Sports supplements, also known as ergogenic aids, are products used to enhance athletic performance. They may come in different forms including vitamins, synthetic (man-made) drugs, and hormones, most of which are available over the counter without a prescription.
The word ergogenic is derived from the Greek word ergon, which means to increase work or potential for work. Throughout history, people have sought foods and substances that purportedly improve physical strength. Medieval doctors held the belief that warriors should eat human hearts to increase bravery, brains to increase intelligence, and pituitary extracts to enhance muscle strength. It has been reported that Greek Olympians from 300 BC used mushrooms to enhance performance, Dutch swimmers in 1865 used caffeine as an ergogenic aid, Belgian athletes in the late 19th Century dipped sugar cubes in ether for endurance, and ancient Aztec athletes as well as marathon runners today have used a cactus-based stimulant to enhance performance.
Some athletes may be misled by strong, false claims of some products currently on the market. To deter false claims, beginning in July 1995, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has mandated that all the nutrients in dietary supplements be listed on product labels.
Some herbal products and nutritional supplements may contain banned substances, such as ephedrine or androstendione, and should be avoided. Many substances are also banned by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), and student athletes who use them may lose their eligibility to compete.
People may take supplements to develop more muscle mass, increase strength, build stamina or lose weight. Athletes have used supplements to improve performance through increased endurance, enhance muscular strength/power, recover from heavy workouts, or to prevent illness from sport-related exertion. Compounds such as bee pollen, caffeine, glycine, carnitine, lecithin, brewer's yeast, and gelatin are claimed to improve strength and endurance. Dietary supplements such as these are widely available through many commercial sources including health food stores, grocery stores, pharmacies, and by mail. Current available scientific research has failed to substantiate many of these claims.
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