Sort out the supplements, experts say

Some have good aspects, others can do harm
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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Bulking up is often synonymous with gulping down — supplements that is. Many people looking to get cut or enhance their workouts turn to supplements for an extra boost. With each product touting itself as the end-all be-all of sports nutrition, consumers have a variety of choices and little more to base those choices off of than what is on the package. For each product that works, there are others that make empty claims or have unsightly side effects. According to Sutter independent physician Dr. Mark Vaughan of the Auburn Medical Group, the claims made by most companies are unreliable because they choose not to become approved by the Federal Drug Administration. “Part of the reason is that producers don’t go through the FDA. Without going through the FDA process you don’t have to show anything,” Vaughan said. “You don’t know that what they say is in it is really in it. You are just trusting that person.” Vaughan said the fine print is often a more reliable source of information. “There is always a statement associated with these products that they are not intended to diagnose or treat any condition,” Vaughan said. “Basically it is saying, ‘we make no claim whatsoever.’” He also advocates that workout buffs can get the protein and amino acids they need through their diet. For example, all of the essential amino acids are found in meat. Energy Drinks Many who are looking to gain an extra edge drink energy drinks before a workout. Vaughan said people have to pay back the energy those give them later because they deplete cells. That results in big crashes in energy. Glucosamine chondroitin Courthouse Athletic Fitness Director, Rich Smith agrees that supplements are no replacement for a healthy diet. He does use some himself, though. “I would say the most common supplement is glucosamine chondroitin,” Smith said. “I think it’s great. It lubricates the joints.” When it comes to glucosamine chondroitin, Vaughan said studies have shown that it does make a difference in people who have moderate to severe pain. He said drugs like ibuprofen, which reduces inflammation, are the most effective. Protein Shakes and Creatine Smith also drinks Muscle Milk, but cautions that people make sure they are adjusting their diet to accommodate it. According to Smith, while they have their benefits, many protein drinks contain high amounts of sugar. “Some of these are very good. You have to look at sugar,” Smith said. “Sugar is like the devil of exercise. I tell people to control their portions, sugar and alcohol. I’m not discriminating against alcohol, it is just 80 percent sugar.” Smith said good, old-fashioned vitamin C is one supplement that helps rebuild muscles. Smith and Vaughan agree that while creatine supplements often work temporarily, they have little place in building a truly sculpted body. “More than anything what people shouldn’t take is creatine,” Smith said. “All it does is puff you up. You will be back down as soon as you quit taking it.” Nicholas Van Every of Auburn who works out at Total Fitness has taken creatine in the past, but has since sworn it off. “I used to take a lot of stuff like creatine,” Van Every said. “It worked but just makes you retain water.” Now he drinks protein shakes, but is questioning their effectiveness. “I take protein because I don’t eat right. Honestly I don’t notice it working though,” Van Every said. Marc Beccio of Auburn said having a protein drink post-workout does the trick for him. “I take Muscle Milk Protein complex after I work out,” Beccio said. “If you don’t get enough protein after a work out, your muscles don’t recover. I used to take creatine and it did kind of help with my endurance, but it was kind of a hassle.” People who use protein shakes to lose weight or gain muscle often don’t maintain their gains and losses over time if they go off of them, according to Vaughan. He said a healthy diet is the best solution. Anabolic Steroids Even worse than creatine are anabolic steroids, Smith and Vaughan said. While they do build muscle, Vaughan said the cost is lowered testosterone production, which causes men to grow breasts, become impotent and develop psychotic episodes called “roid rage.” Smith said while many products offer the allure of quick results, with less work, seeing real results long-term actually rests on a simple philosophy. “I tell (my clients) don’t take steroids, have a good nutritional diet and be exercising properly,” Smith said. Reach Sara Seyydin at