Recently I saw an advertisement for a supplement called “ManCore Muscle Preserve.” It occurred to me that while many people believe it’s imperative to take supplements to gain muscle (more on that next week in my #1 myth about fitness and nutrition), clearly the supplement industry also has people convinced that ingesting pills, powders and potions will preserve muscle – which is especially pertinent to those middle aged and beyond.
First, a lesson about the supplement industry in the US. As many of you know, supplements are not regulated by the FDA like food is. That means the products are not tested for effectiveness, nor safety, and the companies making these products do not even have to prove that their substance even contains what they claim it contains. While there are some rules about banned ingredients, the makers of supplements can easily get around that by stating that their product has a “proprietary blend” on the ingredient list (but don’t take that to mean that “proprietary blend” equals unsafe ingredients…you’ll find this on the bottle of many products that are likely not harmful, like Echinacea.)
This lack of regulation also means they can make any claim they want about how their product helps people – which is not the case for food. The FDA requires that tons of research back up a specific health claim before food manufacturers are allowed to state it- one example would be that “eating cheerios helps lower cholesterol.” In the case of supplements, you can’t be sure that their health claim is true.
And I can tell you one that’s not: taking a pill does NOT preserve muscle. There is only one thing that preserves muscle – resistance training (that is, challenging your muscles in any way). Sure, you need to ingest enough calories and nutrients or you’ll lose lean mass, but I don’t know many middle aged men who struggle to take in enough calories.
Think about it…if you could take a pill to maintain muscle, then your call volume would significantly decline. Why? Because you wouldn’t be going on calls where older adults fall! The #1 reason for falls is loss of muscle mass. If this were avoided simply by taking a “muscle preserve” supplement then we’d have a pharmaceutical cure for falling!
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