Sports Medicine

, Volume 33, Issue 12, pp 921–939 | Cite as

Popular Sports Supplements and Ergogenic Aids

  • Mark S. Juhn
Review Article


This article reviews the evidence-based ergogenic potential and adverse effects of 14 of the most common products in use by recreational and elite athletes today. Both legal and prohibited products are discussed. This is an aggressively marketed and controversial area of sports medicine worldwide. It is therefore prudent for the clinician to be well versed in the more popular supplements and drugs reputed to be ergogenic in order to distinguish fact from fiction.

Antioxidants, proteins and amino acids are essential components of diet, but additional oral supplementation does not increase endurance or strength. Caffeine is ergogenic in certain aerobic activities. Creatine is ergogenic in repetitive anaerobic cycling sprints but not running or swimming. Ephedrine and pseudoephedrine may be ergogenic but have detrimental cardiovascular effects. Erythropoietin is ergogenic but increases the risk of thromboembolic events. β-Hydroxy-β-methylbutyrate has ergogenic potential in untrained individuals, but studies are needed on trained individuals. Human growth hormone and insulin growth factor-I decrease body fat and may increase lean muscle mass when given subcutaneously. Pyruvate is not ergogenic. The androgenic precursors androstenedione and dehydroepiandrosterone have not been shown to increase any parameters of strength and have potentially significant adverse effects. Anabolic steroids increase protein synthesis and muscle mass but with many adverse effects, some irreversible. Supplement claims on labels of product content and efficacy can be inaccurate and misleading.


Caffeine DHEA Ephedrine Human Growth Hormone Anabolic Steroid 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



No sources of funding were used to assist in the preparation of this manuscript. The author has no conflicts of interest that are directly relevant to the content of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Adis Data Information BV 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark S. Juhn
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Family Medicine, Hall Health Center Sports MedicineUniversity of Washington School of MedicineSeattleUSA

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