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Natural Alternatives to Performance Enhancing Drugs

by Robb Beams


Needless to say, the past several months has been full of discoveries and disappointments regarding Lance Armstrong and the world of cycling. To say that there was an awareness of performance enhancing drugs (PEDS) influencing the race results of the Tour de France is an understatement; however, to the extent that past racers and champions have admitted to using PEDS (both regarding the type and amounts) is frightening. Since the news about Lance began to break, my phone has been ringing nonstop about what PEDS are and what they really do. With this in mind, I thought I would provide a recap of the most popular PEDS and how you can get the same performance results in a healthy and natural way.

Note: Your body produces these substances naturally in the body, the key to optimum health and performance is to maintain a high quality & quantity of healthy blood through clean eating and controlled training efforts.

Drug: Erythropoietin (pronounced, ah-rith-ro-poy-tin, and abbreviated, EPO)
Source: click here

What EPO Does Within the Body
Erythropoietin or EPO is a relatively recent entry into the deceitful pursuit of glory. EPO is a protein hormone produced by the kidney. After being released into the blood stream it binds with receptors in the bone marrow, where it stimulates the production of red blood cells (erythrocytes). Medically, EPO is used to treat certain forms of anemia (e.g., due to chronic kidney failure). Logically, since EPO accelerates erythrocyte production it also increases oxygen carrying capacity.

Side Effects of EPO: Death

In the 1990s, there was a spate of sudden deaths associated within the cycling world associated with EPO: Marco Ceriani (16 years old), Johan Sermon (21 YO), Fabrice Salanson (23 YO), Marco Rusconi (24 YO), Jose Maria Jimenez (32), Denis Zanette (32 YO), Marco Pantani (34 YO), Michel Zanoli (35 YO). This negative publicity was at least part of the reason for the clamping down on EPO use, which was rampant at the time. Source: click here

The reason that EPO, and transfusion blood doping, is dangerous is because of increased blood viscosity. Basically, whole blood consists of red blood cells and plasma (water, proteins, etc.). The percentage of whole blood that is occupied by the red blood cells is referred to as, the hematocrit. A low hematocrit means dilute (thin) blood, and a high hematocrit mean concentrated (thick) blood. Above a certain hematocrit level whole blood can sludge and clog capillaries. If this happens in the brain it results in a stroke. In the heart, a heart attack. Unfortunately, this has happened to several elite athletes who have used EPO. Source: click here

EPO use is especially dangerous to athletes who exercise over prolonged periods. A well-conditioned endurance athlete is more dehydration resistant than a sedentary individual. The body accomplishes this by several methods, but one key component is to “hold on” to more water at rest. Circulating whole blood is one location in which this occurs and, thus, can function as a water reservoir. During demanding exercise, as fluid losses mount, water is shifted out of the blood stream (hematocrit rises). If one is already starting with an artificially elevated hematocrit then you can begin to see the problem -- it is a short trip to the critical “sludge zone”.

Additional dangers of EPO include sudden death during sleep, which has killed approximately 18 pro cyclists in the past fifteen years, and the development of antibodies directed against EPO. In this later circumstance the individual develops anemia as a result of the body’s reaction against repeated EPO injections.

There are some other reasons why cyclists might be predisposed to sudden death - riding at high intensities when carrying viral infections (as pro athletes tend to do) is one of them. And, as Ryan Shay, and a number of other high profile cases have shown recently, sudden death is a tragic, but not completely uncommon event. There are reports that Nolf’s cardiogram was normal, but even that are not a guarantee of health, because those tests can often miss the quite rare conditions that cause sudden death in athletes. Source: click here

How to improve the quality & production of red blood cells naturally
With a balanced diet of fresh fruits, vegetables and lean protein sources, your body will produce the blood chemistry necessary to perform at an elite level. Determining the optimal amount of protein, carbohydrates and fats that an individual needs for optimal health and performance is beyond the scope of this article; however, I want you to know how to create healthy red blood cells.

Natural Eating Solution: eat high quality protein along with high quality brown bread with real butter. The protein will provide your body with iron (helps form hemoglobin which carries oxygen in the bloodstream from the lungs to the muscles & brain) and the brown bread will provide you B vitamins (also referred to as Energy Vitamins). An additional benefit of eating protein and brown bread is that the bread with improve your absorption of the iron.

