In my office, the in-house gym instructor asked me to have protein, amino and steroids. Almost twice a week he insists that I use those. From my experience, I don't want to use those things at all, because I didn't do any heavy lifting or any heavy weight exercises. I feel good after the workout and this helps me concentrate on my work. But he keeps asking me to use all of the supplements and he also shows me photos of all of the types of products on a regular basis. I don't want to say NO to those products because I want to maintain a friendly environment, and he might get offended if I do so. Is there any way around to refuse him politely? As of now, there is no such policy in the office. Is there some kind of official policy that I could ask HR to implement? My present work culture is a bit different from the western office culture. We usually spend days or even a complete week in the office. This is the reason that I use the gym frequently, and that's why I want to maintain a friendly atmosphere.

As an update, the country of origin doesn't matter because I am unaware of the national laws. And I am not planning to sue anyone. I'll be here for a short period of time. Thus I am not interested in country specific solution.

  • 10
    Related question in interpersonal.SE: Using my own training plan without upsetting stubborn trainer. However, the difference is that a) here the instructor is not the owner, and b) what he's proposing is likely illegal.
    – sleske
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 8:32
  • 18
    Hi, and welcome to workplace.SE! Since this is about Japan - could you clarify what the legal status of "steroids" (I suppose you are talking about "anabolic steroids") is? In most countries they are available by prescription only, hence it would be illegal for your instructor to offer them.
    – sleske
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 8:39
  • 88
    I find it quite unlikely that your colleague is offering you steroids along with protein powder and amino acid based supplements. Japan has very strict laws on selling steroids, and going to the police would be an appropriate reaction. Are you sure you're not getting steroids mixed up with some supplement?
    – toady_two
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 9:47
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    On that note, is the gym instructor Japanese or from which country? What is the exact name or brandname of the substance he's proposing? You could print off a page showing him it's illegal.
    – smci
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 20:14
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    Why are we removing the Japan tag? Is this or is this not in Japan? If it is, the tag is most certainly relevant as you yourself have indicated the work culture is "different from the western office culture".....
    – lc.
    Commented Feb 27, 2019 at 5:48

11 Answers 11


Why would you stay polite to a guy who pressures you into doing steroids? Those things have very little effect for the average casual gym-goer and lead to a host of issues in multiple organs at worst.

And I guess he is not your boss, so there are no repercussions to firmly saying no.

It wouldn't be a bad idea to notify HR too. Someone peddling illegal medicine as part of a company fitness program is a disaster waiting to happen.

I just saw that you are in Japan, where, if I remember correctly, impoliteness is seen as a terrible character flaw: just stay polite for a few times. Then shorten your answer a bit. Do this for a few times more until you arrive at the politest form of address that does not involve yelling "fuck off" through the gym. If he does not get the hint you now have valid ammunition to complain to your boss.

(See chat for a more in-depth discussion on why steroids are totally neat.)

  • 2
    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Neo
    Commented Feb 28, 2019 at 2:27

He probably just wants to sell you the products, so the same way you would say no to a waiter offering you a dish you don't want, a polite but firm "No, thanks" should work. Showing doubts or evasive answers will only make him insist again and again.

By the way, protein and other suplements are OK, but steroids are illegal drugs, I don't know if there is a potential risk for the company here but you might consider reporting this anonymously.

Edit: the above paragraph might not be entirely correct for Japan, as possession of anabolic steroids seems to be legal, not sure about selling being legal tho.

  • 11
    having seen the consequences of overuse of protein and other supplements pilfered in gyms I can say with confidence that they're far from harmless.
    – jwenting
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 9:59
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    A very well explained answer "Like talking to a waiter ..."
    – Fattie
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 12:51
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    @jwenting: Can you give some examples? Protein should be harmless unless you use it as primary energy source. Other supplements like Creatine, Glutamine, BCAAs, Magnesium, Iron etc. are usually also really hard to overdose.
    – Michael
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 13:43
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    @Michael had a colleague who for months ate and drank nothing but protein mixes and other supplements he got at the gym. He ended up collapsing and having his stomach pumped, spent weeks in hospital recovering and being weened of his addiction to the stuff. Didn't work, few weeks after he got out he was back at it. His doctors told him his blood work was worse than that of a 70 year old diabetic cancer patient with kidney failure.
    – jwenting
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 17:09
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    Of course, if you eat nothing but protein shakes you are going to have problems. If nothing else you’ll get vitamin and mineral deficiencies. As far as I’m aware you can’t become addicted. The person probably had body image issues and thought they had to gain more and more muscle.
    – Michael
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 18:48

Just say 'no thanks' to the supplements. Steroids are not even very useful if you just do cardio. Most probably he is a supplier or in some way gets a bonus if he sells supplements. So it's just business to him and nothing to get offended about.

