Sports supplements are common today. Walk into any gym and you’ll see people guzzling them. But what exactly are sports nutrition supplements? Are they really effective? Or are they just a ploy to part you and your money?
And most importantly, are they safe? Sports supplements, aka ergogenic aids, are dietary products that improve athletic performance. They include minerals, vitamins, proteins, amino acids, herbs or plants, or a combination of more than one of these.
They are usually available over the counter, and are not regulated in the same way that medicines are by the FDA. Many sports associations have strict laws on the usage of sports supplements.
The best sports supplements for you are those that are targeted at the kind of sports you are into and what your aims are. For instance, endurance sports supplements are vastly different from body building ones. So before you decide to take any supplement, it is important to do your research, and to speak to a doctor or an experienced coach.
• Androstenedione and DHEA: Known as Andro or ‘natural steroids’, their efficacy has been challenged by experts, but some people believe that large enough doses have effects similar to anabolic steroids. It is better to stay completely clear of these, as it has been shown to increase risk of testicular cancer, stroke, infertility, and heart disease. It can also cause breast development and shrinkage of testicles in men.
• Creatine: Creatine is manufactured in the liver, and the supplement is used by people in high intensity exercise with short recovery time, like sprinters or body builders. Creatine is useful for only a small percentage of athletes, and it is very important to get the correct dosage. Side effects include weight gain, abdominal pain, cramps, and diarrhea. It is not recommended for athletes under 18.
• Fat burners: Fat burners or thermogenics work by increasing the body’s metabolism and burning more fat. In the past, they were made of an herb called ephedra, which was shown to cause heart problems, stroke, or even death. As a result of this, it has been banned. Similar products often use ingredients much like ephedra, which can have disastrous effects. Another supplement to avoid.
• Caffeine, which is found in coffee and sports drinks has been used for ages to keep athletes alert and less tired.
• Glucosamine is a supplement that helps cartilage recovery and osteoarthritis, but its use as a supplement is debated.
• Glutamine is another supplement that has benefits and is used wisely; it is not banned by most sports organizations.
• Protein supplements give the body the excess protein it needs to build muscle. Again, there is no bar on its use in most sports.
• Sports drinks work to hydrate the body and to replace lost salt and carbs, and are used mostly by endurance athletes.
Advertisements for sports supplements often make tall, promising claims because they have to market/sell their product. Teenagers and children are their target audience. The reason behind this is that they make for a vulnerable target as they are at a stage where they are dissatisfied with their still developing bodies and are thus easily taken up by such advertisements. However misleading their claims may be, supplement companies put in tremendous effort and energy to convince their audience that their sports supplements are the best sports supplements.
Therefore, a final word of caution. Before you go on to use any supplements, you should gather as much information as is possible about these sports supplements and also go through the sports supplement reviews. Remember, there is no easy way out, if you want to get stronger or faster, you will have to work harder and train harder.
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