Popular sports supplements and ergogenic aids

Sports Med. 2003;33(12):921-39. doi: 10.2165/00007256-200333120-00004.


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. beta-Hydroxy-beta-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.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Dietary Supplements* / adverse effects
  • Doping in Sports
  • Humans
  • Sports Medicine* / legislation & jurisprudence