March 30, 2022

Epilepsy and workout supplements: what do we know?

Lifestyle & Wellness

Many people take supplements when doing exercise. But is it OK to combine drugs for epilepsy and workout supplements?

Did you know that one in five adults in the United States takes sports supplements? Whether it is for building muscle or giving them an energy boost, these powders and pills are very popular. 

But what if you have epilepsy? If you take anti-seizure medication, it is sensible to think about possible interactions between the drugs you take for epilepsy and workout supplements.

Right now, there is relatively little research into sports supplements and how they interact with seizure medication. But here’s what we do know.

Woman using gym machine

What are sports supplements?

Sports supplements are products that are intended to improve athletic performance and enhance your recovery after doing exercise. They include things like proteins and amino acids as well as various vitamins, minerals and herbs.

People use sports supplements for a variety of reasons, including to:

  • Support with the building of muscle
  • Give them an energy boost
  • Help to recover from workouts faster

Sports supplements are meant to be a convenient way of delivering proteins, nutrients or calories to your body when you are following any workout plan.

Supplements that are available to buy at gyms, health food stores and supermarkets will have been approved for human consumption. It’s usually fine to take them as long as they are consumed according to instructions in the packaging.

There are some supplements that should not be taken, such as anabolic steroids, which can be bought illegally online or from outside the United States. These products could have very harmful side effects.

Do you need to take sports supplements?

While dietary supplements are very popular among people participating in sports, you might want to think about whether you really need to take these products at all. 

Many researchers and doctors agree that, as long as you are eating a balanced and healthy diet, you will get all the nutrition you need from your food. Unless you are a professional athlete who is competing at the highest level, you can get fit and perform well without dietary supplements.  

Learn more: Food and epilepsy

Epilepsy and workout supplements

If you go to any health food store, you will come across hundreds of workout supplements containing a huge range of ingredients. This variety makes it difficult to say precisely what are the best supplements for epilepsy or if there are any you shouldn't use.

The big issue with epilepsy and workout supplements is that some of these products may contain ingredients that could trigger your seizures or make anti-epileptic drugs less effective. 

For example, many sports supplements contain lots of caffeine – which can be a seizure trigger. Studies have also shown that certain ingredients in sports supplements may be linked to an increase in seizures.

If you’d like to start taking a sports supplement, speak to someone on your epilepsy treatment team first.  

Related: Vitamins and epilepsy

Possible benefits

While there’s little research into epilepsy and sports supplements, there is some evidence that ingredients in these products may potentially help with controlling seizures:

  • One study showed that glucosamine, which is often used to help protect athletes’ joints, could reduce excitability in brain cells
  • Another study showed that the muscle-building supplement creatine may help reduce seizures in children
  • Another paper reported that when animals were given a whey protein (which is a common muscle building supplement) they had fewer seizures

To be clear, these studies do not confirm that taking drugs for epilepsy and sports supplements at the same time is safe - or that it will reduce the number of seizures you have. More research is needed before any firm conclusions can be drawn.

Speak to your doctor about epilepsy and workout supplements

There is still relatively little research into the effects of sports supplements on epilepsy - and whether or not they interact with seizure medication. So, the best approach is to speak with your doctor whenever you're thinking of taking any new kind of dietary product.