Shape Up: Steroids vs. Supplements

Hey what’s good everybody? Once again, it’s Darrell Butler, your fitness specialist.

You know, I think one of the saddest sights that I witnessed over the past week had to have been the images of disgraced track star Marion Jones appearing outside of a New York courtroom to apologize for using steroids. After bringing home five medals from the 2000 Olympic games, Jones was destined to go down as a national hero.

What makes the situation even more depressing is that Jones is far from being alone when it comes to performance enhancement drugs. From NFL defensive lineman Sean Merriman, MLB slugger Rafael Palmero, Tour de France winner Floyd Landis and deceased wrestling legend Chris Benoit, Jones has plenty of company in the scandal department.

Across every race, sport and gender, the heroes just seem to keep on falling, don’t they?

There’s been an enormous wave of controversy among various sports and media outlets in recent months concerning the subject of performance enhancement drugs. These illegal substances include but are not limited to anabolic and androgenic steroids as well as human growth hormone (also known as HGH).

Not only do these substances provide an unfair advantage in competitions against non-users, they also promote very serious (and often fatal) side-effects including heart disease, liver failure and brain damage.

This column is primarily a forum for me to share my genuine passion for fitness and to help you reach your goals. With that said, I have no intention of turning this into a soapbox for ethical issues. I would like to encourage anyone reading this, however, to think carefully before putting any of these dangerous substances into your body. If the shame of being caught and the fact that they’re illegal isn’t enough to make you reconsider, scroll through the headlines of all the recent untimely demises of various users.

While this subject gets much less publicity due to the major headline grabbing sports and entertainment scandals, non-steroid supplementation among average citizens can often be fatal as well. Although they’re sold legally, the FDA doesn’t strictly regulate supplements; meaning that most products found at your local shops are without their approval. Therefore it’s very important that you read labels, do your research and consult with your physician before putting anything new into your body.

Most supplements sold in health stores tend to be fairly harmless, such as protein shakes and vitamins, but trickier things, such as thermogenic fat burners for example, affect your heart rate. For someone with a family history of heart disease, this could prove to be a very dangerous substance to ingest.

Another thing to bear in mind before using supplements is that they are just that: supplements. That means that they are to be used to further what you’re already doing naturally, not to replace it completely. Most nutrients can be found in real foods, and most fat loss or muscle building can be done with a lot of old fashioned hard work and determination. Unfortunately many people just want a quick fix and now their bereaved or disgraced families, and loved ones are the ones ultimately paying the price for these short cuts.

So before you take anything, first consider the affect it may have on your body in the long run. If it’s a legal product and your research has determined that you’ll remain healthy and active for years to come, then perhaps it’s worth giving a shot.

If it’s an illegal substance or will take years off of your life however; seriously ask yourself if it’s worth the risk. Sure you may end up being the most diesel brotha or leanest female in your coffin, but that doesn’t change that fact that you’re still in a coffin. I don’t know about you, but I’ll gladly take being the most average guy above ground over being the most muscular below ground any day…

In my next column, we’ll begin to break down the three key ways to transform your body.

For now, as promised, here is this week's MP3 soundtrack:

“Barry Bonds” - Kanye West ft. Lil Wayne

“Shoot ‘Em Up” - Nas

“Rehab” (remix) – Amy Winehouse ft. Jay-Z

I’d like to thank all of you who responded to the last article via email or posted comments. Some of you suggested other tracks to check out so let’s keep that discussion going. I’d also like to hear your thoughts on the Marion Jones scandal and that controversial beef between fashion designer Mark Ecko and Barry Bonds.

Until next time, be good… or be good at it


Darrell W. Butler is a certified personal trainer and strength coach with the American Council on Exercise (ACE). He is the founder of Industrial Strength & Performance (I.S.P Fitness) and has trained at facilities throughout the nation. You can find out more about his work at