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The Facts on Performance Enhancing Supplements Marketed to Runners

Help or hype? Both, but the FDA Doesn’t Regulate Them

© 2010 ; all rights reserved; content may not be copied, rewritten, or republished without author’s written permission. Author’s Google profile

Many fitness supplements are a waste of money; photo © KSmith Media, LLC

There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of nutrition supplements marketed today. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, here comes the next one. Weight loss supplements are always big sellers, hair restoring supplements rarely work, and male performance enhancing miracles have come a long way since powdered rhinoceros horns.

All well and good, but the ones we’re concerned with in this article are performance enhancing supplements targeted to runners.

The Nutritional Supplement Industry Skates Around the FDA

Regardless of claims made, the ugly little truth is that these are nothing like over-the-counter and prescription drugs. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) imposes no legal requirement on these products. Nowhere do they have to show that they actually do what they claim.

This is not to say there are no legitimate products out there. It just means the market is wide open to snake oil salesmen. When you consider how much these potions typically cost, many athletes are flushing some money that could have gone to a new pair of racing flats down the proverbial toilet. Literally.

How Big is the Big Supplement Market?

How many of you are betting your hard-earned dollars that you’ll gain an edge over your competition on race day by using them? Running Times magazine tells us, “Most studies on supplement use show a prevalence of 50% among athletes, with annual sales for the supplement industry estimated at over $17 billion.”

When you think about the liberal media hype and how they castigate big oil and big pharma, perhaps they could spend some babble time reporting on big supplement.

The FDA’s stance on products new and existing is that it doesn’t regulate any substance that “doesn’t claim to prevent, treat, or cure disease,” so you really don’t have the vaguest idea what kind of nasty stuff is going into your body.

This is especially true with products that are imported. To add insult to injury, fitness supplement makers are not even at a minimum required to prove whether their concoctions are safe or not. Bottom line? Caveat emptor.

Supplements that May Have Validity

There are a few products that (in my opinion) may actually work as claimed.


  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  2. Federal Drug Administration
  3. Running Times magazine

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