Can Eating Meat Cause a Positive Drug Test ?

March 24, 2009

Ed McNeely

 In recent years drugs in sport have received a lot of attention thanks to major league baseball and the Tour de France. One of the first claims by many who have tested positive is that they took a contaminated supplement and while there is evidence that many supplements do contain traces of substances that may cause a positive test athletes are well aware of the risks and can make informed choices about the supplements they use. Not as commonly known are the potential risks in the foods we eat and in particular meat consumption.

 The administration of steroid to animals to “fatten” them up before consumption is controversial but common in many countries. The consumption of steroid laden meats can increase blood levels of steroid metabolites high enough to cause a positive drug test.  A study by Kicman (1994) found that 50% of their subjects tested positive as long as 24 hour after consuming chicken that had received a steroid injection eight days earlier. Several other studies have found positive tests following the consumption of ground beef and veal.

 Interestingly it is not just meats that animals that are injected with steroids that can pose a drug testing risk. Some animals, in particular boar are naturally high in nandrolone and norandrostenedione. Traces of the metabolites of these substances have been found in the blood up to 24 hours after consuming boar meat in concentrations high enough to result in a positive test.

 So what does this all mean? Is it something that we should be worried about or is it really a sign of the problems in the drug testing system? The amounts of steroids that are resulting in the positive tests from consuming meat are not enough to have a physiological effect or improve performance but are enough to get you banned from your sport. I guess the lesson here is if you are subject to drug testing be careful of the meats you eat when traveling to foreign countries.

 Debruyckere, G., de Sagher, R., & Van Peteghem, C. (1992). Clostebol-positive urine after consumption of contaminated meat. Clinical Chemistry, 38, 1869-1873.

 Debruyckere, G., Van Peteghem, C., & de Sagher, R. (1993). Influence of the consumptionof meat contaminated with anabolic steroids on doping tests. Analytica Chimica Acta, 275, 49-56.

 Kicman, A.T., Cowan, D.A., Myhre, L., Nilsson, S., Tomten, S., & Oftebro, H. (1994). Effect on sports drug tests of ingesting meat from steroid (methenolone)-treated livestock. Clinical Chemistry, 40, 2084-2087.

 Sterk, S., Linders, S.H., von Ginkel, L.A., & Stephany, R.W. (2002, June) Liverwurst, a possible source of a positive doping test? Poster session at the 4th International Symposium on Hormone and Veterinary Drug Residue Analysis, Antwerp, Belgium.

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Beta Alanine – A Cyclists Best Friend

March 18, 2009

Ed McNeely

 Cycling, particularly road racing, crits, and time trials are endurance sports where the training focus is long distance training. Despite the endurance requirements many races come down to a final sprint that is dependant on very short term peak power. Strength training and cycling specific sprint training can improve this ability but the fastest way to bump up your short term power may be a nutritional supplement called Beta Alanine.

 Beta alanine is an amino acid the is converted to carnosine in the body. Carnosine is an intramuscular buffer which accounts for about 10% of a muscle’s buffering capacity. During intense exercise there is a build up of H+ from lactic acid and other sources which can negatively affect muscle contraction and contribute to fatigue. Increasing carnosine concentration in the muscle can delay fatigue caused by H+.

 A recent study published in the American College of Sports Medicine Journal (Med Sci Sports. Vol 41 pp 898-903) examined the effects of beta alanine supplementation on sprint ability at the end of a 110 min cycling performance. The subjects were 21 male recreationally competitive cyclists divided into a placebo and Beta Alanine group in a double blind fashion so that neither the researchers or the participants knew who was in which group. The Beta Alanine group used 2g per day for the first 2 weeks, 3g per day for the next two weeks and 4g per day from week 5 to the end of the eight- week study. Both groups kept to their normal training routines throughout the study.

 Before and after the supplementation was started all subjects completed a simulated 110min time trial immediately followed by a 30s all out sprint. Following the treatment the Beta Alanine group improved their average power over the 30s by 5%; there was no change for the placebo group. Peak power, during the sprint, improved by 11.4% for the beta Alanine group with no change for the placebo group. Interestingly, all of the subjects in the Beta Alanine group saw improvement in both Peak and mean power while many of the placebo group decreased both peak and mean power during the sprint.

 Beta alanine has been around for a few years and the research clearly supports it’s use for improving short- term sprint performance in both endurance and speed and power sports. There have been no reported side effects of Beat alanine supplementation.


Are Endurance Sports Bad for Your Bones?

March 18, 2009

Ed McNeely

 Over the past decade there has been a tremendous increase in the number of adults participating in age group endurance sports. Many take up sports to experience the joy of competition against others; some take it up as a challenge for themselves and still others take up endurance sports as a means of improving their health, quality of life, and fitness.

 While there are definite benefits to being physically active and training for races can provide the motivation many need to lead an active lifestyle every activity that we do does carry some risk and competitive endurance sports may not be the best choice for those with bone density issues (BMD).

 In developing countries the incidence of osteoporosis is increasing at a rate faster than what would be predicted by the aging of the population alone. It has been estimated that by 2025 the number of hip fractures in the U.S. will double to nearly 2.6 million with a greater percentage increase in men than in women. Hip fractures not only have an impact on quality of life and long term mobility but there is up to a 33% mortality rate in the first year following a hip fracture.

 Endurance training can be an acceptable form of exercise for maintaining or increasing bone density in middle aged or older adults provided there is sufficient impact and the training volume is not too high. Swimming, cycling and walking have been shown to have little effect on bone density compared to controls. This is due to the lack of impact forces experienced during these activities. Stuart and Hannan (Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., vol 32: pp1373-1377; 2000) examined the effects of cycling, running or both on bone density in recreational male athletes. They found that runners had greater total and leg BMD than controls, those athletes participating in both cycling and running had greater total arm BMD whereas the cyclists had decreased spine BMD compared to controls even though all groups performed equal volumes of work throughout the study period.

 Rowing because of the high compressive and shear forces placed on the spine, 4.6 times body weight, has been shown to increase lumbar spine BMD but not at other areas (Morris et al, International Journal of Sports Medicine.  Vol 21:pp 518-523, 2000).

 Running has mixed effects on bone density depending on total training volume. Running mileage of 20-30 km per week has a positive effect on bone, particularly lower leg and distal femur, but training volumes greater than this may create a chronic increase in cortisol that negatively impacts bone (Chilibeck, Sale, and Webber, 1995). In males running 92 km per week bone density has been found to be lower than sedentary controls (Bilanin, Blanchard, and Russek-Cohen, 1989). This equates to just over 8 hours of training per week if you have an average running speed of 11 km/hr.

 It is not uncommon for age group runners, cyclists and triathletes to train at least 8 hours per week and often as much as 15 hours per week when preparing for longer distance events. While these volumes of training are necessary to compete in endurance sports there are a couple of things that you can do to decrease the negative impact endurance training can have on bone density:

 1. Strength train

 Strength training can increase bone density and help maintain muscle mass. Add 2-3 strength sessions per week to your program all year round. While some complain that they don’t have time there is a fair amount of research suggesting that replacing some endurance work with strength training actually improves endurance performances more than the endurance work alone.

 2. Eat enough

 One of the biggest contributors to decreased bone density is a negative energy balance, that state where you are burning more calories than you are taking in. Make sure you are fueling and refueling properly before during and after training.

 Endurance sports, like all activities, have both positive and negative consequences; the key to enjoying a healthy sporting life is to find the right balance and minimize the negative consequences.