Bodybuilding, Weight Loss and Supplements


When it comes to losing weight, you want to make sure you are obtaining the right amount and kind of nutrition. For some this is easy. They simply follow their weight loss plan, eating the foods they are required to. For many individuals, however, it is not always easy to ingest what they need. For those, there are nutritional or dietary supplements.

What are Supplements?

The word “supplement” has become part of daily jargon. It may refer to swallowing a multi-vitamin or tossing down a protein shake. Supplements may work to increase your energy level or decrease your food intake. Supplements may help you build muscle or take weight off.

Essentially, supplements are intended as an addition to and not a replacement for your diet. In 1994, the ODS provided official guidelines to describe what a supplement was. The basic description and/or characteristics are as follows:

  • A supplement is a substance that is to operate as an enhancement or a complement to the regular or normal diet
  • A supplement must contain a minimum of one ingredient or component that is considered dietary in nature. The list of possibilities includes mineral, herbs or other botanicals, amino acid and vitamins
  • A supplement is taken in an oral form. To this end it may come as a pill, tablet, capsule, gel or liquid
  • To qualify under this category, the front panel of the product must clearly indicate through a label that it is a dietary supplement1.

Supplements may be nutritional. They may also be marketed as weight loss products. In the case of bodybuilding, dietary supplements may be characterized by the promoter as a means to lose weight while gaining muscle.

Why Supplements?

Supplements are used to provide the user with a variety of possible effects. It depends upon what you intend to accomplish. The most common reasons for taking dietary supplements are

  • To boost your energy output, therefore burning off more calories than you take in
  • Increase your feeling of being full so you eat less
  • Amplify the ability of your body to decrease its production of fat cells
  • Prevent your body from absorbing any unwanted fat from dietary intake
  • Hinder absorption of water by speeding up the excretion process

For those who are focusing on bodybuilding as well as losing weight, it is essential to take supplements that will help increase muscle mass.

Basic Dietary Supplements for Bodybuilding

If you plan to lose weight and/or gain muscle mass, you may turn to any of a number of products available in health food stores, local retail outlets and in gyms. Some are all-natural while others are chemical compounds or manmade derivatives. If you are a bodybuilder, the most common supplements you turn to are whey and creatine.

Whey is considered a protein supplement. They come in different varieties. While considered an antioxidant, the real value for bodybuilders lies in its ability to burn off fat and create muscle mass. It usually comes in powder form and is made into a smoothie, drink or shake. Whey contains the lowest calories while remaining high in protein. Bodybuilders drink protein drinks before working out to increase the ability of the body to absorb amino acids – a building block of muscles.

Creatine serves a slightly different purpose than whey. It is a non-protein amino acid. When synthesized within the body, creatine may generate energy. It is probable that it is effective in enhancing the performance during short-term high intensity physical exercises. Research indicates it may have some positive effect in the release of energy as well as weight gain2. Bodybuilders and supporters of creatine state the weight gain from initial use of this product is actually muscle mass. As a result, creatine is usually endorsed as a promoter of muscle mass gain.

There are other dietary supplements used to decrease weight, burn off calories and build-up muscle mass. Bodybuilders turn to L-Glutamine, another amino acid. It, too, is promoted as an energy booster although there is no scientific research to currently back this up. Some natural products also are turned to including ephedra, chromium, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), ginseng, green tea and vitamin B5, although the effecitiveness and safety of some of these products has been questioned.

Issues with Supplements

Taking supplements may not always be a benign exercise in bodybuilding and weight loss3. There are certain health issues you may need to address some from using too much, others from contraindications. The simplest reason for negative side effects is allergies. Some people are allergic to whey and dairy-based products. If this is the case, they need to avoid using this form of protein. There are also possibilities of adverse effects on parts of the body. These depend upon the specific supplement taken, the dosage, the physical condition of the individual and related factors.


If you want to make sure you are getting enough of the right types of nutrition, you may need to use supplements. While they come in many forms, these nutritional or dietary supplements have one thing in common. They all intend to help you maintain the balance of nutrients in your body. Bodybuilders and those who want to lose weight may rely on supplements for other reasons. They perceive them as a means to losing weight and gaining muscles. If you use nutritional supplements, make sure they are actually capable of obtaining the results you want without any side effects.


ODSF (2011). Dietary Supplements. Retrieved from ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/DietarySupplements.

2 Hendler, S. S. (2008). PDR For Nutritional Supplements 2nd Edition.Montvale,NJ: Physician’s Desk Reference.
3 Jenkinson, DM; and Harbert, AJ (2008) Supplements and Sports. American Family Physician, 78(9):1039-1046.


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