Q&A: Questions and Answers


New Era and reader responses are intended for help and perspective, not as pronouncements of Church doctrine.

“I play football and know that some of the other players take supplements to enhance their performance. I feel like I can’t compete unless I do too. Is it bad to take supplements?”

New Era

  • Even a legal supplement can be harmful to your body.

  • Never take a dietary supplement without carefully studying its ingredients and their potential side effects and checking with your doctor.

  • Getting a temporary edge in athletics isn’t worth risking your physical or spiritual health.

  • The Lord promises physical and spiritual strength to those who keep the Word of Wisdom and do all they can to care for their bodies.

  • The Lord will bless those who make sacrifices to keep His commandments. That’s the best way to succeed.

Supplements like anabolic steroids or other human growth hormones are banned by various organizations for good reasons. Not only is taking them a form of cheating, but they’re also a serious risk to your health. Some athletes turn to dietary supplements instead, thinking they must be safe because they are “natural.”

But just because a supplement isn’t banned doesn’t mean it isn’t dangerous. Many legal supplements sold off the shelf or over the counter at your local supermarket or health food store can still damage your body. Some supplements can even kill you.

Ephedrine (or ephedra, ma huang, or epitonin), a key ingredient in a number of supplements, was recently banned in the United States because of health risks such as high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, nerve damage, seizures, heart attack, stroke, or death. 1 Creatine, another widely used ingredient, can cause dehydration, cramping, and diarrhea if doses are not carefully monitored. 2 Creatine’s long-term effects are still being studied, but it may damage the kidneys, according to a number of reports. 3

Unfortunately, most youth, and even a lot of coaches, don’t know that the supplements they take might be harmful. Nutritional supplements are only loosely regulated in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so many supplements have never been objectively tested for harmful side effects or interactions with drugs. 4 If you’re considering taking a supplement, check with your doctor.

On top of exercise and training, the best and safest way to enhance your performance is to rely on the promises of the Lord, who says that those who take care of their bodies by obeying the Word of Wisdom will “run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint” (D&C 89:20).

Are supplements against the Word of Wisdom? Section 89 doesn’t mention them by name, but if something is harmful to the body Heavenly Father created for you, you shouldn’t use it, eat it, drink it, touch it, or do it—not just because of the physical risk, but because the Spirit will not dwell in unclean temples. And without the Spirit, we will be like the Nephites who, in their wickedness, became “weak, like unto their brethren, the Lamanites, and … the Spirit of the Lord did no more preserve them; yea, it had withdrawn from them because the Spirit of the Lord doth not dwell in unholy temples” (Hel. 4:24).

The good news is you can compete with those using supplements by working hard to build your body and your faith. And by keeping the commandments and striving to keep your physical temple clean and healthy, you are inviting the Spirit.

President Boyd K. Packer

There are many habit-forming, addictive things that one can drink or chew or inhale or inject which injure both body and spirit which are not mentioned in [the Word of Wisdom].” —President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “The Word of Wisdom: The Principle and the Promises,” Ensign, May 1996, 17.

Readers

A lot of my football teammates took supplements, but rather than take them, I pushed myself to work harder and was named the best wide receiver in my state high school classification. Elder J. D. Horlacher, 20, South Dakota Rapid City Mission

Many become restless when involved in competitive sports. We want to be bigger, faster, and stronger. Unfortunately, this compels many to take harmful supplements into their bodies. Our bodies are temples, literally gifts from our Heavenly Father. Don’t allow any questionable substance to enter. The Lord will bless us for our obedience and dedication. Elder Brandon Rammell, 20, North Carolina Raleigh Mission

A healthy, working body usually keeps itself in check and runs flawlessly as long as we take care of it. It doesn’t need supplements to improve athleticism. The best thing is to follow the Word of Wisdom, exercise, eat a properly balanced diet, and get plenty of rest. Treat your body as the temple it is, then we’ll see who feels like they have to “keep up.” Kate Watkins, 19, Arcadia Ward, Scottsdale Arizona Camelback Stake

If you follow the counsel of the Word of Wisdom you can have the strength you need, but it will be because of your faith in Heavenly Father. Mekenzie Burton, 14, Oquirrh Third Ward, West Jordan Utah Oquirrh Stake

My friend started on the varsity team as a junior because he went to the weight room or the track every day after school to work out. He has never taken any supplements. Garrett Strong, 17, Northridge 14th Ward, Orem Utah Northridge Stake

Everything your friends do isn’t always the right way to go. You can complete all your goals without supplements. Pray to Heavenly Father that He will help you in your performance. Jaycee McCain, 14, Jackson Branch, Columbus Ohio Stake

This question caught my eye because I am a nutrition major at BYU. All supplements have side effects, and most supplements don’t even improve performance. Any possible short-term benefit could never be worth the expense of long-term health damage. The Lord understands how the body works and has told us through the Word of Wisdom how to fuel it to receive maximum performance. We are blessed by following the Lord’s commandments. Sister Holly Judkins, 21, Oklahoma Oklahoma City Mission

[photo] Photograph by Matt Reier, posed by models

Show References

    Notes

  1.   1.

    “FDA Consumer: Supplements Associated with Illnesses and Injuries,” Internet, http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/fdsuppch.html.

  2.   2.

    “Young Athletes Try Creatine,” New York Times, 10 Dec. 2000.

  3.   3.

    G. Benzi, A. Ceci, “Creatine as nutritional supplementation and medicinal product,” Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness (Mar. 2001), 41 (1):1–10. J. R. Poortmans, M. Francaux, “Adverse effects of creatine supplementation: fact or fiction?” Sports Medicine (Sept. 2000), 30 (3):155–170. J. E. Bailes, R. C. Cantu, A. L. Day, “The neurosurgeon in sport: awareness of the risks of heatstroke and dietary supplements,” Neurosurgery (Aug. 2002), 51 (2):283–288.

  4.   4.

    Paula Kurtzweil, “FDA Consumer: An FDA Guide to Dietary Supplements,” Internet, http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/fdsupp.html.