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Energy Supplements: Substances that Affect Energy Metabolism continued...

Who is likely to be deficient? Athletes who push themselves hard might be depleted in these nutrients, says Shao. Plus, people who have poor diets or take regular medications, such as acid blockers, anti-inflammatory painkillers, or antibiotics, says Leopold.

Paul R. Thomas, EdD, RD -- a scientific consultant at the Office of Dietary Supplements -- says that creatine does have the potential to increase energy output under particular circumstances. For instance, a sprinter running a 100-yard dash might benefit from it.

But the effects are that specific. In fact, creatine might actually decrease athletic performance in longer-term physical activity, and it carries some risk. Leopold says that creatine can interfere with sweating, thus contributing to dehydration, muscle strain, and cramps.

Bottom line: Will these supplements boost energy? If you are deficient in these nutrients or are an elite athlete, you might benefit from some of these supplements.

Energy Supplements: Calories

Many of us have a skewed impression of what calories are -- we see them as villains who lurk in food and make our pants too tight. But calories are the measurement of the energy potential in any food we eat.

So the third category of energy supplements consists of calories, usually carbohydrates (like sugars), which our bodies can easily break down and absorb as energy. They’re in energy drinks, energy bars, energy gels -- and even so-called enhanced waters. In addition, these are usually high- glycemic index carbohydrates, quickly entering into the bloodstream, spiking blood glucose and causing a reactive insulin surge. The result? Over the long-term, these responses may cause an increase in inflammation and pain, and other adverse effects.

“These are really attractive to athletes,” says Shao, “especially ones who might be in the middle of a marathon.” Easily absorbed carbs can give them the fuel they need to keep going. After exercise, these carbs may also help athletes to recover more quickly from a heavy workout.

But what if you’re not running in a marathon? Will a dose of sugar in a sports drink give you a boost after a day of sitting in an armchair? Maybe a little.

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