Legal Doping? A List of Nutritional Supplements That Are Too Good To Be True

I’m not a competitive athlete, but I am interested in becoming as healthy and fit as I can be. I do have martial arts students and my new son to stay in shape for, after all. So I research and test many different supplements to find out which ones work best for my lifestyle. If you’re like me, and you’re not interested in spending hours at the gym doing biceps curls just to impress girls at the beach, cheating an athletic commission, or winning seven Tours de France, then things like steroids, HGH, and EPO aren’t even on your radar. If you are like me, a regular guy who wants to stay fit and healthy, you probably have a set of sensible criteria for your supplements. Here are mine. Any supplement I take regularly must:

  • be naturally sourced,
  • be an element of real food that I don’t normally get in my diet,
  • have no side effects,
  • and provide significant bang for my buck.

Supplements that meet these criteria include fish oil, L-theanine, probiotics, spurlina, cholerella, and vitamin D. Until recently I took ginseng, too, but I found out it was increasing my blood pressure, so it’s out. I actually experienced slight withdrawals from dropping it. Go figure. (Look for some tips on achieving a stimulant-free lifestyle on Jacked Dad coming soon!)

Sometimes “too good” is too good to be true . . .

There is a long list of supplements I’ve tried and abandoned–including nootropics like piracetam and Alpha Brain–simply due to high price or lack of effectiveness. After lots of research and experimentation, here are the top three supplements I don’t think live up to the hype.

Beet Root Juice

Considered “legal doping” by the US Olympic team, beet root juice is supposed to provide boundless energy and endurance to elite athletes. I’m not sure if elite athletes are more susceptible to the placebo effect than the rest of us, but whether the beets be pills, powders, or freshly squeezed, their juice is about as stimulating as water. I’m also not competing in a multi-hour cycling race in which mere seconds determine the winner, so that’s just my take.

Pine Pollen

Chemically, pine pollen is straight testosterone. Tim Ferriss talks it up pretty heavy in his latest book, The 4-Hour Chef, linking it to increased performance in the weightroom as well as the bedroom. Since testosterone is synthesized in the intestines with cholesterol, it’s best to ingest pine pollen with a fatty cut of meat. Ferris says to let everything digest for 90 minutes, and you’ll turn into a cross between Mark McGuire and Ron Jeremy. Sorry, Tim. The steak-fueled endorphins I enjoyed are apparently the only performance enhancer I need–not bragging or anything.

Glucosamine
Ah, glucosamine, the old joint-recovery standby. I’ve tried so many different brands and doses of this stuff. An amino acid derived from cartilage and shells, it promises to heal and lubricate joints affected by arthritis and injury. I’m sorry, but it just doesn’t work for me. I’ve taken it after every conceivable strain and sprain: ankles, knees, shoulders, even fingers. Nothing. I can’t help but think time and rest heals just as well on it’s own without this old standby. I now skip the expense and rely on RICE instead.

To Supplement, or Not to Supplement?
What’s your take on these supplements? Am I missing something? Do you have a preferred pill to pop that we’re missing out on? A superfood that hasn’t hit the market yet? Let us know!

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About moaimartialarts

Lucky enough to grow up with the martial arts, I have felt their positive influence throughout my life and am especially interested in sharing these experiences with others. I enjoy working with youth and adults to give back some of what I've received. If you would like to learn more about Uechi-Ryu/Shohei-Ryu Karate, or if you want to find people to train with, please contact me. I am the head karate instructor for the Meriden Martial Arts Club.
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