June 8, 2000 (Cleveland) -- When the Cleveland Indians' usually red-hot right fielder, Manny Ramirez, pulled up limping just a third of the way to first base during a Memorial Day match-up with the Anaheim Angels, all of Cleveland sighed, "Not again."
Faced with several key players on the disabled list, Indians fans who have been treated to a five-year string of division championships and two trips to the World Series are asking what's wrong. The answer, according to team consultant Jeffery Stout, PhD, may lie at least partly in an over-the-counter supplement called "Ripped Fuel."
Stout is an expert in weight training and conditioning who is often called in as a consultant to professional teams. In this case, he tells WebMD, the Indians' head trainer "tried to get me in Omaha, and when he found out I was in Indianapolis he called every hotel looking for me." (Stout was in Indianapolis for a meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine.) "When he got me, he asked what I knew about Ripped Fuel, because he says that all of his guys are taking it," says Stout, an assistant professor of exercise science and director of the human performance laboratory at Creighton University in Omaha.
A spokesman for the manufacturer of Ripped Fuel, TwinLab of Ronkonkoma, N.Y., says the product is safe and that the company has received no complaints about it. But Stout says the combination of two of the supplement's ingredients -- caffeine and the Asian herbal extract ephedrine -- can add up to problems for ball players. "The ephedrine binds to receptors in muscles and causes a more intense contraction, but it also means that the muscle is slower to release, so when you run there is a risk of pulls or tears," says Stout.
Caffeine, meanwhile, "adds the buzz that players like to get because they think it keeps them up and alert in the later innings." But caffeine works as a diuretic (as does chewing tobacco) "and, combined with the fact that baseball players don't like to drink water anyway, many of them are not properly hydrated. This lack of hydration also causes muscle problems," says Stout, who tells WebMD that he advised the Indians' trainer to get the players off Ripped Fuel.
Curtis Danburg, spokesman for the Indians, confirms that the trainer contacted Stout for advice, but tells WebMD he won't comment farther. "This is a developing problem," Danburg says.
TwinLab spokesman Jim Swords tells WebMD that Stout is "way off base. "This supplement is used by many, many professional athletes, and we have had no complaints like this." He says the supplement "promotes lean body mass and has met all tests for safety and efficacy."
A 60-capsule bottle of Ripped Fuel costs less than $15 at a health food store in Lakewood, Ohio, a Cleveland suburb that is about a 15 minute drive from Jacobs Field. A clerk manning Doc Heben's Nutrition Center there one day this week tells WebMD that the supplement is a popular item in the store. "We sell a lot of it to body builders," says the clerk, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The label states that a serving size is two capsules. Each capsule contains chromium, Ma Huang extract (which contains ephedrine), an extract from the seed of the Brazilian guarana bush (which contains caffeine), and the amino acid L-carnitine.
Every baseball season, one supplement or another becomes popular, Stout says. "Right now, for instance, the Boston Red Sox are all drinking Red Bull," says Stout, who says that ailing Boston pitcher Bret Saberhagen also sought his advice. "I don't have any problem with that, because it is really only ginseng tea and is harmless. There isn't any ingredient in it that can improve their performance, but they think it does, so maybe it helps."