By Danni Levy
These shortcomings in our ongoing quest for personal improvement lead to the inevitable browse for boosters—pills, potions, and powders that promise to elevate us to the next level.
Aside from the vanilla cabinet essentials, there are three supplements that top the list in US search trends; HMB, DHEA, and GABA. The deepdive into the what, if, and how they can meet expectations unravels a wealth of pharm for thought.
HMB, or beta-hydroxy beta-methyl butyrate, is a metabolite of the essential amino acid leucine. It has gained attention in the fitness community for its potential to enhance muscle growth, improve strength, and support recovery. But what are the risks vs rewards?
“HMB supplementation has been associated with several benefits,” explains Holistic Nutritionist, Taylor Osbaldeston. “It is believed to promote protein synthesis and reduce muscle protein breakdown. These effects can contribute to increased muscle mass, improved strength, and faster post-workout recovery, allowing individuals to train more frequently and intensively.
“In the body, HMB works by activating specific signaling pathways that stimulate protein synthesis and inhibit protein breakdown. This helps to maintain a positive muscle protein balance, which is essential for muscle growth and repair. By supporting an anabolic environment within the muscles, HMB can optimize the effects of resistance training and promote lean body mass gains.
“HMB is generally considered safe for most individuals when taken at recommended doses. However, some potential side effects may include gastrointestinal distress, such as diarrhea or nausea. Individuals with pre-existing medical conditions or taking medications should consult with a healthcare professional before considering HMB supplementation. Furthermore, potential long-term side effects are relatively unknown.”
DHEA, or dehydroepiandrosterone, is a hormone naturally produced by the adrenal glands. It serves as a precursor to other hormones in the body, including testosterone and estrogen. DHEA supplementation has garnered attention for its potential to enhance athletic performance, improve body composition, and support overall well-being. Does it deliver on its promise?
“DHEA supplementation has been associated with increased muscle strength and lean body mass,” says Taylor. “It has also been linked to improvements in bone mineral density, which is crucial for maintaining skeletal health, especially as we age.
“DHEA is converted into active sex hormones, such as testosterone and estrogen, through enzymatic processes in the body. These hormones play a significant role in muscle growth, metabolism, and overall vitality. By increasing the availability of these hormones, DHEA may have a positive impact on muscle mass, strength, and body composition.
“While DHEA is generally considered safe for short-term use, long-term effects are still under investigation. Some potential side effects may include acne, hair loss, and hormonal imbalances. Individuals with hormone-sensitive conditions, such as certain types of cancer or hormone-related disorders, should exercise caution and consult with a healthcare professional before considering DHEA supplementation.”
GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid, is a naturally occurring neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. As a supplement, it has gained attention for its potential benefits in promoting relaxation, reducing stress, and supporting muscle recovery. So is it worth it?
“GABA supplementation has been associated with several potential benefits,” advises Taylor. “It’s believed to have an anxiolytic effect, helping to reduce stress and promote a sense of calm. This can be particularly beneficial for individuals who experience pre-workout jitters or have trouble winding down after intense training sessions. Moreover, GABA has been suggested to enhance sleep quality, allowing for better rest and recovery, which are crucial for muscle growth and repair.
“GABA functions by inhibiting the activity of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, thereby promoting relaxation and reducing excitability. It binds to specific receptors, known as GABA receptors, which help regulate neural activity and maintain a balanced state of mind. When GABA is supplemented, it crosses the blood-brain barrier and increases the concentration of GABA in the brain. This can lead to a calming effect, promoting a sense of tranquility and potentially reducing anxiety-related symptoms. Additionally, GABA’s ability to enhance sleep quality can indirectly support muscle recovery by allowing the body to enter deeper, more restorative sleep stages.”
“While GABA is generally well-tolerated by most individuals, it’s important to note that it may cause drowsiness or sedation. It’s advisable to avoid activities that require alertness or concentration, such as driving until you understand how it affects you personally. GABA supplementation may not be suitable for individuals taking medications that affect GABA receptors, as it could potentially interfere with their effectiveness. Consulting with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement is always recommended.”
To top it all off…
If weight loss is your goal, nothing ranks more highly on our search screens than Ozempic. The latest celebrity craze famed for its ability to strip away unwanted body fat receives well over a million Google searches every month in the US. But what exactly is it, does it really work, and how can you get hold of it?
“Ozempic is a medication primarily prescribed for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, but an increasing number of us are becoming intrigued by its rumored ability to help us shed body fat faster, whether we suffer from diabetes or not” says nutritionist Lee Mitchell.
“The medication works by mimicking the effects of a hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1)—which helps regulate blood sugar levels and appetite. GLP-1 receptor agonists like Ozempic have been shown to reduce appetite, increase feelings of fullness, and potentially lead to weight loss. But it’s not recommended for use by individuals without diabetes. Whilst Ozempic may contribute to weight loss, it is crucial to understand that its primary function is to help manage blood sugar levels and improve glycemic control.”
If you’re still tempted to make a bid for the prescription paper, you may want to consider this…
“We’ve measured the body composition of Ozempic patients with DEXA scans and found that they lose significant amounts of lean body mass (muscle). In fact, more muscle than fat,” says Philip Chant, Director of Bodyscan. “Our results (which mirror DEXA data we have seen from overseas) show that Ozempic is a very poor option for weight-loss in terms of overall health and fitness.
DEXA report excerpts from two Ozempic patients, show:
- 484g fat loss, 3492g lean loss
- 6984 fat loss, 9136 lean loss
“Typically, when losing weight, the ratio of fat-to-lean loss should be around 4:1 or 5:1,” explains Philip. “To lose up to seven times more lean mass than fat mass is very alarming.”
Still think you’re ready to face the risks?
“We’re now starting to see what many are terming ‘Ozempic face,’” warns aesthetic surgeon Dr Glyn Estebanez.
“Extreme rapid weight loss can make facial features appear more pronounced, resulting in a gaunt-like appearance. In suitable patients, we can remedy this with carefully injected fillers or treatments such as Morpheus8 and Nucleofill. But reduced levels of elastin and collagen in the skin following extreme weight loss can cause our faces to age and sag drastically.”