Performance for a Price? Part 3

A new National Collegiate Athletic Association rule prohibits colleges from giving athletes muscle-building supplements such as creatine and androstenedione. Permissible supplements are carbohydrate-electrolyte sports drinks, energy bars, carbohydrate boosters, vitamins and minerals.

However, because the NCAA stopped short of banning the supplements, college players are allowed to purchase the substances themselves at health food stores.

“If it is natural, people think it is safe. Some products sold at health food stores can be very dangerous if manufactured poorly, used improperly or in higher concentrations than recommended,” said Leslie Bonci, director of sports nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. “There are so many supplements infiltrating the market. Some contain unapproved drugs or contaminants that can cause great harm.”

Ephedra is one of the most controversial additives to several supplements on the shelves today. It affects beta-receptors in heart, Jalali said. Ephedra is an ingredient sold in 200 unregulated dietary supplements and marketed as energy boosters and weight-loss aids. Ephedra supplements have been linked to side effects ranging from nervousness, anxiety, a fast heartbeat, high blood pressure and insomnia to kidney stones, psychosis, seizures, heart attack, stroke and death.

“Ephedra has an FDA warning, but it hasn’t been pulled from many health food shelves because it is a big seller,” Jalali said. “People need to carefully read all the ingredients in the supplements they take and make prudent decisions.”

Knowing what you are putting in your body can save your life. Your doctor is your best resource. Always remember, even if you don’t need a prescription to get a supplement, you should always let your doctor know that what you are taking.

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