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Banned Substances

Canada is shocked when our Silken tested positive with a banned substance. How can this be? Perhaps our best athlete who holds the Olympic ideal of clean, fair and even competition is caught ""cheating"". Does this place her in the same category of all those previous athletes that have been caught taking anabolic steroids. We all now know that she inadvertently took a simple cold medication that was supposably not a problem. We have all taken similar cold preparations that unfortunately for Silken contain a banned substance.

The list of banned drugs is long but there are five main categories.

1/STIMULANTS: This is the class of drugs that were in Silken's blood test. These drugs produce a psychological and physical stimulus which may improve athletic performance. The classic stimulants are amphetamines but drugs like ephedrine found in many cold preparation have a similar stimulant effect and thus are banned from use by athletes. Caffeine as we all know is a stimulant as well and is considered a banned substance if taken in large enough quantities. While a cup or two of coffee is okay caffeine pills or suppositories or 10-12 cups of coffee will register in you urine as too much caffeine in your system. Cocaine is not only a banned substance but illegal for any type of use.

2/NARCOTICS: These drugs are used to mask pain. They can not only lead to further injury by masking the pain of an injury but have the potential for physical and psychological dependence.

3/ANABOLIC AGENTS: These are the most famous of all the banned substances. We have endured the Dubin Inquiry after Ben Johnson was caught with using anabolic substances. Anabolic agents are synthetic chemicals designed to have the effects similar to a natural steroid produced in the body, the hormone testosterone. While medically we will use these drugs for certain medical problems for patients who have a deficiency in testosterone or for the treatment of certain cancers, it is unethical and dangerous to be used by athletes for performance enhancement.

4/DIURETICS: These are drugs that stimulate the body to urinate and cause the excretion of large amounts of water. They are abused by two types of athletes. They are used by some athletes to lose weight when they are involved in a sport like wrestling that requires them to be below a certain weight to compete in that class. They are used by other athletes to try and mask that they are taking other banned substances such as anabolic steroids. In essence they are trying to flush out of their body any evidence that they were taking a banned substance.

5/PEPTIDES AND ANALOGUES: Peptide hormones act as a messenger in the body from one organ to another to stimulate various body functions such as growth, sex drive, behavior, and sensitivity to pain. Analogues are chemically produced drugs designed to have the similar effects to the naturally produced compounds in the body. Some of the most common analogues are HCG(human chorionic gonadotrophin) which leads to an increase in natural androgenic steroids and ACTH(adreno corticotrophin) leads to an increase in the natural corticosteroids producing an euphoric effect. HGH(human growth hormone) has been used by athletes to stimulate muscle building.

One of the newer drugs to be placed on the banned list is EPO(erythropoietin) which stimulates the body to increase hemoglobin and have a similar effect as blood doping. This has been used by athletes in the endurance events such as marathoning. Certain doping methods such as blood doping and urine manipulation are prohibited. There are also certain classes of drugs that are banned for certain select event such as beta blockers that slow the heart down in sports such as shooting and archery. As you can see the list of banned substances is long and involved. Although it is too late for Silken and the Pan Am games, it reminds all of us that are involved with elite athletes that the athlete, coach, doctor, and friends must be extra careful in what they ingest.


Creatine Supplements

Creatine supplementation has been the most talked about and used supplement in athletes in years. Athletes are always looking for an edge to improve performance. Above being born with the right tools and the hard work of training, athletes look for an edge. There are many claims that tell how this particular supplementation is the key to improved performance. Most of these claims are not based on scientific research to back up these claims. Non the less people spend billions into believing that one of these magic potions or pills will make them into the next superstar. Canadians are especially fond of supplements and it is said that Canadians have some of the most expensive urine in the world. The fitness and training magazines are full of advertisements for various supplements, but the most popular supplement and definitely the ?supplement du jour? is creatine. It is said that sales of creatine alone will be over 200 million dollars this year.

This is one of the few supplements that actually has some reliable research to prove its validity. Creatine has quickly spread form the locker rooms of the elite athletes into the high school. Not only that doctors are experimenting in its use in people who have disease that cause muscle loss such as those with heart disease or AIDS. But, the studies done so far are not totally conclusive and athletes have reported some mixed results. Not only that, but we are not totally sure of the safety of using creatine. It seems to be fairly safe in the short term, but we just do not know about the long term safety of creatine.The dose of how much creatine to use and for how long is still also controversial. The most important question is how creatine supplementation works. Creatine is an amino acid that occurs naturally in our diet primarily in meat and fish. High levels of creatine are found in muscle in the form of creatine phosphate.

