Read an Excerpt
Chapter One: The Peak Performance Phenomenon
You're reading this book because you want to do everything better! You want to excel at the gym, win on the playing field, succeed at work or at school, and have energy to spare to enjoy your life. You're not alone. You're part of a growing trend of millions of men and women who are using performance enhancers: hundreds of new, cutting-edge supplements and meal-replacement products that can help you look and feel better. Some performance supplements build muscle, burn fat, and boost athletic performance. Others heighten energy and stamina, speed recovery after a workout, or boost sexual function. Still others enhance focus and mental alertness. These products are fast becoming best-sellers among weekend athletes, dieters, baby boomers who feel they are losing their edge, and, even, teenage athletes. In the United States alone, consumers are spending billions of dollars on performance supplements.
I am writing this book to help you choose the performance supplements that will best suit your needs. There's a great deal of hype surrounding performance supplements. Flip through the pages of any fitness magazine or turn on TV, and you will see advertisements touting the benefits of these high-tech wonders. Burn fat! Get ripped! Rev up your sex life! Get energized! They all sound great, but do all they work? Some really do live up to the hype, and you will learn about them in this book. But not all performance supplements are created equal. Many are safe and effective, but others are worthless and downright unsafe, particularly for teenagers. Still others are old supplements in new bottles; that is, supplements that have been around for years, but are now repackaged and given hot new names to cash in on this trend. I don't mean to disparage these old supplements -- many of them are some of the best performance products on the market. To my way of thinking, however, it's not fair to let consumers believe that they are new (and often, charge more for them).
How do you distinguish between good products and bad products? First, high-quality products are usually backed by good research, that is, some scientific studies confirming their safety and efficacy. Second, there should be ample anecdotal support for products. In other words, if a product is supposed to help people build muscle or lose weight, there ought to be hordes of happy consumers willing to tell their stories. By the time you have finished this book, you will know which peak performance supplements truly live up to their name, and which are a waste of money.
As many of you may know, I've been writing about supplements for more than twenty years. I am a pharmacist and a master herbalist. Published in 1979, Earl Mindell's Vitamin Bible is still widely read today, and is generally regarded as one of the books that helped popularize vitamins throughout the world. Nearly a decade ago, I wrote Earl Mindell's Herb Bible, which helped bring herbal medicine to millions of homes. When I first wrote the Herb Bible, few people had even heard of herbs such as echinacea, ginseng, and ginkgo biloba, which are now household names. Today, one-third of all Americans use herbal supplements and related products. (In fact, there are so many new herbal products that an updated edition of the Herb Bible was published in 2000.) The Peak Performance Bible has a similar mission to that of the Vitamin Bible and the Herb Bible. This book is written for the both the new and experienced user of performance products. Similarly, I am confident that many of the worthy peak performance products that I introduce in this book will be around in decades to come.
What Are Peak Performance Supplements?
Peak performance supplements consist of a wide variety of seemingly unrelated supplements with one thing in common -- they are designed to enhance your body or your mind. This diverse group of supplements include vitamins, minerals, herbs, protein powders, amino acids, enzymes, hormones, sports drinks, and sports bars. (If you are unfamiliar with some of these terms, check the section at the end of this chapter, "Answers to Commonly Asked Questions.") They are sold over the counter at natural food stores, discount pharmacies, general merchandise stores, supermarkets and even on the Internet.
Peak performance supplements come in many different forms: pills, capsules, tablets, powders that can be mixed with water or juice, beverages, extracts, food bars, and in lotions and gels that can be applied topically. Choose the form that is easiest for you to use. For example, if you hate to swallow pills, you may be able to use a liquid or extract. In some cases, I do recommend one particular form of a supplement because I feel that it is the most effective, or least likely to produce unwanted side effects. After I describe a product, I tell you how to use it. Please follow my directions, and be careful not to exceed my recommended dose. Although most performance products are safe at even high doses, some can cause adverse side effects (like stomach upset) at higher-than-recommended doses.
How to Buy Peak Performance Supplements
You walk into a natural food store or a discount pharmacy, and you see row upon row of supplements. How do you choose the right brands? Nutritional supplements are not regulated by the government so, to be sure that you are getting the best-quality products, stick to brands from reputable, well-known manufacturers that take special steps to ensure safety and effectiveness. Some unscrupulous manufacturers may water down a product so that it does not contain the quantity of supplement that it should. This is unfortunate, and has hurt the reputation of the entire industry. Most of the well-known manufacturers, however, do have good quality control. Here are some tips as to how to choose the best products:
- Buy products that come in tamperproof packages with both an inside and outside seal.
- Look for products that state on the label that they are laboratory tested and guaranteed, which means that the product has been assayed by an independent laboratory.
