Way to Die Young #7: Pop Pills
The supplement industry is huge and for a good reason. People want to accomplish the impossible without doing the hard work required. It is human nature to use shortcuts when possible. But, sometimes these shortcuts can lead to a dead end. Nutrition companies sell empty promises and prey on peoples' weaknesses and lack of knowledge. Do you remember reading cliff/spark notes in college for twenty minutes to avoid reading an entire novel? That is what supplements are. An incomplete version of the original that ultimately leads you to failure.
While there are thousands of supplements, on the road to weight loss exist four types of popular supplements: stimulants, appetite
suppressants, blockers and meal replacements.
Stimulants work by increasing your heart rate and heating up your body creating a thermogenic effect to increase your caloric deficit and metabolic rate. A nice "side effect" can be lack of appetite. The symptoms of chronic use include insomnia, heart problems, anxiety, restlessness and increased tolerance.
Stimulants are highly addictive in many ways. Once you start taking stimulants your tolerance increases and you need more to get the same "buzz". The longer you take them, the higher doses you will require. Once you are accustomed to these higher doses and you decide you want to quit, you are in for a world of pain. If you abuse stimulants your body will suffer painful withdrawals after cessation. The withdrawal symptoms include insomnia, depression, rapid or irregular heartbeat, headaches, fatigue and increased appetite.You will crave stimulants to get you feeling "normal" again. This makes quitting very difficult for the average person. Many people take the stimulants for increased focus or mental clarity. This is how energy drinks are marketed. This is usually accompanied by jitters and a crash. If you are having trouble sleeping stimulants could be to blame. They put your body in a state of unrest when you need to relax. Another reported side effect of stimulant abuse is acne. The stimulants create stress in your body which leads to increased sebum levels which manifests in outbreaks.
Appetite suppressants simply trick your brain or body into thinking it is full. Some people use fillers, calorie free "food" or fiber supplements to fill their stomachs to capacity without added calories. Other supplements make hunger go away by altering your brain chemistry. Common side effects include insomnia, gastrointestinal
issues, and heart problems including high blood pressure. The real problem is the act of taking a pill to cease a natural body function. This would be the same as taking a pill to reduce thirst. It makes no sense. In most healthy adults, the hypothalamus acts to regulate hunger and satiety. Your body signals hunger when you need nourishment or in some cases water. This means you need to eat! Taking these pills interferes with your bodies natural ability to regulate its nutrient uptake. People who generally take these pills have bad dietary habits so they feel they must refrain from eating when they are hungry to avoid excess calories. Instead of blocking your hunger signals, take care of yourself by eating a healthy whole food diet. You will lose just as much weight, if not more, and will not suffer the terrible side effects.
Meal replacements are often marketed as healthy food supplements with minimal calories providing all of your essential nutrients. What they really are is a high sugar low-quality-protein milkshake. You are better off eating a Snickers bar. At least you would expend calories chewing. These shakes are basically candy bars with crushed up multivitamins. In essence they are a complete meal because they contain all three macronutrients (fat, protein and carbohydrate). But they strip these macronutrients down to their most basic form and simplify the complementary nutritional profile of the foods from which they were derived. Since they are in liquid form it is easier to consume more calories in a short period of time. Since you simply chug down a shake your stomach does not have ample time to signal your brain that it is full. This may lead to excess consumption. Since the shake is digested in minimal time you will be hungry far sooner than if you consumed a solid food meal.
Blockers use binding agents or other means to keep certain macronutrients like fat or carbohydrate from being metabolized by your body thus effectively negating the ingested calories. Side effects of popular fat-blockers include diarrhea, oily gas (yes that is right) and frequent bowel movements. Carbohydrate blockers have similar side effects and include diarrhea, upset stomach, gas and heartburn. One of the most dangerous side effects of blockers however, is their interference with vitamin and mineral absorption. Since certain vitamins and minerals require different types of fat for synthesis, they are never absorbed. This alone could lead to an onslaught of other medical conditions. Furthermore, if you are blocking carbs and fats you are only using protein for energy and are missing two-thirds of all essential nutrients. A protein-only diet with no fat or carbohydrate can not be sustained for long. It will actually kill you. Please refer to Wikipedia link on rabbit starvation for more information.
All supplements offer a costly unnatural pattern of consumption that must be maintained in order to achieve your goals. Once you quit taking any of these supplements you will be dissapointed with the immediate weight gain and will likely reintroduce the supplements in a never ending cycle of abuse or return to your old habits. Taking supplements should never replace a practical fitness and diet regime. Something you can maintain for life is the only sensible way to stay healthy and fit. When the reward of a supplement is high its after effects are usually the most detrimental. Avoid chronic illness and abusive behavior by steering clear of weight loss supplements. When you do it on your own you will be a true motivation to others and will propagate responsible weight loss practices.