  • 6
    I agree whole-heartedly with that last point. People trying to sell you things will get rejected by most people, you simply can't be a salesperson (formally or informally) while taking a simple "no" so personally.
    – user83084
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 10:43
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    'Steroids are not even very useful if you just do cardio.' Tell that to Lance Armstrong
    – Cloud
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 11:24
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    The final sentence here should indeed perfectly explain the situation to our OP.
    – Fattie
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 12:53

Just say "我慢しています。自分の力で頑張ってほしいですから" (gaman shiteimasu. jibun no chikara de gambatte hoshii desu kara).

This means "I'm refraining from taking (that). I want to try my best on my own."

Be informed, he may insist three times. This is typically done in these types of situations. It's a social norm to refuse at first, but relent on the third time. So, just continue to say "gaman shiteimasu". Just smile and continue to refuse. He should (if he is behaving properly) stop insisting on the third try. If he continues after that, other people around him will probably start pressuring him to stop.

It is difficult as you are probably a foreigner to accuse a native of drugs. I would probably just ignore him. In Japan, the police sometimes feel that a crime requires two participants. The crime would not happen if the person being harassed does not reciprocate.

  • 1
    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Note that a meta thread was started on this answer to discuss the suggested Japanese phrasing.
    – Lilienthal
    Commented Feb 26, 2019 at 10:15
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    The suggested Japanese does not match the translation: it actually says something like "I'm restraining myself, I want you to do your best", which is nonsensical. Commented Feb 27, 2019 at 5:19
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    ^ そーなんです・・・ That's what I said in the comment (which was moved to the chat...) but no one would listen to me.. (T-T)シクシク
    – chocolate
    Commented Feb 27, 2019 at 6:18

I'm from Japan.

Best case this person is free-lancing and trying to peddle their stuff for private profit. In this case complaining to HR will help.

Worst case the company is in it, too. This is unfortunately not uncommon in Japan (I also had bunch of people trying to sell me insurance during my lunch break, and this was company sanctioned). In that case complaining won't help.

Regarding how to say no, just keep saying "Ie, kekko desukara". It's perfectly acceptable to sound annoyed. If the person still persists, you can say "Iikagen ni shite kure masennka?" (could you cut it out, please?).

It's perfectly acceptable to escalate your tone if someone is being annoying (especially if they are providing a service to you - you are "higher" on the hierarchy when you are their customer. If you are older than the person, you could even say "Mou uttooshiinnde, iikagen ni shite" (you are annoying me, cut it out)).

  • +1, but the last line is pretty harsh/familiar/rude: it's what my wife tells my kids when they pester her for candy. Commented Feb 27, 2019 at 5:20
  • "Best case"? How about he is passionate and offers you help via these substances? Just because a lot of people have an (emotional) opinion about it, doesnt mean he means it bad.
    – Martijn
    Commented Feb 27, 2019 at 9:03

I suggest a (made it a bit more polite, because Japan):

Thank you for offering, but no thank you. If in the future I change my mind, I'll keep your offer in mind.

This way you indicate that you're not interested now, nor in the forseable future. You also tell them that if you change your mind, you contact them. It gives a sense of importance.

I've encountered multiple people like this, and while it's somewhat ennoying, it often comes from a good place, wanting to help you. They're enthousiasic and want to share their knowledge (so you might just take their offer as a compliment).

Offtopic-ish: The amino and steroids might be overkill (amino's can't do much wrong), but the protein shakes might be worth consideration (in moderate amount). It helps you recover between sets faster, you get less muscle strain and can do everything a bit more/heavier (think ±5%) and there are no bad side effects when you stop. The only thing to be aware of is the extra kCal's if you're on a tight diet.

  • 4
    There is a limit to the amount of protein intake that the body can process. More than that just overloads your kidneys getting rid of the excess, and can therefore cause dehydration even though you don't actually feel thirsty. Source: I have been prescribed protein supplements for medical reasons, and they were being monitored with regular (weekly) blood and urine tests to check for side effects. A co-worker's teenage son once had an emergency hospital admission after collapsing following overdosing on protein supplements for body-building.
    – alephzero
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 11:40
  • I've added a "in moderate amount" to the answer :)
    – Martijn
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 11:44
  • 3
    @alephzero if he "collapsed" it wasn't because of protein but steroids or other drugs. Protein supplements are nothing special, they are just processed food based on whey or other components. Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 14:16
  • @randomname39 That something "comes from food" is hardly an argument for the proposition that it can't cause ill effects. Commented Feb 26, 2019 at 15:56
  • @Acccumulation well, there are multiple studies in which very high protein intakes (4g or so per kg of bodyweight) had no adverse effect, and that is a very difficult quantity of protein to eat. Of course if you just eat whey protein you can have problems, the same way you could have problems if you overeat other aliments. My point is that protein powders are just food, with its peculiarities but no special/dangerous characteristics, unless in extreme cases. Commented Feb 27, 2019 at 8:54

You realized he is annoying you and making you pay so that he can earn. Talk to gym manager. It's quite possible he is annoying others too.


This depends on your personality and mindset. My advice is

Stay yourself:

  • Be polite to that guy in the same way than to anyone else. But with the same suit, except the same from him, so confront him with his actions: Ask him why he is offering the supplements to you if you already repeatedly told him your "no" ...and wait for answer. If there is no answer, ask him explicitly to answer, still in polite tone.