- To be sure the product is fresh, look for an expiration date on the package; an old supplement may have lost some of its effectiveness.
- Look for a quality-control number on the package. If something is wrong, the manufacturer can quickly pull the product off the shelf.
Just a reminder: Most supplements don't come in childproof packages. If there are children in your home, be sure to put your supplements in a childproof container, or be scrupulous about keeping them out of reach of children.
How to Take Peak Performance Supplements
Unless otherwise noted, take your supplements with a full glass of water, after eating, to enhance absorption. There are times, however, that I will tell you to take a particular supplement before meals on an empty stomach. It's usually best to take your supplements in two doses: one in the morning and one in the afternoon. In all likelihood, you will need to carry your supplements with you to work so that you don't miss a midday dose. I recommend that you take a few minutes on a weekend to set up your week's supply of prepackaged supplements in plastic baggies or special pill containers. Take one bag of supplements in the morning, and take another bag to work. This way, you won't have to count pills every day, and you'll have your supplements at your fingertips when you need them.
Some performance supplements are best taken up to an hour before exercise to boost stamina and energy, or immediately following exercise to speed up recovery, which means that you'll need to bring your supplements with you to the gym or playing field.
Some supplements can be taken daily like vitamin pills, others should be taken only occasionally to get a desired result, or should be used only for a limited time. If a supplement works well, why not take it every day? First, overusing some supplements can render them in- effective. You'll be wasting your money! Second, some supplements may be not be safe for long-term use. So, please follow my directions carefully.
Some supplements can be taken with prescription drugs, other should not. When in doubt about taking a supplement, check with your pharmacist, physician, or natural healer. They will be able to tell you about potential interactions between your medication and your supplements.
At times, I don't recommend a precise dose for a particular supplement; rather, I will give a range of doses. Some people are highly susceptible to the effects of medications of any kind and may only require a small dose of a particular substance to get an effect. Older adults tend to fall in this category. To make sure that a supplement agrees with you, start with the smaller dose and work your way up to the maximum dose.
Use your common sense. Don't take a stimulating supplement at night when you want to sleep, or a supplement that promotes sleep when you need to feel energized and active. Be especially careful not to use natural tranquilizers or sleep aids if you have to drive a car or operate heavy machinery (and that includes the machines at the gym).
Supplements are sold separately, or in multicombination formulas. When you take more than one supplement, the peak performance term is stacking. In some cases, the multicombination supplement is more economical than buying several different ones. However, in some cases, the doses for each supplement could be so low that the product is a waste of money. If you chose to use multicombination supplements, read the label carefully to make sure that you are getting the full dose that I recommend. Also be sure that you're not getting any ingredient that you don't want.
Store your supplements in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight. Some supplements need to be refrigerated; read the label for precise instructions.
How to Use This Book
At the core of this book is chapter 2, "The Hot Hundred Peak Performance Supplements." These include some new, exciting, cutting-edge supplements, as well as some old favorites that have new applications or were the subject of new studies that either confirm or negate manufacturers' claims. Rest assured, I don't take 100 supplements a day, and I don't expect you to either! Read the Hot Hundred to decide which, if any, of these supplements can help you achieve your goals.
Chapters 3 through 10 can help you better refine your choice of supplements. These chapters deal with specific topics (like the best supplements for energy and stamina, how to improve your brain power, and how to enhance your sex life), and can better show you how to incorporate the right supplements into your life.
The Peak Performance Bible is written for people of all ages and all levels of strength. I have included important information for body builders who want to get bigger, overweight folks who want to get leaner, and weekend athletes who are desperately trying to stay fit. Because I am concerned about such problems as steroid abuse and eating disorders among high-school students, I have devoted a chapter to teenagers. Because I am equally concerned about out-of-shape adults, I have also written a chapter called "Peak Performance Forever! The Midlife Tuneup."
I don't want to suggest that any pill or potion can make you healthy and strong. Throughout this book, I place equal importance on nutrition, exercise, and a sensible lifestyle. Don't believe manufacturers that promise you can have the body of your dreams simply by using their product. These claims are exaggerations, at best, and outright lies, at worst.
Answers to Commonly Asked Questions
Here are some answers to commonly asked questions about supplements in general and peak performance products in particular.
What are vitamins and minerals?
Vitamins are organic substances that are essential for life but usually not produced by the body. Therefore, you must get vitamins from your food or vitamin supplements. Most vitamins are measured in grams, mcg. (1/1,000,000 gram), or mg. (1/1000 gram). There is one exception: Fat soluble vitamins (A,D,E, K) are measured in IU (international units). The rule of thumb is 1 IU=1mg.
