Gyms are a thriving industry in Australia, with more than 800 new gyms opening in Australia every year by 2016.
Another indication of their popularity is increased sales of sports nutrition products, vitamins and dietary supplements. From 2012 to 2017 store sales increased by more than 50% to $3.7 billion, while online sales increased by 49.5% to $1.3 billion.
In fact, many people rely heavily on supplements to support their exercise program, consuming a “pre-workout” before going to the gym. This is most often a protein powder mixed into a drink, to provide extra energy for a longer or harder workout.
However, there is a serious health danger in some supplements, with reports of liver, kidney and heart damage. According to a report on the ABC's Background Briefing, there are 23,000 emergency hospital admissions in the US annually, caused by supplements.
The reason may sometimes be overworking your body, in the belief that the supplement will help you achieve more, but often it is because the supplement contains dangerous stimulants. Australia has banned all supplements containing DMHA and DMAA, known by a variety of names, but best known as AMP citrate.
This does not mean that dangerous supplements have disappeared form the market. They are still imported via online sales, like steroids, also banned from general sale. Some people even import raw steroid powder, usually hidden in innocent containers like dolls, and manufacture injectable steroids in backyard labs. Using the raw powder, a vial of steroids worth $125 can be made for just $3.
Smuggled supplements and homemade steroids are usually sold in gyms between fellow exercisers. Just as people might share advice and tips, when a relationship of trust is built up, there is a potential market for the substances.
This poses a high risk for anyone using a gym who wants to get results a little quicker. Even knowing the ingredients of a product is no guarantee of safety, because Australian regulations only apply after an ingredient has been identified as dangerous.
Getting fit through exercise is certainly worth the effort, but it is a matter of patience, and best supplemented by diet.