Risking health for a good physique, PFT
Submitted by: MCB Camp Butler
Story Identification #: 20046912524
Story by Lance Cpl. Chris Korhonen

CAMP FOSTER, OKINAWA, Japan —(June 4, 2004) -- There are a lot of demands placed on Marines: discipline, honor, bearing, pride, appearance and maintaining a high level of physical fitness. Sometimes the pressure of staying fit can lead Marines to use or abuse drugs and supplements in their quest for a better body and a higher physical fitness test score.

Fat burning supplements and protein weight-gainers are often used by Marines to increase performance, lose weight and gain muscle. However, the effects some products have on the body can do more harm than good, according to Amy Weir, registered dietician and health promotion specialist, U.S. Naval Hospital, Okinawa.

“The main dangers from fat burners are increased blood pressure, heat stroke, nausea, dizziness, irregular heartbeat and dehydration,” Weir said.

According to Weir, these types of products are used by Marines to gain quicker results than thought possible through normal exercise.

“Marines are athletes and need to be in good shape to pass their PFT,” Weir said. “They are supposed to be big, muscular and strong, and they want it to happen fast.”
Dave Elger, health promotion department head at USNH, said fat burners affect the central nervous system. When mixed with other stimulants like nicotine and caffeine, fat burners can greatly reduce the desired results.

“Smoking also inhibits Marines’ abilities to develop muscle mass,” Elger said. “When they have an added stimulant like that (nicotine), it uses calories rather than supporting muscle growth.”

One of Weir’s biggest concerns with fat burners and other supplements is that the products are not properly labeled, and one doesn’t always know what is in there.

“Supplements are not Food and Drug Administration-regulated,” the Massillon, Ohio, native said. “People at General Nutrition Center are businesspersons and are just trying to sell a product, so they don’t necessarily have any background in medicine or nutrition. If you are considering taking a supplement, talk to either a registered dietician or your doctor to find out the truth of how they work. Don’t look at the (supplement) company’s website or the employee at GNC.”

According to Lt. Cmdr. Edith M. Reichert, a family nurse practitioner at Evans Medical Clinic, the ease of availability of supplements is one reason for their misuse.
“I don’t condone supplements. Since they are not illegal and are not against any regulation for (the military) to use, my biggest concern is (Marines) are not using them in a controlled way,” the Chicago native said. “Because supplements are not a well controlled drug, people commonly take more doses than they should.”

The alarming fact is that Reichert said about one in every 10 Marines coming in for their Personal Health Assessment shows signs of using and abusing supplements.
Elger does not have a major concern with protein supplements, which are common products taken for weight gaining, as long as they are used properly.

“Taking a protein shake is not going to hurt,” the Muskegel, Wis., native said. “If you take above and beyond what the body needs, then it is going to get stored as fat, or you could run into potential problems with your kidneys.”

Weir also says protein supplements should be taken with caution.

“Food is always better. When you need something quick, a protein bar or shake is fine. But too much protein can be a problem because it can damage your liver,” Weir added.

Weir also stresses that a proper diet with multivitamins will produce much better and healthier results than taking supplements with enhanced ingredients.

“Vitamins are important,” Weir said. “Everyone should take a multivitamin with up to 150 percent of all the vitamins and minerals their body needs. You don’t need anything with 4,000 percent in it.”

CAMP FOSTER, OKINAWA, Japan — Supplements, such as fat burners and weight gainers, are quick, but potentially unhealthy answers to getting a better body and improved fitness levels. Amy Weir, registered dietician and health promotion specialist, U.S. Naval Hospital, Okinawa, said a proper diet with multivitamins will produce healthier results than taking supplements with enhanced ingredients. Photo by: Lance Cpl. Chris Korhonen