Minerals are natural substances that are found throughout the body that must also be obtained through food or supplements. No minerals are made by your body. Minerals are essential for normal cell function, teeth, bones, and connective tissue. There are two types of minerals: essential minerals and trace minerals. Essential minerals need to be consumed in greater volume and are measured in mg. or grams. We require only a minuscule amount of trace minerals; they are measured in mcg.
Why do you often recommend doses of vitamins and minerals that are higher than the Daily Values?
The Daily Values (formerly called RDAs) are the U.S. government's determinations of the bare minimum of vitamins and minerals needed each day to prevent a deficiency disease like scurvy(a severe lack of vitamin C) or beri beri(a severe lack of vitamin B1.) Most of us don't think about these diseases anymore because they are rare in the western world. The problem with the DVs is that they don't reflect what we need to enjoy optimal health and vitality. When the DVs were first designed, we knew very little about how our cells worked and how vitamins and minerals function in our bodies. Today, we know that vitamins and minerals can play a role in preventing disease, including heart disease, cancer, and depression. The doses of vitamins and minerals I recommend are based on studies reflect that reflect this new way of thinking.
You may notice that I also recommend many supplements that are not in the DVs, including essential fatty acids or carotenoids (compounds found in plants.) Although a lack of these substances does not cause a known deficiency disease, they are critical for good health and, therefore, I believe, are as important as supplements in the DVs.
Do I need to take supplements if I eat a well-balanced diet?
Most Americans don't eat as well as they think they do. Numerous studies have shown that, on any given day, most Americans are deficient in one or more of the vitamins and minerals listed in the Daily Values. Only a handful of people actually consume the five to eight servings of fruits and vegetables daily recommended by the National Cancer Institute. I pride myself on being a careful eater, yet, I know that it's extremely difficult to get all the nutrients I need from my food alone. For one thing, the vitamin and mineral content in fruits and vegetables vary according to growing conditions; therefore, the nutrient content is unpredictable. In some cases, it's impossible to get enough of a particular vitamin from food alone. For example, in order to get my recommended 400IUs daily of vitamin E, you would have to eat close to 100 pounds of broiled liver or 125 teaspoons of peanut oil. Isn't it easier to simply take a supplement?
What's an herb?
Herb refers to any plant or part of a plant (leaf, root, bark, seeds, or extract) used for medicine or cooking. Plants have been used in the prevention and treatment of illness for thousands of years. Plants are a rich source of phytochemicals, natural substances that are pharmacologically active; that is, they exert a profound effect on certain animal tissues and organs. In fact, it may surprise you to learn that up to half of all prescription drugs are derived from plants, including digitalis(from the foxglove plant), aspirin(from the bark of the white willow tree), and quinine(from the bark of the cinchona tree). In fact, several of the hottest peak performance supplements are actually herbs.
What are muscle builders?
A muscle builder is any substance that has anabolic action, which means it helps build or maintain lean tissue. Many substances purport to be muscle builders, but only a few actually deliver the goods. Contrary to what some manufacturers may suggest, there is no supplement on the planet that can build significant muscle mass without exercise.
What are thermogenic agents?
Thermogenic agents are supplements that turn up your metabolism, resulting in the burning of more fat. These supplements tend to be stimulants, and can have some unpleasant side effects (like heart palpitations and jitteriness.) If used judiciously, along with a sensible eating plan and exercise, they may help enhance weight loss. They are not for everyone, and I believe they should be used under the supervision of a physician or natural healer.
What's a recovery product?
Vigorous exercise depletes your body of important nutrients and energy. Recovery products help you bounce back faster, and can enhance the effect of your workout. Recovery products are not necessary for everybody -- they are most useful for serious athletes who work out hard at least three times a week.
What are hormones and prohormones?
Hormones are chemical messengers in the body that tell our cells what to do. They regulate virtually every body function, from sexual growth and development, to how we think, to the beating of our hearts. The male hormone testosterone is instrumental in making and maintaining muscle. Prohormones(like DHEA) are precursors to the production of other hormones.
Can women and men use the same peak performance products?
Most of the products mentioned in this book are fine for both women and men, with some exceptions. In particular, I do not recommend that women use any products that boost male hormones because they could have undesirable side effects.
What are enzymes and co-enzymes?
An enzyme is a protein found in living cells that brings about a chemical change. A co-enzyme works with an enzyme to produce a particular reaction.
What does cycling mean?
Cycling means periodically changing your workout or supplement regimen. Many athletes believe that their bodies quickly become accustomed to a particular regimen, reducing its initial impact. Therefore, switching regimens may help accrue maximum benefits.
Copyright © 2001 by Earl Mindell, R.Ph., Ph.D., and Carol Colman