Safe Use of Bodybuilding Products

Many bodybuilding products sold online and in retail stores are often marketed and labelled as dietary supplements when in fact, they are not. Often times, these products contain hidden ingredients that may be harmful and/or are unapproved drugs which have not been reviewed by Health Canada for safety, effectiveness, and quality.

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Health risks of using bodybuilding products

Some bodybuilding products contain harmful ingredients such as anabolic steroids. Anabolic steroids are synthetic variations of the male hormone testosterone. Anabolic steroids and their derivatives are classified as controlled substances and have a potential for abuse and dependence.

Below are some examples of anabolic steroids that are found in bodybuilding products:

  • Androstenedione
  • Dehydrochlormethyltestosterone
  • Metandienone
  • Methyltestosterone
  • Nandrolone
  • Oxandrolone
  • Oxymetholone
  • Stanozolol

There are serious health risks and consequences associated with the consumption of anabolic steroids-some of which include severe acne, aggression, high blood pressure, heart attacks, stroke, liver damage, and masculinization of women.

Some bodybuilding products may contain selective androgen receptor modulators (SARMs). Like anabolic steroids, SARMs are synthetic drugs designed to have effects similar to testosterone. SARMs that are marketed as bodybuilding products are associated with serious safety concerns, including potential to increase the risk of heart attack or stroke and life threatening conditions like liver damage.

SARM ingredients have been found on dietary supplements, bodybuilding, and other product labels under various names. These include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Andarine (S4)
  • Ostarine (MK-2866)
  • Cardarine (GW 501516)
  • Astatine
  • LGD-4033
  • MK-677
  • RAD-140
  • YK-11

What you should do

If you're taking bodybuilding products that claim to contain the above substances, Health Canada recommends that you stop taking them immediately because of the potentially serious health risks associated with using them. It is also recommended that you do the following:

  • Consult with your health care professional about any bodybuilding products or supplements you are taking or are planning to take, particularly if you are not sure about their ingredients.
  • Speak to your health care professional if you are experiencing symptoms that may be associated with these products.

If you have an adverse reaction while using these products, contact your health care practitioner right away. Consumers and health care practitioners are also encouraged to notify Health Canada about adverse reactions through the MedEffect Web site.

Dietary supplements are often classified as natural health products (NHPs). Licensed NHPs are issued a Natural Product Number (NPN) or a Homeopathic Medicine Number (DIN-HM) by Health Canada confirming their safety, efficacy and quality.

It is illegal for Canadians to import unauthorized drugs containing controlled substances into Canada for personal use. To confirm if a product contains a prescription ingredient, consult Health Canada's Prescription Drug List.

Health Canada's role

To minimize risks, Health Canada regulates health products to be sold in Canada to make sure they meet requirements for safety, effectiveness, and quality.

When Health Canada identifies unauthorized products that may pose serious health risks, Health Canada takes appropriate action and informs Canadians. This includes seizing unauthorized products and working with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) to help prevent further importation of unauthorized products.

The following link provides information on a number of unauthorized products that may pose serious health risks to Canadians: Information is updated when Health Canada finds unauthorized health products that are falsely promoted and labelled to contain or have been tested and found to contain dangerous ingredients. A comprehensive list of recalls, advisories, and safety alerts for various health products can also be accessed through the Recalls and Safety Alerts Database.

If you buy a prescription drug or any health product online that has not been authorized for sale in Canada, it may be refused entry or seized at the border. Health Canada continues to seize large quantities of unauthorized products at the border. Your package may be recommended for refusal to the CBSA or seized, if they are suspected to be:

  • Counterfeit
  • Adulterated (contains an ingredient not listed on the label)
  • Making false health claims
  • Not meeting personal or commercial importation requirements

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