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Thread: Medical Question to a Doctor regarding Supplements.

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    Very Active Member Ion Beza's Avatar
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    Medical Question to a Doctor regarding Supplements.

    When competing last week in Hawaii, I read in the Honolulu Star Bulletin newspaper from Saturday May 18, in page A5, an advertisement promoting a product stimulating the release of the Human Growth Hormone by the body.

    I read in it: "Practically EVERYONE over the age of 40 has a Growth Hormone deficiency.". I am age 43, and even though I trained more than ever for the past year, I swam slower in Hawaii in 100 free and 200 free than I did last year, which was slower than in 1998, which was slower than in 1996, which was slower than in 1994 when I peaked in yards competitions. Because of this, I kept reading:
    by taking the product advertised in the newspaper "In the FIRST MONTH: You should expect: Improved stamina;...".

    My question for a Medical Doctor familiar with competitions, regards one specific side effect of such a product, not approved by FDA. I remember reading in the Swimming World magazine in mid-90s, when Chinese Olympic swimmers were being caught on illegal products, that a possible side effect of Human Growth Hormone stimulants given to adults, was an increase of extremities like nose, hands, ears and forehead. A picture of the swimmer Massimiliano Rosolino (Ita.) who in the 2000SydneyOlympics won gold, silver and bronze medals, picture published in 2000 in www.nbcolympics.com, semmed to me to show the increase of the nose. www.nbcolympics.com didn't mean to imply anything like this, this is my interpretation of Rosolino's face. It is publicly documented now, that Rosolino took Human Growth Hormone stimulants before the Olympics.

    My question is:
    The product advertised in Honolulu Star Bulletin as being a Human Growth Hormone stimulant, does increase the nose?

    If so, what safer supplements achieve "...improved stamina..."?
    San Francisco Chronicle did mention once before the 2000Olympics, two Olympians who were achieving with legal supplements the outcome of illegal products.

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    Ion, you always have the most interesting posts . . . I have a thousand responses, and don't really know where to start, but . . .

    Some Italians have big noses. I should know (see my last name). I'm just curious about which brand of goggle Rosolino uses

    Given the reward structure of Masters swimming, isn't even a *risk* of a side effect unacceptable? Why are you so concerned about the letter of the rules, rather than the spirit? As far as I can tell, there is no (Masters) letter of the rules with regard to performance-enhancers, and you can take (otherwise legal) steroids, EPO, HGH, etc. as much as you want. The spirit of the rule is different, and whether the enhancer comes from a bottle as a pill or a bush as an herb makes little difference.

    Maybe you are getting old, like the rest of us. Or maybe it is not your physiology, but your psychology - If you are healthy and rested I see no reason why you should swim slower in a meet than you do in practice.

    Or perhaps you should practice smarter before you increase your 'enhancer uptake.' A few suggestions from what I saw during your 100 free: Work on your turns, your streamline could be a lot better. Also, you breath both going into (and this breath is not a natural part of your stroke) and out of the turn - bad, bad, bad. I saw you breath several times every arm pull, making your body role and especially twist excessively. Finally, the best swimmers that I observe recover into the water just in front of their head. You stretch your arms out and kind of lay them on the surface of the water. I think this wastes a significant part of your stroke, and is possibly damaging to your shoulder.

    Finally, I agree that starting to swim late in life puts you at a disadvantage, though others are in that situation also. But you can't change your history and you have to deal with the situation you are in, and there are ways to do better. More important, there are ways to enjoy yourself more. This post of yours implies that you are getting too obsessed with swimming faster. What will happen if you swim your 100 even 8 seconds faster? You still won't place, and you won't be in better shape than you are now. (and if anyone cared, they would accuse you of taking performance enhancers. )

    You have asked for help several times on this forum, so I am giving you public advice.

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    a little more advice

    From what you say about your workouts, your stamina is fine.

    Jim T. has some knowledge about supplements and athletic performance, maybe he can point you in the right direction.

