Staying in shape is no easy feat for the college student. A weekend of keg parties and late night Taco Bell runs can’t always be counteracted in the gym. The treadmill and weight room can only do so much; eventually what goes into your mouth sneakily finds its way onto your midsection.
The freshman fifteen is a reality for many students. Problems arise, however, when students resort to extreme measures to counteract a party lifestyle and unhealthy diet. We have all heard stories of women over exercising, restricting calories, and taking extreme measures to keep their weight down.
What we haven’t heard, though, are the drastic measures that guys take to stay in shape. It’s a common misconception that guys don’t worry about their appearance or suffer from any body hang-ups or insecurities.
“I always assumed that guys have a faster metabolism and are bigger than girls," said Jen, a senior at the University of Massachusetts. “I just figured that they could eat all the beer and pizza they wanted without getting fat.”
Guys and Body Image
In reality, many male college students admitted to an overwhelming pressure to meet a physical ideal and be attractive to the opposite sex. Not everyone needs to achieve the washboard abs of Pauly D, but most guys admit to wanting a “built” or “muscular” appearance.
Building muscle is no easy feat, and when a healthy diet and daily weightlifting sessions fail to deliver results, some male co-eds turn to supplements. Supplements pick up where genetics leave off; they increase a guy’s natural ability to build muscle and deliver faster results. The pills are legal, widely accessible at retailers like GNC or Vitamin Shop, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t carry health risks or a hefty price tag.
“There are plenty of guys out there who are genetically gifted, having the rare ability to just look at a 45-lb plate and add an inch to their arms,” said Joseph Marshall, a representative at campusmen.com and certified personal trainer. “For the rest of us, supplements are vital to helping your body reach its full potential. They can be expensive, but the benefits are well worth the price. Imagine—being able to increase your strength by 10% right away, just by taking a few pills before you work out.”
Slews of Supplements
A “few pills” is an understatement. Most guys admitted to trying over a dozen supplements before discovering the perfect combination for their specific body type, schedule, and workout routine.
“I started working out for the first time last September,” said Boston College senior Joe. “Over the past year and a half I've taken just about every supplement that's out on the market - pre-workout drinks/pills, post-workouts drinks/pills, multi-vitamins, protein shakes, and everything else.”
Campusmen.com, a website devoted to weightlifting tips for college males, lists four supplements that are necessary for building muscle mass: protein, creatin, energy boosters, and a multi-vitamin pack.
1. Protein: Whey protein is taken by most guys in the form of a protein shake before and/or after a workout. Whey fills in the gaps of a regular diet and gives the body all essential amino acids necessary for building muscle.
“Eating a nutritious diet and consistently taking protein supplements after workouts will help shape your body and build lean muscle,” says Tommy, a freshman football player at Bowdoin. “It is important to take protein right after your workout to give your muscles the necessary nutrients to get bigger and stronger. Your work isn't over until you have finished your protein.”
2. Energy booster: An energy booster, usually a combination of caffeine, guraina, and ginsing, gives a guy the extra boost to power through a workout. Popular brands, NO-Xplode and BSN Nitrix, contain nitric oxide and caffeine to relieve fatigue and deliver an energy boost. These supplements, more intense versions of energy products like Four Hour Energy or Red Bull, pose the risks of an elevated heart rate, jitters, and dehydration.
3. Creatin: This supplement allows your muscle fibers to do more work which means more growth stimulation and more muscle. Usually creatin is taken in a preworkout drink, to deliver energy and nutrients to the body, so muscles benefit the most from the workout.
“I think a pre-workout drink that has creatin, caffeine, and nitric oxide is the most important thing,” said B.C. senior Joe. “I've tried BSN's NO X-Plode, MRI's Black Powder, MuscleTech's naNO Vapor, Gaspari's SuperPump, and USPLabs Jack3d. Jack3d is my favorite - it gives me the best pump, tastes pretty good, and the negative side-effects aren't as bad with it as some of the others, but for the most part it's just a matter of personal preference.”
Negative side effects? The side effects for some supplements can include the jitters, breaking out with rashes, mood-swings, energy crashes, and dehydration. Multiple students admitted to suffering from these side effects, but also mentioned that the benefit of the products far outweighed the risks.
4. Multivitamin: A regular multivitamin available at GNC is advised, but serious weight lifters recommend a more extreme vitamin that is specifically geared to increasing muscle mass and strength. Popular products, like Animalpak, are geared to athletes and body builders and deliver all of the amino acids essential for protein growth.
Campusmen.com refers to these four supplements as “the basic bread and butter of body building.” But these basics come at a hefty cost - together these pills and powders can cost upwards of $300 a month.