We live in a world where winning is everything and because of that athletes are looking for a competitive edge. Countless hours in the gym, film sessions and preparation are just a few ways to gain that advantage. And you can’t forget nutrition. If done right and you “fuel your sport,” nutrition alone can give you a leg up on the competition. Unfortunately, the evil stepsisters to nutrition are performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) and supplement usage.

What exactly is a PED? It is defined as any substance taken in non-pharmacologic doses specifically for purposes of improving sports performance. The more common ones that you hear of are anabolic steroids, testosterone, human growth hormone, creatine and ephedrine.

Creatine is a commonly used supplement that is available over the counter. It helps give energy to muscle and assists with muscle recovery. It can also be used to help increase training loads for those trying to gain and build muscle fast. Creatine has a number of side effects including weight gain, water retention, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and impaired kidney function.

While some PEDs do increase performance for athletes, it’s usually at a costly price. The side effects often outweigh the benefits and can affect various body systems including the liver, heart, reproductive, skin and psychiatric. Moreover, the main issue with nutritional supplements is that most of them are not regulated by the FDA and it is difficult to know what is exactly in the substance. So you can’t always trust what you are reading off of the ingredient label. You must trust your source when using certain supplements. PEDs are readily available at health food stores, local gyms, on the internet, through foreign mail order and through physicians.

What Signs Should I Look for That My Young Athlete Is Using PEDs?

Know that signs and symptoms of PED usage can vary depending on what substances are being used, but there are general symptoms that can be seen. Symptoms include:

  • Drastic change in appearance, behavior or mood
  • Skin changes such as acne can be seen with the use of anabolic steroids

The best way to get that leg up on the competition is through training and a well-balanced diet. Every athlete is built differently and their needs will vary greatly from one individual to the next. Your physician or a dietician is the best source to help you determine what is needed for peak athletic performance. My advice is to not rely on PEDs or supplements to improve athletic performance. Hard work and dedication is the best way to success. For more information visit www.drugfreesport.com.

Want to become a better athlete the right way? Check out our articles on nutrition and training.

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Nationwide Children's Hospital Medical Professional
Reno Ravindran, MD
Sports Medicine

Dr. Reno Ravindran is a board-certified family medicine physician and recently completed his sports medicine fellowship at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. He completed his residency at The Ohio State University.

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