If you want to improve your sports performance, ergogenic aids can be a legal, healthy method, when used in conjunction with a training regime, correct technique, and proper coaching. Ergogenic aids can take several forms, including carbohydrate loading, nutrition, electrolyte solutions to replace lost fluids, ritual preparations and stress management. Some ergogenic aids have been found to have harmful side-effects and have been banned by sports governing bodies. Unsafe and banned forms include anabolic steroids, blood doping, human growth hormones, clenbuterol (a drug affecting the central nervous system), and caffeine.
Safe and legal forms have three different ways of improving performance:
Directly influencing the body’s physical capacity for exercise, these can be dietary or mechanical.
These are designed to remove the psychological constraints that can hinder performance, such as anxiety and stress.
These are techniques designed to increase the body’s speed of recovery after training and competition.
These safe and legal aids may have a slower and less discernible effect than faster-acting unsafe methods. Here are some reasons why apparently more effective illegal aids are bad for your body:
Anabolic steroids increase muscle mass and strength, but have many side effects. Problems can develop in the heart, liver and immune system. Men’s prostate gland may enlarge, their testicles shrink, and their sperm levels drop. They also cause aggression, paranoia, mood swings, low libido and depression.
Blood doping side-effects include strokes, allergic reactions and infections.
Human growth hormone side-effects are higher levels of blood fats, heart and nerve diseases, and glucose intolerance.
Clenbuterol causes tremors, anxiety, nausea, anorexia, insomnia, faster heart rate, heart attacks and strokes.
Caffeine, found in coffee, tea, chocolate and soft drinks, may increase mental alertness and reduce fatigue, but if over-used it can cause irritability, restlessness, diarrhoea, insomnia and anxiety.