Performance Enhancers or Buyer Beware? Ergogenic Aids and Dietary Supplements By Deanna Wolfe
Ergogenic aids are substances that claim to improve exercise efficiency and performance. Discussion of these popular supplements will include the claimed action, the current research, and the potential issues with the product. (Part I of this discussion—Are Dietary Supplements Right for You?—can be found in our December issue and online.)
ne of the most frustrating parts of being in the nutrition profession is hearing time and again that a single pill or supplement is the key to weight loss, lean muscle development, or improved athletic performance. It is important to be aware that dietary supplements can make claims on their labels that are not regulated, meaning it is up to the consumer to do the research and decipher the facts. The most disheartening part of supplement usage is the fact that most consumers rely on hearsay by peers or by athletes sponsored by supplement companies to judge whether a supplement is deemed safe and effective. Considering the enormous amount of sports supplements and ergogenic aids on the market today, here we discuss 72 • au sti nf Itm agazi ne.c om • 01.2 015
a few supplements that have enough scientific research to assess. BCAAs Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) refer to three of the nine total essential amino acids—leucine, valine, and isoleucine. Essential amino acids are amino acids that the body cannot produce on its own, and thus must receive from food. When an individual is in a calorie deficit to lose weight, they may experience an inconvenient loss of both muscle mass and fat mass. However, the thought is that BCAAs can help reduce the breakdown of muscle while still allowing the individual to lose fat mass. Current research is mixed in regards to the effectiveness of branch-chain amino acid supplementation in this claimed action. There are new findings that show
BCAAs may help with muscle recovery and reduced soreness, but further research is still needed. The good news is that BCAAs seem to be safe when used appropriately and have no side effects at dosages of approximately 5-20 grams per day. Although BCAA supplementation has grown in popularity, many overlook the fact that whole foods contain these essential amino acids as well. Protein-rich foods like meat, fish, dairy products, and eggs are the best, most natural sources of BCAAs. Caffeine Caffeine claims to improve sports performance and is one of the few widely studied supplements found to be honest in its claim. Consumption of caffeine prior to exercise has been shown to im-
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