View Full Version : Supplements advice - Good or Bad?

February 6th, 2002, 02:59 PM
I got back into swimming about a year ago. An initial problem that hit me was a sore left shoulder. I concentrate hard on good form and stretch always before and after workouts, as well as do some weightlifting for strengthening the shoulder. I had broken my left collar bone 11 years ago and am convinced it's a result of my left shoulder being not as strong as than my right shoulder. The problem I was having was poor recovery after workouts of the one shoulder. Someone suggested to me to try Creatine after workouts to improve recovery. I took that advice and started doing a dose after workouts (taking 1/3 the recommended dose). It did wonders in my recovery. However, since then I've read in articles that Creatine appears to be controversial as to whether it's good or bad for you. Your feedback, good or bad, on the use of any supplements would be very helpful. Are some supplements recommended? Should you try to do without them? If you don't use any supplements, what are other ways to help recovery after a workout? I'm about to shift into doing 2 swim workouts a day and know just Gatorade won't cut it. Thank you!


Bert Petersen
February 6th, 2002, 07:18 PM
Creatine - no way ! Makes cramps, no visible improvement in performance. Why not try a Bugs Bunny multiple/chewable vitamin every day just in case you missed something in your meals? And then, munch on Calcium carbonate (Tums ?) to help eliminate cramping ? Believe me, after this many years of trial and error, mostly the latter, I now think that a healthy diet in severe moderation and a whole lot of swimming is my ticket to longer and more productive life. Mostly, if injured, quit doing what hurts ! I wish you well............. Bert ;)

February 6th, 2002, 09:51 PM
Never, NEVER, underestimate the power of the placebo!

John Hudson
February 15th, 2002, 11:55 AM
As a person who logs 40,000+ yards per week in 8 workouts my best advice to you is do your research on creatine. The scientific evidence is not in dispute.

However, you discussed recovery as your goal. If that is your goal creatine is not meant for recovery. The best recovery post workout is 4:1 carb/protein drink within 1 hour( 30 min. better) of your workout. Add a few common sense things like hydration(very important) post and pre- workout, good diet and plenty of sleep and you have covered your bases. Believe me, there is no magic potion.

jim thornton
February 15th, 2002, 12:23 PM

I am very intrigued by your weekly yardage. On one of the other threads--the weekly mileage poll thread--I posted some questions for hyper-mileage swimmers on injury rates, social life, etc. If you have a chance, can you take a look and reply?


In terms of creatine, here's an excerpt from an article I wrote on ergogenic supplements for the erstwhile MH-18 magazine (part of the Rodale empire):

The hottest product of all, at least at the time of this writing, is creatine--a naturally occurring substance found in meat and fish and which many athletes believe can help them enhance explosive strength.

"The last time I looked, there were over a thousand Internet sites that sell it," says Wadler. Indeed, in the eight years since British sprinters publicly touted creatine at the 1992 Olympics, an estimated 2,750 tons of supplemental creatine have been unloaded upon the American public. Sales last year alone topped $400 million, and it's not unusual for coaches to offer "group discounts" on creatine to athletes as young as sixth graders.

One big reason for its popularity: creatine is one of the few supplements that has actually been studied in well-designed experiments. "Of all these supplements that are being sold to the public," says Yesalis, "and there are literally thousands of them on the market, creatine is the only one that's been shown to work in well-controlled studies in human athletes. Period. All the rest of them make claims based on suppositions, or how they might function in a guinea pig, or on isolated case reports. My gut level instinct: many of these other products are total quackery."

And even creatine's documented effects are, at best, modest--rating at most a15 or 20 on a scale of 1 to 100, says Yesalis. Creatine has no benefit whatsoever on endurance events, nor does it appear to boost power during a single burst of effort, such as a sprint or maximum bench press. What it has been shown to do--at least in men riding a stationary bicycle in the laboratory--is increase power during a series of repetitive sprints. During the first 15-second burst of effort, volunteers on creatine proved no stronger than those taking a sugar pill. However, on subsequent sprints alternating with rest periods, the creatine-powered cyclists did gain a slight advantage.

Marketers, of course, have been quick to suggest that this can allow guys to work out harder during strength training in the gym and therefore gain more muscles. Even if such claims have a grain of truth, the question remains whether marginal gains are worth creatine's costs and known side-effects, which include weight gain due to water retention and at least one documented case of kidney failure.

February 15th, 2002, 10:28 PM
Interesting thread here.

I would just like to say that in general I tend to be very wary of any supplements or magic pills of any kind.