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    Active Member SupaFly's Avatar
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    Hypothetically speaking - does HGH help you gain height if the growth plates are not fused? And, is it safe to take or not?

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    Ion:
    Keep to the high road and keep off that junk. Philip has the best advice. Work on your stroke, turns and related items. The natural HGH's God gave you are the best ones you"ll get.

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    Very Active Member emmett's Avatar
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    Ion,

    Consider the possibility you are overtraining.
    Coach Emmett Hines - ASCA Level 5
    Gulf LMSC Top10 Chair
    http://H2OustonSwims.org
    emmett@usms.org

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    Very Active Member aquageek's Avatar
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    Additional supplement question

    While I think I will avoid the HGH stuff for fear of unintended consequences vastly outweighing shaving a second or two off an event, I do have a question about over-the-counter meds I will post.

    I have found I get a nice little boost from an Excedrin or a cup of coffee or two prior to a workout. Actually, the boost is somewhat addicting so I am trying to limit my intake. My wife says I am a doper, although I'm not certain Excedrin would technically make me a doper.

    Alternatively, if anyone has found a secret (legal) sports enhancing cocktail they take prior to working out, I would like the ingredients.

    Anyway, does anyone have an opinion about caffeine, aspirin, etc. in appropriate amounts before a workout?

    Thanks.

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    Very Active Member jim thornton's Avatar
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    Ion,

    I've had the opportunity to interview some of the country's leading experts on steroids and OTC supplements for various magazines. One article I wrote for Men's Health-18 is still up on the web--you can check it out at:

    http://www.mh18.com/section/0,3099,1-314,00.shtml

    The bottomline for the vast majority of this stuff, from andro to HGH "promoters"--is that they are snake oil that don't give you the benefits they claim (though it's conceivable that a belief that they might do so could account for some placebo effect.) The only supplement for which there is even slight evidence of efficacy is creatine, and the "benefit" here is tiny at best.

    For another magazine, Modern Maturity, I went on actual testosterone in the relatively new gel-delivery form. This is a medicinal drug available with a prescription only, and it can only (ethically) be prescribed for men with low levels. I took the stuff religiously for months, and it had absolutely no positive effects on my swimming performance or anything else that I could discern.

    Weight lifters who abuse anabolic steroids (synthetic testosterone) can significantly boost muscle mass, but only by taking so-called supraphysiological doses, i.e., way more than your body is capable of producing. As your body registers this excess testosterone, it kicks back on its own production. As one researcher told me, the Arnold Swarzeneggers of the world are often afflicted with "shrunken nuts" and teeny-bopper-esque breast buds the size of golf balls. The price of vanity!

    You can read my Androgel piece at http://www.aarp.org/mmaturity/jan_feb01/manpower.html

    Finally, for GQ magazine last year, I decided to test out a battery of over the counter products. For two months, I took hundreds of pills, HGH enhancing tic tacs, protein powders, andro, etc.--at the cost of hundreds of dollars (which, thank god, the magazine reimbursed me for because it was a total waste of money). GQ does not post its articles on the web, but if you e-mail me directly, I will e-mail you a copy of that piece.

    The lure of "buff in a bottle" has been around forever--Aztec athletes, for instance, thought they could enhance strength by imbibing human blood. No doubt, there are researchers of the East German ilk secretly working on ergogenic drugs that will truly enhance performance for real (side effects and long term health consequences be damned.) But this is not what Masters swimming is about. This is not what sports is about.

    This past swimming season has been, in many regards, the finest of my life. I did at age 49 a personal lifetime best time in the 200 free, and my second of lifetime best 100 fly. These swims occurred at least a year after all the various snake oil potions and Androgel were well flushed out of my system. The reason I believe I swam so well was 1) a great coach who really helped me with technique and conditioning 2) a major increase in weekly yardage, both in quantity and quality and 3) a lack of injuries. If I had actually found a drug that could simulate these effects without have to actually DO much (besides swallow the pill), the sense of personal accomplishment would have been nonexistent.