  • Be open as usual. If you are already taking some general supplements (e.g. conezyme Q10), change his "steroids and proteins" topic to your product and check his offer. Let the products compete, you can only gain from it. Is his equivalent product better and for a good price? Switch. Is it same or worse? Tell him which one your are already using, why do you prefer it and for what price you are buying it. Then ask him why should you buy product from him if you already have better one.

  • Be goal-set as usual. If you are fine with current setting and you goal is to stay so, tell him that you do not intend to take any more supplements at the moment. Ask him, if he is fine with your outlook and if he can accept your current setting even if you do not change. Make yourself room in this relationship so that he commits to respect your decisions.

  • Be curious as usual. Verify supplement types recommended by him with independent instructor. Let the other instructor understand your mindset and fitness goals and ask them to express their opinion if you really need to start taking something. If yes, at what milestone of your development. And again, if you decide to, then challenge the offer made by your instructor by offer of your favorite manufacturer so you still have your freedom to decide for the best product.

  • Bonus: Debate his stances - collect information why those products should not be really taken in your phase of the physical development and confront him with reasons why not to take them.

All these things may get you better understanding of supplements to your lasting benefit (your learned something new!) and they can still repel off the instructor if his behavior is manipulative. Manipulators do not like discussion if it is too open and where they lose their reasons.


Your instructor isn't offering you steroids, they're offering you supplements. There's a pretty big difference. Most supplements are pretty much just powdered food. Sometimes they help. Sometimes they don't.

Not taking supplements is pretty common when working out. Just tell them that you'd rather rely on a good diet than supplements. This might lead to your instructor helping you out with your macros and giving you meal prep tips. If he doesn't you could always ask for help with your diet instead.

Supplements make a lot of people uncomfortable. This isn't too uncommon. I'd bet that your instructor gets a kick back from the sales of these supplements.

  • 3
    As the question explicitly states steroids as being offered, we can reasonably expect that the suggestion of steroids has been explicitly made by the instructor. If the question stated uncertainty as to whether the supplements might contain steroids then your first sentence could be valid.
    – Aaron
    Commented Feb 26, 2019 at 2:22
  • @Aaron many don't understand the difference.
    – user53651
    Commented Feb 27, 2019 at 14:33

Tell him that you'll take if he gives them to you for free.

Of course, he won't do it, but anyway if he gives them for free, just throw it to the garbage.

  • without an explanation, this answer may become useless in case if someone else posts an opposite opinion. For example, if someone posts a claim like "Don't tell him that you'll take if he gives them to you for free.", how would this answer help reader to pick of two opposing opinions? Consider editing it into a better shape, to meet How to Answer guidelines
    – gnat
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 16:22
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    No, Don't. Once you accepted free stuff, He will push harder. And try to negociate price as it was the trigger for you in the past. Why do you think almost every things is avaidable in free sample?
    – user95634
    Commented Feb 26, 2019 at 8:07
  • 2
    Are you suggesting to bin the items right there while supplier is watching? A "Ron Swanson tasting vegan Bacon" youtube.com/watch?v=GXhJPey3i_A style of rejection? I feel that might cause some offence, but it would get the message across.
    – Criggie
    Commented Feb 26, 2019 at 20:01
  • @Criggie, no, no need to offend instructor. Just take it out. When he will ask, just replay you didn't try it yet or tried and didn't like it.
    – Alexan
    Commented Feb 26, 2019 at 20:20

Maybe you can make a intimation to him in the way that you are allergic to some components of the products. Or that your doctor advice you against it, or similar health reasons.

(You can tell him about a fictional try in paste which gets wrong, if this is an option for you. But it can also make you vulnerable in judicial view.)

It is not absolutely the truth, but if he do not accept your affords until today, possible it bring him to stop without you criticized himself. In the end you have to say "Thanks for this opportunity, but NO" but through the explanatory statement you do not act against the product itself or the instructor himself.

I understand your aim to stay friendly with him, because you will meet him regularly in future.

  • 13
    Not the downvoter, but: In my opinion, if the solution is lying, it's not a solution.
    – Martijn
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 10:28
  • It was not my aim to encourage the Asker to lie. No one is all times absolutely honest. One uses for example overstatement to make a point. I think a lot of people see such products in worse case as health endanger, so in my opinion it is a overstatement to bring the doctor into. In german I would say "Nein danke, ich vertrag das nicht so gut", but my English skills do not reach so far :( Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 10:36
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    The main problem with this type of answer is not the lying per se, but since you don't give your true reason they can easily refute your point. If you say that you're allergic they can ask which product you used and then tell you that it's not the same, etc. Now it becomes much more difficult to find another random excuse.
    – pipe
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 13:28
  • 2
    @Martijn - To his defence, politeness includes lying (and withholding truths). But there is indeed a problem with lying, and truth is preferable to lies. Lying is the short-term easier, but long-term more difficult and risky way out.
    – Battle
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 15:58

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