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The Facts on Performance Enhancing Supplements Marketed to Runners
Help or hype? Both, but the FDA Doesnt Regulate Them
There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of nutrition supplements marketed today. Just when you think youve 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 were 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 youll 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 FDAs stance on products new and existing is that it doesnt regulate any substance that doesnt claim to prevent, treat, or cure disease, so you really dont 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.
- Glucosamine and chondroitin. This is especially good for controlling runners knee and shoulder pain that swimmers may experience. It certainly helps me during the fall when marathon mileage build-up happens.
The effect seems to heightened when the dose contains hyaluronic acid. A study coordinated by University of Utah School of Medicine showed that about 70% of participants experienced statistically significant pain relief versus placebo.
A study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services concluded, For a subset of participants with moderate-to-severe pain, glucosamine combined with chondroitin sulfate provided statistically significant pain relief compared with placebo—about 79 percent had a 20 percent or greater reduction in pain versus about 54 percent for placebo.
- Protein powder. This product is pretty basic and works well. It comes in handy for making shakes and homemade Power Bars. If youre not into all that, save some money and satisfy your nutritional needs with eggs, tuna fish, peanut butter, etc.
- Vitamin C. This one is basic as well. Since its water soluble, you cant overdo it. A lot of claims are made about it, most of which I believe, but at the minimum it will help you avoid the flu and cold that kills training.
Rose hips are particularly high in vitamin C. If you have rose bushes like I do (and only if you are on a 100% organic gardening plan), dice the hips after the petals fall off and make tea with it. Its outstanding.
- Creatine Although supplementing with creatine prior to a race will not help you, using it when you train can improve your speed and endurance.
Other Runners are Reading:
- Are Creatine Supplements Beneficial for Runners?
- Why Long Runs are Important
- How to Safely Use Herbal Supplements
- Diagnose and Treat Iliotibial Band Syndrome
- Basics of Ultramarathon Training
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