What's in Your Diet Supplement?

To boost a workout at the gym, some people, including Carlos Alcantara of Bay Ridge, turn to dietary supplements.

And although Carlos believes they work, he says "sometimes they give me heart palpitations."

That's not surprising to Dr. Alexander Kulick, who practices internal and integrated medicine at his Manhattan office. Dr. Kulick is concerned not only about adults using certain dietary supplements, but also teenage student-athletes.

Dietary supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Dr. Kulick says some products contain substances that could be harmful -- like ephedra.

And if the substance is in a small amount, it might not even be listed on the label. Dr. Kulick warns, "Ephedra causes constriction of the blood vessels around the heart, so it's been linked to heart attacks."

And for student-athletes, even just a small amount of an ingredient like ephedra or DHEA could spell trouble at school. The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (www.njsiaa.org) says it's investigating a claim by a student that the use of a dietary supplement led to a positive test for a banned substance. On its website, the Association warns "many nutritional/dietary supplements contain NJSIAA banned substances. The use of supplements is at the student-athlete's own risk."

Danny Churchill is a trainer at Equinox, and prefers vitamins to supplements. Churchill believes, "multivitamins are good".

And Dr. Kulick agrees. He says vitamins and amino acids are your best choices as dietary supplements. He suggests staying away from some of the mixture products that contain dozens and dozens of ingredients, often made by little-known manufacturers.

As for building mass muscle among student-athletes, Kulick recommends "one and a half grams per kilogram per day" of protein, along with a balanced diet.

That's advice that Ted Sanborn of Darien, Conn., has always followed with his children who are now in high school and college.

Sanborn told us "we try to give them nutritious meals -- a good balance of fruits, vegetables, and protein."

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