Drug: Human Growth Hormone (HGH)
Source: click here

What HGH Does Within the Body
HGH is stored in a pea sized ball called the pituitary gland and is the primary stimulus to muscle & muscle strength, bone growth & bone strength, tendon growth & tendon strength, injury repair and mobilization of body fat for use as energy.

Warning: this gets technical, but necessary to fully understand this process.
The key to overall health and performance is to stimulate your own production of growth hormone and you accomplish this by stimulating the pituitary gland correctly. The pituitary is stimulated to release growth hormone by another hormone circulation in the brain called somatocrinin. Levels of somatocrinin can be increased by increasing levels of brain neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters are the chemicals that carry information from one nerve to another. Their activity constitutes your mind, your consciousness and dreams. To increase neurotransmitters, you have to get the amino acids that influence them past what is called the blood-brain barrier. This concept is beyond the scope of this article, but what needs to be discussed here is an amino acid, Tryptophan, which is a precursor of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin is a compound that slows down brain activity during rest & sleep. Shortly after you fall asleep, your pituitary gland releases a burst of growth hormone. Source: Optimum Sports Nutrition, Dr. Michael Colgan.

Side Effects of Synthetic HGH

External side effects of synthetic HGH include: intense wrist nerve pain, diabetes, overgrowth of the facial bones, gaps between the teeth as the jawbone widens, development of a fatter nose, thickened bone above the eyes resembling an ape and excessive hair growth. Internal side effects include stressed liver, thyroid & pancreas symptoms, diabetes and historically die prior to the age of 60.

How to improve the production of HGH naturally
As mentioned above, the largest growth hormone release occurs 30-60 minutes after falling asleep along with high intensity exercise (within moderate volume levels). To take advantage of these normal physiological functions, racers need to increase the duration and quality of sleep and monitor exercise durations and intensity levels. Ideally, racers should train twice daily, mid morning and early afternoon and take a nap immediately after training. Remember, each time you rest, your body receives a burst of growth hormone naturally.

Natural Eating Solution: consume a high quality smoothie that contains a high quality whey protein prior to sleeping and napping. Research has shown that the production of HGH can improve by up to 300% when high quality whey protein is consumed before resting.

Drug: Testosterone

What Testosterone Does Within the Body
Testosterone has two distinct modes of action, androgenic (masculinizing) and anabolic (tissue building). Up to a certain level of testosterone in your body, a level that varies widely with biochemical individuality, the androgenic action produces more maleness, broader features, more hair, deeper voice, and larger sex organs. Along with it, the anabolic action produces larger muscles and greater strength.

Side Effects of Synthetic or Excessive Testosterone
If you take synthetic or excessive testosterone, the androgenic action turns nasty (aggression, violent anxiety, paranoia and manic-depressive reactions). Additional negative side effects are irreversible baldness, overgrowth of the prostate, (which chokes the bladder and requires a catheter in order to urinate), acne (the blood fails to contain the excess hormone and overloads the sebaceous glands), impotence, shrinkage of testicles, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

How to improve the production of testosterone naturally
Sleep 8-10 hours; eat high quality fruits, vegetables and high quality protein. Control your exercise intensity & volume to avoid over stressing your body.

Natural Eating Solution: eat foods that are high in boron, zinc, vitamin C, branched chain amino acids and maximize the release of growth hormone.

About the Author: is a premium resource center for motocross, supercross and GNCC riders of all abilities and ages. The website outlines the MotoE Performance Training programs available to racers for 2010 - such as those used with great success by X-Games and 2 time WMA Champion Ashley Fiolek, Mini O's 2009 Champion Ian Trettel & Loretta Lynn National Champion Adam Cianciarulo and numerous off road racers.

Additional resources available include the MotoE Performance Training Facility in Haines City, Florida, eBooks on various human performance elements and online instructional videos. To discuss your current program or have a new one developed for you; feel free to contact Robb Beams at or 407.701.7586 directly.