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    Very Active Member beireland's Avatar
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    steroid use

    I wish that I could agree with Jim Thornton about the steroids or other "additives", but I can't. I'm not sure that buying HGH or some other product mail order without knowledgeable assistance will improve performance, but with knowledgeable assitance regarding doses, and so on, the lesson of sports over the last 20 years is that there are substances that improve athletic performance. Look at Ben Johnson, the East Germans, the Chinese women, Michelle Smith(allegedly and denied by her), and so on.

    Is the price too high for that form of success.? I think so, and there is a big difference between drinking coffee before a workout for a caffeine boost, and the East German swimming machine. But I think its wishful thinking to claim that there are no performance benefits. It is possible that what is being sold is not always what is being claimed, but track athletes and some swmmers on the international level are cheating because it works. If it didn't work, there wouldn't be the problems that exist. For information about the East German experience, with an emphasis on the resulting problems, see Fast's Gold. I've forgotten the author. But that was a scientifically run program that found that steroids improved performance. To be blunt, ask Shirly Babashoff if it helps make swimmers faster.

    I don't think any masters swimmer should use products that are banned in other sports, and I hope none do. I'd like to swim faster but not that badly, and not that way. And I hope others agree with me. But I can't honestly say that what I view as cheating doesn't help people swim faster even if I wished it didn't.

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    Very Active Member jim thornton's Avatar
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    I didn't mean to imply that heavy-duty, illegal anabolic steroids don't enhance performance. These seem to be particularly effective for women athletes, as the Chinese women swimmers demonstrated so effectively a few Olympics back. The reason: women produce very little natural testosterone, so it doesn't take much extra to make them into functional "men." Interestingly, there have been anecdotal reports that the East German women became men-like in more ways than one. Supposedly, the Olympic village where they stayed was rife with rumors of these women's voracious sexual appetities. But that's another story.

    Men, on the other hand, produce relatively large doses of testosterone naturally. To boost this over the natural amount requires relatively whopping supplemental quantities--not that some guys won't resort to this. Ben Johnson--not to mention virtually every male athlete whose neck is significantly thicker than his head--have added an otherwise impossible-to-obtain-by-exercise-alone level of (mainly) upper body musculature thanks to illegal steroids. Clearly, these drugs do "work" to bulk you up, and in some sports, perhaps even swimming, they enhance performance.

    My point is that the over the counter supplements hawked in muscle mags and at health food stores are NOT the same as these heavy duty, illegal drugs--though they attempt to imply they are. What many claim to be, for instance, are "precursors" for the real thing--i.e., andro is not an anabolic steroid, but rather one of the chemical building blocks that your body uses to create its own supply of anabolic steroids. Moreover, these so-called HGH enhancers are NOT actually human growth hormone per se, but rather a building block your body will convert into human growth hormone. IF you look at the biochemistry of human hormones, there are almost always complex chemical pathways where compound A naturally breaks down to compound B, and so forth, ultimately producing, say, testosterone or HGH. The marketers of these "over the counter steroids" try to say that if you take compund Y it will cause your body to produce, through a complex chain of steps, what you're hoping to actually get--i.e., testosterone or HGH. But there's no evidence this is true! There is, however, some evidence that your urine will test positive for steroids. You get none of the "benefit", in other words, while putting yourself at all of the risk of side effects and positive drug tests.

    All so that some baement chemist somewhere can line his pockets with your money!

    That is the point I was trying to make...

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    why they do it

    There's no doubt that steroids, EPO, and many other drugs, when used 'well,' aid performance. Over the counter snake oil is another matter.

    There are two type of abusers - those who do it as part of a larger program, such as happened in Germany and is happening in China, and those who do it on their own.

    The latter group is more interesting psychologically, and is the group that abusing masters swimmers belong to. I think they typically start with a sense of unfairness - "I work harder than so and so, but he is still faster. Why should he be so lucky to be (taller, stronger, grow muscles better, better endurance, started swimming earlier). Why should I be penalized by my genetics and unavoidable history, when I deserve it more?" From that, enhancers serve to make up these unfairnesses.

