Information About Sports Supplements
What Are Sports Supplements?
Sports supplements (also referred to as sports nutrition or ergogenic aids) are used to enhance athletic performance.
They include: vitamins, synthetic (made in the lab) drugs, and hormones, most of which are available over the counter without a prescription.
Many sports supplements or sports nutrition products available over the counter or on the Internet contain androstenedione (andro), creatine or ephedra.
These dietary supplements are not supervised by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) as strictly as drugs and questions about the safety and efficacy of sports nutrition supplements remain.
Types of Sports Supplements
Although some sports nutrition products contain a straight forward healthy blend of food concentrates for extra energy or performance (eg. protein or glucose), many sports supplements are more powerful and (being relatively unregulated) possibly more risky.
These are hormones that help the body build muscle tissue and increase muscle mass. Steroids, also known as roids or juice, are similar to the male hormone testosterone, which is produced naturally in larger amounts in males and smaller amounts in females.
When you take steroids, your muscle tissue is stimulated to grow, producing larger and stronger muscles.
Human Growth Hormone (HGH)
Another sports supplement you may have heard about is human growth hormone (HGH). Doctors may prescribe growth hormone for teenagers with hormone or growth problems, to help them develop normally.
But growth hormone can also be abused by athletes who want to build muscle mass. Many athletes still use growth hormone even though several sports organizations (such as the NCAA) have banned it.
Creatine Sports Supplements
In a recent survey of high school senior athletes, about 44 percent said they had tried or currently used creatine supplements to boost athletic performance.
Creatine is already manufactured by the body in the liver, kidneys, and pancreas, and it occurs naturally in foods such as meat and fish. If a person takes creatine supplements, the extra creatine is stored in the muscles, and some people think that it gives them an energy boost during workouts or competitions.
Available over the counter in pill, powder, or gel form, creatine is one of the most popular nutritional supplements, and teenagers make up a large portion of users.
But research has not definitively shown that creatine can increase endurance or improve aerobic performance – but it may leave teens prone to seizures or kidney failure.
Fat Burning Sports Supplements
Fat burners (also known as thermogenics) are a recent addition to the sports supplement market. Fat burners are sometimes made with ephedra, also known as ephedrine or ma huang.
Ephedra is a stimulant which speeds up the nervous system and increases metabolism. Some people use fat burners to lose weight or to increase energy – but using products containing ephedrine is not always safe.
In fact, ephedra-based supplements can be highly dangerous, causing irregular heartbeat (known as an arrhythmia), dehydration, fainting, and occasionally even death. The NCAA and the IOC have banned the use of ephedrine.
Guidelines for the Use of Sports Supplements
Many sports organizations have developed policies on sports supplements. The National Football League (NFL), the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have banned the use of steroids, creatine, ephedra, and androstenedione by their athletes, and competitors who use them face fines, ineligibility, and suspension from their sports.
Will Supplements Improve My Athletic Performance?
Few manufacturers of sports supplements offer a specific guarantee of enhanced performance as a result of taking their products alone.
They recognise that supplements and nutrition are only part of the foundation for athletic performance. Even so, some manufacturers do make optimistic claims and they can be hard to resist especially for younger sportspeople.
Sports Supplements for Teenagers and Teen Athletes
Perhaps the bottom line looks something like this. If you are a young athlete, then sports supplements are unlikely to offer more than a small edge to your strength, stamina or endurance. And unless taken with the advice and supervision of a sports nutritionist, they may lead to ill-health.
So before turning to supplements to improve your performance, focus on eating as healthily as possible and follow a serious weight-training and aerobic-exercise program.
Sports Supplements for Experienced Athletes
If you are an older, wiser athlete, you should be aware of the risks stated above.