Doping in Golf? Be Proactive!Nutrition
By Joy Stephenson-Law, JD, Founder
When it comes to the use of Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) in golf, Tiger Woods is reported to have quipped that the only thing he’d expect a tour player to test positive for was a hangover. Unfortunately, while it may be true that golf, in general, has a lower incidence of PED use when compared to other sports, one leading trainer has estimated that up to half of the top 100 golfers have used or use PEDs.
And while it’s also true that PEDs may not target specific physical aspects of golf such as swing mechanics, green reading or course management, they can help players recuperate faster from injuries, practice longer hours and better channel nervous energy.
These PEDs also come in a variety of forms. Some are prescription medicines that a golfer may be taking for a condition such as hypertension but that also offers additional benefits that could improve performance on the course. Others are over-the-counter products such as certain nutritional supplements that, in certain quantities, may increase strength. Others are illegal but easily obtained on the sports black market. The most common fall into four main categories: beta-blockers, stimulants, anabolic steroids and synthetic hormones.
Perhaps one of the most well-known PEDs in golf are beta blockers. These are drugs which are usually prescribed to treat heart disease and hypertension as well as for steadying hand tremors. One thing many people may not be aware of is that beta blockers are also prescribed for stage fright and panic attacks, and this calming effect can be beneficial to a golfer during tournaments. This could be especially important on the green where a successful put can mean millions of dollars in prize money.
Another prescription drug which has gained favor is Adderall, a stimulant perhaps best known for its use to treat the impulsiveness, lack of focus and hyperactivity of Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and its cousin, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) in children and adults. How does this medication help golfers? According to players who will admit to using it, Adderall helps a player better focus and get in to the “zone” – a critical element in golf – which enhances their play. One medical doctor stated in his opinion the two drugs that could provide the most benefit to golfers are beta blockers and Adderall.
Perhaps the best known anabolic steroid is the male sexual hormone testosterone, which is often prescribed to treat medical conditions such as loss of muscle mass as men age. These steroids block muscles from breaking down allowing a golfer to train longer and recover faster. This translates into being able to hit more practice balls, with more force and more often before exhaustion sets in. It also can mean more explosive core strength, hip strength and arm strength.
While testosterone creams are applied topically, they may produce modest lean muscle gains and some experts estimate that the gains in muscle mass can generate increased club head speed. Injectable anabolic steroids may produce significant results – think body builder results – when combined with a training program.
Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is synthetic human-growth hormone, which is responsible for bone growth and tissue health. For athletes, it may increase their speed and power as well as reduce healing and recovery times. And for golfers, it may help build explosive muscle, which is what all golfers want. Another synthetic hormone is EPO (erythropoietin), which gives an athlete more endurance by increasing red blood-cell production and the cell’s ability to carry oxygen.
PED Health Risks
Clearly, there is substantial evidence which suggests that PEDs have the ability to considerably improve athletic performance in certain instances. But they also can be extremely dangerous and, in some situations, even deadly!
Beta blockers, for example, can lead to heart problems, high blood pressure, confusion, tremors and even hallucinations. Abuse of anabolic steroids may cause liver damage, depression (also may increase risk of suicide), male pattern baldness, acne and more. Using stimulants as a PED can lead to insomnia, heat stroke, anxiety, stroke and heart attack and dehydration. And taking synthetic hormones such as HGH can cause heart attacks, anemia, thyroid problems and stroke.
PED may also deplete nutrients from the body which may ultimately negatively impact athletic performance. For example, stimulants such as Adderall may cause depletion of critical nutrients like magnesium, vitamin C and vitamin B6. Low magnesium levels may cause muscle cramps, irregular heartbeat and mood changes. Having a deficiency in vitamin C may cause fatigue, depression and more. Low vitamin B6 may cause weakness and numbness. And anabolic steroid use can increase cholesterol by damaging the liver. And having a damaged liver may also cause malabsorption issues, meaning that you may have trouble processing critical nutrients from the foods you eat.
Whether you’re a weekend golfer or a professional, it is extremely important to fuel your body with a variety of nutrient-rich foods. These nutrients will help enhance and positively affect your athletic performance without the crazy side effects. Examples of these nutrients include:
- Iron. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), iron has important implications for exercise and athletic performance. Appropriate levels of iron “increases oxygen uptake, reduces heart rate, and decreases lactate concentrations during exercise. “ The benefits of iron supplementation may also depend on the iron status of the individual athlete. For a list of iron rich foods, read here.
- Selenium. According to the NIH, selenium is a “component of several enzymes, particularly glutathione peroxidase (GPx), an important cellular antioxidant enzyme. Theoretically, selenium supplementation could prevent peroxidation of the RBC membrane and muscle cell substructures involved in oxygen metabolism, possibly enhancing aerobic exercise performance.” Nutritionists love to tout Brazil nuts for their high selenium content. Just one large nut can have 140 mg of this mineral - more than twice the recommended daily amount! Oysters, whole grains and meats also contain selenium.
- Niacin (vitamin B3). “Niacin supports both anaerobic and aerobic performance. Too much or too little niacin can shift your body's use of energy from fat to carbohydrates or vice versa; this might affect performance,” reports the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Beef, lamb, chicken, seafood, peanuts, mangoes, asparagus and sweet potatoes are dietary sources of this vitamin.
To read more about sports nutrition for golfers and other athletes, read here. And for all of the ladies who are looking to step it up on the course or even the gym, read here.
More importantly, it is extremely important to get periodic comprehensive nutrient testing to make sure you do not have any nutritional imbalances or deficiencies. If you do, you may have to tweak your diet, take good quality supplements or even consider the use of liposomal technology.
Enjoy your golf game as you enjoy your healthy life!
The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.