    I know when I get in the fast heat, and am the smallest person on the block (I'm not used to feeling small), I notice my own lack of genetic endowment.

    Steroids are particularly tricky, because what they really do is allow the body to recover from stress more quickly, allowing the athelete to train more often with higher intensity. So they allow the athlete to train even harder, providing even more 'moral justification.' As masters swimmers age and need more recovery time, the temptation is even stronger.

    Just remember folks, there is nothing moral or fair or deserving merit in swimming faster - it is just a race that should be fun, and all you get is a medal.

  12. #12
    Very Active Member Ion Beza's Avatar
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    Re: why they do it

    Originally posted by Philip Arcuni

    ...
    - it is just a race that should be fun, and all you get is a medal.
    Speaking for me Phil, what I get is an achievement in how I live.
    It's called: a lifestyle.
    To me, the greater the achievement within fair-play rules, the better.
    I mean by 'fair-play' rules, the FDA medically accepted diets, hence my question of this thread.
    To me, this achievement is similar to building a roof, then thinking or not "Job well done.".

    I read your two links, Jim. They speak about hazy supplements on the wild market.

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    All posts make good points. I weigh in very heavily on the side of NO DRUGS, EVER, NEVER...to go faster in sports.
    I believe any athlete caught doping in sports where specific drugs are banned should be kicked out for LIFE! (Providing there is irrefutable proof of such).
    Beireland gives an example of the terrible ramifications to athletes, (Shirly Babashoff) that have dedicated their entire lives to achieve a certain goal..only to have it stolen by a cheater...How sad ....Drugs in sports are a bad deal!

  14. #14
    Very Active Member Paul Smith's Avatar
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    Ion,

    Your getting quite a bit of good advise here, forget about the HGH (and all the other "snake oils" out there). Personally I have only found that my diet has more impact than anything, along with lots of rest/recovery. As for "supplements", Accelerade/Endurox are the only products that I've found to be of any benefit, and mostly for cycling not swimming.

    Going back to Phils original reply, he nailed it. I say the same things at Nationals that Phil pointed out, basically a tremendous need for intensive stroke work. I would also suggest that Emmett nailed it as well, if your training as much as you say then with proper rest (I tapered almost four weeks on about 12,000 yds a week) you should see/feel some great swims!

    One last point, I've mentioned in prior posts about the "mental" aspects to training. With as much importance as you place on swimming the amount of pressure you are dealing with is probably enourmous.

    To put it in perspective, when I spoke with Laura Val at the meet she mentioned how much she was enjoying getting in an ocean swim the mornings before the meet! Talk about the right perspective and some incredible swimming to boot!!
    I crack myself up. It is jealousy. It is Boredom. I Did not accomplish enough when I was young, and I hate anybody faster/younger than me.

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    Very Active Member Gail Roper's Avatar
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    Ion, I watched your 100 Free. To me it looked like you swam the first length with only one breath, it was hard to tell. Then you seemed to switch to breathing every stroke, but only now and then. It was a very erratic pattern. What was your strategy?
    Reason for going slower in a meet than in practice could be the drafting factor if you go last in a pack of six swimmers in your lane.

  16. #16
    Very Active Member Ion Beza's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Paul Smith

    ...
    I say the same things at Nationals that Phil pointed out, basically a tremendous need for intensive stroke work. I would also suggest that Emmett nailed it as well, ...
    ...
    The thing that is not nailed is with this same faulty technique I have, April 9, 1994 I competed for the first time in yards, in Federal Way, Washington with a lifetime best of 5:51.96 in 500 free, within minutes of a lifetime best of 2:09.54 in 200 free.
    May 2002 in Hawaii, with this same faulty technique, I couldn't beat them even on separate days allowing for rest.
    The 200 and the 500 felt like if I were to accelerate and match shadows in the lanes next to me, my heart rate would sky-rocket, thus I held back.
    What's this: lack of aerobic stamina, or surprisingly being 167 pounds on race day while normally being 162, thus having more body weight to carry on, or mistakingly not having eaten food before racing other than power bars?

