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Athletic Performance (Holistic)

Athletic Performance (Holistic)

About This Condition

Reach the peak of athletic performance. Take your game to the next level by learning some fitness essentials. According to research or other evidence, the following self-care steps may be helpful.
  • Eat more carbs

    Supply the body with efficient energy fuel found in grains, starchy vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy products, and carbohydrate-replacement drinks

  • Obey your thirst

    Drink fluids before, during, and after exercise to prevent dehydration, but avoid overdrinking, too

  • Take a multivitamin

    When your diet isn’t enough, extra vitamins and minerals will help your body get the nutrition it needs for exercise

  • Check out creatine monohydrate

    Take 15 to 20 grams a day of this supplement for five or six days to improve performance of high-intensity, short-duration exercise (like sprinting) or sports with alternating low- and high-intensity efforts

  • Try vitamin C

    Take 400 mg a day for several days before and after intense exercise to reduce pain and speed muscle strength recovery

About

About This Condition

Aside from training, nutrition may be the most important influence on athletic performance.1 However, in seeking a competitive edge, athletes are often susceptible to fad diets or supplements that have not been scientifically validated. Nevertheless, there is much useful research to guide the exerciser toward optimum health and performance.

Healthy Lifestyle Tips

Many athletes use exercise and weight-modifying diets as tools to change their body composition, assuming that a lower percentage of body fat and/or higher lean body mass is desirable in any sport. There is no single standard for body weight and body composition that applies to all types of athletic activities. Different sports, even different roles in the same sport (e.g., running vs. blocking in football), require different body types. These body types are largely determined by genetics. However, within each athlete’s genetic predisposition, variations result from diet and exercise that may affect performance. In general, excess weight is a disadvantage in activities that require quickness and speed. However, brief, intense bursts of power depend partly on muscle size, so this type of activity may favor athletes with greater muscle mass. On the other hand, participants in endurance sports, which require larger energy reserves, should not attempt to lower their body fat so much as to compromise their performance.2

Eating Right

The right diet is the key to managing many diseases and to improving general quality of life. For this condition, scientific research has found benefit in the following healthy eating tips.

Recommendation Why
Fuel up
Athletes have different calorie requirements, depending on the intensity of their training and performance. Calorie restriction can have many negative effects, so be sure to get enough fuel through calories.

Calorie requirements for athletes depend on the intensity of their training and performance. The athlete who trains to exhaustion on a daily basis needs more fuel than one who performs a milder regimen two or three times per week. Calorie requirements can be as much as 23 to 39 calories per pound of body weight per day for the training athlete who exercises vigorously for several hours per day.3 , 4 Many athletes compete in sports having weight categories (such as wrestling and boxing), sports that favor small body size (such as gymnastics and horse racing), or sports that may require a specific socially accepted body shape (such as figure skating). These athletes may feel pressured to restrict calories to extreme degrees to gain a competitive edge.5 Excessive calorie restriction can result in chronic fatigue, sleep disturbances, reduced performance, impaired ability for intensive training, and increased vulnerability to injury.6

Get enough protein
Athletes require more protein than people who are not exercising vigorously, but supplementing is not necessary as long as the diet contains at least 12 to 15% of calories as protein.

Protein requirements are often higher for both strength and endurance athletes than for people who are not exercising vigorously; however, the increased food intake needed to supply necessary calories and carbohydrates also supplies extra protein. As long as the diet contains at least 12 to 15% of calories as protein, or up to 0.75 grams per day per pound of body weight, protein supplements are neither necessary, nor likely to be of benefit.7 , 8 Concerns have been raised that the very high-protein diets sometimes used by body builders could put stress on the kidneys, potentially increasing the risk of kidney disease later in life. A preliminary study of male athletes consuming at least 2.77 grams per pound of body weight per day showed no evidence of kidney impairment; however, the study was limited to one month, and evidence of long-term kidney problems associated with chronic protein loading were not examined.9

Preliminary studies have suggested that increased protein intake may have biological effects that could improve muscle growth resulting from strength training, especially if liquid supplements (typically containing at least 6 grams of protein or amino acids in addition to varying amounts of carbohydrate) are taken either immediately after exercise or just before exercise.10 , 11 , 12 , 13 , 14 , 15 , 16 However, controlled studies have found no advantage of protein supplementation (up to about 100 grams per day or about 14 grams immediately following exercise) for improving strength or body composition as long as the diet already supplies typical amounts of protein and calories.17 , 18 , 19

Get your carbs
Carbohydrates may be the most important nutrient for sports performance, as they are the most efficient fuel and can be stored in the muscle and liver as readily available energy.

Carbohydrates are the most efficient fuel for energy production and can also be stored as glycogen in muscle and liver, functioning as a readily available energy source for prolonged, strenuous exercise. For these reasons, carbohydrates may be the most important nutrient for sports performance.20 Depending on training intensity and duration, athletes require up to 4.5 grams of carbohydrates per day per pound of body weight or 60 to 70% of total dietary calories from carbohydrates, whichever is greater.21 , 22 Emphasizing grains, starchy vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy products, and carbohydrate-replacement beverages, along with reducing intake of fatty foods, results in a relatively high-carbohydrate diet.

Carbohydrate beverages should be consumed during endurance training or competition (30 to 70 grams of carbohydrate per hour) to help prevent carbohydrate depletion that might otherwise occur near the end of the exercise period. Standard sport drinks containing 6 to 8% carbohydrates can be used during exercise to support both carbohydrate and fluid needs, but these should not contain large amounts of fructose, which can cause gastrointestinal distress.23 At the end of endurance exercise, body carbohydrate stores must be replaced to prepare for the next session. This replacement can be achieved most rapidly if 40 to 60 grams of carbohydrate are consumed right after exercise, repeating this intake every hour for at least five hours after the event.24 High-density carbohydrate beverages containing 20 to 25% carbohydrate are useful for immediate post-exercise repletion.

Adding protein to carbohydrate intake immediately after exercise may be helpful for improving recovery of glycogen (carbohydrate) stores after exercise according to some,25 , 26 , 27 though not all,28 , 29 , 30 , 31 , 32 controlled studies. It appears that adding protein during the post-exercise period is not necessary when carbohydrate intake is high enough (about 0.55 grams per pound of body weight).33

Carbohydrate loading, or “super-compensation,” is a pre-event strategy that improves performance for some endurance athletes.34 , 35 Carbohydrate-loading can be achieved by consuming a 70% carbohydrate diet (or 4.5 grams per pound of body weight) for three to five days before competition, while gradually reducing training time, and ending with a day of no training while continuing the diet until the event date.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
Loss of water and electrolytes due to sweating during exercise can result in decreased performance and other problems, so remember to drink plenty of water and electrolyte-balancing sports drinks prior to, during, and after exercise.

