By: Dani Wong, News Correspondent
Once a staple of athletes’ training diet all over the country, Muscle Milk, a protein shake designed to increase strength and lean muscle growth, was simply too good to be true.
According to Mary Wilfert, the associate director of health and safety of the NCAA, Muscle Milk wasn’t banned, but an ingredient in it, an insulin growth hormone (IGF-1) that stimulates muscle growth, was on the list of banned substances.
“The NCAA does not ban Muscle Milk for use by student-athletes,” Wilfert said. “The original Muscle Milk formula did list a banned ingredient on its label (IGF-1), but the product no longer lists any banned ingredients.”
Club track & field runner Gebran Mansour said he would frown upon a teammate using the supplement.
“Muscle Milk can’t really be traced back to the athlete if someone was to take a test,” Mansour said. “But if someone I knew was taking some other substance that was banned, I would be disappointed in him or her.”
Nonetheless, Muscle Milk is considered an “impermissible benefit under NCAA Bylaw 16.5.2.g,” Wilfert said. “[This] means that our schools are not allowed to provide it to student-athletes.”
In the midst of so much controversy, there is still hope for college athletes hooked on Muscle Milk. CytoSport, the company that sells Muscle Milk, didn’t let the ban ruin sales, and quickly developed an alternate version called “Muscle Milk Collegiate” – A formula approved by the NCAA when the original formula contained the banned ingredient.
“Muscle Milk Collegiate does not list any banned ingredients and it meets the labeling criteria for a permissible supplement,” Wilfert said. “[This] means our schools are allowed to provide it to student-athletes.
After several attempts, CytoSport could not be reached for comment.
Mansour said he feels that Muscle Milk’s Collegiate formula has promise. He said, “Now people don’t have to worry” because it is a better option since it was cleared by the NCAA, and lacks the illegal hormonal ingredients.
But such a quick turnaround has sparked outrage among the health-conscious community. According to Consumer Reports’ July 2010 issue, the original Chocolate Muscle Milk Powder Formula contained four heavy metals, including cadmium, lead, arsenic and mercury.
These metals were all detected in high concentrations, approaching or exceeding the recommended daily limit of consumption. Muscle Milk Vanilla Creme also surpassed the lead limit.
Miranda Paris, a coach and recruiting coordinator for the Northeastern women’s rowing team, said she believes Northeastern does a great job of promoting awareness of the dangers of banned substances.
“The university compliance department and all of the coaches and administrators work really hard to make athletes aware of banned substances,” she said. “I don’t think that our school struggles with the issue as much because of the focus that exists on campus.”
To keep her athletes at the top of their game, Paris said she encourages them to use approved energy supplements.
“Your body needs protein the most 10 to 15 minutes after you stop working out,” Paris said.
She recommends chocolate milk, which is rich in both protein and calcium.
“In order to get optimal benefits right after working out, you need protein in liquid form. The protein helps muscles recover after periods of stress that occur during training.” While packaged drinks can be great sources of energy, getting it from natural methods is a healthy way to fuel your body on a regular basis, Paris said.
She said coaches and trainers have an important responsibility when it comes to educating student-athletes.
“Personally, if one of my athletes was caught violating NCAA rules, I feel that it would be more of a failure on our part,” Paris said.