Editor's note: This is the fifth of an eight-week series of articles examining the effects of anabolic steroids and other substances on baseball pitching performance and overall health. Source: MLB.
Nutritional supplements can include vitamins, minerals, amino acids, plant derivatives as well as a host of other natural and synthetic substances. They also come in a variety of forms from powders and pills to liquids and tablets.
In some way or another, ALL the nutritional supplements on the market claim to improve your sense of well-being, strength or performance. Because of such claims, I felt it was important to discuss nutritional supplements in this series on steroids because some of the claims allege some of the exact same desired effects that athletes (baseball players, in particular) would abuse steroids for.
If a nutritional supplement purports to increase testosterone levels in an athlete, enhance endurance, strengthen muscles, or increase explosive power should be treated as a steroid. (The side effects will be the same as steroids, but you're not likely to see a nutritional supplement label include the side-effects that their product -- which they "claim" will boost performance -- may have.)
The most common nutritional supplements on the market that claim to boost performance by increasing testosterone levels contain either DHEA (dihydroepiandrosterone) or andro (androstenedione). In some studies, both have been proven to effectively "become" testosterone (DHEA and andro are pre-cursors to testosterone which means the body, depending on administration, has the ability to change their molecular structure and turn them into testosterone).
DHEA is a naturally-occuring hormone, which, through interaction with other chemicals in the body, has been shown to turn into androstenedione. The theory behind DHEA supplementation is that the user will be able to increase andro present in the body, thus, boosting testosterone in the process.
The reality is that most of the studies done on DHEA have been performed by the companies trying to sell them, and as a result, may not be as "factual" as the labels claim.
More is known about androstenedione thanks to a study performed by Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association in 2001. However, the findings concluded that andro, administered at the recommended levels on nutritional supplement labels, did not increase testosterone levels at all. Only when the levels of andro were raised to amounts far exceeding the recommended levels was there any negligible rise in overall testosterone levels in the body. And these levels, of course, aren't healthy. Not are they "legal." Andro has been shown to trigger "positive" steroid tests.
(Series continues on Thursday...)