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Research Project: Muscle-Enhancing Behaviours and Performance-Enhancing Substance Use among Canadian Adolescents and Young Adults: A Grounded Theory Study


Kyle T. Ganson, PhD, MSW, Principal Investigator
Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto; (416) 978-6394

Ramona Alaggia, PhD, MSW
Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto; (416) 529-5115

Funding Agency:

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada

What is the purpose of the study?

We would like to understand the unique processes that Canadian adolescents and young adults go through that lead to the engagement in muscle-enhancing behaviours and/or performance-enhancing substance use. To identify these processes, including who, what, and how these processes evolve, we aim to interview individuals who engage in these behaviours. While not all muscle-enhancing behaviours and performance-enhancing substance use are problematic, it has been shown that these behaviours can be tried with body dissatisfaction, eating disorders and disordered eating behaviours, and general social and emotional health problems. The information gathered from participants will assist in developing improved practice and policy guidelines to protect the health and well-being of Canadian adolescents and young adults.

What will happen if I take part?

If you decide to participate, you will be asked to participate in an individual interview via Zoom that can be scheduled at a convenient time. The interview will last roughly 45 to 60 minutes. While the interviews are conversational in nature, you will be asked several questions to explore and characterize your experience with muscle-enhancing behaviours and/or performance-enhancing substance use. You will also be asked to complete an online survey intended to gather general demographic information. This survey will only take a few minutes to complete and all responses from participants will be aggregated for reporting purposes.

How is the information collected being used?

Information collected will be analyzed and findings from the study will be published through articles in academic journals, professional information sheets, webinars, conference presentations, and infographics.

Will I be compensated for participating?

Yes. You will be given a $25 Starbucks gift card as an appreciation for your time participating in this study.

Who can participate in this study?

To be included in the study, you must meet the following inclusion criteria:

1. You are between the ages of 16 to 30 years.
2. You engaged in one of the following muscle-enhancing behaviours over the past four weeks, including:  

     a. Excessive, compulsive, or driven exercise (greater than 20 days in the past four weeks);
     b. Muscle-building exercise (greater than 15 days in the past four weeks);
     c. “Bulk” and “cut” food intake cycle;
     d. Dietary changes to increase muscle mass and/or tone (e.g., increased protein consumption, intermittent fasting, elimination dieting);
     e. Or other behaviours you identify as “muscle-enhancing”  


3. You used performance-enhancing supplements and/or substances at least one time in the previous six months, including:   

     a. Targeted vitamin and mineral supplementation with the intention of muscle-building or toning;
     b. Pre-workout drink use (e.g., BANG!);
     c. Weight loss substances (e.g., diuretics, cleanses);
     d. Legal dietary supplements (e.g., creatine monohydrate, whey protein);
     e. Illegal substances (e.g., anabolic-androgenic steroids, androstenedione, human growth hormone);
     f. Of you have used other supplements or substances that you identify as “performance-enhancing” 

Who do I contact if I am interested in participating or have any questions about the study?

You may contact Kyle T. Ganson, Principal Investigator by phone at (416) 978-6394 or by email at