Supplements: Behind the Flashy Ads

This month I wanted to take the opportunity to cover a common topic but with a little bit of a different tone this month. Supplements, as we know, can be a great addition to any athlete’s training program. But, on the same side of the coin, athletes — especially those with Olympic aspirations — need to be wary of what you’re taking. Not just for the simple fact that, if you’re a drug-tested athlete you could test positive and be labeled a cheat, but also because some ingredients can have deleterious effects on the human body.

The reason I felt compelled to write about this is because a couple of weeks ago I was traveling and happened to be on the deck of a pool while some local teams were training. I noticed next to a swim bag was a container of a supplement called Jack3d. This is a pre-workout “enhancement” product that is, for the most part, getting rave reviews from fitness enthusiasts around the country for helping “pump up” their workouts. But this is also a product that USA Swimming sent out a notice to coaches and athletes about, back in July, letting them know it contains an ingredient, (1, 3 Dimethylamylamine) that will cause them to test positive and fail an anti-doping test. Now, the teams that were training didn’t — as far as I know — have any athletes with them that are subject to drug testing, but they also didn’t have any swimmers that could be classified as an adult, either. So with some general presumptions, one could conclude a child is the owner of this particular supplement, and that is what startled me.

1, 3 Dimethylamylamine is a powerful stimulant and, like most supplements, not approved by the FDA. That isn’t to say it’s absolutely, positively going to cause adverse health effects in users — certainly not — but  it is something that everyone should be aware of. And parents should most especially be alert to what their still-developing children are ingesting.

For kids with Olympic dreams and parents just wanting to make sure their children are being safe with their nutrition, it’s highly advisable to stay in communication with one another about dietary supplements. What may be ok for the fitness-enthusiast-but-won’t-ever-be-subject-to-drug-testing Mom or Dad isn’t necessarily ok for an age-group swimmer, ethically or physically. Remember, just because an athlete isn’t currently subject to anti-doping procedures doesn’t mean they aren’t expected to hold themselves to the same standard of rules. Obviously we don’t live in a perfect world and some athletes will take every shortcut they can, but I would venture to guess that 99% of our sport’s membership strives to do what’s right and what’s healthy. When families work together we can ensure athletes are taking every appropriate precaution to play clean and protect themselves, in the water and out.

When it comes to supplements, legal doesn’t mean useful or safe. Give supplements the same scrutiny you do the food you eat and stick with science-backed products. Flashy advertisements in a fitness magazine don’t always equate to effectiveness. Only purchase products you know and trust from reputable sources.

Train hard, train smart, set goals and work until you reach them!

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