“Biggest Loser” shocker raises more questions than answers

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Jillian Michaels | Sun-Times File

On Tuesday’s episode of “Biggest Loser,” viewers were surprised that Jillian Michaels was called out on the show and her team penalized because the celebrity trainer had given them caffeine supplements without approval by the show’s doctors. Michaels apologized to her team, but not for what she did. “I stand by my opinion. A caffeine supplement is significantly healthier than unlimited amounts of coffee.”

I’d like to see any medical professional who would agree to her assessment. The average caffeine pill has about 200 mg of caffeine while an 8-ounce cup of coffee has 95. So one pill would be like two cups of coffee. But we don’t know how much they took, or how much coffee they are drinking. Or if they were taking them all season, one week, one day. So we really don’t know the impact the caffeine could have on the contestants. (Her team didn’t do all that well this week, so let that be a lesson: caffeine pills won’t necessarily speed up your weight loss. Stay away from those things.)

A lot of caffeine, be it in pills or supplements, can cause a person’s blood pressure to spike or can cause heart palpitations. These obese contestants are working out for hours at a time, and these are people who by their own admission for the most part are pretty sedentary when they come to the ranch. Caffeine supplements sound like a dangerous move.

I think this announcement leaves more questions than it answered. What else do the trainers do so their teams can come out on top? If caffeine pills are a no-no, are other supplements approved?

I’m a major “Biggest Loser” fan. I have watched several seasons of “BL” and one thing I noticed in Season 15 is the contestants are losing smaller amounts of weight each week, even the very large ones. And I have wondered why that is. They seem to be doing the same grueling workouts, but I wonder if they are eating a different diet, maybe one higher in carbohydrates. (We know by the constant product plugs over the years the show advocates eating Subway and Jennie O turkey.) Bob Harper’s team seems to be doing better overall, and in his last book one thing Harper advocates is not eating carbohydrates after noontime. (And, if Harper were not affliated with Quaker Oats, might he limit carbs at breakfast too, I wonder?)

NBC might be thinking that by coming out and admitting what happened they squelched a problem. But with so many new questions popping up, if it isn’t addressed again in the next episode, the controversy may grow even bigger.

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