Water is the most abundant substance in the human body and is essential for normal physiological function. Water loss due to sweating during exercise can result in decreased performance and other problems. The American College of Sports Medicine's recommenations for fluid consumption by exercisers were updated in 2007.36 Fluids should be consumed prior to, during, and after exercise, especially when extreme conditions of climate, exercise intensity, and exercise duration exist. Enough fluids should be consumed up to two hours before exercise begins to produce urine that is not too dark or concentrated. The amount of fluid that should be consumed during exercise will vary depending on many factors, including personal sweating rate, climate, and type and duration of exercise. Exercisers should generally drink to satisfy their thirst, and should also monitor changes in their body weight during exercise. If weight loss approaches 2% of body weight, then fluid consumption has been inadequate to prevent dehydration. After exercise, enough additional fluid should be consumed to equal 150% of weight lost (24 ounces of fluid for each pound of weight loss). Some individuals may experience an increase in body weight during exercise; this can indicate that too much fluid has been consumed, which can lead to a potentially dangerous condition called hyponatremia (low blood sodium levels) even if electrolyte-containing sports drinks are used. A professional knowledgeable in sports medicine can help formulate an individualized plan for fluid consumption during exercise.

Flavored sports drinks containing electrolytes are not necessary for fluid replacement during or after brief periods of exercise, but they may be more effective in encouraging the athlete to drink frequently and in larger amounts when needed.37 Consuming fluids along with meals or salty snacks before and after exercise will also encourage sufficient fluid intake and may improve fluid retention in the body.38

Make fat work for you
Some athletes have found success following a high-fat diet for a number of days and then briefly eating a high-carbohydrate diet prior to an endurance event.

Some athletes have speculated that consuming a high-fat diet for two or more weeks prior to endurance competition might cause the body to shift its fuel utilization toward more abundant fat stores ("fat adaptation").39 However, neither short-term nor long-term use of high-fat diets has been found to improve endurance performance compared with high-carbohydrate diets, and may even be detrimental due to depletion of glycogen stores.40 , 41

Following a high-fat diet with at least 24 hours of high carbohydrate intake has been suggested as a way to achieve fat adaptation while restoring glycogen levels before endurance competition.42 , 43 While this concept is supported by physiological studies on athletes, no actual performance enhancement was shown when athletes were tested in competitive situations after a five- to six-day high-fat diet followed by 24 hours of high carbohydrate intake.44 , 45 , 46 However, one controlled study found a small, significant benefit of ten days of high fat intake followed by three days of high carbohydrate intake.47

Keep your eye on the GI
The glycemic index is a measure of a food’s ability to raise blood sugar levels. Before exercise, low-GI foods can be beneficial, while high-GI foods can quickly restore sugar stores after exercise.

The glycemic index (GI) is a measure of the ability of a food to raise blood sugar levels after it is eaten. Attention to the GI of carbohydrate sources may be helpful for increasing sports performance. Within one hour before exercise, consuming low GI carbohydrates (such as most fruits, pasta, legumes, or rice) provides carbohydrate without triggering a rapid rise in insulin that could result in hypoglycemia and prevent release of energy sources from fat cells.48 Some controlled studies of cycling endurance have found that eating a pre-exercise meal of low-GI foods (lentils, rolled oats, or a combination of low GI foods) is more effective than consuming high-GI foods (potatoes, puffed rice, or a combination of high GI foods),49 , 50 , 51 but most studies have found no significant advantage of low GI foods or fructose (a low-GI sugar) compared with other carbohydrate sources in a pre-exercise meal. 52 , 53 , 54 , 55 , 56 , 57 , 58 , 59 After exercise, on the other hand, high-GI foods and beverages may be most helpful for quickly restoring depleted glycogen stores.60

Supplements

What Are Star Ratings?

Our proprietary “Star-Rating” system was developed to help you easily understand the amount of scientific support behind each supplement in relation to a specific health condition. While there is no way to predict whether a vitamin, mineral, or herb will successfully treat or prevent associated health conditions, our unique ratings tell you how well these supplements are understood by some in the medical community, and whether studies have found them to be effective for other people.

For over a decade, our team has combed through thousands of research articles published in reputable journals. To help you make educated decisions, and to better understand controversial or confusing supplements, our medical experts have digested the science into these three easy-to-follow ratings. We hope this provides you with a helpful resource to make informed decisions towards your health and well-being.

3 Stars Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.

2 Stars Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.

1 Star For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.

Supplement Why
3 Stars
Creatine Monohydrate (Non-Weight Bearing Endurance Exercise)
15 to 20 grams daily for five or six days
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Creatine (creatine monohydrate) is used in muscle tissue for the production of phosphocreatine, a factor in the formation of ATP, the source of energy for muscle contraction and many other functions in the body.61 , 62 Creatine supplementation increases phosphocreatine levels in muscle, especially when accompanied by exercise or carbohydrate intake.63 , 64 It may also increase exercise-related gains in lean body mass, though it is unclear how much of these gains represents added muscle tissue and how much is simply water retention.65

Over 40 double-blind or controlled studies have found creatine supplementation (typically 136 mg per pound of body weight per day or 15 to 25 grams per day for five or six days) improves performance of either single or repetitive bouts of short-duration, high-intensity exercise lasting under 30 seconds each.66 , 67 , 68 , 69 , 70 , 71 , 72 Examples of this type of exercise include weightlifting; sprinting by runners, cyclists, or swimmers; and many types of athletic training regimens for speed and power. About 15 studies did not report enhancement by creatine of this type of performance. These have been criticized for their small size and other research design problems, but it is possible that some people, especially elite athletes, are less likely to benefit greatly from creatine supplementation.73

Fewer studies have investigated whether creatine supplementation benefits continuous high- intensity exercise lasting 30 seconds or longer. Five controlled studies have found creatine beneficial for this type of exercise,74 but one study found no benefit on performance of a military obstacle course run.75 Most studies of endurance performance have found no advantage of creatine supplementation, except perhaps for non-weight bearing exercise such as cycling. 76 , 77 , 78

Long-term use of creatine supplementation is typically done using smaller daily amounts (2 to 5 grams per day) after an initial loading period of several days with 20 grams per day. Very little research has been done to investigate the exercise performance effects of long-term creatine supplementation. One study reported that long-term creatine supplementation improved sprint performance.79 Four controlled long-term trials using untrained women,80 trained men,81 or untrained older adults found that creatine improved gains made in strength and lean body mass from weight-training programs.82 , 83 However, two controlled trials found no advantage of long-term creatine supplementation in weight-training football players.84 , 85

Creatine supplementation appears to increase body weight and lean body mass or fat-free mass, but these measurements do not distinguish between muscle growth and increased water content of muscle.86 , 87 A few double-blind studies using more specific muscle measurements have been done and found that combining creatine supplementation with strength training over several weeks does produce greater increases in muscle size compared with strength training alone.88 , 89 , 90

3 Stars
Multivitamin (Multi-Nutrient Deficiency)
If deficient: 100% Daily Value
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Many athletes do not eat an optimal diet, especially when they are trying to control their weight while training strenuously.91 These athletes may experience micronutrient deficiencies that, even if marginal, could affect performance or cause health problems.92 , 93 , 94 , 95 However, athletes who receive recommended daily allowances of vitamins and minerals from their diet do not appear to benefit from additional multivitamin-mineral supplements with increased performance.96 , 97 , 98

Very little research has been done to evaluate the ergogenic effects of most vitamins or minerals other than those discussed in this article. Supplementation with selenium (180 mcg per day for 10 weeks) had no effect on the results of endurance training in one double-blind trial.99 Vanadyl sulfate, a form of vanadium that may have an insulin -like action, was given to weight-training athletes in a double-blind trial, using 225 mcg per pound of body weight per day, but no effect on body composition was seen after 12 weeks, and effects on strength were inconsistent.100 The importance of other individual vitamins and minerals is discussed elsewhere in this section.

