More and more men are using more and more supplements.
Protein shakes: I know, you can get them everywhere. But those seemingly healthy workout supplements you're consuming (or, if you're like me, have been telling yourself the past five years you're going to start consuming) might do more harm to your mental health than good for your body.
Don't take it from me, though — listen to the experts.
New research suggests increasing consumption of workout supplements might actually be fueling eating disorders among men.
A study presented at the American Psychological Association's 2015 conference in Toronto analyzed online responses from 195 men aged 18-65 who'd recently used workout supplements like whey protein and creatine — essentially, things that are supposed to help you get a more muscular, leaner body. The researchers asked questions on topics like self-esteem, gender roles, supplement use, and eating habits.
The study found more than 1 in 5 men admitted to substituting meals with supplements that should not replace regular meals. It's likely a growing problem, too, as more than 40% of respondents said their use of supplements has increased over time.
This is serious business, fellas. Because while you may be aiming to bulk up in all the right places, whey protein (commonly used in such products) has also been linked to kidney dysfunction and liver damage, among other medical issues.
Abusing these sorts of products can certainly lead to health problems, but from the looks of it, many are already aware of that.
The researchers were most alarmed by the fact that nearly 30% of respondents were concerned about their own use of workout supplements.
"These products have become an almost ubiquitous fixture in the pantries of young men across the country," said researcher Richard Achiro, Ph.D., of the California School of Professional Psychology at Alliant International University. Achiro, who presented the findings, noted how easily men can find such products in America — everywhere "from grocery stores to college book stores."
A product's easy accessibility might add to the idea that men shouldn't worry about its effects on their bodies or self-esteem (after all, if it was dangerous, wouldn't it be harder to find?), while also reinforcing the idea that eating disorders and body image are women's issues.
And that couldn't be more wrong.
Eating disorders can affect anyone. And society's expectations based on gender aren't helping.
And while supplement abuse might look differently than, say, anorexia does, Achiro's findings touch on a driving force behind many conditions that deal with a person's relationship to food and their body: gender expectations.
"Body-conscious men who are driven by psychological factors to attain a level of physical or masculine 'perfection' are prone to use these supplements and drugs in a manner that is excessive and which was demonstrated in this study to be a variant of disordered eating," Achiro said, also noting that marketing efforts for such products often go after men's insecurities associated with stereotypical masculinity.
Guys, I know muscles and abs are in right now. But they're never worth sacrificing your mental and physical health to obtain.
Need help? Learn more at the National Eating Disorders Association's website, or give them a call at 1-800-931-2237.