Social Media, Body Image and Resistance Training: Creating the Perfect 'Me' with Dietary Supplements, Anabolic Steroids and SARM's

Sports Med Open. 2021 Nov 10;7(1):81. doi: 10.1186/s40798-021-00371-1.


Background: Few studies have assessed the use of dietary supplements, anabolic androgenic steroids (AAS) and selective androgen receptor modulators (SARM) in male gym users. The comparison of physical appearance with others on social media and the exposure to fitness-related content on social media (i.e., image-centric social media use) may have a profound role in using these compounds due to its role in creating negative body images in male gym users.

Objective: Provide contemporary data on the use of dietary supplements, AAS and SARM among young male gym users, and test the hypothesis that social media is associated with the use of dietary supplements, AAS and SARM, as a result of a negative body image.

Methods: In this cross-sectional study, conducted in the Netherlands, male gym users (N = 2269; 24 ± 6 years) completed an online questionnaire including self-reported measures regarding resistance training participation, image-centric social media use, dietary supplement intake, and body image. The prevalence of AAS and SARM use was assessed with randomized response, a technique to ask sensitive questions indirectly.

Results: Of all participants, 83% used ergogenic dietary supplements (mainly protein and creatine), and an estimated 9 versus 2.7% had ever used AAS versus SARM. Image-centric social media use was positively associated with the use of dietary supplements (r = .26; p < 0.01) and AAS (p < 0.05), but not SARM. Image-centric social media use was associated with a more dissatisfied body image (r = .34; p < 0.01). Body image did not mediate the relationship between image-centric social media use and the use of doping compounds.

Conclusions: The use of dietary supplements in young male gym users is exorbitant, with the use of AAS and SARM being substantial. Image-centric social media use is positively associated with the use of dietary supplements and AAS.

Keywords: Androgenic–anabolic steroids; Body image; Dietary supplements; Gym users; Image-centric social media use; Resistance training; SARM’s; Selective androgen receptor modulators; Social media.