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Supplements & Ergogenic Aids: Effects on Performance

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  • 0:02 Ergogenic Aids
  • 1:01 Vitamin & Mineral Supplements
  • 2:23 Muscle Building
  • 3:27 Short/Intense Activities
  • 4:19 Endurance Activities
  • 5:32 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

Many supplements and ergogenic aids are marketed to enhance athletic performance. Some are beneficial, but others provide little benefit and may be a health risk. Learn about chromium picolinate, anabolic steroids, creatine, caffeine and carnitine in this lesson.

Ergogenic Aids

The motto of the Olympic Games is made up of three Latin words that when translated mean faster - higher - stronger. Since the early days of Olympic competition, athletes have tried to enhance their performance by using ergogenic aids, which are substances intended to enhance athletic performance. The term ergogenic means work producing, and it might help you to recall this term if you think of 'ergogenic' aids as things that 'urge' more work out of an athlete's body.

While there is no substitute for talent, hard work and a nutritious diet, many athletes try ergogenic aids in hopes of finding an edge over their competition. This desire for more has resulted in a multi-billion dollar industry with new products routinely hitting the market. In this lesson, we will look at some of the popular supplements and nutritional ergogenic aids and how they affect an athlete's performance.

Vitamin & Mineral Supplements

Some of the most common ergogenic aids are vitamin and mineral supplements. These supplements are generally regarded as safe and are, therefore, attractive to competitive athletes and casual athletes alike. They are promoted using the promise of the known biochemical functions of the nutrients.

For example, B vitamins are known to help with muscle energy production and, therefore, marketed to athletes looking for more energy. However, while a deficiency of B vitamins can interfere with energy production, most athletes are able to obtain sufficient amounts of these nutrients through their diet. So there's little evidence that adding additional B vitamins enhances performance.

Chromium picolinate is a supplement that contains the mineral chromium, which helps insulin to be used more efficiently. Because insulin promotes protein synthesis, which builds muscles, this supplement is marketed to athletes looking to increase lean body mass. It might help you to recall this term if you recall that chromium picolinate would be the top pick for those who want to make their body look lean and mean, just like chrome wheels are the top pick for those who want to make a hot rod look lean and mean. However, as we see with many ergogenic aids, when subjected to scientific study, chromium picolinate has not shown significant benefits.

Muscle Building

Like chromium picolinate, many ergogenic aids are marketed to build muscle, and perhaps no substance is more infamous than anabolic steroids, which are synthetic hormones that promote muscle growth. Anabolic refers to building, somewhat like an annex is something that is built onto a main structure. Anabolic steroids resemble the natural hormone testosterone and work by accelerating the synthesis of protein. Since proteins make up a large portion of muscle, the more proteins you synthesize or make, the larger your muscles can grow.

They are effective, but anabolic steroids come with dangerous side effects. Because they are synthetic testosterone, they fool your body into thinking there is plenty of hormones available, so your body stops producing natural testosterone. But natural testosterone is needed to maintain the male sex organs, so men who abuse anabolic steroids experience a shrinking of the testicles and decreased sperm production.

Short/Intense Activities

Some sports rely on short and intense bursts of energy. Athletes in these sports will look for supplements that provide quick energy that does not need to be sustained; this would include sprinting and power lifting. One popular ergogenic aid is creatine, which is a compound that can be stored in the muscles as creatine phosphate.

Creatine phosphate is a great creator of energy, so it's effective as a performance enhancer in short-burst exercises. During an intense burst of exercise, creatine phosphate easily splits, giving up its phosphate group to help make adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is the energy used by your body. This will help a weight lifter push more weight above his head and give a sprinter more power for about 30 seconds, but it will not do much for endurance athletes.

Endurance Activities

Endurance athletes want an ergogenic aid that helps sustain their energy level. Because the building blocks of fats, known as fatty acids, are the primary source of energy for endurance activities, a nutrient aid that increases the amount of fat available for energy is desired by long-distance athletes.

This includes one of the most used ergogenic aids, caffeine. Caffeine enhances the release of fatty acids, which enhances the athletes' endurance. Caffeine can be taken as a supplement, but it's also found in coffee, tea, soft drinks and energy drinks. Regardless of the source, the effect is the same. However, the effect may be lessened if you consume caffeine too often.

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