AskDocQ: Which Vitamins And Supplements Are A Waste Of Money?


What vitamins and supplements should you be taking? The short version of this article would be one word – nothing!

All the ingredients you need for a healthy body are found in a well-balanced diet. But everyone’s taking something – surely there must be something to all these pills, powders and potions? And some of them are very expensive, so they must be really good for you, right? Nope.

But let’s take a closer look at what’s on offer.

Vitamins: Some people are unable to absorb vitamins from their food due to medical conditions, their doctor will advise them what they should be taking. Everybody else should save their money and eat fresh produce instead.

There are some exceptions, such as high dose vitamin C and zinc if you have a cold and magnesium if you get muscle cramps.

Generally unless you have a proven deficiency there is no advantage in taking extra vitamins. Multivitamins are a waste of time as they contain such minute quantities of everything.

Fish oil: For a long time this was promoted as the answer to reducing your risk of a heart attack, but current research suggests that it probably doesn’t make a lot of difference.

What about bodybuilding supplements?

Creatine: This organic acid is naturally produced in the body from amino acids and helps supply energy to cells, especially muscle. Creatine can help you to workout harder, longer, recover faster and in resistance training it helps build muscle mass. It’s probably the most popular bodybuilding and athletic supplement, if your goal is to build muscle it will help and is considered safe if you don’t take too much. You should never exceed 20g daily, creatine has been shown to cause kidney damage so should definitely be avoided if you’ve ever had kidney problems. There is also concern about its use in people who are taking the drug Tenofovir (found in PrEP and some older HIV drugs) as this drug also has the potential to cause kidney problems, so the combination is not advised.

Tribulus: This is derived from a plant and is supposed to boost testosterone levels. It doesn’t. Don’t waste your cash.

Arginine: This amino acid can increase strength only if taken at very high doses, but these same high doses can also cause heart attacks. Not recommended.

DHEA: A hormone that occurs naturally as a precursor to testosterone and declines with age. It should not be taken except under medical supervision as it probably doesn’t do you much good and can cause man-boobs.

Anabolic steroids: These are bought online or through gym trainers. They are a really dumb idea and I’ve written extensively on them in the past.

The cost to your physical health can be enormous. If you pulse high doses of testosterone you destroy your body’s ability to make its own, and you will end up dependent on steroids for the rest of your life.

Excess testosterone is converted in the body to oestrogen, causing unpleasant symptoms like tiredness and fluid retention. The side effects of high dose muscle-building are very undesirable – baldness, man-boobs, shrinking balls, high blood pressure and losing your hard-on. The worst outcome is serious liver damage and even liver failure.

You can make your own decisions about taking bodybuilding supplements, but remember that taking them is definitely not about improving your health; they really only have one purpose, which is to temporarily bulk you up.

Dr Fiona Bisshop specialises in LGBTIQ health. For more by Dr Bisshop visit, follow @DrFionaBisshop on Twitter, or send your health questions to

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