Category Archives: Supplements

Articles about the dietary supplement and pharmaceutical industry.

Muscle Building is Big Money

Super HeroMuscle building is an integral part of the life of every male human. Every boy is a huge and strong super hero in his imaginary world. Every male teenager dreams of becoming that hero, and many of them actively starts pursuing that dream. Although that pursuit generally dies off as professional life, family or the lack of progress interferes, every adult man still wants to look like a greek god.

Throughout a man’s life, having a defined masculine physique with rippling muscles and freakish strength remains a strong desire. Few attain this goal but many pursue it with varying degrees of success. Hell, even those who don’t hit the gym with any regularity it still want the results. And all of them, questing or not, seek shortcuts. Pills, powders, concocts, extracts, potions, injections – it is a multi billion dollar industry that just keeps getting bigger.

SupplementsHumans have always had a strong belief in quick magical fixes, from archaic times to present time, and it’s not getting any better. We are just as superstitious now as we were a million years ago. The superstitions just have different names and guises. Muscle building, beauty, health, success, money – we all want it, we have always wanted it, and we will always want it. And we are all willing to pay for it with hard earned cash, whether it’s a pharmaceutical drug, muscle building supplement, herbal remedy, skin lotion, lottery ticket or entry into a pyramid game.

Getting anywhere in any kind of pursuit is a matter of luck in so far as genetics, upbringing, and being in the right place at the right time, but hard work and strict routines also play a big part. None of this comes easy. However, drinking a potion, applying a lotion, eating a pill, or buying a starter package is as easy as it gets. Whether it produces any real results or not does not matter because the underlying belief in the practise is irrational and can thus can not be swayed.

One could argue that buying muscle building supplements is not very different from buying food, but that is a flawed analogy seeing as controlled studies show that isolated nutrients such as anti-oxidants have none or even detrimental effects on the health (1). A pill with long shell life is very simple. Biochemistry is not.

Muscle, smoke and mirrorsI recently read the excellent book Muscle, Smoke and Mirrors: Volume I by Randy Roach where the history of body building or physical culture is outlined in great detail. The body building industry was born from strong man shows, and came about in the late 19th century in the form of books and magazines on the theme weight lifting. The main revenue came from selling these publications but soon ads for weight lifting equipment made it into the magazines. The problem with weight lifting equipment was that the buyer was more or less set for life with one single purchase, unlike dietary supplements that can be bought and consumed over and over again. There were some supplements on the market early on but it was not until after world war 2 and the extreme food processing – for shipping and conservation purposes – that came with it that muscle building supplements became big business and started showing up in the magazines. And the rest is history as they say. Although we have Internet and forums today, it is really just a more interactive form of magazine and thereby nothing new under the sun.

I have personally authored a swedish website on the topic of muscle building by the name Bygga Muskler Snabbt where I currently only promote supplements but I am going to give books a try as well. After all, the industry started with books and magazines and I am curious to see the ratio between supplement and book sales.

1. Bjelakovic G; Nikolova, D; Gluud, LL; Simonetti, RG; Gluud, C (2007). Mortality in randomized trials of antioxidant supplements for primary and secondary prevention: systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA 297 (8): 842–57.

Jack3d and DMAA soon to be outlawed?

Jack3dJack3d from USPlabs is a pre-workout supplement that was launched in 2009 although the formula it contained at the time of launch had been used privately by its inventor and his friends since 2006. Jack3d has already been top of its class in two award categories for two consecutive years over at That which makes Jack3d special is primarily the ingredient DMAA which is short for 1,3-dimethylamylamine, an extract from the oil of the flower Rose Geranium.

DMAA is an adrenaline-analogue substance – very similar to Ephedrine – that simply wakes up the body when taken orally or via injection. A few years back DMAA was very popular in party pills in New Zealand and Australia. Before that it was used atopically in the US as a nasal spray due to its constricting effect on the blood vessels. In conjunction with caffeine and Schizandrol A, DMAA makes your workouts really intense and focused. With the added benefit of creatine, arginine and beta-alanine, Jack3d is a recipe for success.

Unfortunately, DMAA is currently being investigated by authorities and may very soon be classified as a drug just as Ephedrine and Yohimbine were a few years back. Naturally it is not health concerns that govern the classification. It is the pharmaceutical industry and the private interests of those regulating the food and supplement industry. The history of FDA and its interaction with the pharmaceutical industry and the government is outlined in great detail in this excellent article by the lawyer Jonathan W. Emord.

As Paracelsus said: “It is the dose that differentiates a poison from a remedy”. Everything is toxic in too high a dose, even water, but that’s not what this is about. Basically, if an isolated compound works well, it is bound to be classified as a drug. That way the pharmaceutical industry kills off all competition and can start raking in the big money. Once a company has grown beyond a certain point, the most effective way to keep growing or stay on top is to push for legislation that keeps its competitors at bay. Nowhere is this more apparant than in the food, supplement and drug industry.

In Sweden the classification of DMAA as a drug is currently under way and expected to be completed sometimes this year. Once that is done, DMAA and Jack3d – in its current version – are done as workout aids. The swedish resource for Jack3d outlines this in greater detail.