Performance Enhancers

Just as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and low-fat dairy foods can provide the vitamins and minerals you need for optimal health, they can also supply the protein you need to build muscles, carbohydrate to fuel performance, and healthful fat to provide energy to excel at your sport. Yet, many athletes fail to be responsible with proper fueling; they look for a quick fix from supplements, pills, and potions.

One of my clients, an aspiring baseball pitcher, skipped breakfast, failed to properly fuel himself before and after exercise, and then gobbled late-night fried rice and egg rolls from a Chinese restaurant. He came to me with abundant questions about supplements, asking about muscle builders, energy boosters, immune system enhancers, and bone and joint protectors. I reminded him that no quick fix can compensate for a lousy diet. We talked about how many of the popular performance enhancers have been overrated. Some advertise false claims; others fail to list the "magic ingredients" on the label. (And no one is watching very carefully.)

Some supplements might even be contaminated. If you are a serious athlete who undergoes drug testing, be aware that contaminated nutritional supplements have caused athletes to fail drug tests (van der Merwe and Grobbelaar 2005). See the Supplements entry in appendix A for a list of Web sites you can visit for more in-depth information and cutting-edge research.

A brief overview of what's known to date about a few of the popular sports supplements follows in this section. With new research and new products appearing on a weekly basis, you need to do your own research and draw your own conclusions. Again, please refer to the Supplements entry in Appendix A for the latest information. Whatever you do, remember that no supplement will compensate for a suboptimal sports diet. Be responsible, take mealtimes as seriously as you take your training, and observe the benefits associated with good nutrition.

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