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The Truth About Sports-Enhancing Supplements


The Truth About Sports-Enhancing Supplements

Some sports-enhancing supplements can be beneficial, but others can be dangerous. Read on to learn the difference.

Here’s the lowdown on the most popular sports supplements.


Claim: improves athletic endurance


  • enhances performance of trained athletes when low to moderate doses (3 to 6 mg/kg) are taken in supplement form
  • enhances performance when taken 15 to 30 minutes before exercise
  • Benefits high-intensity exercise such as soccer and rugby


  • can cause insomnia, nervousness, irritated stomach, nausea, vomitting, increased heart rate and respiration; large doses may cause irregular heartbeats and even death

DON’T take caffeine with ephedrine.


Claim: improves exercise performance and builds muscle mass


  • builds lean body mass
  • improves athletic performance during brief, high intensity activities such as sprinting
  • works best for young, healthy athletes
  • does not improve strength or body composition in people over 60


  • safe at recommended doses
  • can cause stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea, weight gain, and muscle cramps
  • draws water to muscles from other parts of the body; drink extra water to stay hydrated

DON’T take creatine with caffeine and/or ephedrine; this may cause serious side effects such as stroke.

DON’T take creatine with nephrotoxic drugs that can cause kidney damage.


Claim: supports muscle growth, mass, and strength


  • dairy and whey sources of protein appear to be most effective
  • enhances muscle size (hypertrophy) when ingested shortly after exercise


  • safe for most adults when taken appropriately
  • high doses may cause thirst, bloating, cramps, nausea, and increased bowel movements

DON’T take if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have milk allergies.

Ephedrine (ephedra)

  • Health Canada has issued several notices warning consumers not to use products containing ephedrine (ephedra), either alone or in combination with caffeine and other stimulants, for purposes of weight loss, body building, or increased energy.
  • Ephedrine (ephedra) may be listed on products by names such as “Ma Huang, Chinese Ephedra, Ma Huang extract, Ephedra, Ephedra Sinica, Ephedra extract, Ephedra herb powder, Sida Cordifolia or epitonin, all of which indicate a source of ephedrine.”
  • Use of products containing Ephedra or ephedrine in combination with caffeine and other stimulants may have serious, possibly fatal, adverse effects. Health Canada advises consumers that these products are not authorized for use.Before taking any fitness supplements, consult your health care practitioner.

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