For months, 20-year-old SMU undergraduate Adam Deeb prepared for the 15th annual Mr. and Ms. SMU bodybuilding and figure competition. Between juggling schoolwork and extracurricular activities, Deeb also makes time for personal fitness and body conditioning – an essential priority in his every day schedule. On a typical workout day, he prepares a mixed a stimulant based supplement as well as a carbohydrate powder for muscle energy. After drinking the mixture, Deeb is quickly ready to hit the gym and lift weights.
For many active students like Deeb maximizing their health and fitness, supplements are an essential part of their typical routine. Stimulant based supplements are among the most popular as they increase focus, energy and speed. These types of supplements are commonly used to promote weight loss, build muscle and enhance performance.
“Personally for me, stimulants are that extra push that makes my workout better,” said Deeb. “When I really don’t want to go workout, I just mix my pre-workout drink slam it down and 15 minutes later I’m amped and ready for a lift.”
Though stimulant supplements are said to deliver dramatic results, the risks and dangers involved in some of these workout boosters are worth noting. The Food and Drug Administration issued a warning April 11 that states, “supplements containing a stimulant called dimethylamylamine (DMAA), can elevate blood pressure and could lead to cardiovascular problems, including heart attack, shortness of breath and tightening of the chest.”
“In my professional opinion, the average individual doesn’t need stimulant supplements in order to gain what they want,” said Kacey Sebeniecher, wellness coordinator and certified nutrition & wellness consultant at the University of Texas at Dallas. “It’s in our culture to want quick results and that’s why they’re so popular.”
While many students may see the stimulant supplements as a quick way to achieve their fitness goals, Sebeniecher recommends that students should avoid them.
“If you’re going to the gym on a regular basis, followed by a clean diet,” said Sebeniecher, “then there is no need for the supplements. Eventually you will get the results you want.”
After receiving 86 reports of illness and death associated with stimulant supplements containing DMAA, the FDA made products with this ingredient illegal. Many health stores like GNC still sell popular stimulant products with this ingredient.
Michael Henson, a GNC associate and previous manager, said that stimulant supplements containing DMAA are designed to improve athletic performance by giving someone the sensation of being hyped up and ready to lift. As a bodybuilder for personal fitness, Henson advises that the dangers of stimulants are only there when the directions for recommended dosages are not properly followed.
“Obviously when something is taken in excess there will be a price to pay,” said Henson. “I use these products on a regular basis and I have no problems at all.”
Though stimulant supplements are commonly used among men, they are also popular with women as well. Some of these supplements include Oxy Elite, Hydroxycut and Lipo 6. Typically these supplements are popular among women because of the claim to burn fat.
DMAA, a synthetic substance found commonly in widely used dietary supplements and drinks, has been documented for causing cardiac and psychiatric disorders, as well as death over recent years. Many athletes like Henson and Deeb, who use these stimulant supplements, advise that these potentially deadly risks are only realistic if used the wrong way.
“Most people don’t use them properly and end up abusing them,” said Deeb. “I personally don’t think stimulants are dangerous, what makes them dangerous are the people who abuse them.”
Rabiah Jeenah, a fitness assistant and personal trainer at the University of Texas at Dallas, agrees that stimulant based supplements are safe to use if taken properly.
“Stimulant supplements are fine to use if you are smart about using them, “said Jeenah. “When people take more than the recommended amount, then it gets dangerous.”
By taking too much of a stimulant supplement, negative effects such as drastically increased heart rate, have the potential of leading to lethal danger like cardiac arrest.
“Although they help maintain focus and performance, they are not required to achieve fitness goals,” said Jeenah. “All it takes is motivation, determination and the will power to break that mental block that tells you that you can’t do it.”
People using these supplement products should be aware of the potential risks that they include. Directions and recommended dosages should always be followed to prevent health problems.
“More often than not, people won’t see the immediate results they want and so they start upping the dosage.” said Sebeniecher. “I teach students to achieve results the natural way and don’t use the supplements if you don’t have to.”
While many potential risks are enclosed with stimulant supplements, these products have helped many people to achieve their personal fitness goals.
Athletes like Deeb, who have been faithfully using stimulant based supplements, contain the extra push needed to make workouts more successful.
With the stimulant mixture putting him in the right mindset, Deeb puts in his earphones blasting electronic music to get through his daily workouts.
Months later, Deeb competed with several other undergraduates and graduates for the winning title at the SMU competition. Though he didn’t win, Deeb said the experience was life-changing and has only inspired him to work harder for the next year around.
“You have to push yourself to a new limit,” said Deeb. “That’s the mentality I have.”