    Looking back, I had had a lucky streak of swimming improvements from 1986 until 1996. It's a streak that has stopped, and I cannot reverse it unless I deal with aging I believe, having already eliminated other distractions like five surgeries and training in non-competitive places. I see in sports, streaks that stop, like at his level Pete Sampras' winningest streak in tennis history that has stopped and he cannot reverse. You having just re-started swimming Paul, three years ago, I believe your lucky streak of swimming improvements, like 1:43.05 for 200 free now and 1:43.37 last year, will seemingly inexplainable stop too.
    How to reverse back into the streak, then?

    On a lighter note Paul, given you sign yourself as being 'Tall Paul', have you considered that me being eleven months older than you, it means that for at least one year, I was taller than you?

    Anyway, the ShortCourseNationals is only a breakfast snack in my season, because LongCourseNationals in Cleveland are coming up soon. I should think technique improvements then, a healthy diet and persistent training.

  17. #17
    Very Active Member Ion Beza's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Gail Roper
    Ion, I watched your 100 Free. To me it looked like you swam the first length with only one breath, it was hard to tell. Then you seemed to switch to breathing every stroke, but only now and then. It was a very erratic pattern. What was your strategy?
    ...
    US Olympic Swimmer, Gail Roper, talks to me. I am touched by being noticed by Gail.

    I breathe for the first time at the 30 yards mark, then I breathe like somebody who trains with me at UCSD reported that Mark Spitz (US) coaching and swimming at UCLA said: "Breathe every time you need it.".

    Regarding breathing for the first time at the 30 yards mark, trials and errors tell me that's for my best.
    Regarding breathing afterwards in an "...erratic pattern...", I developed asthma and at slow speed I control it, but at full speed I am coughing in the water.
    Originally posted by Gail Roper

    ...
    Reason for going slower in a meet than in practice could be the drafting factor if you go last in a pack of six swimmers in your lane.
    Right on.
    Two weeks before the 2002ShortCourseNationals, in a workout I swam a 300 yards in 3:30, then within minutes I swam another 300 yards in 3:27.
    A few months ago, I swam a 500 yards in practice in 6:00.
    Both instances I was drafting, indeed, much easier than leading.

    In Hawaii I was overconfident in the 500. One day before it, I was thinking there is even no real need for me to show up, since breaking my best of 5:51.96 is quasi-guaranteed.
    Then in the 500 when the going got tough, I backed away.
    What a winner I am...

  18. #18
    Very Active Member Ion Beza's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Gail Roper

    ...
    Reason for going slower in a meet than in practice could be the drafting factor if you go last in a pack of six swimmers in your lane.
    I forgot to tell this, Gail:
    one week before competing in 2001ShortCourseNationals in Hawaii, in a workout having the 200 free for time, from push off the wall, no dive, I swam 2:14.xx alone in the lane, no drafting; diving would have brought the time at 2:13.xx;
    tapering would make it faster, so people were prompting me to swim in Hawaii under 2:10.

    Right?
    No, in Hawaii I swam in 2:13.66.

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    Ion:
    Gail, Paul and others are giving you great advice. Don't beat yourself up over your 100 free time. Many things could have caused that. Emmett hit on one very important possibility..over training. Plus, little things like the time difference, strange pool, not sleeping in your own bed and all kinds of factors can lead to poor meet times. Nerves, eating, body adjustment to new surroundings...lets face it...when we travel (especially us older guys) we are no longer immersed in our daily routines and this throws us off.
    Lastly, the 100 free has very little room for error....make one or two mistakes and the stop watch can be very unkind.

  20. #20
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    Ion:
    You’re a posting "Personality"
    I'm sure many Masters Swimmers walked over to watch you swim....Had I been able to attend the Nationals in Hawaii, I know I would have watched you swim.

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