Phosphocreatine acts as an energy storage unit and is most important during high intensity anaerobic exercise. Even with optimal levels of muscle creatine, phosphocreatine can only provide limited energy regeneration, especially in athletes who use primarily this anaerobic system. This system is beneficial for athletes who must produce repeated all out efforts without time for a complete recovery between repetitions. Theoretically, if we could increase the creatine concentration in muscle the athlete would perform better in these repeated bouts of short high intensity exercise. There have been several studies to document the effectiveness of creatine supplementation. some respond well and others do not. It seems to work better if the athlete had levels of creatine that were initially low. several studies have shown that short term use of creatine supplementation increases the phosphocreatine stores in muscle by 10-40%,

Several studies have shown that creatine supplementation improves performance in repeated bouts of high intensity strength work and repeated sprints. It?s effects on a single sprint event was equivocal. there is also an increased body mass, increased fat-free mass and increased strength. It is common to gain 10 lbs. in a couple of months. The gains in speed must be weighed against the gain in weight. Obviously the weight gain itself may counteract the gain in speed and the effect would be detrimental for certain people in certain sports. With any supplementation there are the risks involved. We do not actually know the exact dose that would be optimal. We do not know how long it is safe to take this drug. There may be effects on the kidney, liver and heart and these must be monitored.

Although it seems fairly safe in the short term, we have no idea of the long term effects of using creatine for a prolonged period of time. There is no doubt about the weight gain which may hamper certain athletes. Athletes seem to be more prone to muscle cramps,spasms and pulls. In summary creatine supplementation does seem to work for certain athletes, but before an athlete should consider taking creatine tall the above factors must be considered. A physician should be consulted to ensure you are healthy, to determine the appropriate dose and to monitor your bodily functions to ensure you are not doing damage to on of your important organs.

Food To Get Big

The summer time is when I get the most questions on how to gain weight. Most of the sports in Canada excp[t for maybe soccor or baseball take place during the school year. Therefore the sumer time is the best time to prepare for the fall sports. For some of the sports like football and hockey and basketball many kids want to gain weight. I get more requests on how to gain weight in the summer than all the rest of the year combined. Times have not changed but the methods have. when I was playing competitive hockey I spent the summer drinking milkhakes with raw eggs and a product called Tiger?s Milk. in todays magazines on strength and body building there are pages and pages of advertisements on various proiducts all promising to gain weight yhis is very confusing for the consumer as to what to believe. Unfortunately ther are virtually no regulations on what these products can claim that they can do. Therefore they all claim to be the most effective with endorsments from some very large body builders who are in fact being paid by the companies to endorse their product.

The first thing I do is sit down with the athlete and understand why and how much they in fact want to gain. It is important to be realistic. The maximal amount an athlete should try to gain is two pounds per week. This can vary by how fast they are growing. The next thing I do is find out how they are working out. It is important that adolescents especially are in a controlled supervised environment with trained personal. The next important thing is what they are eating. I try and get a good idea of their diet.The best way is to look at a three day diet history to look at the total amount of calories and the breakdown of protein, carbohydrates and fat. A person needs about 20 calories per pound of body weight to maintain themselves and an extra 25-30 calories per pound of body weight to build muscle. Athletes always think they need oodles of protein to build muscle. Why it is true that you need more protein than the average person, it still only amounts to about 0.7 grams per pound(1.5 g/kg).

That is only 90-115 grams of protein for a 140 pound athlete or 128-164 grams for a 200 pound athlete. What people always forget is that carbohydrate is still the major energy source for muscle. If you are low in carbs the muscle can not continue to work and be built stronger. Carbohydrate is stored as glycogen in muscle and is the predominant energy source for muscle building exercise. About 70% of your diet should be from carbohydrates(at least 500-600 grams). Less than 30% of your calories should be from fat. Another neglected ingredient is water. It is crucial that you are drinking enough water to stay hydrated. Drink regularly during the day and during your workouts. Most athletes trying to gain weight are tempted by supplements. There is no shortage of protein supplements on the market with various amino acid combinations. None of these build muscle on their own and only need to be used if your diet is deficient.

Otherwise a lot of money is being spent to increase your protein concentration in your urine of all the extra protein. Several weeks ago I wrote of the potential benefits of creatine which is the most popular supplement on the market today. Do not forget the simple sport drinks which will help maintain your carbohydrate blood and muscle levels in your longer workouts. There has even been a study of the enhanced benefits of combining creatine with a 17 ounces of a sport drink. It is important to replace your carbohydrate and protein utilized in a workout as soon as possible after a work out. This is most efficient the first hour after. If you find it hard to eat so soon after then consider a meal replacement drink or bar. This will also stimulate the release of insulin and growth hormone which are needed for muscle development. The most important fact is plain hard work, but it is important to give all that hard work the best opportunity to be as effective as possible.