Excessive Bodybuilding Supplement Use May Be An Eating Disorder

The desire to build great physiques may be pushing men to replace meals with workout supplements, a trend some researchers have found to possibly be a new eating disorder.



People – especially men – who desire to have better bodies used to focus more on anabolic steroids to help them achieve this goal. In recent years, more persons are shifting their focus to legal bodybuilding supplements.

Read Also: Bodybuilding Supplements May Harm Your Liver

Researchers at Alliant International University, Los Angeles have found that the popularity of these over-the-counter products may point to the rise of a new eating disorder. They discovered this in a study presented at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association (APA) in 2015.

“These products have become an almost ubiquitous fixture in the pantries of young men across the country and can seemingly be purchased anywhere and everywhere — from grocery stores to college book stores,” said Richard Achiro, Ph.D., of Alliant International University’s California School of Professional Psychology.

The marketing of these products takes advantage of the desire for the “perfect” male body, as portrayed in the media.

An eating disorder?

For this study, researchers enlisted 195 men who had used workout or bodybuilding supplements in the past 30 days. These participants, whose ages ranged from 18 to 65, revealed that they did workouts at least two times each week to stay fit or have a great body.

Read Also: Bodybuilding Supplement May Damage Your Brain

The men completed an online survey. This included questions on body image, self-esteem, gender role conflict, and eating habits, among others.

Achiro and his colleague, Peter Theodore, Ph.D., discovered that more than 2 in every 5 subjects stated that they had increased supplement use after some time. Perhaps, more worrisome was the finding that 22 percent of these men had replaced their normal meals with supplements.

According to the researchers, around 29 percent of the subjects indicated they were worried about their supplement use. Eight percent said their doctor had advised them to stop or reduce the intake of supplements to prevent side effects.

Undue supplement use resulted in three percent of men being hospitalized due to kidney or liver complaints.

A scale developed for this study showed a significant correlation to well-known pointers of an eating disorder. These signs include concern about eating habits and restrictive eating.

Factors driving excessive use

According to what the media portrays, the ideal male body should be lean and muscular. Men who lack these qualities may, therefore, feel insecure with their bodies. As a result, they could turn to the use of workout supplements to help them achieve that “ideal” body.

Achiro noted that, apart from dissatisfaction with their own body, some men appear to overuse workout supplements due to gender role conflict and low self-esteem.

Gender role conflict, as it applies to men, is a psychological state in which a man thinks he does not measure up to the society’s definitions of masculinity.

“Body-conscious men who are driven by psychological factors to attain a level of physical or masculine ‘perfection’ are prone to use these supplements and drugs in a manner that is excessive and which was demonstrated in this study to be a variant of disordered eating,” Achiro said.

The researchers wanted greater recognition of the risks that excessive use of legal workout supplements can constitute. It is crucial to study and correct the mental causes and effects of legal performance-enhancing supplement and drug misuse, they said.


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