3 Stars
Vitamin C (Reducing Pain and Speeding Muscle Strength Recovery after Intense Exercise)
400 mg daily for several days before and after intense exercise
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Most research has demonstrated that strenuous exercise increases production of harmful substances called free radicals , which can damage muscle tissue and result in inflammation and muscle soreness. Exercising in cities or smoggy areas also increases exposure to free radicals. Antioxidants , including vitamin C and vitamin E , neutralize free radicals before they can damage the body, so antioxidants may aid in exercise recovery. Regular exercise increases the efficiency of the antioxidant defense system, potentially reducing the amount of supplemental antioxidants that might otherwise be needed for protection. However, at least theoretically, supplements of antioxidant vitamins may be beneficial for older or untrained people or athletes who are undertaking an especially vigorous training protocol or athletic event.101 , 102

Placebo-controlled research, some of it double-blind, has shown that taking 400 to 3,000 mg of vitamin C per day for several days before and after intense exercise may reduce pain and speed up muscle strength recovery.103 , 104 , 105 However, taking vitamin C only after such exercise was not effective in another double-blind study.106 While some research has reported that vitamin E supplementation in the amount of 800 to 1,200 IU per day reduces biochemical measures of free radical activity and muscle damage caused by strenuous exercise,107 , 108 , 109 several studies have not found such benefits,110 , 111 , 112 , 113 and no research has investigated the effect of vitamin E on performance-related measures of strenuous exercise recovery. A combination of 90 mg per day of coenzyme Q10 and a very small amount of vitamin E did not produce any protective effects for marathon runners in one double-blind trial,114 while in another double-blind trial a combination of 50 mg per day of zinc and 3 mg per day of copper significantly reduced evidence of post-exercise free radical activity.115

In most well-controlled studies, exercise performance has not been shown to improve following supplementation with vitamin C, unless a deficiency exists, as might occur in athletes with unhealthy or irrational eating patterns.116 , 117 Similarly, vitamin E has not benefited exercise performance, 118 , 119 except possibly at high altitudes. 120 , 121

2 Stars
Asian Ginseng (Endurance Exercise, Muscle Strength)
2 grams of powdered root daily or 200 to 400 mg daily of an herbal extract standardized for 4% ginsenosides
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Extensive but often poorly designed studies have been conducted on the use of Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) to improve athletic performance.122 , 123 While some early controlled studies suggested there might be benefits, several recent double-blind trials have found no significant effects of Asian ginseng on endurance exercise.124 , 125 , 126 In many studies, it is possible that ginseng was used in insufficient amounts or for an inadequate length of time; a more effective regimen for enhancing endurance performance may be 2 grams of powdered root per day or 200 to 400 mg per day of an extract standardized for 4% ginsenosides, taken for eight to twelve weeks.127 Short-term intense exercise has also not been helped by Asian ginseng according to double-blind trials,128 , 129 but one controlled study reported increased pectoral and quadricep muscle strength in non-exercising men and women after taking 1 gram per day of Asian ginseng for six weeks.130 An extract of a related plant, American ginseng  (Panax quinquefolius), was found ineffective at improving endurance exercise performance in untrained people after one week’s supplementation in a double-blind study.[REF]
2 Stars
Casein Protein
Refer to label instructions
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Casein protein is more slowly digested than other animal proteins, resulting in a slower yet more prolonged rise in blood levels of amino acids.131 This has led to speculation that casein may support protein synthesis by the body for a longer period of time compared with proteins, such as whey protein, that are more rapidly digested. However, in two double blind trials, measurements of muscle protein synthesis after leg exercises were similar whether casein or whey protein (either 20 grams or 0.3 grams per 2.2 lbs body weight taken one hour after exercise) was consumed. Other double blind studies have shown that adding protein supplements to a weight-training program improves gains in muscle mass and strength, but only one trial has compared using casein alone to other proteins for improving body composition and muscle strength. In this controlled trial, overweight men were given a low-calorie diet along with a weight training exercise plan for three months. Men who followed this plan and also took 1.5 grams per day of predigested casein protein per 2.2 lbs body weight gained more strength and lean body mass, and lost more body fat than did men using a similar amount of whey protein along with the same diet and exercise plan.
2 Stars
Citrate (High-Intensity, Short- to Intermediate-Duration Exercise)
135 to 225 mg per pound of body weight dissolved in two cups of fluid and taken at least one hour before exercise
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The use of alkalinizing agents, such as sodium bicarbonate, sodium citrate, and phosphate salts (potassium phosphate, sodium acid phosphate, and tribasic sodium phosphate) to enhance athletic performance is designed to neutralize the acids produced during exercise that may interfere with energy production or muscle contraction.132 Some double-blind studies, though not all, have found that sodium bicarbonate or sodium citrate typically improves exercise performance for events lasting either 1 to10 minutes or 30 to 60 minutes.133 , 134 , 135 , 136 , 137 , 138 , 139 , 140 , 141The amounts used are 115 to 180 mg of sodium bicarbonate or 135 to 225 mg of sodium citrate per pound of body weight. These amounts are dissolved in at least two cups of fluid and are taken either as a single ingestion at least one hour before exercise or divided into smaller amounts and taken over several hours before exercise. Performance during periods of less than one minute or between 10 and 30 minutes is not improved by taking alkalinizing agents.142 , 143 , 144 , 145 , 146 Sodium citrate may be preferable to sodium bicarbonate because it causes less gastrointestinal upset.138 Another alkalinizing agent, phosphate salts, has been investigated primarily as an endurance performance enhancer, with very inconsistent results.147 , 148
2 Stars
Coenzyme Q10
Refer to label instructions
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Strenuous physical activity lowers blood levels of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10).149 However, while some studies have shown that CoQ10 improves the way the healthy body responds to exercise,150 other studies have found no improvement.151 , 152 , 153 , 154 A few studies, using at least four weeks of CoQ10 supplementation at 60 to 100 mg per day, have reported improvements in measures of work capacity ranging from 3 to 29% in sedentary people and from 4 to 32% in trained athletes.155 However, recent double-blind and/or placebo-controlled trials in trained athletes, using performance measures such as time to exhaustion and total performance, have found either no significant improvement or significantly poorer results in those taking CoQ10.156 , 157 , 158

2 Stars
Creatine Monohydrate (High-Intensity, Short Duration Exercise or Sports with Alternating Low- and High-Intensity Efforts)
15 to 20 grams a day for five or six days
Learn More

Creatine (creatine monohydrate) is used in muscle tissue for the production of phosphocreatine, a factor in the formation of ATP, the source of energy for muscle contraction and many other functions in the body.159 , 160 Creatine supplementation increases phosphocreatine levels in muscle, especially when accompanied by exercise or carbohydrate intake.161 , 162 It may also increase exercise-related gains in lean body mass, though it is unclear how much of these gains represents added muscle tissue and how much is simply water retention.163

