I know that many of you are enjoying the Summer Olympics, as I have been. It should come as no surprise that Olympic fever stirs increased sales of performance-enhancing substances. In fact, people will down sports drinks and clamor for whatever the athletes are taking when they break a new record.
The quest for performance-enhancing substances is an ancient one. Primitive man believed that eating the heart of a lion or antelope would confer strength or speed. The quest to be stronger, faster, and fitter has interested researchers as well, and there is solid scientific evidence that some substances do in fact enhance physical performance.
Sports supplements represent one of the most rapidly growing and heavily hyped segments of the natural products industry. Let's look at the most popular sports supplements and see which ones have the goods.
- One of the best-researched substances for increasing endurance is, believe it or not, caffeine. This mild stimulant revs up the breakdown of fat, which provides your muscle cells with extra fuel and allows glucose to be spared, a crucial step in preventing exercise fatigue. Caffeine’s so effective that it’s one of the performance enhancers tested for in the Olympics—athletes are limited to the equivalent of three to six cups of coffee.
- Creatine monohydrate supplements can help you build bigger muscles. This compound is naturally produced by your body and helps to provide energy that fuels your cells. Increasing cellular energy with supplemental creatine enables you to work out with greater intensity, resulting in more rapid muscle growth. When combined with resistance training, the improvement in muscle mass can be significant.
- To protect your cells from free-radical damage and to reduce exercise-induced muscle soreness, take a daily antioxidant-rich multivitamin that contains 1,500-2,500 mg vitamin C, 800 IU vitamin E, and 15,000 IU beta-carotene.
Now it’s your turn: Have you taken performance-enhancing supplements?