Truth about Sport Supplements and building Muscle – Eleanor

Last week we were talking about Sport Supplements  and the misconceptions that a lot of people have when it comes to building muscle and using supplements. Here’s what the specialists have to say…

When it comes to muscle-building, a lot of people believe that your muscle exists out of mainly protein and therefore you need a lot of extra protein to build more muscle, but that is NOT TRUE!

Your muscle actually consists out of 70% water and 22% protein, which means if you want to gain 500g of muscle weight in a week, you effectively only need 15g of extra protein a day. (Which you can find in 2 cups of milk or an average size chicken drumstick)

If it was necessary for you to consume loads of extra protein to be able to build muscle, athletes and hard labour workers (who don’t use supplements) would have diminished in muscle size a long time ago. Our bodies are built so that we can run and walk long distances, while still being able to the extra, normal things in life, WITHOUT taking those supplements.

Another Misconception when it comes to building muscle is that you need to cut down on your carbohydrates and fats, but if you were to do that, you wouldn’t have sufficient energy to work out, as carbohydrates and fats are your main sources of energy in the body. The body is also designed in such a way, that it won’t build muscle if it is deprived from carbohydrates and fats. Now isn’t that an interesting thought?

Having too much protein in your body can also lead to frequent urination. That in return can lead to dehydration if you don’t replace it with water and dehydration leads to poor performance in athletes.

Also, taking extra protein, but not working out, won’t give you muscles. In fact, it will make you pick up fat, as the body uses extra protein for energy and then converts the rest into fat. In the old days (before the time of supplements) we had strong, well-built, full-of-muscle men, because they EXERCISED! They did hard physical labour!

If that is not enough reason to stop overdosing your body with protein supplements, Eleanor also gave us the low-down on what we find in our supplements, that can be harmful to our systems or simply won’t make a difference in our gaining muscle.

Firstly, in South Africa there is no legislation that regards the safety or effectiveness of supplements. Therefore no one regulates to ensure that the ingredients or amounts of the ingredients on the labels are true.

Secondly, if it so happens that you use the product and it leads to health issues, damages in your body or perhaps death, no one can be held accountable until it has been proven that it was that product that caused it. That is very hard to do, as often no two containers of one product have the same amount of ingredients.

You might be asking the question, why you are gaining muscle weight when using these supplements? A lot of supplements contain stimulants such as caffeine and ephedrine, which are illegal in big sporting competitions (such as The Olympics). These stimulants help you to be mentally focused and boost your energy levels, which lead to you working out for longer and harder with greater ease. So… it is not the supplement that is building your muscle, it is the fact that you are WORKING OUT!

These stimulants can also cause your body a lot of harm. Therefore you shouldn’t use them to motivate yourself. They can increase your blood pressure and heart beats per minute to a dangerous level while you are in rest. So if you were to start working out, these would be raised even more which can lead to an increasing risk for a heart attack and/or stroke.

From a marketing perspective, all they want you to do is buy the product. They aren’t concerned about your health or the long-term effects that their products can have on you. When reading the label of these products, you might see endorsements from various professionals or scientific journals, that can be false (and mostly are), as there is no regulation to ensure that they tell the truth. Secondly, they can also take these quotes out of context to suit their product and to get you to feel safe.

I can’t find ONE reason in all of these facts to use supplements to gain muscle weight. All the nutrients our bodies need, comes from natural FOOD. If that is true, why don’t we just enjoy a BALANCED DIET? Adding small amounts of protein here or there (in the form of an extra chicken drumstick or 2 cups of milk) when it’s needed.

Eleanor Schoeman has recently moved to Port Elizabeth with her hubby from Bloemfontein after growing up in Pretoria. She is a dietitian with her own practice and she’ll be sharing with us her expertise in nutrition every 4 weeks in our health slot. For a consultation or some advice contact her at