Over 40 double-blind or controlled studies have found creatine supplementation (typically 136 mg per pound of body weight per day or 15 to 25 grams per day for five or six days) improves performance of either single or repetitive bouts of short-duration, high-intensity exercise lasting under 30 seconds each.164 , 165 , 166 , 167 , 168 , 169 , 170 Examples of this type of exercise include weightlifting; sprinting by runners, cyclists, or swimmers; and many types of athletic training regimens for speed and power. About 15 studies did not report enhancement by creatine of this type of performance. These have been criticized for their small size and other research design problems, but it is possible that some people, especially elite athletes, are less likely to benefit greatly from creatine supplementation.171

Fewer studies have investigated whether creatine supplementation benefits continuous high- intensity exercise lasting 30 seconds or longer. Five controlled studies have found creatine beneficial for this type of exercise,172 but one study found no benefit on performance of a military obstacle course run.173 Most studies of endurance performance have found no advantage of creatine supplementation, except perhaps for non-weight bearing exercise such as cycling. 174 , 175 , 176

Long-term use of creatine supplementation is typically done using smaller daily amounts (2 to 5 grams per day) after an initial loading period of several days with 20 grams per day. Very little research has been done to investigate the exercise performance effects of long-term creatine supplementation. One study reported that long-term creatine supplementation improved sprint performance.177 Four controlled long-term trials using untrained women,178 trained men,179 or untrained older adults found that creatine improved gains made in strength and lean body mass from weight-training programs.180 , 181 However, two controlled trials found no advantage of long-term creatine supplementation in weight-training football players.182 , 183

Creatine supplementation appears to increase body weight and lean body mass or fat-free mass, but these measurements do not distinguish between muscle growth and increased water content of muscle.184 , 185 A few double-blind studies using more specific muscle measurements have been done and found that combining creatine supplementation with strength training over several weeks does produce greater increases in muscle size compared with strength training alone.186 , 187 , 188

2 Stars
DHEA (Improved Strength in Older Men)
100 mg daily
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Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands that is used by the body to make the male sex hormone testosterone. In one double-blind trial, 100 mg per day of DHEA was effective for improving strength in older men,189 but 50 mg per day was ineffective in a similar study of elderly men and women.190 DHEA has not been effective for women or younger men in other studies.191 , 192
2 Stars
Electrolytes (Ultra-Endurance Competition)
Refer to label instructions
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Electrolyte replacement is not as important as water intake in most athletic endeavors. It usually takes several hours of exercise in warm climates before sodium depletion becomes significant and even longer for depletions of potassium, chloride, and magnesium to occur.193 Nonetheless, commercial sports drinks containing sodium and potassium may help to replace electrolytes lost in sweating during prolonged exercise, and will often make it easier to drink adequately as well as to retain more fluid.194

Some athletes participating in several hours of exercise have developed a potentially dangerous condition called hyponatremia (low blood sodium levels) even when electrolyte-containing sports drinks were used.195 This condition may be caused by fluid retention due to excessive drinking combined with natural reductions in kidney function during exercise, so some authorities caution against overdrinking during exercise, especially if the exerciser notices that his or her body weight goes up after prolonged physical activity.196

2 Stars
Eleuthero
Refer to label instructions
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Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus) supplementation may improve athletic performance, according to preliminary Russian research.197 Other studies have been inconclusive and two recent double-blind studies showed no beneficial effect on endurance performance in trained men.198 , 199 , 200 Eleuthero strengthens the immune system and thus might reduce the risk of post-exercise infection. Although some doctors suggest taking 1 to 4 ml (0.2 to 0.8 tsp) of fluid extract of eleuthero three times per day, evidence supporting the use of this herb to enhance athletic performance remains weak.

2 Stars
Glutamine (Post-Exercise Infection)
5 grams after exercise, then again two hours later
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The amino acid glutamine appears to play a role in several aspects of human physiology that might benefit athletes, including their muscle function and immune system.201 Intense exercise lowers blood levels of glutamine, which can remain persistently low with overtraining.202 Glutamine supplementation raises levels of growth hormone at an intake of 2 grams per day,203 an effect of interest to some athletes because of the role of growth hormone in stimulating muscle growth,204 and glutamine, given intravenously, was found to be more effective than other amino acids at helping replenish muscle glycogen after exercise.205 However, glutamine supplementation (30 mg per 2.2 pounds body weight) has not improved performance of short-term, high-intensity exercise such as weightlifting or sprint cycling by trained athletes,206 , 207 and no studies on endurance performance or muscle growth have been conducted. Although the effects of glutamine supplementation on immune function after exercise have been inconsistent,208 , 209 double-blind trials giving athletes glutamine (5 grams after intense, prolonged exercise, then again two hours later) reported 81% having no subsequent infection compared with 49% in the placebo group.210

2 Stars
Iron (Iron-Deficiency Anemia)
Consult a qualified healthcare practitioner
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Iron is important for an athlete because it is a component of hemoglobin, which transports oxygen to muscle cells. Some athletes, especially women, do not get enough iron in their diet. In addition, for reasons that are unclear, endurance athletes, such as marathon runners, frequently have low body-iron levels.211 , 212 , 213 However, anemia in athletes is often not due to iron deficiency and may be a normal adaptation to the stress of exercise.214 Supplementing with iron is usually unwise unless a deficiency has been diagnosed. People who experience undue fatigue (an early warning sign of iron deficiency) should have their iron status evaluated by a doctor. Athletes who are found to be iron deficient by a physician are typically given 100 mg per day until blood tests indicate they are no longer deficient. Supplementing iron-deficient athletes with 100 to 200 mg per day of iron increased aerobic exercise performance in some,215 , 216 , 217 though not all,218 , 219 double-blind studies. A recent double-blind trial found that iron-deficient women who took 20 mg per day of iron for six weeks were able to perform knee strength exercises for a longer time without muscle fatigue compared with those taking a placebo.220

2 Stars
Nitric Oxide
4 gram three times per day
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AAKG (arginine alpha-ketoglutarate) is a compound made from the amino acid L-arginine and alpha-ketoglutarate (AKG) a substance formed in the body’s energy-generating process. It has been speculated that AAKG may increase production in muscles of nitric oxide, a substance known to have blood-flow-enhancing effects. A double-blind study gave trained weight lifters either 4 grams of AAKG or a placebo three times a day during an eight-week weight-training regimen. AAKG had no effect on body composition but did improve measures of strength and short-term power performance.221
2 Stars
Phosphatidylserine (Athletic Performance and Enhanced Endurance)
750 mg daily
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In a double-blind study of active young men, supplementation with 750 of soybean-derived phosphatidylserine per day for 10 days increased the time the men could exercise until exhaustion by approximately 25%.222 Longer studies are needed to determine whether this effect would persist with continued supplementation.
2 Stars
Probiotics
Fermented milk containing 6.5 billion live Lactobacillus casei Shirota organisms, twice a day for 16 weeks
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In a double-blind trial, supplementation with a probiotic preparation reduced the frequency of upper respiratory tract infections in training athletes during the winter.223 The product used in the study was fermented milk that contained 6.5 billion live Lactobacillus casei Shirota organisms, given twice a day for 16 weeks. Further research is needed to determine whether other probiotic strains would have the same effect.
2 Stars
Pyruvate (Improving Body Composition with Strength Training in Untrained People)
Refer to label instructions
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One group of researchers in two small, controlled trials has reported that 100 grams of a combination of dihydroxyacetone and pyruvate enhanced the endurance of certain muscles in untrained men.224 , 225 Three controlled studies of untrained individuals using a combination of 6 to 10 grams per day of pyruvate and an exercise program reported greater effects on weight loss and body fat compared with those taking a placebo with the exercise program.226 , 227 , 228 However, in a study of healthy untrained women undergoing an exercise program, supplementing with 5 grams of pyruvate twice a day had no effect on exercise performance.229 Studies of pyruvate supplementation on exercise performance in trained athletes have also failed to demonstrate any beneficial effect. Seven grams per day did not improve aerobic exercise performance in cyclists,230 and an average of 15 grams per day did not improve anaerobic performance or body composition in football players.231 More recently, evidence has appeared casting doubt on the ability of high levels (an average exceeding 15 grams per day depending upon body weight) of pyruvate to improve exercise capacity in a weight-lifting study.232

