Bodybuilders lament high cost of food supplements; as prices surge over 100%


In 2020, Ibrahim decided to start working out at the gym. However, to build the necessary muscle mass for his body type, he must consistently use supplements.

Classified as an ectomorph, his body is characterized by its lean and slender figure, with lower levels of body fat and muscle. Individuals with this body type often encounter difficulties in gaining weight in the form of muscles.

“I was so lean hence the decision to hit the gym to bulk up,” he tells the B&FT. “And supplementation in the form of mass gainers was and is still critical to putting up the muscles I need.”

The current economic situation in the country, marked by high inflation, is adversely affecting his ability to afford supplements. Checks from prominent supplement shops in Accra reveal that the prices of some products have surged more than 100 percent.

For instance, a six-pound container of MuscleMeds’ Anabolic Beef Protein Gainer (Carnivor Mass) has doubled in price, now selling at GH¢700, up from GH¢350 in the last quarter of 2022. Similarly, the cost of a 6-pound package of Serious Mass has also surged from GH¢350 to GH¢700 over the same period. Other brands have experienced even more substantial increments, with some exceeding 120 percent.

Hindering gains

Although official inflation figures showed a positive decrease to 23.2 percent by the end of 2023, the cost of living remains a significant worry for Ghanaians, as households grapple with stagnant wages and soaring prices of essentials.

After over a year of steep inflation, the country experienced a notable drop in 2023, with the rate in December decreasing from 54.1 percent in the same period of 2022 to 23.2 percent. However, this decline does not alleviate the ongoing pressure on workers’ purchasing power, as the effects of previous inflation rates are still apparent at present.

Despite regular supplements being the foundation pillar for body building, getting them is “very difficult” due to the fall of the local currency, says Abdul Aziz Mahama, the CEO of Finishline Gym and Sports Centre in Awoshie.

“Most of the supplements used by bodybuilders here are exotic brands and are imported into the local market. These items are usually in dollars, which is performing better than the Ghana cedis. This has led to an extreme increase in the prices of supplements on the market by close to 100 percent,” Mahama told the B&FT.

He said typically, bodybuilders should engage in supplementing on a monthly basis. However, “due to the increase in the prices of these items, intake has been reduced from monthly to once every two months or, worse, once every three months. This situation hinders muscle gain and positive results since the body lacks the essential nutrition that bodybuilders need to perform well. In worse scenarios, individuals may have to cut back on training sessions until they can afford supplements, and eventually, they may stop altogether,” he added.

Adjust or go bankrupt

Leslie, who has been working out for nearly seven years, has had to adjust. He now copes with the fluctuating prices by purchasing supplements every four months to ease the burden on his budget.

“The economic landscape in Ghana has been highly volatile over the past year, with the prices of goods and services constantly on the rise. This volatility has significantly impacted nutritional supplements for workout freaks like me, considering that all these supplements are imported into the country. Importers of these products face high import duties, which they subsequently pass on to the consumer,” he explained.

“Personally,” he said, “the prices of the supplements brands I use have all shot up by over 100 percent in just the past year. As a result, if two years ago I was restocking my supplements immediately after they ran out, now I find myself having to ration the purchases. Therefore, I now restock every four months since I don’t have the financial capacity to restock immediately after it finishes,” he noted.

Despite the surging prices, Leslie says he prefers to stay with one brand no matter the price. “Although a few brands are cheaper than the one I use, I am not just comfortable using any other brand apart from the trusted ones”.

Hope in the tunnel

The government completed the first review of its US$3 billion, 36-month Extended Credit Facility (ECF) arrangement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). This, along with the 2023 Article IV Consultation, is a positive step for the country’s economic recovery after COVID-19.

The successful review led to an immediate disbursement of approximately US$600 million, totaling about US$1.2 billion under the arrangement. This financial support is crucial as the nation emerges from economic challenges worsened by external shocks and pre-existing fiscal vulnerabilities.

A crucial factor leading to the IMF’s approval was the successful debt restructuring deal with official creditors. This agreement provides a moratorium on debt payments until May 2026 and sets the stage for a potential Eurobond revamp by March 2024. Under the terms, US$5.4 billion of bilateral debt will be deferred, with repayments split over 16-17 years starting in 2039.

Furthermore, US$2.8 billion of bilateral obligations will be exempt from debt service payments between 2023 and 2026, offering immediate financial relief.

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