In the weight room at the Whittemore Center, it might surprise an observer to see weightlifters swishing around bottles filled with what appears to be pond scum. Chunks rise to the top of the drink as people tip their heads back to swallow the murky liquid that is supposed to improve their workout.
Pre-workout supplements are taken by some weightlifters to increase energy levels before a workout. The bottles are covered in promises of incredible results, all accompanied by a panel that reads, “These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.”
But this does not deter many University of New Hampshire students from using pre-workout supplements.
When freshman Jack Porter is waiting in between his sets, he nurses a pre-workout as one would nurse a beer at a summer barbeque. His pre-workout is a product named “Assault,” by a company called Muscle Pharm. Porter does not know the ingredients of this product.
Porter explained that without the pre-workout, he feels flat and tired. The supplement leaves him feeling “tingly.”
“Some people say it makes their face itch,” Porter said, laughing. “So that probably isn’t good for you.”
The ingredients of “Assault” include a sea of words that can barely be pronounced, such as glucuronolactone, dimethylglycine and cinnamomum burmannii. There are also vitamins that are grossly over the recommended daily value, even when only taking the recommended dose.
One single serving scoop of “Assault” provides 833 percent of the daily vitamin C requirement, 750 percent of the daily Vitamin B6 requirement and a whopping 1,500 percent of the daily Vitamin B12 requirement.
These are not healthy levels according to Mark Blackwood, a family practice physician at Durham Family Health.
“All you’re doing is overtaxing your liver and kidneys to flush all that garbage out of your system,” Blackwood said.
This means that if you already have minor issues with your kidneys, it could become very dangerous.
“You’re flirting with disaster,” Blackwood said.
Sophomore Austin Sprague said he only consulted a friend before using a product called “C4” from a company named “Cellucor.” The bottle has a long warning label, but is overshadowed by statements like, “It’s helped gym junkies, weekend warriors, and competitive athletes everywhere rise to become their own versions of legendary.”
“Well, I assume it is regulated since it is sold at GNC,” Sprague said.
“Cullucor,” however, is not regulated. The FDA does not go through these pre-workout supplements to make sure that they are safe for the intended user.
“I didn’t know that,” Sprague said in response.
In 2013, the Boston Globe covered a story where a pre-workout called “Craze” was found to have “banned substance derived from methamphetamine.” This product by GNC won an award for being the best new supplement on Bodybuilding.com.
The manufacturer of “C4” that Sprague takes does test their products. Taylor Knox from Cellucor’s Direct Result team said that he truly believed his company was interested in benefiting people’s health and well-being.
Knox also said people should check with a doctor and thoroughly read the warning label before taking any product, something many of the students interviewed said they failed to do.
Knox did not have much confidence when asked if he thought other companies held their products to as high a standard as Cellucor.
“From what I know of the industry,” he said, “there are other companies out there that don’t have as much integrity.”
Blackwood thinks that much of the supplement industry is based upon terrific salesmanship, because almost all of the daily needs of most students could be met with “lots of fruits and veggies, and coarse whole grains.”
“You’re better off to just eat the kind of diet Mom told you to eat,” Blackwood said.