2 Stars
Pyruvate
100 grams of a combination of dihydroxyacetone and pyruvate
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One group of researchers in two small, controlled trials has reported that 100 grams of a combination of dihydroxyacetone and pyruvate enhanced the endurance of certain muscles in untrained men.233 , 234 Three controlled studies of untrained individuals using a combination of 6 to 10 grams per day of pyruvate and an exercise program reported greater effects on weight loss and body fat compared with those taking a placebo with the exercise program.235 , 236 , 237 However, in a study of healthy untrained women undergoing an exercise program, supplementing with 5 grams of pyruvate twice a day had no effect on exercise performance.238 Studies of pyruvate supplementation on exercise performance in trained athletes have also failed to demonstrate any beneficial effect. Seven grams per day did not improve aerobic exercise performance in cyclists,239 and an average of 15 grams per day did not improve anaerobic performance or body composition in football players.240 More recently, evidence has appeared casting doubt on the ability of high levels (an average exceeding 15 grams per day depending upon body weight) of pyruvate to improve exercise capacity in a weight-lifting study.241

2 Stars
Quercetin (Post-Exercise Infection)
500 mg twice a day
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In a double-blind study of trained athletes, the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections following a three-day period of intensive exercise was significantly lower in people who took quercetin than in those who received a placebo (5% versus 45%).242 The amount of quercetin used was 500 mg twice a day, beginning three weeks before, and continuing for two weeks after, the intensive exercise.
2 Stars
Rhodiola (General Endurance)
200 mg of an herbal extract, standardized to contain 3% rosavin plus 1% salidroside, taken one hour before endurance exercise
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In a double-blind trial, healthy volunteers received 200 mg of an extract of Rhodiola rosea (standardized to contain 3% rosavin plus 1% salidroside) or a placebo one hour prior to an endurance-exercise test. Compared with placebo, rhodiola significantly increased endurance, as measured by the time it took to become exhausted.243 However, after daily use of rhodiola for four weeks, the herb no longer enhanced short-term endurance. Consequently, if rhodiola is being considered as an exercise aid, it should be used only occasionally.
2 Stars
Soy (Exercise Recovery)
33 to 40 grams daily
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In one preliminary study, elderly men participating in a 12-week strength training program took a liquid supplement containing 10 grams of protein (part of which was soy protein), 7 grams of carbohydrate, and 3 grams of fat either immediately following exercise or two hours later.244 Men taking the supplement immediately following exercise experienced significantly greater gains in muscle growth and lean body mass than those supplementing two hours later, but strength gains were no different between the two groups. A controlled study of female gymnasts found that adding 0.45 grams of soy protein (0.45 grams per pound of body weight per day) to a diet that was adequate in protein during a four-month training program did not improve lean body mass compared with a placebo.245 No research has compared different sources of protein to see whether one source, such as soy protein, has a better or more consistent effect on exercise recovery or the results of strength training.

2 Stars
Tart Cherry (Reducing Pain and Speeding Muscle Strength Recovery after Intense Exercise)
8–12 ounces twice daily of a tart cherry juice product equivalent to at least 80 mg per day of anthocyanins or 100–120 cherries daily
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An animal study found reduced blood measures of muscle damage after strenuous exercise when the animals were fed tart cherry juice prior to exercise.246 In a small, double-blind study, young men drank 12 ounces twice daily of tart cherry juice blended with apple juice [note: ratio not given in study], equivalent to 80 mg per day of anthocyanins or 100 to 120 cherries per day. After eight days the men performed intense elbow flexion exercises, and after drinking tart cherry juice this exercise resulted in less muscle pain and loss of strength compared to after drinking a placebo juice.247 In a small double-blind study, trained athletes took about one ounce twice daily of a tart cherry juice concentrate, containing about 550 mg per day of anthocyanin, for ten days beginning seven days before an intense session of weight-training leg exercises. Compared to when they took a placebo concentrate, taking tart cherry concentrate resulted in faster recovery of leg muscle strength after the exercise.248 Two double-blind trials investigated the effects of tart cherry juice in long distance runners. In one small double-blind trial,249 drinking eight ounces twice daily of tart cherry juice blended with apple juice, [note: ratio not given] equivalent to 80 mg per day of anthocyanins or 100 to 120 cherries per day, for eight days beginning five days before a marathon resulted in faster recovery of leg muscle strength and smaller elevations in post-race blood measures of inflammation. However, there was no difference in muscle soreness or in post-race blood measures of muscle damage. In another, larger double-blind trial,250 long distance runners who drank 10.5 ounces twice daily of tart cherry juice blended with apple juice, [note: ratio not given] equivalent to 80 mg per day of anthocyanins or 100 to 120 cherries per day, for eight days beginning one week before the race reported only one-third as much post-race muscle pain compared to those who used a placebo juice.
2 Stars
Vitamin C (Vitamin C Deficiency)
If deficient: 100 to 200 mg daily
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Most research has demonstrated that strenuous exercise increases production of harmful substances called free radicals , which can damage muscle tissue and result in inflammation and muscle soreness. Exercising in cities or smoggy areas also increases exposure to free radicals. Antioxidants , including vitamin C and vitamin E , neutralize free radicals before they can damage the body, so antioxidants may aid in exercise recovery. Regular exercise increases the efficiency of the antioxidant defense system, potentially reducing the amount of supplemental antioxidants that might otherwise be needed for protection. However, at least theoretically, supplements of antioxidant vitamins may be beneficial for older or untrained people or athletes who are undertaking an especially vigorous training protocol or athletic event.251 , 252

Placebo-controlled research, some of it double-blind, has shown that taking 400 to 3,000 mg of vitamin C per day for several days before and after intense exercise may reduce pain and speed up muscle strength recovery.253 , 254 , 255 However, taking vitamin C only after such exercise was not effective in another double-blind study.256 While some research has reported that vitamin E supplementation in the amount of 800 to 1,200 IU per day reduces biochemical measures of free radical activity and muscle damage caused by strenuous exercise,257 , 258 , 259 several studies have not found such benefits,260 , 261 , 262 , 263 and no research has investigated the effect of vitamin E on performance-related measures of strenuous exercise recovery. A combination of 90 mg per day of coenzyme Q10 and a very small amount of vitamin E did not produce any protective effects for marathon runners in one double-blind trial,264 while in another double-blind trial a combination of 50 mg per day of zinc and 3 mg per day of copper significantly reduced evidence of post-exercise free radical activity.265

