If we thought men are out of the grasp of a compelling body-image society, we were wrong, a new study from the American Psychological Association suggests.
With anabolic steroids already declared illegal, men are turning to supplements increasingly often to offer them the bodies they think of as distinctive in today’s societal patterns. Coupled with almost obsessive exercising routines, the increased supplement use steers men to the murky waters of eating disorders.
Ph.D. Richard Achiro of California School of Professional Psychology at Alliant International University and co-author of the study explains:
“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”.
The supplement market is saturated with miracle workers: from maintaining a lean body to increasing muscle mass, to burning calories supplements, all are legal, as their status does not require FDA approval.
Moreover, these supplements can be purchased over the counter, without any receipt or medical consideration.
With the wide variety existing on the market, the researchers focused on those supplements including the three most sought components: whey protein, creatine and L-carnitine. The protein powder is the agent that increases muscle mass via the amino acid and calorie boost. Creatine is responsible for muscle recovery, allowing for more intense and often workout routines, while L-carnitine is the amino acid directly targeting energy boosts and muscle building.
According to the researchers, there is nothing wrong with the idea of a healthy workout, done for the healthy reasons. Nor is there a problem with the use of supplements per se. However, while studying the responses of the 195 men involved in the study, the research team found that the motivation driving this routine is…vanity.
The participants, aged 18 to 65, had to answer questions related to body image, self-esteem, gender conflict, supplement use.
Of them, 40 percent reported that in time, they increased supplement intake. Worryingly enough, 22 percent replaced their meals with the supplements, while another 29 had reached the point of concern regarding the abusive use of supplements, but couldn’t stop.
8 percent of the participants had already been warned by their physicians that they should stop using supplements as they have adverse effects on physical health. And 3 percent were hospitalized due to liver or kidney problems directly related to the use of supplements.
The data was correlated to indicators of eating disorders, underlining the need that more attention is paid to the psychological factors underpinning this phenomenon.
Body-builders like the ones participating in the study were focused on building what they perceive as the epitome of masculinity in modern culture. Driven by self-esteem dictated reasons, these men are at risk of falling into a deeper pit than thought.
Ph.D. Richard Achiro and Ph.D Peter Theodore with the California School of Professional Psychology concluded that the study provides new insights in the use of supplements by men.
At the same time, it underlines the necessity for a different approach when men are discussing supplement use with their physicians. The approach would emphasize body image and the issues surrounding it.
Perhaps a more open debate about what drives men to attempt reaching the ‘perfect’ masculine embodiment would help them steer away from the edge of eating disorders and other mental health issues.
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