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Updated December 30, 2020
Back in the 1970s and 1980s, supplements came in the form of either foul-tasting shakes or desiccated liver tablets. Protein powder shakes have come a long way since then, in some cases barely resembling their earlier forms. Dried liver tablets, on the other hand, have stood the test of time relatively unchanged. And that’s a good thing.
Desiccated liver supplements might not be the most modern supplement on the block, but they’re packed with powerful benefits, especially if you’re building muscle. Here’s your quick primer on desiccated liver supplements, the OG bodybuilder supplement still driving results today.
Our ancestors ate liver for a reason
Historically, nearly every culture in the world valued liver as an important energy source and for its curative powers. From Europe to Asia, liver dishes have been, and still are, popular with locals—despite the less-than-savory taste. As far back as 202 B.C., a Chinese book of rituals classified liver as one of the eight delicacies of the time. There’s a record of a Spanish liver casserole recipe from 1529, and a spicy cooking procedure for liver offal has cropped up in ancient Middle Eastern cookbooks.
There are a number of reasons why our ancestors were fond of liver. And it’s not about the taste. Even today, this organ meat is said to be the nutrient king of all foods. Maybe that’s one reason why dried liver capsules remain the go-to supplement for a number of fitness-minded people—especially those looking to build better muscle, faster.
Desiccated liver supplements pack powerful benefits
Desiccated liver supplements are usually derived from cow liver, but chicken and duck liver are sometimes used instead. Since liver isn’t the best-tasting meat and often has a not-so-great texture, these pills can save your gag reflex from kicking in, while giving you major health benefits in the process.
If you’re opting for supplements rather than liver itself, make sure the kind you pick up uses liver from pasture-raised animals; that way you know you’re getting the healthiest form of the supplement without any toxins transferred from factory-raised animals. While reading the label, also watch out for unnecessary additives and/or fillers. Your pills should contain only desiccated liver.
If that doesn’t sound so appetizing, these major nutritional benefits should whet your appetite.
- Vitamin B12: If you’re looking to develop muscle mass, vitamin B12 is vital. Why? Because it aids in red blood cell formation. High levels of B12 can help stave off fatigue and muscle weakness. Liver, whether cooked or in your desiccated liver tabs, comes loaded with vitamin B12, giving your metabolism and nervous system functions a proven boost.
- Vitamin A: Retinol, or performed Vitamin A, comes from animal food items and is used directly by your body—unlike plant-based Vitamin A, which needs to be converted. Liver has high levels of retinol, making it the perfect choice for improving bone health and immune function. The fat-soluble Vitamin A found in liver has anti-inflammatory and gene regulation properties, making liver one of the best natural sources of Vitamin A.
- Iron: One of the world’s most common nutritional disorders is iron deficiency. There are two types of iron: heme and non-heme. Just like retinol, heme iron is mostly found in animal products; beef liver is one of the best sources out there for this easily-absorbed form of iron. This will help you keep anemia at bay, and fight common workout issues like low energy and fatigue.
- Enzymes: You may have heard of CoQ10 supplements that help with cardiovascular health, endurance, blood pressure and a host of other benefits. Instead of loading up on this supplement, you could opt for liver or desiccated liver supplements, both of which contain a high level of CoQ10. CoQ10 is crucial for helping your cells produce energy. As an added bonus, the coenzyme has been known to reduce headaches.
Cachexia takes place when you experience prolonged fatigue and muscle loss. CoQ10 can help keep your cells in working condition, reducing the risk of this fitness killer. Liver also contains high levels of the enzyme cytochrome P450, which helps your body detoxify and produce steroids.
- Protein: We all know the macronutrient is vital if you want to stay in shape and build muscle. Liver contains 7g to 21g of high protein for every 1 to 3 ounce serving.
- Other Nutrients: Selenium, zinc, chromium and copper are other nutrients you can derive in small amounts from liver. They help keep your nervous system intact and boost your metabolism.
Want more liver perks? For starters, it has a very low concentration of fat. And since desiccated liver tablets act as multivitamins, they offer a good source of nutrients, minus the side effects of supplements that have added chemicals.
Don’t confuse them for liver supplements
You should never confuse desiccated liver with supplements that claim to detoxify your liver. While desiccated liver tablets offer natural, all-round benefits, the latter can really mess up a vital body organ. Products branded as liver supplements claim to neutralize harmful toxins in the liver, but they do more harm than good. Simply put, there’s no conclusive evidence that liver supplements work.
Desiccated liver supplements, on the other hand, are shown to be safe, effective and helpful in your quest for more muscle. They might not be the sexiest supplement on the block, but they’ve stood the test of time for a reason: they work.