In most well-controlled studies, exercise performance has not been shown to improve following supplementation with vitamin C, unless a deficiency exists, as might occur in athletes with unhealthy or irrational eating patterns.266 , 267 Similarly, vitamin E has not benefited exercise performance, 268 , 269 except possibly at high altitudes. 270 , 271

2 Stars
Vitamin E (Exercise Recovery, High-Altitude Exercise Performance)
400 IU daily
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Most research has demonstrated that strenuous exercise increases production of harmful substances called free radicals , which can damage muscle tissue and result in inflammation and muscle soreness. Exercising in cities or smoggy areas also increases exposure to free radicals. Antioxidants , including vitamin C and vitamin E , neutralize free radicals before they can damage the body, so antioxidants may aid in exercise recovery. Regular exercise increases the efficiency of the antioxidant defense system, potentially reducing the amount of supplemental antioxidants that might otherwise be needed for protection. However, at least theoretically, supplements of antioxidant vitamins may be beneficial for older or untrained people or athletes who are undertaking an especially vigorous training protocol or athletic event.272 , 273

Placebo-controlled research, some of it double-blind, has shown that taking 400 to 3,000 mg of vitamin C per day for several days before and after intense exercise may reduce pain and speed up muscle strength recovery.274 , 275 , 276 However, taking vitamin C only after such exercise was not effective in another double-blind study.277 While some research has reported that vitamin E supplementation in the amount of 800 to 1,200 IU per day reduces biochemical measures of free radical activity and muscle damage caused by strenuous exercise,278 , 279 , 280 several studies have not found such benefits,281 , 282 , 283 , 284 and no research has investigated the effect of vitamin E on performance-related measures of strenuous exercise recovery. A combination of 90 mg per day of coenzyme Q10 and a very small amount of vitamin E did not produce any protective effects for marathon runners in one double-blind trial,285 while in another double-blind trial a combination of 50 mg per day of zinc and 3 mg per day of copper significantly reduced evidence of post-exercise free radical activity.286

In most well-controlled studies, exercise performance has not been shown to improve following supplementation with vitamin C, unless a deficiency exists, as might occur in athletes with unhealthy or irrational eating patterns.287 , 288 Similarly, vitamin E has not benefited exercise performance, 289 , 290 except possibly at high altitudes. 291 , 292

2 Stars
Whey Protein
20 grams daily up to 1.2 grams of per 2.2 of pounds body weight per day
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Animal studies suggest that whey protein can increase gains in lean body mass resulting from exercise.293 A controlled trial found that six weeks of strength training while taking 1.2 grams of whey protein per 2.2 of pounds body weight per day resulted in greater gains in lean body mass, but improved only one out of four strength tests.294 Another controlled study found that people taking 20 grams per day of whey protein for three months performed better on a test of short-term intense cycling exercise than people taking a similar amount of milk protein (casein).295 However, a double-blind trial found that men taking 1.5 grams per 2.2 lbs of body weight per day of predigested whey protein for 12 weeks along with a strength training exercise program gained only half as much lean body mass and had significantly smaller increases in strength compared with men using a similar amount of predigested casein along with strength training.296 A controlled study of HIV-infected women found that adding whey protein to strength training exercise was no more effective than exercise alone for increasing strength or improving body composition.297

1 Star
Alpha Ketoglutarate (AKG)
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AKG (alpha-ketoglutarate) is used by cells during growth and in healing from injuries and other wounds ,298 and is especially important in the healing of muscle tissue.299 A controlled study found that intravenous AKG prevented a decline in protein synthesis in the muscles of patients recovering from surgery.300 , 301 For these reasons, it has been speculated that oral AKG supplements might help improve strength or muscle-mass gains by weight lifters, but no research has been done to test this theory.
1 Star
American Ginseng
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Extensive but often poorly designed studies have been conducted on the use of Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) to improve athletic performance.302 , 303While some early controlled studies suggested there might be benefits, several recent double-blind trials have found no significant effects of Asian ginseng on endurance exercise.304 , 305 , 306In many studies, it is possible that ginseng was used in insufficient amounts or for an inadequate length of time; a more effective regimen for enhancing endurance performance may be 2 grams of powdered root per day or 200 to 400 mg per day of an extract standardized for 4% ginsenosides, taken for eight to twelve weeks.307Short-term intense exercise has also not been helped by Asian ginseng according to double-blind trials,308 , 309 but one controlled study reported increased pectoral and quadricep muscle strength in non-exercising men and women after taking 1 gram per day of Asian ginseng for six weeks.310 An extract of a related plant, American Gingseng (Panax quinquefolius), was found ineffective at improving endurance exercise performance in untrained people after one week’s supplementation in a double-blind study.311

Standardized extracts of American ginseng, unlike Asian ginseng, are not available. However, dried root powder, 1–3 grams per day in capsule or tablet form, can be used. Some herbalists also recommend 3–5 ml of tincture three times per day.
1 Star
Arginine (Body Composition and Strength)
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At very high intakes (approximately 250 mg per 2.2 pounds of body weight), the amino acid arginine has increased growth hormone levels,312 an effect that has interested body builders due to the role of growth hormone in stimulating muscle growth.313 However, at lower amounts recommended by some manufacturers (5 grams taken 30 minutes before exercise), arginine failed to increase growth hormone release and may even have impaired the release of growth hormone in younger adults.314 Large quantities (170 mg per 2.2 pounds of body weight per day) of a related amino acid, ornithine , have also raised growth hormone levels in some athletes.315 High amounts of arginine or ornithine do not appear to raise levels of insulin,316 , 317 another anabolic (bodybuilding) hormone. More modest amounts of a combination of these amino acids have not had measurable effects on any anabolic hormone levels during exercise.318 , 319

Nonetheless, double-blind trials conducted by one group of researchers, combining weight training with either arginine and ornithine (500 mg of each, twice per day, five times per week) or placebo, found the amino-acid combination produced decreases in body fat,320 resulted in higher total strength and lean body mass, and reduced evidence of tissue breakdown after only five weeks.321

1 Star
Aspartic Acid
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Aspartic acid is a non-essential amino acid that participates in many biochemical reactions relating to energy and protein. Preliminary, though conflicting, animal and human research suggested a role for aspartic acid (in the form of potassium and magnesium aspartate) in reducing fatigue during exercise.322 However, most studies have found aspartic acid useless in improving either athletic performance or the body’s response to exercise.323 , 324 , 325 , 326 , 327
1 Star
Beta-Sitosterol with Beta-Sitosterol Glucoside (Post-Exercise Infection)
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Beta-sitosterol , (BSS) a natural sterol found in many plants, has been shown in a double-blind trial to improve immune function in marathon runners when combined with a related substance called B-sitosterol glucoside (BSSG).328 This implies that beta-sitosterol might reduce infections in athletes who engage in intensive exercise, though studies are still needed to prove this. The usual amount of this combination used in research is 20 mg of BSS and 200 mcg of BSSG three times per day.

