Six-pack obsessed youths hit kidneys for a six

Damage to kidneys

Doctors say that the shakes containing synthetic anabolic steroids that give a beefed-up look, but barely add healthy muscle mass, while also damaging the liver. Representative image/Pixabay

A deadly combination of over-exercising at the gym and downing protein shakes prescribed by clueless trainers affect the kidneys of those as young as 20, doctors say.

They add that the shakes containing synthetic anabolic steroids that give a beefed-up look, but barely add healthy muscle mass, while also damaging the liver.

Of the patients, 25-year-old Sharath (name changed) learnt at the clinic that his Creatinine levels were two milligrams (MGs) per deciliter (DL) of blood — dangerous enough to damage the kidneys.

“Ideally, the Creatinine levels shouldn’t exceed 1.2 MG/DL,” said Dr Anil Kumar B T, BGS Global Hospital. “When he (Sharath) came to us, he followed a diet that required him to
consume 10 eggs a day. He had also overstrained himself with a strenuous exercise regime to participate in a competition. He wasn’t drinking enough water also,” Dr Kumar said. He said the effects are reversible in most cases. “An underlying condition like diabetes or being dehydrated could worsen the problem even in a normal individual who takes a high level of protein.” 

Quick muscle mass

Dr Sankaran Sundar, nephrologist and transplant surgeon, Manipal Hospitals, said he has been seeing one or two cases per month of youngsters with kidney damage. “They are in the 20-30 age group. People with normal kidneys show such symptoms, especially if other factors add to it. But extreme diets, such as the Atkins diet, aren’t recommended.” 

Youngsters go to hospital with typical symptoms like high BP and body swelling, the most telling signs of kidney damage. Anabolic steroids worsen the condition, Dr Sundar added.

Dr Priyanka Rohatgi, chief clinical dietitian, Apollo Hospitals, said one gram of protein per kilo of weight is recommended for vegetarians.

“Since the quality of protein is better in the case of non-veg eaters, we suggest only 0.8 grams,” she added, blaming peer pressure for youngsters going to bodybuilding and consuming abnormal levels of protein.

“Each of the (protein) shakes gives about 25-30 grams of protein. Youngsters claim it is given to them by trainers. But trainers have no idea about metabolism and how much the body can tolerate. It then ends up becoming abusive,” she said.

She said ideally an individual should eat one or two eggs, two portions of dal and about half a litre of milk a day to meet their protein requirement. Anyone taking supplements must consult with their dietitian to understand the requirements.

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