That's it for now, until next time, good luck with your training and remember, if you have a question, log on to the Virtual Trainer Expert Forum and have your question answered by a panel of experts. In addition, be sure and check out the Racer X Virtual Trainer archive section. Your complete one-stop information zone for motocross fitness. VT Signature

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  1. Gravatar
    chad braun November 22, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    The main problem with PEDs infiltrating moto is the lack of transparency on both sides. Usually the athletes and their trainers avoid transparency for the sake of their reputation; but why Mr. Beams is not transparent about the truth of PEDs is peculiar. The claim that eating right can do the same as PEDs is not only absurd, but an indication of the audience Mr Beams is addressing.

    So while the guilty parties do there thing, this guy Beams is spreading misinformation about why NOT to do PEDs. WHAT WE NEED IS HONESTY. No need to scare people away from PEDs, just give them the information. Or, if anyone really cares about the integrity of moto, put some testing in place, or at least a rule.

  2. Gravatar
    Racer X Virtual Trainer November 22, 2012 at 6:43 pm

    Chad, I let Robb respond to the bulk of your comment, but FYI there IS testing in both MX ans SX. PED drug testing not just casual drugs.

  3. Gravatar
    Coach Robb November 22, 2012 at 7:04 pm

    Thank you for posting your thoughts; however, I am not clear on your point. Anyone that has worked with me knows that I have a ZERO tolerance for PEDs and will not be associated with anyone who does use them.

    The point of my article is that you can enhance your body's natural production of these specific hormones with food and rest. There is nothing absurd or misleading in my description of what I have outlined. You can argue that someone who chooses to go the natural route will struggle to produce the same levels of performance of someone who is cheating. Facts are fact, but this point was not my intention with this article. Please clarify your point; I would appreciate the opportunity to address any concerns that you may have.

    BTW, I agree with you, until the sport specifically tests blood samples, we will not have the truth of PEDs in our sport. This is an entirely different subject.
    -Coach Robb

  4. Gravatar
    Chad braun November 24, 2012 at 12:29 am

    My point is that it's misleading to base the article on "...PEDS and how you can get the same performance results in a healthy and natural way." This is not true, EPO, TRT and HGH have an incredible result in certain individuals Some athletes can even enter their prime in their thirties after going on TRT (eg: MMA's Dan Henderson). The reason many athletes can continue competing later into their careers than ever before is at least partially due to advancements in PEDs and the consequential ability to train harder, for longer durations with minimal injury.

    And as for testing, the integrity of the sport rests on it; thus we need it or else moto will end up the way of cycling, and that is not an entirely different subject, it's part and parcel of the PED discussion as a whole. Isn't that why you're advocating not using? After all, if one can get the "same results" without PEDs, why does the controversy plague every sport there is, right up to the Olympics? If PEDs don't make much of a difference, why is it cheating?

    Overall I agree with the sentiment of your piece, and am glad to hear you take a hardline against this type of doping. I hope your voice gets heard by the right people and one day soon changes can be made so the non-users won't be at a disadvantage. Unfortunately kids are already on these PEDs, so it might be a bit late, but better late the never right?

  5. Gravatar
    Todd Wilson December 03, 2012 at 4:12 pm

    Mr. Braun - your comprehension of the article is wide of the mark. There was never a correlation or statement that proper rest, hydration and nutrition will equal the same results of PED's. It was clearly stated these are natural ways to enhance your bodies physiological systems for better performance, while clearly outlining the well documented negative affects of PED use. (tiny balls, thryroid disease, cancer etc)
    Your 2 statements strong suggest your endorse PED's, that the warnings are "misinformation" and "no need to scare people away from them". Pointing to a older professional athlete who uses PED as some kind of positive example. Oddly you then lament that MX needs testing. Why would you advocate testing if you also advocate PED's.

    I am coming up on a year using Coach Robb and his proven ability to train riders to be their best. I am moving from a mid pack rider to winning races, I am leaner, faster, have more energy and never felt better. I am beating guys 10-15 years younger than me. The knowledge of how to train (eat, hydrate, sleep/recover) is priceless.

  6. Gravatar
    Racer X Virtual Trainer December 03, 2012 at 4:31 pm

    The bottom line with PED's......if you are a cyclist and the other cyclists are using PED's you will NEVER beat them. Period. End of story. Cycling is 99% about the physiology of the athlete.

    If you race motocross and you are the only guy out of every motocross athlete in the world NOT using PED's, you can still win. If you train properly and HAVE THE SKILL TO WIN, PEDs will not amount to a hill of beans difference for the other athletes. Motocross is 99% the skill of the athlete.

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