The Growing Concern of Kidney Disease Linked to Gym Supplements

By Dr. Alka Bhasin in Nephrology

Mar 23 , 2023 | 4 min read

Gym supplements have become increasingly popular among fitness enthusiasts and athletes over the past few decades. These supplements are often marketed as a means to enhance athletic performance, increase muscle mass, and improve overall health.

However, recent studies have shown a link between the use of certain gym supplements and an increased risk of kidney disease, particularly among young adults. In this blog, we will explore this growing concern of kidney disease linked to gym supplements.

Case Studies Reveal Dangerous Trend Among Young Adults

In recent years, there has been a concerning trend among young adults who present to Nephrologists with new-onset kidney disease. Several case studies have emerged, highlighting the link between excessive intake of gym supplements and kidney damage.

One of these case studies involved a 19-year-old student who collapsed in a South Delhi mall due to a seizure. Investigations revealed acute kidney failure with nil urine output, and urgent hemodialysis was required. Another case involved a 28-year-old gym owner who presented with elevated blood creatinine levels and evidence of urine protein leakage after observing frothy urine and leg swelling.

A 17-year-old 11th-grade student also presented with rapid weight gain of up to 118 kg with frothy urine, acnekidney stones, and creatinine 1.4 mg/dl. Meanwhile, a 19-year-old medical student studying in Canada was found to have echogenic kidneys on ultrasound and a creatinine level of 1.3 mg/dl due to extreme calorie counting behaviours and excessive consumption of boiled chicken and peanut butter.

The common thread in these cases was that the young adults were indulging in excessive intake of gym supplements containing whey protein, caffeine, steroids, BCAA, cough syrups, growth hormone, chicken/eggs/peanut butter, and, in some cases, alcohol and nicotine. One of the youngsters was consuming two bottles of cough syrup per week along with the banned drug spasmo-proxyvon, four pills/day for the previous four years.

The Harmful Effects of Gym Supplements on Kidneys

The excessive consumption of gym supplements can have harmful effects on the kidneys. 

  • Caffeine and Creatine: Caffeine and creatine are common ingredients in gym supplements. They promote endurance and enable high-intensity workouts. However, excessive consumption of these ingredients can accelerate the heart rate and potentially irreversibly impact blood pressure.

  • Steroids: Steroids such as dexona and testosterone are consumed to enhance performance. However, they have harmful effects on the kidneys, and their use can lead to kidney damage.

  • Alcohol and Cough Syrup Abuse: Young adults are found using cough syrup and alcohol in varying combinations to relax their minds. The alcohol rush following cough syrup abuse can help in this regard. However, this has harmful effects on the kidneys and can lead to kidney damage.

  • Diuretics: Young adults are also found using diuretics to counter the puffiness encountered after excessive use of steroids or with the carbohydrates found in duplicate formulations. This is used as a means of inducing extracellular dehydration to achieve a leaner image. However, the use of diuretics can lead to kidney damage.

High uric acid levels following excess protein turnover in the body further promote kidney stone formation and gout, which are seen commonly in these adults.

The Importance of Healthy Dietary Habits and Adequate Hydration

Healthy Dietary Habits

Eating a balanced and healthy diet is essential to maintain proper kidney function. The World Health Organization recommends a daily protein intake of approximately 1 mg/kg/day. Excessive protein intake, combined with an imbalanced diet and inadequate hydration, can cause hyperfiltration injury to the kidney filters. This can lead to protein leakage and reduced filtering efficiency, which can cause new-onset kidney disease.

Adequate Hydration

Adequate hydration is vital for maintaining healthy kidney function. When there is insufficient water intake, the concentration of waste products in the blood increases, which can cause damage to the kidneys. Additionally, low fluid intake can cause urine to become more concentrated, leading to the formation of kidney stones. Therefore, it is important for young adults to consume enough water to keep their kidneys healthy.


Rhabdomyolysis is a medical condition that can occur when rapid muscle breakdown leads to the release of muscle fibres into the bloodstream. This can cause kidney tubular injury, leading to new-onset kidney disease. It is important for young adults to avoid excessive muscle exertion and to adopt healthy dietary habits to prevent rhabdomyolysis-related kidney injury.

Understanding the Limits of Use Versus Overuse

Gym supplements have become increasingly popular among fitness enthusiasts and athletes. While these supplements are often marketed as a means to enhance athletic performance, increase muscle mass, and improve overall health, they can have harmful effects on the kidneys, particularly among young adults.

The excessive consumption of gym supplements containing caffeine, creatine, steroids, BCAA, cough syrups, and alcohol and nicotine in varying combinations can lead to an increased risk of kidney disease. Therefore, young adults are urged to understand the limits of use versus overuse and adopt healthy dietary habits with adequate hydration and work on improving aerobic/cardiovascular fitness.

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