Almost everyone has heard of a supplement that either enhances your workout, creates lean muscle mass and/or burns fat, but exactly how effective are these products? Among the many supplements out in the world today, nitric oxide (N.O.) is one of the most common ingredient. N.O. is known to dilate blood vessels allowing increased flow of oxygen and nutrients to the muscle, causing for more intense workouts and muscle growth. However, the science data supporting these claims is not significant.
The biggest opposition against N.O. is the placebo effect, meaning that the effects could be psychological. We may perceive to see increased muscle growth or more energy during workouts because we induced the supplement, when in actuality the supplement (N.O.) has no effect at all. In a study testing N.O. the results indicated that no significant change in blood variables except hemoglobin yet participants claimed to have had more intense workouts and increased strength after the trial length. The placebo effect appears to be apparent in supplements used for weight loss. In a conducted study participants were placed into 3 groups at random. Group 1 received weight loss pills, group 2 received pills being told that they may or may not be placebo and group 3 received placebos. After the trial period all results among the group were similar (physically), yet those who took the weight loss pills gave a higher self-rating in weight loss than the other 2 groups. So the question that still remains unsolved is “do supplements actually do what they claim or is it all psychological?”.
There are so many supplements to choose from how do we know which ones are effective?
Image from flickr uploaded by NaB
Bodybuilding.com is a well-known website for athletes and well, bodybuilders. This site has a list of products that range from $10 a bottle to hundreds. People often refer to this website for workout routines and discussion boards about fitness related topics. A well-known site like this sells products that claim to increase workout intensity and muscle strength when scientific research seems to claim that these products are a “sham”. However, there has been scientific research that other supplements- such as whey protein-help increase and preserve muscle mass to help achieve a leaner look. Protein does not increase intensity of workouts but helps in muscle repair afterwards.
In respect to supplements claiming to create significant weight loss and/or increase workout intensity/muscle mass there is little scientific evidence that claims they work. The theory behind some of the ingredients such as N.O. do have some merit to them but ruling out the placebo effect will ultimately create strongest case for these products. If you consume a supplement claiming to increase your workout intensity and your workouts do become more intense (wither or not it is the placebo effect), there is a gym slogan to describe this situation- “Gains are Gains”.
What comes to mind when you think of a drug that most body builders use? Most likely the answer is steroids, but in today’s body building competitions a new substance has surfaced known as Synthol (75% oil). This compound was initially introduced for filling in wrinkles and breast augmentation, but is now being used to enhance the cosmetic appearance of muscles all over the body (Journal of Medical Case Reports).
Synthol is injected into the muscle an individual wishes to cosmetically enlarge and over the course of many treatments the muscle appears to have grown in mass.However there is no increase in muscle performance or overall strength according to the Journal of Medical Case Reports. Since oil is being injected into the area that surrounds the muscle it appears bigger. The muscle itself does not grow and become stronger, therefore in a hypothetical situation a body builder may lift as much weight as a person half the size, who does not use Synthol. Essentially, this substance is only beneficial to those who compete in visual body competitions. The following video was uploaded by Mo lbr and depicts synthol leaking out of a man’s shoulder during a competition.
In many of the cases where bodybuilders inject oil into their muscles there have been many negative side effects. The workouts become more painful as the amount of oil injected into the body increases and in some patients the muscle has to be amputated in parts to cause the severe pain to subside, such as the example in the International Journal of Sports Medicine. In other words, by injecting oils into specific muscles in order to enhance their appearance some bodybuilders end up losing their muscle a large portion of their muscle mass as a negative side effect. If too much oil is injected and/or injected incorrectly leads to deformed appearance in muscle (Academy of Dermatology). The only positive side effect is enhanced muscle appearance in a competition where you are judged on the size of your muscles and by using Synthol you are cheating (in my opinion, others may feel differently). In summary, some of the negative consequences include painful workouts, muscle deformation, and surgery to remove a large portion of the muscle. Yet, some bodybuilders go so far and inject over 1500 mL of oil into their body over a three month span according to the Academy of Dermatology.
Personally, I think the natural muscle definition looks better. Hard work and dedication may take longer to show the effects but there are virtually no negative side effects to building muscle normally. The all natural method allows for non-painful workouts and is much cheaper than purchasing oil and syringes constantly over time. To end with a well-known quote, “no pain, no gain”.
With the growing need to constantly be efficient in almost every aspect of our lives we could be doing more harm than good. Hand washing is considered the most simple and important procedure to prevent sickness but the method we dry our hands may be counterproductive. According to the Malaysian Journal of Pathology, electric hand dryers dispersed bacteria at a radius of 3 feet from the dryer. In the experiment by the department of Microbiology in Kuala Lumpur, Serratia marcescens (bacteria) was placed under the dryer to stimulate someone drying their hands (in a hospital setting) and the results indicated that the bacteria was blown an average of 3 feet. A more recent study done by the University of Leeds also found that electric hand dryers spread bacteria in a bathroom setting. Using paper towels does consume trees but is the trade-off worth the risk?
Picture of bacteria obtained from Flickr – credit to Cesar H.
Using an air dryer, it takes longer to dry hands relative to paper towels which means that people may not completely dry their hands. This being said, it may be possible that bacteria could grow on surface skin. Skin flora can then be transmitted from one person to another in a variety of ways such as the casual hand shake or simply by touching objects after hand washing. Someone could wash their hands and then dry them using an electric hand dryer and have bacteria blown onto their hands that will spread with contact. In other words a non-contaminated surface can become contaminated with skin flora even if the contact surface is not immediately under the dryer. Electric dryers may not only spread bacteria, it may provide an environment for growth.
Picture obtained from Flickr courtesy of Walter J.
The environment that is in the inside structure of an electric hand dryer provides conditions suitable for growth of bacteria according to Dailymail. Bacteria can multiply in the electric dryer in between uses and then spread by becoming airborne when the dryer is turned on. By using electric air dryers to ultimately reduce the amount of trees that are cut down every year according to the Slate. Paper towels do not cause bacteria to become airborne but they do cause many trees every year to be cut down and are inefficient in terms of the environment. Electric air dryers do provide a good alternative to paper towels but they cause the spread of bacteria. As technology and science continue to improve hopefully a solution to this problem will be in the near future where we can protect the environment as well as ourselves at the same time. It may seem like a small part of our lives – washing and drying hands – but the consequences can potentially be severe. In the end, using electric hand dryers saves millions of trees worldwide and is worth the risk in my opinion. Below is an example video of the efficiency of electric hand dryers.