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The increased availability and overwhelming number of sports supplements
presents an ongoing challenge for practitioners (dietitians, nutritionists, coaches-trainers) and the athlete needs to keep up-to-date about the validity of claims
and scientific evidence.
However, the fact remains that very few improve
Unfortunately, as long as a supplement label indicates the active
ingredients and the entire ingredients list is provided, claims for enhanced
performance can be made, valid or not. The manufacturers aren't even required
to demonstrate the safety and effectiveness of their products! This is, in my
opinion, a complete lack of professional ethics and integrity.
Ultimately, athletes are responsible for the products they ingest and any
subsequent consequences. Dietary supplements or ergogenic aids will never
substitute for genetic makeup, years of training and optimum nutrition.
From a practical standpoint, most ergogenic aids can be classified into
one of four categories:
- those that perform as claimed
- those that may perform as claimed but for
which there is insufficient evidence of efficacy at this time
- those that do
not perform as claimed
- those that are dangerous, banned, or illegal
and, therefore, should not be used.
Ergogenic Aids That Perform As Claimed
Currently the most widely used ergogenic aid among athletes
wanting to build muscle and enhance recovery. Creatine has been shown to be
effective in repeated short bursts of high-intensity activity in sports that
derive energy primarily from the ATP-PC energy system such as sprinting and
weight lifting, but not for endurance sports such as distance running. Most of
the research on creatine has been conducted in a laboratory setting with male
athletes. This is a key factor because the researchers know if the creatine is
pure, not tainted with a illlegal substance.
The most common adverse effects of creatine supplementation are weight (fluid)
gain, cramping, nausea, and diarrhea. The long term effects of creatine use remain unknown but athletes should
carefully be monitored for any risk of liver or kidney dysfunction or, in rare
instances, anterior compartment syndrome.
Is still a restricted substance by the NCAA (National Collegiate
Athletic Association), and can lead to a positive doping test. Using high
energy drinks containing caffeine can be ergolytic and potentially dangerous
when used in excess or in combination with other stimulants, etc. Adverse
effects of caffeine are anxiety, jitteriness, rapid heartbeat, gastrointestinal
distress, and insomnia. There is little evidence to support the use of caffeine
as a weight loss aid.
Sports Drinks, Gels, and Bars
Are commonly used as convenient dietary supplements or ergogenic aids for busy
athletes and active people. However, this is a mixed bag (depending on the ingredients), and knowing how to evaluate the
"product" content is very important.
May be an effective ergogenic aid as a blood buffer (role
in acid-base balance and prevention of fatigue), but its use is not without
unpleasant adverse effects such as diarrhea.
Protein and Amino Acid Supplements
Current evidence indicates that protein
and amino acid supplements are no more or no less effective than food when
energy is adequate for gaining lean body mass. They are a potential source of
illegal substances such as nandrolone, which may not be listed on the
|Ergogenic Aids That May Perform As Claimed But with Issufficient Evidence
|Ergogenic Aids that Do Not
Perform As Claimed
To date none of these products have been shown to enhance performance and
may have adverse effects.
- Amino acids
- Bee pollen
- Branched chain amino acids
- Chromium picolinate
- Coenzyme Q10
- Conjugated linoleic acid
- Cytochrome C
- Medium chain triglycerides
- Oxygenated water
Ergogenic Aids That Are
Dangerous, Banned or Illegal
It's unfortunate and disgusting that many sports supplement manufacturers are
taking advantage of young people and adults alike.
- Other anabolic, androgenic steroids
- Tribulus terrestri
- Human growth hormone
Reference: Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, Vol. 41:3, Mar.,
2009. The Official Journal of the American College of Sports Medicine.
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Best wishes for fitness and health,
Jack A. Medina, M.A.
Designs for Fitness
1-866-204-8786 Toll-free Order Line
9-5 M-F (PST - Oregon)
Roy E. Vartabedian, Dr.P.H.
Designs for Wellness
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