Could Weed Killer Be Killing Your Workout Gains?

Is it possible weed killer might be having a detrimental effect on your gains?

One hundred years ago you could trust what you pulled off of a supermarket shelf.

This is simply not the case any more. Serious athletes need to be vigilant about what they consume.

Food toxins may promote intestinal complications and therefore may inhibit the uptake of certain vitamins, minerals and proteins.


What is a Food Toxin?

A food toxin is something capable of damaging tissue or causing disease upon ingestion. Toxins include pesticides, heavy metals, and other industrial pollutants. It can also be toxic to ingest poisonous food (like certain mushrooms, etc.) or by consuming too much of a particular substance, like water or milk.



Let’s take a closer look at weed killers or pesticides since they are so prevalent in our food system today. Pesticides come in many forms including herbicides, inescticides, rodenticides, dessicants, insect repellents, antimicrobials, disinfectants, and many more.

Pesticides have been used in some form as far back as 4500 BC with widespread use of modern pesticides beginning in the 1940’s.

Over 1 billion tons of pesticides are used in the United States every year. Herbicides are by far the most common pesticide used and make up for the majority of all pesticide usage.

Glyphosate is the active ingredient in the herbicide Roundup, the most commonly used herbicide in the world (source).

Timeline of glyphosate-based herbicide use on corn, cotton, and soybean in response to the growing popularity of their GMO versions. Since the introduction of Roundup-tolerant crops, herbicides have experienced a significant increase in application.


Glyphosate is sprayed on crops at the start of the growing season and, depending on the crop, may be sprayed immediately before harvest for a number of reasons.

Glyphosate works by inhibiting the amino acid production in designated plants.  These amino acids in particular are: tyrosine, phenalynine, tryptophan and histidine.

In order to increase the efficacy of herbicides, adjuvants are added into the herbicide mixture. Adjuvants are surfactants or oils, which help herbicides to stick or cover greater areas of target crops.

Surfactants do this by changing the surface tension of the pesticide so that it sticks better to plants when sprayed. Without these added surfactants, particularly for waxy plants, most of the pesticide would run off of the plant, making it useless to apply in the first place.


Here’s the downside. Nonionic surfactants help pesticides penetrate plant cuticles and leaves.

Because surfactants are combined into a homogeneous mixture with pesticides, if the surfactant is penetrating plant walls, guess what else must come with it? Pesticides.

This means that washing off pesticides may not be possible.

Crops have been increasingly genetically modified (GMO) over the years for the primary purpose of increasing yield. GMO crops have essentially been created to withstand large amounts of toxic weed killer so that less of the crop is lost to insects, bugs, and pests.

It therefore probably shouldn’t be of much surprise that the nutritional value of crops over the past 50 years has considerably declined. These include nutrients such as protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and vitamin C.

Researchers at UT-Austin have chalked up the declines primarily due to agricultural practices designed to improve yield, growth rate, and pest resistance (source).

In other words, one might conclude we’ve been focusing entirely too much on quantity and not enough on quality.



Environmental Toxins and the Gut

Aside from glyphosate itself, gut disorders are also on the rise (source).

Inflammatory Bowel Disease affects nearly 3 million Americans today, a tripling of previous numbers (source).

Colon cancer rates have doubled for millennials (source).

A person born in 1990 has nearly four times the risk of rectal cancer than that of someone born in 1950 (source).

Environmental toxins, once in the gut, may cause “hyper permeability” in the wall of the small intestine (source). The small intestine is responsible for diffusing nutrients into the blood stream for use throughout the body.

The structures that normally diffuse nutrients into the bloodstream can be damaged by toxins. This is where toxins cause gaps in the intestinal wall to occur. These are gaps that are larger than what occurs naturally (sound familiar? hint: surfactants).


And hyper-permeability in the gut can allow partially digested food or even toxic metals to pass into the blood stream, thereby generating an immune response as the system views this irregularity as a threat.

Due to the pervasive nature of how much of our food supply (and water) these toxins exist in, whether you are a herbivore or a carnivore, trying to manage these toxins out of your diet can be dizzying.

Because herbicides will kill both the competing weeds and the plants grown for consumption, genetic modifications were made to the consumable produce in question in order for it to withstand higher doses of herbicide. This is good for the purveyor of the crop management products as produce farmers become highly dependent on them for seed and pest/weed management products. But it can be bad for the consumer of the produce as it means you are likely consuming some amounts of herbicide.

Do these compounds impact human ability to utilize and uptake certain amino acids? That’s the research question of the decade!

Think about this: Is there a connection between the outbreak of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Leaky Gut Syndrome, Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, Crohn’s Disease and other Autoimmune Diseases and the recent increase in glyphosate usage? The increase of these diseases may call the purported harmlessness of ingested herbicides into question. 

The crops where this spray has been most heavily used has been soy and corn. Additionally, wheat and barley are being sprayed heavily prior to harvest. Which means herbicide and surfactant is in beer. Lots of beer. Every athlete knows that regular intake of large amounts of alcohol can retard your workout gains. Now the questions should be asked, are even nominal amounts of alcohol destroying your gut lining and trashing your workouts?

So where does that leave the working person who’s trying to get jacked at the gym? You can’t spend all your day doing food research or reading labels. For starters, you may want to pay extra attention to where you are getting your soy and corn from, two of the heavy hitters of glyphosate usage. Secondly, you may want to consider going organic if you can. While its true organic producers can use some weed killers, glyphosate is not allowed.

While we do not know in entirety either way if glyphosate or weed killers may be causing the recent increase in gut disorders, it’s certainly an interesting data set to observe and makes for great discussion.

Do you think there is a link? Please let us know in the comments below.

And as always, if you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it on social media.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *