Methamphetamine-like Compound Found in Some Sports Nutrition Supplements

14 10 2013

Tests by scientists in the USA and South Korea have found that some manufacturers have secretly spiked their products with a chemical similar to methamphetamine. Researchers have found that Craze, a pre-workout powder made by Driven Sports and marketed as containing only natural ingredients contained N,alpha-diethylphenylethylamine. This chemical is more potent than ephedra.

NSF International announced that in separate testing they also have detected the same methamphetamine-like compound in the weight-loss supplement Detonate sold by Gaspari Nutrition. The labels on both products do not list this substance. Instead, “dendrobium extract” or “dendrobium orchid extract” is listed.


Remember, Supplements are not well regulated by the FDA and not all ingredients are listed on labels.
Make sure you check with a Sports RD prior to taking Sports Nutrition Supplements!
© Randy Bird, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS, 2013.



Supplements to Avoid

16 03 2011

Geranium Oil is making a lot of news lately.  It is an ingredient in quite of few Pre-Workout supplements.  The most notable is Jack3d.  This ingredient has been tied to many failed drug tests.  Some unethical companies have used this ingredient to try to mask methylhexanamine in their product.  Methylhexanamine (MHA) is a stimulant that was originally created as a nasal decongestant.  This ingredient has been added to the WADA Banned Substance list and would fall under the stimulant category of the NCAA banned substance list.  The most recent and notable case was the failed drug test of Kolo Toure, a defender for Manchester City.

Bottom Line:  Avoid products that list any of the following ingredients:
Geranium Oil
Methylhexanamine or MHA
Dimethylamylamine or DMAA

© Randy Bird, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS, 2011.


Tainted Weight Loss Supplements

12 07 2010

Yet another weight loss supplement has been found to contain pharmaceutical drugs.  On March 20, 2009, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a nationwide alert about tainted weight loss products containing undeclared, active pharmaceutical ingredients. That alert listed more than 70 weight loss products that may be harmful.

This past Thursday, July 8, the FDA has added another supplement to that list.  Que She, advertised as “Slimming Factor Capsule” and as “an all-natural blend of Chinese herbs,” was found to contain the following pharmaceutical ingredients:

  • fenfluraminea stimulant drug withdrawn from the U.S. market in 1997 after studies demonstrated that it caused serious heart valve damage
  • sibutramine – a controlled substance and prescription weight loss drug, which has been associated with an increased risk of heart attack and stroke in patients who have a history of heart disease
  • ephedrinea stimulant (ephedra alkaloid) with potential side effects of irregular heartbeat, seizures, heart attack, stroke, or death
  • propranolol – a prescription beta blocker drug that is used to treat high blood pressure and irregular heartbeat.

Que She has been distributed locally at Sacred Journey in Lawrence, KS.  The website listed by the FDA is also run by Sacred Journey.  People who have purchased Que She should stop taking the product immediately and consult a health care professional.

If you are interested in getting further updates from the FDA, you can go to their consumer updates page:

As I always stress to clients, there is no such thing as a “magic pill” for weight loss.  You need to:

  1. Eat Right
  2. Exercise
  3. Get enough sleep

© Randy Bird, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS and Randy Bird Sports Nutrition, 2010.

How is Fish Oil like a Football Helmet?

8 07 2010

Mouth guard, check.  Shoulder pads, check.  Fish oil, check…wait, what?  Yes, that’s right, fish oil.  New research is showing that fish oil (and its Omega-3 fat) may be useful for treating and preventing damage to your brain sustained from a concussion.

New research from the West Virginia University School of Medicine examined whether DHA (an omega-3 fat) could be used as a treatment after traumatic brain injury.  Rats were given either 10mg/kg/day or 40mg/kg/day of DHA for 30 days after brain injury.  Both quantities were successful at increasing DHA levels in the blood.  But the higher dosage was more effective at reducing the damage to levels similar to uninjured animals.

We can’t be sure if humans would see similar benefits from DHA until more research is conducted.  But since DHA is safe, affordable, and readily available worldwide, people who regularly engage in activities with a higher risk of head injury could benefit from taking it.  Dr. Julian E. Bailes, lead researcher in the WVU study, recommends taking 3g of DHA each day for the month following a concussion.

There is potential for DHA to be used to limit brain damage in sports that are more prone to concussions, like football.  Taking 1g of DHA daily may protect brain axons from damage.  To get this amount from fish oil, you will need to take 4 soft gels of double strength fish oil (ex. Nordic Naturals ProOmega or Nature Made Double Strength Fish Oil).  If you are vegetarian and do not want to use fish oil, Martek makes omega-3 oils (Life’s DHA) from algal oil.

Fish oil already has the proven benefits of improving your cardiovascular health and reducing inflammation.  Now those of us who engage in contact sports can add another good reason to get our daily dose of Omega-3’s.

© Randy Bird, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS and Randy Bird Sports Nutrition, 2010.

Honey as a sports supplement? Sweet!

22 06 2010

As a sports nutritionist, I love the idea of giving my athletes actual food to improve their performance instead of solely relying on an engineered product.  Food is cheaper, more easily available, and usually tastes better!  So what about honey?  Honey is one of the oldest sweeteners, being used since biblical times.  A tablespoon has of honey has 64 calories, while a tablespoon of table sugar has 45 calories.  But honey is composed of more than just sugar.  It has trace enzymes, minerals, vitamins, and amino acids. Some claim that these make honey a healthier option than table sugar, but the quantities of these “extras” are minuscule. 

The biggest difference between honey and regular sugar is taste.  Honey is 1.5 times sweeter than table sugar.  The color and flavor of honey differ depending on what flowers the bees pollinate.  There are more than 300 unique kinds of honey in the United States.  In general, lighter colored honeys are mild in flavor, while darker honeys are usually more robust in flavor.

So how can we use honey as a sports nutrition product?  It is well-known that carbohydrate consumption prior to, during and after exercise enhances performance and speeds recovery. Honey is a natural source of readily available carbohydrates, providing 17 grams of carbohydrates per tablespoon and may serve as an inexpensive alternative to commercial sports gels. Preliminary data from the University of Memphis Exercise and Sports Nutrition Laboratory suggest that honey is as effective as glucose for carbohydrate replacement during endurance exercise.

If you are interested in trying honey as energy booster, have a tablespoon 15 to 30 minutes before exercising.  If you are training for an endurance event, “honey sticks” are a convenient way to consume honey while exercising.  They can be purchased online or at some natural food stores.

© Randy Bird, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS and Randy Bird Sports Nutrition, 2010.

5 Tips to Avoid Exertional Heat Illness

15 06 2010

It seems that every summer the media reports the same tragedy: another athlete has died due to the effects of exertional heat illness.  Coaches and athletes need to take precautions when training in the heat.  The following are simple steps to train smartly during the heat.

  1. Allow time to acclimate to the heat. Even top athletes are at risk if they are unaccustomed to the heat.  It can take the body 1-2 weeks to acclimatize to the heat.  Therefore, intensity and duration of workouts need to be reduced at the beginning and gradually increase over the first 14 days of the summer training program.
  2. Keep Hydrated:  Drink early and often. Staying hydrated allows the body’s cooling response to work effectively.  As the body loses water, if not replaced, it becomes more difficult to maintain a safe core temperature.  Sports drinks (i.e. Gatorade) should be encouraged because they will rehydrate better than water alone.  For strategies to maintain proper hydration, see my previous post on Inadequate fluid intake.
  3. Wear Appropriate Clothing. Wearing the wrong workout attire can make it more difficult for the body to dissipate heat.  Dark clothing absorbs heat.  So make sure to wear lightweight and light colored clothing.
  4. Monitor Weather Conditions. You should always check the weather forecast the morning of a workout day.  If the heat and humidity is predicted to be too high that day, if possible, change your workout to the morning or late evening when it is cooler.  Otherwise, shorten the duration of the workout or decrease the intensity that day.  Also, allow for longer and more frequent hydration breaks.
  5. Be Aware of how some Medications and Supplements affect the body’s ability to cool. One of the more common medication categories that can be dangerous when combined with exercise in the heat is ADHD medications.  If you are on one of these medications or as a coach you have an athlete taking this category, you need to pay extra attention to the warning signs of dehydration.  Some of the signs/symptoms are headache, dizziness, excessive fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and chills.  When the symptoms progress beyond thirst and/or fatigue, the safest strategy is to cool the athlete quickly and allow for rehydration.  As far as supplements go, the worst are stimulant-containing products, such as energy drinks, weight loss products, and others that promote giving you that “pump” like NO-Xplode.

© Randy Bird, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS and Randy Bird Sports Nutrition, 2010.

Vitamin D, Muscle, and Fat

13 05 2010

Most people realize that vitamin D assists the body in absorbing calcium.  This assisting role helps the body have strong bones.  What most people don’t realize is that this role only represents 15% of what vitamin D does.  There are over 200 genes in our body that have vitamin D receptors.  This means that having adequate vitamin D levels allows our body to function correctly at the genetic level, enhancing many things from immune function to muscle strength.

A new study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism looked at the relationship between vitamin D status and fat content of muscles.  Our muscles naturally store fat as an energy source.  But a higher muscle fat content is associated with lower levels of strength and performance.

This current study measured blood levels of vitamin D and, using a CT scan, measured the amount of fat in muscles.  What the researchers found was an inverse relationship between the two measurements.  The lowest vitamin D levels were associated with the highest amount of fat in the muscles.  A reasonable assumption is that vitamin D insufficiency is associated with a decrease in muscle strength.

I always encourage people to get their serum Vitamin D levels checked.  Once you know that number, you will know how much vitamin D is best for you to take.  I generally recommend between 1500 and 2000 IU per day.  It is very difficult to get this amount from food.  And although it is possible to get such a level from sun exposure, I don’t recommend forgoing sunscreen.  So personally, I take 2000 IU per day combined between my multivitamin and a vitamin D supplement.  I typically recommend the Nature Made brand to clients because they submit to strict quality testing by the United States Pharmacopeial; this way you know you are getting exactly what is on the label.

© Randy Bird, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS and Randy Bird Sports Nutrition, 2010.

Vitamin D deficiency can make you weak…

21 04 2010

Approximately 75% of Americans are deficient in Vitamin D.

Inadequate levels of Vitamin D lead to:

1. Weak Bones

2. Weak Muscles

3. Weakened Immune System

Our bodies can make vitamin D from the sunlight, but this reaction can be stopped.

1. Sunscreen blocks Vitamin D conversion.

2. Windows also block Vitamin D conversion.

3. Height of the sun in the sky affects the conversion. Vitamin D production is highest between 10am & 3pm.

4. Time of year also affects the conversion. Where we live, vitamin D can only be made during the months of March through September.

We should aim for 1500—2000 IU of vitamin D daily.

1. Food is not a great source of vitamin D, but try to select foods that have vitamin D.

2. Supplements will be the easiest way to get vitamin D.

Food Amount of Vitamin D
3.5 oz Wild Salmon 980 IU
3.5 oz Farm-Raised Salmon 250 IU
8oz Milk 100 IU
Whole Egg (Vitamin D is in the yolk) 18 IU

Bottom Line: Still use sunscreen to protect your skin, but make sure you take your multivitamin and vitamin D daily.

© Randy Bird, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS and Randy Bird Sports Nutrition, 2010.

Athletes and Caffeine; what you should know…

19 04 2010

Caffeinated energy drinks are specifically marketed to athletes to increase concentration, alertness, reaction time, speed and metabolism.  Here are a few important things every athlete should know about caffeine:

  1. Caffeine is one of the substances that is conditionally banned by the NCAA.  It can cause you to fail an NCAA drug test.
  2. Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant and a diuretic; excessive consumption coupled with strenuous physical activity can be dangerous.
  3. The caffeine content of some dietary supplements may not be known due to “hidden” sources such as guarana.
  4. There are more than 500 varieties of unregulated energy drinks available worldwide.
  5. Caffeine is present in a variety of prescription and over-the-counter medications, soft drinks, sport and energy drinks, and dietary supplements.
  6. Some people may have trouble sleeping and experience increased anxiety following caffeine consumption.
  7. Caffeine consumption above 300 mg may cause negative results.

Benefits of Moderate Caffeine Consumption

  1. Elevates mood and increases alertness.
  2. Aids in relieving headaches.
  3. May improve asthma symptoms.
  4. Can increase weight loss.
  5. 100-200 mg of caffeine can provide positive results.

Recommended  Caffeine Sources:

Source Amount Mg of Caffeine
Brewed Coffee 8 oz 135
Decaffeinated Coffee 8 oz 3
Instant Coffee 8 oz 76-106
Instant Decaf Coffee 8 oz 5
Espresso 2 oz 100
Black Tea 8 oz 40
Green Tea 8 oz 20
Chocolate Milk 8 oz 8

© Randy Bird, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS and Randy Bird Sports Nutrition, 2010.