Myth #2: Supplements can preserve muscle

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.pill - Pixabay

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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By | 2018-06-01T07:40:28+00:00 November 27th, 2013|Uncategorized|5 Comments

About the Author:

Dr. Karlie Moore has a PhD in Exercise Science and Nutrition and specializes in firefighter health. She has conducted fitness testing on hundreds of firefighters and has created the most comprehensive online wellness program for fire departments called the FitCulture program. Dr. Moore is also married to a firefighter and so understands their lifestyle and the health challenges associated with it.


  1. Larry November 27, 2013 at 8:56 pm

    Hello Karlie, I agree with your article about preserving muscle and the fact that supplements alone aren’t going to do this. I do take issue with the broad sweep comments about the supplement industry and references to the FDA. Although there are a lot of bad supplement companies out there are also a lot of good supplement companies. There is also quite a bit of valid, legitimate research on a lot of supplements. The University of Wisconsin is currently doing research on vitamin D and it’s effects on MS and inflamation, and this is just one example of the mulitude of research going on. Also Isotonix supplements come to mind as one such line that is what it says and goes the extra mile to validate the quality & purity of their products.
    Taking a well rounded approach to health / wellness is the best approach.


    • Karlie November 30, 2013 at 12:35 am

      Larry, I certainly don’t believe the FDA is being irresponsible nor are all supplements bad for you so I hope my article did not convey that attitude. Agreed there is a lot of great research being done on vitamins and minerals. I earned my PhD and now teach at Oregon State University where some incredibly top notch research is being done within the nutrition sciences. My main bone of contention is with substances/mixtures that are marketed as aids for reaching exercise related goals- that’s what I’m referring to when I use the term “supplements.” Thanks for your insight!

  2. Carl Hudson November 27, 2013 at 10:48 pm

    Can’t wait to share that with some of the guys at the station. Some of them love the pre-workout stuff. I personally don’t understand the need to juice up to get motivated to workout. Guess I’m just to old.

  3. Steve Jones December 5, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    Hey Karlie,
    I loved your article, a topic I relish

    I have over the years foolishly tried many supplements, none of which have had any more effect than a well planned diet.

    I am by no means the big guy that you’ll find on magazine cover, but still athletic and can normally out shine most on station physically.

    The BBC program Panorama, did a special on sports supplements which pretty much dispelled all supplements remanufactured in the UK for simular reasons.

    • Karlie December 5, 2013 at 11:42 pm

      Steve, as you said, a well planned diet is your best performance enhancing supplement!

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