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Am Fam Physician. 2001 Mar 1;63(5):913-22.

Ergogenic aids: counseling the athlete.

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Division of Adolescent Medicine, San Antonio Military Pediatric Center, Texas, USA.


Numerous ergogenic aids that claim to enhance sports performance are used by amateur and professional athletes. Approximately 50 percent of the general population have reported taking some form of dietary supplements, while 76 to 100 percent of athletes in some sports are reported to use them. Physicians can evaluate these products by examining four factors (method of action, available research, adverse effects, legality) that will help them counsel patients. Common ergogenic aids include anabolic steroids, which increase muscle mass. These illegal supplements are associated with a number of serious adverse effects, some irreversible. Creatine modestly improves athletic performance and appears to be relatively safe. Dehydroepiandrosterone and androstenedione do not improve athletic performance but apparently have similar adverse effects as testosterone and are also banned by some sports organizations. Caffeine has mild benefits and side effects and is banned above certain levels. Products that combine caffeine with other stimulants (e.g., ephedrine) have been linked to fatal events. Protein and carbohydrate supplementation provides modest benefits with no major adverse effects.

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