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Question
Posted by: GeorgeFP | 2009-03-30

Protein Shakes

Hi doc. I recently started going to the gym and am trying to build some muscle. I was wondering if it is neccesary to take protein shakes in order to aid muscle growth?

Also, is it bad for one' s health to take creatine supplements?

Thanks.

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageFitnessDoc

Hi George

My opinion on supplements is fairly consistent, regardless of the circumstances, because IN GENERAL, I am firmly of the belief that supplements should be left AS A VERY FINAL RESORT for any benefit.

The reality about supplements is that it's 99% marketing and promises, and perhaps 1% reality. The supplement industry, unlike any other, is unregulated and able to make claims and promises based on nothing more than a very vague theory. There is a complete lack of evidence, first as to whether supplements even work, but secondly as to whether they are safe.

So you may for example ask the question are supplements safe? Answer - no one knows, not even the company that makes them, because they are not tested. Absolutely ZERO research exists to examine the safety, the correct dosage, the side effects and the efficacy of most supplements. There are one or two exceptions, creatine and protein supplementation being perhaps the most researched ones. But in general, research is minimal.

And what this means is that the answer to most questions is "Unknown". Do they work? What dosage? How do they work in conjunction with others? What is the effect on empty stomach? All unknown.

Now, my opinion, based on all these factors, is that the supplements, with the exception of vitamins, proteins and creatine in very exceptional circumstances, is a waste of money and a con. Pure and simple.

The ONLY time I would concede a need for supplementation is in someone whose diet is clearly not able to meet the requirements. For example, a vegetarian who is also training quite hard is likely to benefit from vitamins and perhaps a protein supplement. Similarly, an athlete who is in intense training (and by this, I mean 15 hours a week) and needs to supplement to provide energy and protein to prevent muscle loss, I will concede that these people use supplements. But then, it's the supplements like protein shakes, vitamins etc.

Even here, my suggestion is to rather use something that has nutritional value. Nestle Nutren Active is a particularly good one - if you want to spend money that's where to spend it. But that's a last resort, rather look at training and diet first, then maybe consider it.

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

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Our users say:
Posted by: Tom | 2009-03-30

Protein shakes are a great way to build muscle, but it will not do anything on its own you still need a good diet and plenty of sleep. Creatine is fine just make sure you use a safe supplement that has been tested for illegal substances.

Reply to Tom

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