Supplements are a big hit among baby boomers.

Melatonin, meal replacements and Ma huang (ephedrine) based products are just a few of the big sellers. Human growth hormone, testosterone, and DHEA are purported to hold the secrets to youth. And if these don't work, liposuction, face lifts, and implants will help. Recent research demonstrated that whether you play chess or tennis, if you play to win, you increase your testosterone. Most people who take vitamins do so to increase their health and energy. Aging athletes believe they require extra vitamins to combat the consequences of hard exercise. But longitudinal studies have not yet borne out the benefits of long term supplementation. Vitamins and minerals intake must be balanced. If not, increasing dosages of one vitamin may decrease absorption of another.

An ergogenic aid is a substance which is supposed to enhance athletic performance. About 204 million dollars are spent each year by athletes trying to gain a millisecond edge over their opponents.

In interviews with 290 Olympic hopefuls, athletes were asked if they would take an untested drug to gain an advantage. Ninety-five percent said they would. The follow-up question inquired whether they would take the drug even if they knew it would cause them harm in the future. Ninety percent of those athletes answered "yes."

Belief in ergogenic aids has been around since there has been competition. In ancient Greece, athletes concluded eating powdered lion's teeth increased strength. In the early 1900's athletes assumed that extra protein provided additional power. Protein needs range from .8 grams per kilogram of body weight to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. Heavy cardiovascular and strength training requires additional protein. Peter Lemon, Ph.D. recommends high level athletes consume a gram of protein per pound of body weight. For most people, there is no need for supplementation.

Joe Weider built an empire selling protein powders and other aids. His companies have been reprimanded by the FDA over the years because of false claims.

Only about 1/3 of people who take supplements receive the effect they were told they would receive.

Scientific studies are based on valid research. They hold up only when other investigations replicate their findings.

Be careful of anecdotal studies. Anecdotal information is based on paid or unpaid testimonies of people who claim they have taken a product.

Melatonin is advertised to promote sleep, alleviate jet-lag, combat aging, reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease, boost your immune system, improve your sex life, and lower your blood pressure and cholesterol.

Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain in response to darkness. Production decreases with age. It's function is to promote sleep.

Melatonin assists in the cycle of waking and sleeping. Production begins when a signal from the eye indicates darkness. It peaks at 2:00 a.m. and subsides by morning.

Melatonin may also act as an antioxidant. It is present in meats fruits, vegetables, and grains. Children and adolescents produce an abundance of melatonin. Production declines at puberty and continues to decrease through adulthood. There appear to be minimal side effects when 3 milligrams of melatonin are taken as a sleep aid. Some people report nightmares. It is contraindicated for folks on tranquilizers, anti-depressants, or sedatives, however. And high dosages may prevent ovulation.

Melatonin is a hormone. Recommendations from the scientific community suggest to wait for more studies before using it.

Athletes are always looking for a secret formula to boost performance. Some enjoy the placebo effect. That is, they believe a pill will help them improve, so it does. This psychological benefit is okay, unless serious money is wasted or there are unwanted side effects.

Creatine phosphate (CP) is considered a magic bullet in the bodybuilding/athletic world, even by todays standards. It provides a small reserve of quick energy during your workouts. The energy released from the breakdown of Adenosine Tri Phosphate ATP and CP sustain all out, short duration, exercise such as during weight training. Recent research has demonstrated that creatine phosphate, ingested prior to lifting weights, actually improved muscle strength, size, and sprint performance.

Oxygen tanks are seen on the sidelines of professional football and basketball teams. Studies indicate however, that there is no known performance benefit to supplementing more "pure" oxygen than your body needs.

Carbohydrates provide energy to your muscles for both short and long distance activities. Products such as Gatorlode provide 140 grams of carbohydrate and Carboplex provides 164 grams. PowerBars and TigerSport Bars contain in excess of 40 carbohydrate grams per bar. Carbohydrates consumed both before and after exercise helps you maintain a full load of muscle glycogen to power your workouts.

Vitamins are important to athletic performance but the jury is out concerning the benefits of vitamin supplementation. Try to get most of your vitamins from fruits, vegetables, whole grain cereals, meat, and poultry.

1. Vitamin C enhances immunity and is an antioxidant (antioxidants combat free radicals that "rust" your organs).

2. Thiamine helps maintain your central nervous system.

3. Niacin aids energy production and synthesis of fat and amino acids.

4. Pyridoxine helps protein metabolism.

5. Folacin aids new cell growth and red blood cell production.

6. E is an antioxidant. The proper combination of minerals are important to regulatory functions of the body.

7. Calcium aids in bone formation, enzyme reactions, and muscle contractions.

8. Magnesium is required for energy production, muscle relaxation, and nerve conduction.

9. Sodium is responsible for nerve impulses, muscle action, and maintaining body fluid balances.

10. Zinc helps with tissue growth, healing and immunity.

11. Selenium is an antioxidant.