Supplements for Better Sports Performance

A supplement that can help to improve athletic performance is called an "ergogenic aid". They promise to improve performance, strength, and speed. 

Creatine is widely used for improving sports performance. It is a naturally-occurring substance made from the amino acids L-arginine, glycine, and L-methionine.

In the body, creatine is converted into phosphocreatine, which is a type of stored energy in muscles.

According to some alternative medicine practitioners, taking creatine supplements may increase the supply of phospohocreatine in muscles and help with short bursts of high-intensity, repetitive exercise, such as basketball and soccer. It is also said to help increase muscle and bone mass during weight training. Studies on endurance activities, such as marathon running, or non-repetitive activity, such as sprinting, have generally not found benefits.

Absorption into muscles is enhanced when creatine supplements are taken with a simple carbohydrate. Caffeine may block the effects of creatine.

Creatine is metabolized in the kidneys, and there is some concern that excess amounts of creatine may harm the kidneys. Another concern is that creatine is metabolized in the body to formaldehyde, which is a toxic substance. It is not known whether the amount of formaldehyde produced during creatine supplementation will cause harm.

HMB (beta-hydroxy beta-methylbutyric acid) is a substance that occurs naturally in the body. It is formed from the breakdown of the amino acid leucine, found in high concentrations in muscles. During weight training and prolonged exercise, there is damage to muscles that causes the breakdown of leucine and a resulting increase in HMB.

According to some alternative medicine practitioners, HMB supplements may signal the body to slow down the destruction of muscle tissue.

HMB has been used for weight training because it is said to reduce the amount of muscle that breaks down during exercise. It is also used to help prevent muscle damage during prolonged exercise.

Although there are small amounts of naturally-occurring HMB in citrus fruit and catfish, it is also available in supplement form. HMB should not be confused with the supplement gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB), which may have strong sedation effects. HMB should not be used by children, pregnant or nursing women, or people with severe liver or kidney disease.

Medium-Chain Triglycerides (MCTs)
Unlike other types of fats which must be broken down in the intestines and then made into a different type of fat to be transported in the blood, medium chain triglycerides are absorbed intact and taken to the liver, where they are used directly for energy. They provide a concentrated source of energy, as an alternative to carbohydrates which are often used by athletes for “carb loading”.

Some people notice some abdominal bloating after taking MCT, which may interfere with sports performance.

Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
Amino acids are naturally occurring molecules that the body uses to make protein. Branched-chain amino acids refer to the amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine, which all have a “branched-chain” molecular structure. Muscle tissue is particularly high in branched-chain amino acids.

In alternative medicine, people use branched chain amino acids to build muscle, improve sports performance, and minimize the effects of overtraining, because strength training and endurance activity uses up greater amounts of branched-chain amino acids than regular daily activities.

Branched chain amino acids are found in all foods containing protein. The best sources are red meat and dairy products. Whey protein powder, chicken, fish, and eggs are other good sources.

Branched chain amino acids may interfere with Parkinson's medications.

Pyruvate (Dihydroxyacetone Pyruvate, DHAP)
Pyruvate supplements have become popular with bodybuilders because it is believed that pyruvate can reduce body fat and enhance energy. This is because pyruvate supplies the body with pyruvic acid, which is a natural compound involved in energy metabolism. In alternative medicine, it is sometimes recommended for weight loss and to improve the capacity for endurance exercise.

Pyruvate is not an essential nutrient, which means that your body can make all that it needs without supplementation. It is found only in small amounts in food, with apples being the best source. 

Pyruvate occasionally causes stomach upset and diarrhea. Safe therapeutic dosages in children, women who are pregnant or nursing, and people with liver or kidney disease have not been established.

Suma (Pfaffia paniculata) is a herb that is sometimes called “Brazilian Ginseng”. It is a vine that is native to central and south America. Russian Olympic athletes have used suma to enhance sports performance.

In alternative medicine, suma is sometimes used as for stress, as a general body tonic, and to boost the immune system. It has also been recommended for chronic fatigue syndrome, menopause, ulcers, impotence, and anxiety. The safety of suma in children, pregnant or nursing women, and people with liver or kidney disease has not been established.

Using Supplements for Sports Performance

Little is known about the safety of regular or prolonged use of supplements for sports enhancement. It's important to keep in mind that supplements haven't been tested for safety and dietary supplements are largely unregulated. In some cases, the product may deliver doses that differ from the specified amount for each herb.

In other cases, the product may be contaminated with other substances such as metals. While consumers face such risks when purchasing any dietary supplement, these risks may be of greater magnitude in the purchase of products marketed for bodybuilding, performance enhancement or weight loss.

Also, the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. You can get further tips on using supplements here.

Due to the limited research, it's too soon to recommend supplements for sports performance. It's also important to note that self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences. If you're considering using supplements, make sure to consult your physician first.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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