1 Star
Branched-Chain Amino Acids (Post-Exercise Infection at Extreme Temperatures)
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Some research has shown that supplemental branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) (typically 10 to 20 grams per day) do not result in meaningful changes in body composition,329 nor do they improve exercise performance or enhance the effects of physical training.330 , 331 , 332 , 333 , 334 , 335 However, BCAA supplementation may be useful in special situations, such as preventing muscle loss at high altitudes and prolonging endurance performance in the heat.336 , 337 One controlled study gave triathletes 6 grams per day of BCAA for one month before a competition, then 3 grams per day from the day of competition until a week following. Compared with a placebo, BCAA restored depleted glutamine stores and immune factors that occur in elite athletes, and led to a reported one-third fewer symptoms of infection during the period of supplementation.338 Studies by one group of researchers suggest that BCAA supplementation may also improve exercise-induced declines in some aspects of mental functioning.339 , 340 , 341

1 Star
Cayenne
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Capsaicin ointment , applied four times per day over painful joints in the upper or lower limbs, reduces pain caused by osteoarthritis,342 and a plaster containing capsaicin applied to the low back for several hours per day provided relief from chronic low back pain in one study.343 Other uses of cayenne or capsaicin for sports and fitness have not been studied.
1 Star
Chromium
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Chromium , primarily in a form called chromium picolinate, has been studied for its potential role in altering body composition. Preliminary research in animals and humans suggested that chromium picolinate might increase fat loss and lean muscle tissue gain when used with a weight-training program.344 , 345 , 346 However, most studies have found little to no effect of chromium on body composition or strength.347 , 348 , 349 , 350 , 351 One group of researchers has reported significant reductions in body fat in double-blind trials using 200 to 400 mcg per day of chromium for six to twelve weeks in middle-aged adults,352 , 353 but the methods used in these studies have been criticized.354
1 Star
Conjugated Linoleic Acid
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Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is a slightly altered form of the essential fatty acid linoleic acid. Animal research suggests an effect of CLA supplementation on reducing body fat.355 , 356 Controlled human research has reported that 5.6 to 7.2 grams per day of CLA produces only non-significant gains in muscle size and strength in experienced and inexperienced weight-training men.357 , 358 , 359 A double-blind study of a group of trained men and women reported reduced body fat in the upper arm after 12 weeks of supplementation with 1.8 grams per day of CLA.360 Further research using more accurate techniques for measuring body composition is needed to confirm these findings.

1 Star
Copper
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In one double-blind trial a combination of 50 mg per day of zinc and 3 mg per day of copper significantly reduced evidence of post-exercise free radical activity.361

Exercise increases zinc losses from the human body, and severe zinc deficiency can compromise muscle function.362 , 363 Athletes who do not eat an optimal diet, especially those who are trying to control their weight or use fad diets while exercising strenuously, may become deficient in zinc to the extent that performance or health is compromised.364 , 365 One double-blind trial in women found that 135 mg per day of zinc for two weeks improved one measure of muscle strength.366 Whether these women were zinc deficient was not determined in this study. A double-blind study of male athletes with low blood levels of zinc found that 20 mg per day of zinc improved the flexibility of the red blood cells during exercise, which could benefit blood flow to the muscles.367 No other studies of the effects of zinc supplementation in exercising people have been done. A safe amount of zinc for long-term use is 20 to 40 mg per day along with 1 to 2 mg of copper. Higher amounts should be taken only under the supervision of a doctor.

1 Star
Deer Antler Extract
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Deer antler base has a long history of use in Chinese medicine, and deer antler extract is being studied to determine its potential as a way to improve athletic performance.368 , 369The extract is purported to contain insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), which is a banned substance for many professional athletic competitions.
1 Star
Eucalyptus Topical
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Eucalyptus -based rubs have been found to warm muscles in athletes.370 This suggests that eucalyptus may help relieve minor muscle soreness when applied topically, though studies are needed to confirm this possibility.
1 Star
Gamma Oryzanol
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Gamma oryzanol is a mixture of sterols and ferulic acid esters. Despite claims that gamma oryzanol or its components increase testosterone levels, stimulate the release of endorphins, and promote the growth of lean muscle tissue, research has provided little support for these claims and has also shown gamma-oryzanol to be poorly absorbed.371 A recent nine-week, double-blind trial of 500 mg per day of gamma-oryzanol in weight lifters found no benefit compared with placebo in strength performance gains or circulating anabolic hormones.372 However, a small, double-blind trial using 30 mg per day of ferulic acid for eight weeks in trained weight lifters did find significantly more weight gain (though lean body mass was not measured) and increased strength in one of three measures compared with placebo.373

1 Star
Guaraná
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Some athletes take guaraná during their training; however, there is no scientific research to support this use. Guaraná contains caffeine . Another caffeine-containing herb sometimes used during training is kola nut.
1 Star
HMB (Improving Body Composition with Strength Training in Untrained People)
3 grams daily
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HMB (beta hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate) is a metabolite (breakdown product) of leucine, one of the essential branched-chain amino acids .  Biochemical and animal research show that HMB has a role in protein synthesis and might, therefore, improve muscle growth and overall body composition when given as a supplement. However, double-blind human research suggests that HMB may only be effective when combined with an exercise program in people who are not already highly trained athletes. Double-blind trials found no effect of 3 to 6 grams per day of HMB on body weight, body fat, or overall body composition in weight-training football players or other trained athletes.374 , 375 , 376 , 377 , 378 However, one double-blind study found that 3 grams per day of HMB increased the amount of body fat lost by 70-year old adults who were participating in a strength-training program for the first time.379 A double-blind study of young men with no strength-training experience reported greater improvements in muscle mass (but not in percentage body fat) when HMB was used in the amount of 17 mg per pound of body weight per day.380 However, another group of men in the same study given twice as much HMB did not experience any changes in body composition.
1 Star
Kola
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Some athletes take guaraná during their training; however, there is no scientific research to support this use. Guaraná contains caffeine . Another caffeine-containing herb sometimes used during training is kola nut.
1 Star
L-Carnitine
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L-carnitine , which is normally manufactured by the human body, has been popular as a potential ergogenic aid (i.e., having the ability to increase work capacity), because of its role in the conversion of fat to energy.381 However, while some studies have found that L-carnitine improves certain measures of muscle physiology, research on the effects of 2 to 4 grams of L-carnitine per day on performance have produced inconsistent results.382 L-carnitine may be effective in certain intense exercise activities leading to exhaustion,383 but recent studies have reported that L-carnitine supplementation does not benefit non-exhaustive or even marathon-level endurance exercise,384 , 385 anaerobic performance,386 or lean body mass in weight lifters.387

