For many, a workout starts 15 minutes before the gym with a pre-workout energy drink. Many are made with stimulants like caffeine, creatine, and arginine.
But the FDA is cracking down on a different ingredient found in some supplements. It's called geranium extract, methylhexanamine or dimethylamylamine, along with many other names. Many know it simply as DMAA.
"It constricts blood vessels, increases heart rate. There are plenty of stories out there of athletes who have been badly affected by this, and even some deaths," sports medicine physician Dr. Eric Coris tells us.
The FDA has received 100 reports, including that of 22-year-old Army private Michael Sparling. In 2011, his parents got a call that changed their lives.
"He said ma'am, I'm very sorry, we did everything we could to save your boy. But at 11:17 this morning, he passed away," Leanne told us from her Sacramento home.
Michael collapsed while jogging with his troop at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas. The Sparlings say he was taking a DMAA-fortified supplement called "Jack3d" that was found in his room.
"He was such a picture of health, internally and externally. That was the only thing they could find that was wrong in his blood system," Michael's father said.
The Sparlings are suing USP Labs, the makers of Jack3d. They believe the workout drink lead to their son's death.
"Anything we put in our body has a potential to give us side effects," Dr. Coris explained.
"We would rather our kids not use nothing, and use the meals they eat at home, water, Gatorade, or Powerade, their choice," said football coach Earl Garcia, who has 40 years of experience coaching high school athletes.
He doesn't believe his athletes are taking pre-workout supplements, since many students and their families just can't afford them.
His approach is simple -- don't use them.
"Use common sense, and get some rest at night, all this other stuff is a waste of money. That's my opinion," he says.
But Leanne is concerned that many young athletes are using similar products as they try to develop size and skill,
"If you talk to a lot of coaches and administrators, they don't feel there is a problem. But I guarantee you there is a problem, there is a huge problem," she says.
"The FDA has taken a stand that these are illegal, and should not be available," Dr. Coris says.
Coris works with college athletes who are subject to drug testing by the NCAA. Stimulants, including methylhexanamine, are listed on the NCAA banned drug list.
The FDA confirms USP labs destroyed $8 million of product in July, 2013. It now sells reformulated Jack3d no longer made with DMAA. Still, we found the original formula for sale online.
"Our mission here has been given to us. It is to bring along education and awareness. People need to know," say Michael's parents,who don't want any other family to experience a loss because of a supplement.
USP labs did not respond to our questions about DMAA or Michael Sparling. The company lawyer referred us to retailer GNC. GNC did not want to comment on the case.
But a spokesperson tells us in a statement, the company believes, "DMAA is a safe, legal dietary ingredient"
The council for responsible nutrition tells us something different. The industry group advising its members to. "stop manufacturing DMAA products, and consumers to stop using them."
This month, FDA announced Creafuse, another supplement, also contains DMAA. The company is recalling specific lots.
Attorneys representing the Sparlings tell us, unlike prescription drug companies, the supplement industry is not legally required to share reports of adverse problems or side effects from consumers with the FDA.
So if you have any reaction to any supplement, contact your primary care provider, and file a report with the FDA so it will go on record.
The FDA says consumers should look for DMAA listed on the product label. It may also be listed as:
Dr. Eric Coris
University of South Florida College of Medicine
Taylor Hooton Foundation
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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