I too have had a rather nasty shoulder injury in the past, but it does not bother me now. I never took any supplements either. I just learned to work around and it in the short term and respect it in the long term. It was about 4 years before it competelely 100% disappeared, but by that time I was already swimming at full capacity.

I just learned to not use paddles for a while, and then later to just use them sparingly and go slow. And on days when the shoulder acted up for no reason, I kept a close eye on it in workouts- focusing on things that would disrupt it as little as possible. And I can safely say that while it impacted my ability to bench press, it never had a serious impact on my swimming.

Now it is completely gone, thankfully, but for a minor injury it was surprising to me just how long it would make its presence known- even though in a minor sense.

As for pills and supplements, or anything of that type. I just don't buy it. I never have, and if you look at the many "magic pills" that have hit the scene only to prove to have nasty side effects, I think that is the way to approach it.

This is not just true for swimming, but for anything- diet pills, muscle enhancers, performance boosters etc. etc.

If a person is willing to make a concerted effort and be patient with their body, there is no need IMHO to go outside of a normal diet with basic nutritional supplements as needed. Sports drinks and the like are certainly good things, but the minute you start getting into pills and creams that promise the world, I think you ask for trouble.

Besides, where is the fun in winning any competition using such things- legal or not? I would consider such victories quite hollow indeed. This is outside the scope of your original question I know, but I think it applies in a general sense. It is a very slippery slope. Many people get into using improper enhancers by first properly using things to repair injuries that they discover have given them an unexpected competitive edge. I am not saying you would, mind you, just offering a big picture idea of what I think of things like creatine.

My advice? Give yourself some time. Be aware of what is going on with your shoulder and find a way to work with that limitation. It is possible I think in most cases to do that. If it is not, then perhaps a visit to the doctor will help. I would certainly advise doing that before diving into the minefield of over the counter remedies.

Just my 2 cents :)


February 15th, 2002, 10:32 PM
PS- I would also like to add that the above revelation about creatine being marketed to young swimmers really disgusted me. I can believe it happens, but I sincerely hope that coaches out there are resisting. We cannot promote stuff like this to young swimmers and then be shocked when so many prominent events, like the Olympics, are plagued with illegal performance enhancing drug abuse.

February 16th, 2002, 10:46 AM
Thanks all for your views and input. Tom - Appreciate your experience. I think I've always felt uneasy trying a synthetic supplement. Since originally posting this I've seen my doctor to ensure nothing is wrong with the shoulder (which there isn't) and that it boils down to the need to focus on strengthening the one shoulder to overcome its current deficit in strength. Also, Tom's point is well taken about young swimmers being put on Creatine leading to potential use of other performance enhancers.

I do pose another question: What about all natural food supplements? I raise this because many swimmers promote such products, such as Gary Hall Jr. and Coach Mike in every Swim Magazine issue. These supplements are all natural, made up of vitamines and other natural products. Just would be interested in your views on such products.

I know there's no magic pill out there. I guess it boils down to patience, pacing oneself, and continually adjusting one's workouts and diet as one continues to increase their swimming regimine.

February 16th, 2002, 01:12 PM
Hi Dan,

I am glad you did not take my post wrong LOL. I know I was ranting far beyond what you were asking about.

Good news from the Doctor too I see. Excellent. But it may flare up for no reason from time to time. Whenever mine did, I just stayed away from paddles, kickboards and side stroke for a couple of days- anything that would put me at risk for straining it a bit too much.

As for all natural food supplements, I see nothing wrong with that. I do not use them myself, but with care I imagine such things can be good.

I would just ask two questions when considering something,

1. What exactly is in there and what does the product promise you? There will always be a few wierd things just to preserve the stuff in pill form, but check the label carefully and look into medical studies. After all, creatine is derived from a natural food too :)

2. What gap is it filling in your diet? If taking the supplement just helps you be sure you round out your daily intake of crucial minerals and vitamins, go for it. I take a vitamin pill on days when I am not able to eat exactly what I think I should. But if you are taking a big protein supplement because you do not eat a lot of protein, it may be better to try and increase your intake from the food you eat.

Just my humble opinion :) FWIW I should note that I am one of those purist types. I do eat out sometimes (all the time when I was traveling), but when I cook at home all veggies are fresh or frozen, and there are no TV dinners, prepackaged foods or the like served here. The only thing that comes in a can is tuna- which is thoroughly drained and pressed prior to eating. No prepackaged lunch meats or anything processed and boxed either. So I am definitely a lot more fanatical than most people.