1 Star
Magnesium
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Magnesium deficiency can reduce exercise performance and contribute to muscle cramps, but sub-optimal intake does not appear to be a problem among most groups of athletes.388 , 389 Controlled trials suggest that magnesium supplementation might improve some aspects of physiology important to sports performance in some athletes,390 , 391 but controlled and double-blind trials focusing on performance benefits of 212 to 500 mg per day of magnesium have been inconsistent.392 , 393 , 394 , 395 , 396 , 397 It is possible that magnesium supplementation benefits only those who are deficient or who are not highly trained athletes. 398 , 399
1 Star
Medium-Chain Triglycerides
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Medium chain triglycerides (MCT) contain a class of fatty acids found only in very small amounts in the diet; they are more rapidly absorbed and burned as energy than are other fats.400 For this reason, athletes have been interested in their use, especially during prolonged endurance exercise. However, no effect on carbohydrate sparing or endurance exercise performance has been shown with moderate amounts of MCT (30 to 45 grams over two to three hours).401 , 402 Controlled trials using very large amounts of MCT (approximately 85 grams over two hours) have resulted in both increased and decreased performance,403 , 404 while a double-blind trial found that 60 grams per day of MCT for two weeks had no effect on endurance performance.405 A controlled study found increased performance when MCTs were added to a 10% carbohydrate solution,406 but another study found no advantage of adding MCT,407 and a third trial actually reported decreased performance with this combination, probably due to gastrointestinal distress, in athletes using MCTs.408
1 Star
Methoxyisoflavone
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Methoxyisoflavone is a member of the family flavonoids (isoflavones). In a U.S. Patent, the developers of this substance claim, based on preliminary animal research, that it possesses anabolic (muscle-building and bone-building) effects without the side effects seen with either androgenic (male) hormones or estrogenic (female) hormones.409 A preliminary controlled trial found that strength-training athletes who took 800 mg per day of methoxyisoflavone for eight weeks experienced a significantly greater reduction in percentage body fat than those who took a placebo.410 Double-blind research is needed to confirm these findings. The U.S. patent also claims methoxyisoflavone reduces appetite and lowers blood cholesterol levels. Whether this claim is true has not yet been demonstrated in published scientific research.
1 Star
Octacosanol
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Wheat germ oil, which contains a waxy substance known as octacosanol , has been investigated as an ergogenic agent. Preliminary studies have suggested that octacosanol improves endurance, reaction time, and other measures of exercise capacity.411 In another preliminary trial, supplementation with 1 mg per day of octacosanol for eight weeks improved grip strength and visual reaction time, but it had no effect on chest strength, auditory reaction time, or endurance.412

1 Star
Ornithine Alpha-Ketoglutarate
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Ornithine alpha-ketoglutarate (OKG) is formed from the amino acids ornithine and glutamine and is believed to facilitate muscle growth by enhancing the body’s release of anabolic hormones. While this effect has been found in studies on hospitalized patients and elderly people,413 , 414 no studies on muscle growth in athletes using OKG have been published.

1 Star
Ribose
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Ribose is a type of sugar used by the body to make the energy-containing substance adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Intense exercise depletes muscle cells of ATP as well as the ATP precursors made from ribose,415 , 416 though these deficits are typically replaced within minutes.417 Unpublished reports suggested that ribose supplementation might increase power during short, intense bouts of exercise.418 , 419 However, in a double-blind study, exercisers took four grams of ribose four times per day during a six-day strength-training regimen, and no effects on muscle power or ATP recovery in exercised muscles were found.420 In two other controlled studies, either 10 grams of ribose per day for five days or 8 grams every 12 hours for 36 hours resulted in only minor improvements in some measures of performance during repetitive sprint cycling.421 , 422

1 Star
Rice Protein
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Compared with other protein supplements, rice protein has more of the amino acid arginine, and since arginine is a vasodilator that can enhance blood flow to tissues, some athletes believe rice protein may also improve blood flow to muscle to enhance growth and repair. However, no research has investigated the effects of rice protein on athletic performance.

1 Star
Tribulus
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Extracts of Tribulus terrestris (puncture vine) have been reported in preliminary studies to affect anabolic hormones in men.423 However, a double-blind trial found no effect of 1.5 mg per day of tribulus per pound of body weight on improving body composition or strength performance results from an eight-week strength training program.424

1 Star
Vitamin B-Complex
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The B-complex vitamins are important for athletes, because they are needed to produce energy from carbohydrates. Exercisers may have slightly increased requirements for some of the B vitamins, including vitamin B2 , vitamin B6 , and vitamin B5 ( pantothenic acid );425 athletic performance can suffer if these slightly increased needs are not met.426 However, most athletes obtain enough B vitamins from their diet without supplementation,427 and supplementation studies have found no positive effect on performance measures for vitamin B2,428 , 429 vitamin B3 ( niacin ),430 or vitamin B6.431 On the contrary, large amounts of niacin have been shown to impair endurance performance.432

1 Star
Yohimbe
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The ability of yohimbine , a chemical found in yohimbe bark, to stimulate the nervous system,433 , 434 promote the release of fat from fat cells,435 , 436 and affect the cardiovascular system 437 has led to claims that yohimbe might help athletic performance or improve body composition. However, a double-blind study of men who were not dieting reported no effect of up to 43 mg per day of yohimbine on weight or body composition after six months.438 No research has tested yohimbe herb for effects on body composition, and no human research has investigated the ability of yohimbine or yohimbe to affect athletic performance. Other studies have determined that a safe daily amount of yohimbine is 15 to 30 mg.439 However, people with kidney disorders should not take yohimbe, and side effects of nausea, dizziness, or nervousness may occur that necessitate reducing or stopping yohimbe supplementation.

1 Star
Zinc
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Exercise increases zinc losses from the human body, and severe zinc deficiency can compromise muscle function.440 , 441 Athletes who do not eat an optimal diet, especially those who are trying to control their weight or use fad diets while exercising strenuously, may become deficient in zinc to the extent that performance or health is compromised.442 , 443 One double-blind trial in women found that 135 mg per day of zinc for two weeks improved one measure of muscle strength.444 Whether these women were zinc deficient was not determined in this study. A double-blind study of male athletes with low blood levels of zinc found that 20 mg per day of zinc improved the flexibility of the red blood cells during exercise, which could benefit blood flow to the muscles.445 No other studies of the effects of zinc supplementation in exercising people have been done. A safe amount of zinc for long-term use is 20 to 40 mg per day along with 1 to 2 mg of copper. Higher amounts should be taken only under the supervision of a doctor.

References

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12. Borsheim E, Tipton KD, Wolf SE, Wolfe RR. Essential amino acids and muscle protein recovery from resistance exercise. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 2002;283:E648–57.

13. Levenhagen DK, Gresham JD, Carlson MG, et al. Postexercise nutrient intake timing in humans is critical to recovery of leg glucose and protein homeostasis. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 2001;280:E982–3.

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15. Chandler RM, Byrne HK, Patterson JG, Ivy JL. Dietary supplements affect the anabolic hormones after weight-training exercise. J Appl Physiol 1994;76:839–45.

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28. Jentjens RL, van Loon LJ, Mann CH, et al. Addition of protein and amino acids to carbohydrates does not enhance postexercise muscle glycogen synthesis. J Appl Physiol 2001;91:839–46.

29. Van Hall G, Shirreffs SM, Calbet JA. Muscle glycogen resynthesis during recovery from cycle exercise: no effect of additional protein ingestion. J Appl Physiol 2000;88:1631–6.

30. Carrithers JA, Williamson DL, Gallagher PM, et al. Effects of postexercise carbohydrate-protein feedings on muscle glycogen restoration. J Appl Physiol 2000;88:1976–82.

31. Van Loon LJ, Saris WH, Kruijshoop M, Wagenmakers AJ. Maximizing postexercise muscle glycogen synthesis: carbohydrate supplementation and the application of amino acid or protein hydrolysate mixtures. Am J Clin Nutr 2000;72:106–11.

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33. Gibala MJ. Dietary protein, amino acid supplements, and recovery from exercise. Sports Sci Exch 2002;15:1–4.

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