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The Fitness Zone

10 Drugs Personal Trainers Should be Aware Of
December 4, 2014

When working with new or existing clients, one of the first steps of getting to know them and understanding their goals is identifying and addressing any medications they may be taking.

Certain medications may interfere with your client’s health, goals and overall progression in the gym, therefore it’s useful to know the potential side effects of the medication they’re taking. Without this knowledge, your clients goals may be affected.

Carly Lamb, from the Australian Institute of Fitness in Victoria and Tasmania, takes you through 10 drugs that all personal trainers need to be aware of.

The majority of the following are administered orally in the form of a pill, except where noted.

Paroxetine (Paxil)

Paroxetine is used to treat major depression, obsessive-compulsive behaviours, panic disorders, social anxiety, and vasomotor symptoms. Majority of the symptoms of these conditions are removed or subdued after the patient takes this medication for a minimum of two weeks. However some symptoms will remain for the course of the medication. Antidepressants such as Paroxetine can cause significant weight gain, which can be a big hinderance to clients aiming to lose weight. Weight gain from these medications vary between each person, and it’s important to consider this when to addressing the progress of a client taking this medication.


Metoprolol is a medication prescribed to treat patients who suffer from high blood pressure. This Beta Blocker slows down a person’s heart rate (both resting and working). Anti-hypertensive medications like Metoprolol can affect a person's fluid/electrolyte balance, which can lead to gastrointestinal problems. Common symptoms include an upset stomach, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and/or dizziness. Client’s on this medication may become easily fatigued. Common symptoms of this drug other than fatigue also include weight gain, which can counterproductive for clients working to lose weight.


Clenbuterol is commonly used for its muscle relaxant properties as a bronchodilator (for asthmatics). Because Clenbuterol has structural and pharmacological similarities to Epinephrine (adrenaline) as a stimulant and thermogenic drug, but its effects are far more potent and longer lasting. It’s because of this that some people are using (or rather, misusing) Clenbuterol. The drug causes an increase in aerobic capacity, central nervous system stimulation, and heightened oxygen transportation and blood pressure. This has a consequential increase in RMR and fat metabolism, resulting in additional weight loss. Other side effects include tremors, anxiety, faster heart rate, nausea, and insomnia, or even heart attacks. Clenbuterol is usually taken in the form of a pill, however also comes in liquid form.

Cetirizine (Zyrtec) or Fexofenadine (Allegra)

Zyrtec and Allegra are sold ‘over-the-counter’ as antihistamines. They are commonly used to treat the symptoms associated with allergies such as an itchy and runny nose, sore eyes and throat, as well as coughing and sneezing. Some people will take them only when needed during the more pollen-induced months of Spring, or if stung or bitten by insects. Others will require them on a more daily basis. These drugs are very common and are known to increase appetite, and therefore may cause weight gain.

Growth hormone releasing peptides

Peptides are short chains of amino acids, the building blocks for protein. Peptides work similarly to protein supplements in helping the body recover from strenuous activity. Side effects can include acne, baldness, over development of male characteristics in females, infertility and breast tissue development in males. Peptides are sold either as a cream or in a solution to be injected.


Statins (or HMG-CoA reductase-inhibitors) are a class of drugs used to lower cholesterol. Their side effects include widespread muscle pains and aches, headaches, nausea, constipation, diarrhea and vomiting. This is obviously relevant to a Personal Trainer in the evaluation of post-workout muscle soreness. Taking this medication will be detrimental to those wishing to work on gaining muscle mass or increasing their strength.


Fluoroquinolone is an antibiotic that can temporarily weaken tendons and cause permanent nerve damage. Lifting heavy loads or plyometric training would be considered dangerous or damaging for clients taking this medication. If your client is taking a course of antibiotics containing the fluoroquinolone family of drugs, be sure to avoid any strenuous activity on the tendons during this time.


NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) are very commonly used among weightlifters to treat aches and pains. If abused, they can cause many side effects including gastrointestinal bleeding, elevated blood pressure and kidney injuries. They also contribute to a  higher risk of heart attacks.

Depakote (Valproic acid)

Depakote is both a mood stabiliser for bipolar disorder and an anti-convulsant (anti-seizure) medication. This mood stabiliser will cause significant weight gain, however in some cases there may not be any other options for a client to stabilise their mental health. If your client is taking this medication, it’s a good idea to talk to them about it and design a fitness plan which takes this into consideration.

Remeron (Mirtazapine)

Remeron is an antidepressant that enhances serotonin and norepinephrine, which when naturally occurring contribute to weight loss. However the antihistamine activity of this drug may tip the scales toward weight gain. This is why it’s important to know if a client is taking this medication, as it may explain any weight loss goals not being achieved. 

This content is not intended to be used as individual health or fitness advice divorced from that imparted by medical, health or fitness professionals. Medical clearance should always be sought before commencing an exercise regime. The Institute and the authors do no take any responsibility for accident or injury caused as a result of this information.

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