Supplement Use By Athletes (An Introduction)

Supplement Use In Atheletes

(Written by Dr. Aaron Vaughan, MAHEC Family Medicine Physician, Sports Medicine Director
Dr. Matthew Roe, MAHEC Family Medicine Physician, Resident & Dr. Avinash Sridhar, MD)

We all know there is a lot of supplement use by athletes these days. The biggest questions many have are about the safety of supplements and if they really help? This blog offers a quick look at some of the most common supplements used by athletes. This is not intended to be comprehensive; please discuss with a doctor prior to use. Be aware that there is no current governmental regulation on supplements and many may not contain the ingredients listed. Please consult with your doctor and exercise caution when buying supplements.

Amino acids: No noted performance benefit or major side effects.

Creatine: Theorized to increase muscle size and strength. Effective in young men performing high-intensity activities followed by brief recovery periods without demonstrated benefit in females or 60+ athletes. May cause kidney or liver dysfunction, water retention, stiff joints, muscle cramping, leg swelling.

Antioxidants: Theorized to improve immune function and reduce muscle fatigue. Demonstrate moderate improvement in time to exhaustion and slight improvement in performance. Considered safe.

Sodium Bicarbonate: Helpful in decreasing muscle fatigue in shorter, sustained efforts, like rowing or 800m dash. Not as helpful in sports requiring repeated sprints, such as basketball or soccer. Can cause significant GI effects.

HMB (Hydroxy-methylbutyrate): Theorized to prevent protein breakdown. No noted effects on performance or side effects. Better to just consume adequate dietary protein.

Anabolic Steroids: Derivatives of testosterone that increase muscle protein synthesis, but are banned. Side effects are severe and include suicide, heart attack, testicular atrophy/size reduction, reduced height, baldness, and breast development in men. DHEA and androstenedione are precursors to testosterone, but do not enhance performance.

Blood Transfusion and Erythropoietin: Increase the amount of oxygen circulating to exercising tissues. Enhance performance in endurance sports, but add significant risk of blood clots and heart attack. Banned in competition.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) maintains an updated list of prohibited substances and is an excellent reference for any questions regarding the use of performance enhancement supplements/drugs.


About Glory Hound Events

Glory Hound Events was started in 2006, initially managing the historic Bele Chere 5K. Shortly after that first year the Lake Logan Triathlon was introduced and eventually became a part of the Lake Logan Multisport Festival. Glory Hound Events is now the largest endurance event management company in the Western North Carolina region, producing an average of twelve events annually. In addition to producing its own events and those for a variety of clients, Glory Hound Events offers consulting services for events outside of Western North Carolina looking to take theirs to the next level.