The supplement that builds muscle but kills brain cells

When you embrace fitness as a hobby, it changes your life. You have more energy. You’re happier. You look better. And you get the satisfying experience of watching your body transform before your very eyes — squishy flab turns into firm muscle.

It’s exciting, inspiring and almost addictive!

That’s why fitness becomes a lifestyle for so many people. They wake up at 5 am excited to lift weights or train for a triathlon, because they know, if they can push through the painful part, it will make them feel unstoppable.

But even though becoming a fitness freak comes with perks up the wazoo, it also comes with a few pitfalls…

Sometimes, you push yourself too hard and get injured. Or maybe you get so obsessed with living a “clean” lifestyle that you forget to indulge or cut loose occasionally. Or maybe you fall victim to shady or unscientifically-supported supplements…

The last pitfall is common in the extreme fitness world. You want to keep feeling good, losing weight and building muscle, so you try to speed up the process by taking supplements that promise big results.

Unfortunately, sometimes these supplements promise results before the science is there. Or even worse, they provide results in one way but sacrifice your health in other ways — like the supplement L-norvaline.

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L-norvaline is bad for your brain

L-norvaline is an amino acid that’s common in supplements for bodybuilders and athletes. It’s supposed to help your body produce more protein, so you can work out harder and recover from workouts quicker. But in the meantime, it also takes a toll on your brain…

A new study published in the journal Toxicology in Vitro found that L-norvaline damages brain cells…and may even kill them. Even scarier, this brain damage occurs at low doses.

The study was performed on cells in a laboratory, not on human participants. But still, researchers have reason to believe that L-norvaline may not be the best source of protein for people…

When we consume amino acids in our diet, our body uses them to create protein. But L-norvaline isn’t typically one of the amino acids our body uses to make protein. It’s a “non-protein amino acid.” And there are hundreds of other “non-protein amino acids” like L-norvaline being added to exercise supplements.

According to researchers, these non-protein amino acids not only throw the body for a loop because it’s not used to processing them, but some are also toxic. In fact, plants use certain non-protein amino acids as a defense mechanism to kill predators and competitors…. which may be why they’re also capable of killing brain cells.

Getting plenty of protein the healthy way

So, the message here is clear… be careful what you put in your body. Don’t trust every supplement you find online or in health food stores. They’re not all safe. Do an online search for each of the ingredients, at the very least, before taking something new.

Now, if you’re a fitness junkie, you probably do need more protein than Joe Couch-potato. But rather than turn to shady supplements, get it from foods like:

  • Grass-fed meat and dairy
  • Free-range, organic poultry
  • Fish
  • Organic tofu or edamame
  • Beans
  • Nuts and nut butters
  • Buckwheat
  • Quinoa
  • Eggs

If you feel like you need a bigger protein boost than whole foods can offer, try a safe, reliable protein powder, like whey protein, hemp protein or brown rice protein.

Editor’s note: One of the biggest dangers to anyone’s brain is a drug that 38 million Americans take every single day. It robs the brain of an essential nutrient required for optimal brain health. And it steals memories. Are you taking it? Click here to find out!


  1. Bodybuilding supplement could be bad for the brain — MedicalXpress
  2. Cytotoxicity and mitochondrial dysfunction caused by the dietary supplement l-norvalineToxicology in Vitro
  3. Nutrition for sport and exercise — British Nutrition Foundation
  4. Build muscle and lose weight with more protein — Easy Health Options
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine,, and