Question: Are there any beneficial herbal products or supplements to help enhance a man's athletic performance?
Answer: I'm asked a lot about the best ways to improve exercise tolerance. Certainly the first rule with that is that there's no cheats, per se. There's a lot of advertising out there touting different products, trying to get guys to purchase various things that will be more useful in enhancing muscle tone and so on. Bottom line is you need to exercise, you need to build the muscle strength gradually push the muscles to the limit periodically, give them time to recover and do it again. In using aerobic exercise, same sort of thing, making sure that you're regularly building up.
As far as supplements go, there are a few things that I will mention to guys. First is that you need to be incredibly careful about safety with those. There are number of them that cause problems as we saw with ephedra and the number of deaths that occurred before the FDA banned it in 2004. As far as supplements that tend to work well, pycnogenol is one to consider. It's an extract from a tree bark. 200 milligrams a day in one very small study indicated that it improved exercise tolerance on a treadmill over the course of taking it for a month.
Another one that might be useful in some circumstances is creatine. Creatine is one that a lot of bodybuilders will use. It seems to help primarily if you're vegetarian and not getting a lot of creatine from meats, and also if you're using creatine as someone who's not highly trained already. Similarly it seems to work in younger men who want to do short bursts of exercise such as weightlifting.
As far as overall classes of these different supplements, I just tell folks be careful, a lot of them include stimulants; caffeine, and so on. The caffeine levels should never get above 250 miligrams. Everything related to taking steroids or any kind of hormonals may increase certain levels of things like testosterone, but there's really no guarantee that any of those in the research that's out there so far make a difference in terms of overall strength or exercise capacity.