Congress defined the term "dietary supplement" in the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994. A dietary supplement is a product taken by mouth that contains a "dietary ingredient" intended to supplement the diet. The "dietary ingredients" in these products may include: vitamins, minerals, herbs or other botanicals, amino acids, and substances such as enzymes, organ tissues, glandular, and metabolites. Dietary supplements can also be extracts or concentrates, and may be found in many forms such as tablets, capsules, soft gels, gel caps, liquids, or powders. They can also be in other forms, such as a bar, but if they are, information on their label must not represent the product as a conventional food or a sole item of a meal or diet. Whatever their form may be, DSHEA places dietary supplements in a special category under the general umbrella of "foods," not drugs, and requires that every supplement be labeled a dietary supplement.
Many of us misunderstand the meaning of dietary supplements when it comes to bodybuilding. We think it is magic, and will make us huge, or we think it is the key to all the problems we are having with our training, and nutrition. However, this is not the case. Dietary supplements are used to give you that extra edge, and help you out a little more. They are not used to do the work for you.
A Small Overview of the FDA, and Dietary Supplements
Most of us out there take a dietary supplement every day, but most of us don't know that dietary supplements on the shelves are not strongly regulated by the FDA. Heck, some of us don't even know where the ingredients come from, or what its purposes are as a whole, or individually. I bet some of you didn't even know that manufacturers do not need to register themselves nor their dietary supplement products with FDA before producing or selling them. There are no provisions in the law for FDA to "approve" dietary supplements for safety or effectiveness before they reach the consumer. Another tip you might want to keep in mind is this. Other than the manufacturer's responsibility to ensure safety, there are no rules that limit a serving size or the amount of a nutrient in any form of dietary supplements. This decision is made by the manufacturer and does not require FDA review or approval. If I was a manufacturer, and wanted to put Caffeine, Royal Jelly, Creatine, Grape Seed, Ephedra, BCAA, A, C, E, and Selenium (antioxidants) all in one or two capsules, I could. As long as I thought it was safe, not the FDA, and at the dose I recommend, say 2 capsules a day of a 150mg blend, I could do it. Then I could name it Anti-Energy, and sell it. What will it do? Who knows, but I don't have to prove it works like the name claims, or even that the product does anything for that matter. This is why you need to really research a product, and the manufacturer before you spend a lot of money. Now why am I telling you all of this? So you can have a small understanding of the FDA and dietary supplements. Now I bet you are saying, "after all of that, how in the heck am I supposed to know what works, what doesn't, what is safe, and what isn't?" Well, I am going to cover this part now.
Where to find information, or help when it comes to dietary supplements?
Bodybuilding.com is one of the few websites that has a variety of information pertaining to training, nutrition, supplements, etc. If you want to know even more about the stuff, go to the message boards, and ask some questions. Sometimes you will get stupid answers, or answers from people who don't know, but most of the time you will get a solid answer pertaining to your question. If you aren't sure if you believe the answer, ask the question again. There are many of us on the message boards every day that are dedicated to giving people solid advice, and helping them decide what is best for them, and help them no matter what it may be. If you are looking for a place to start, ask people like me (fitforlife) Big Cat, Dorian, Joehagy, fitnessman, Deniro, Big Red, Alive Guy, and others. Most of us have been there for quite some time, and a few of us have experience in this industry behind us.
The knowledge includes Molecular Biology, Exercise Science, Kinesiology, Nutrition, etc. We don't have a PhD, an MD, or MS (some of us are working towards one though) behind our name, but this isn't really an in depth message board, and wouldn't do much good on here any ways. There are many questions that go unanswered because we don't know, or there isn't enough scientific information out on a product, or ingredient to give you an answer. We will try to give you the most updated information we know, and as soon as new stuff comes out concerning products, or we find a published journal with new information on creatine, or protein, we will let you know. Our goal is to help you as much as we can, and to educate you, and keep you up to date on what is going on in the supplement world. Like I said up above, a lot of us base our information on proof, and peer reviewed journals, and studies that are published. Take creatine for example; there are many scientific papers on creatine and its effectiveness. If there is something out there that we know doesn't work, we will tell you so you don't end up wasting your money on something that isn't going to help you. Most of us will even give you one-on-one help. We get tons of e-mails a day, and tons of questions asked on the message boards every day, so give us a day or so, and you will have an answer.
Good Luck, and again, spend some time before you dive in head first, and buy a new dietary supplement, or one you don't know much about. Even if you do know it works, or you know people that are taking it, study the product for your benefit, so you know what it does, and how it works in your own body.
"We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give."
-- Winston Churchill