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Bulletin #137 – Herbs, Food, and Performance

I am often asked about whether herbal supplements can help improve per-formance, particularly since there are so many of these supplements on the market. The bottom line is that healthy nutrition, proper training, and genetic endowment are the major factors that contribute to physique and athletic success. Increasing your nutrient density with supplements to amplify success is also important, as long as you eat properly and train consistently and intensely . Herbal supplements, in my opinion, are iffy, however. Yes, athletes and exercis-ers often use herbal substances to try to gain a competitive edge. But by and large, most herbs have proved to be of doubtful value in enhancing performance.

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And many may be downright harmful.Case in point: Sixty-five cases of herbal supplement-related seizures reported to MedWatch from 1993 to 1999 were ob-tained through the Freedom of Information Act and independently evaluated by three reviewers. They concluded that of these cases, 20 were probably related to herbs. Of these, 19 involved ephedra, and 14 involved herbal caffeine. Thirteen of the 65 cases were possibly associated with herbal supple-ments. Of these, ephedra was also associated with 7 cases, and caffeine was contained in 5 of these supplement products. Other herbs implicated in possibly related seizure events were St. John’s wort and gingko biloba. These findings underscore that significant health risks are associated with use of cer-tain herbal products. (1)Of the supplements in the Parrillo Performance line, Evening Primrose Oil™ is about as close as we get to a herbal formu-lation.

The evening primrose is a small flow-ering plant that grows in England. Evening Primrose Oil™ (EPO) is an excellent source of essential fatty acids. The main function of EFAs in the body is to provide building blocks for a class of hormones called eico-sanoids. The broad category of eicosanoids is further subdivided into prostaglandins, prostacyclins, leukotrienes, and thrombox-anes. The eicosanoids are a complex group of hormones (over 100 different prosta-glandins have been identified so far) which are involved in controlling many metabolic processes such as blood pressure, inflam-mation, fat metabolism, and blood clotting, to name a few. Eicosanoids are made by all cells of the body and their central function is to communicate messages to nearby cells to help coordinate and regulate the body’s metabolic activity. EFAs are also important structural components of cell membranes and thus are important for healthy skin. As for how to take EPO, I advise from two to six capsules a day with meals. Are there any toxic effects from taking too much EPO? No, EPO is com-pletely nontoxic.

There are some poten-tial side effects, which include headaches and (paradoxically) your skin breaking out (pimples). These are a result of the ef-fects of the class 2 prostaglandins which are made from arachidonic acid, a me-tabolite. These effects are completely blocked by aspirin, which stops the con-version of arachidonic acid into prosta-glandins. If you should notice these prob-lems, simply take two aspirin and de-crease the number of capsules you take. Parrillo EPO™ is a high-tech EFA supplement designed to provide EFAs without excess non-essential fats. It pro-vides a way for bodybuilders and other athletes to optimize their EFA metabolism while still maintaining a low fat diet. Parrillo EPO™ is simply another tool to help you optimize your nutrition . That’s about all the practical “how to” information you need to in-corporate EFAs into your diet. The Par-rillo EPO™ supplement was developed specifically to provide a concentrated source of EFAs so you don’t have to eat a tablespoon of oil every day. More important than supple-ments (which have their rightful place), sticking to a multiple-meals nutrition program is essential .

That means eat-ing five, six, or more meals a day. This pattern of eating is metabolically beneficial in three ways. To begin with, multiple meals that include starchy car-bohydrates help keep insulin constantly present in the body. This powerful, growth-producing hormone helps make amino acids available to muscle tissue for growth and recovery. Insulin’s re-lease is triggered by the conversion of carbohydrate into glucose by the liver. Frequent meals also increase “thermo-genesis,” the production of body heat from the burning of food for energy. Following a meal, your metabolic rate is elevated as a result of thermogenesis. So the more meals you eat, the higher your metabolism stays throughout the day for fat burning and muscle build-ing. Finally, with a constant nutrient supply, you are never forced into a starvation mode. With meals coming at regular intervals, your body learns to process food more efficiently, and your metabolism is accelerated as a result.Another important point is to always eat breakfast this gets your metabolism going first thing. This is why breakfast is probably your most important meal. You have the whole day to burn off any excess calories you consume at breakfast any excess calories you consume right before bed are likely to be stored as fat.

Additionally, don’t forget to combine your foods properly, so as to slow the release of glucose into the bloodstream. Carbohydrates are digested down into glucose, which is the form of sugar released into the blood. If too many carbs are con-sumed, or if they are released into the blood too rapidly, the insulin response causes the excess to be taken up by fat cells and converted into fat in a process known as lipogenesis. By eat-ing unrefined, complex carbohydrates and not simple sugars you slow the release of glucose into the blood. This is also the reason you should com-bine fibrous carbs and protein together with your starches at each meal it slows the rate of digestion and release of glucose.  So basically, my philosophy is that the role of supplements is to in-crease cellular nutrient levels beyond what can be obtained from a healthy diet of regular foods. Food will always be the cornerstone of sound nutrition don’t lose sight of the importance of your diet. I do not know of any herbal supplements that can really affect your body composition beyond what can be obtained from regular foods and cer-tain non-herbal supplements (such as creatine, CapTri®, amino acids, and protein supplements).


1 . Haller, C .A ., et al . 2005 . Seizures reported in association with use of dietary supplements . Clinical Toxicol-ogy 43: 23-30 .

2018-03-13T11:10:24+00:00 July 27th, 2009|Technical Supplement Bulletins|

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