

Vitamin over supplementation can cause 45% risk of cancer

fda does not regulate until after product is released and negative effects occur. Companies themselves are responsible for regulation


The information provided is for general interest only and should not be misconstrued as a diagnosis, prognosis or treatment recommendation. This information does not in any way constitute the practice of medicine, or any other health care profession. Readers are directed to consult their health care provider regarding their specific health situation. Marque Medical is not liable for any action taken by a reader based upon this information.






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