Dara Torres, Olympic swimmer and former Gator, continues to confront whispers and questions about performance-enhancing drugs as the reason for her record-breaking performances and sculpted physique.
"It stinks," she said recently at the U.S. training camp on the Stanford campus. "I'm trying to be as open as possible and let everyone know that I'm clean. Unfortunately, once you get past that point, then they start questioning other things."
At the end of the U.S. trials - where Dara won the 50- and 100-meter freestyles - she revealed the "one little secret that I have."
She said she takes an amino acid supplement that is currently available only in Europe. Her coach, Michael Lohberg, introduced Dara to the product that was developed by former swimmer Mark Warnecke, a bronze medalist for Germany at the 1996 Atlanta Games.
The amino acids, which Michael said are pure and have been approved by a drug lab that works with swimming's international governing body FINA, help Dara gain muscle and allow her body to recover quickly after workouts.
"That really helped her quite a bit in not getting big and bulky and recover quicker, and look the way she looks right now," Michael said.
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein (often called the building blocks of life). Of the 20 standard amino acids, 8 are called essential amino acids because the human body cannot synthesize them from other compounds at the level needed for normal growth, so they must be obtained from food.
Protein-containing foods include meat (beef, chicken, fish, bison, deer, duck, etc.), dairy products, nuts and protein and amino-acid supplements (protein powders and BCAA supplements).
I believe that Dara is free of performance-enhancing drugs and can attest to the fact that amino acids do help with recovery as well as muscle and strength gains. I eat a diet consisting of high-protein whole foods and also use protein supplements. One particular supplement I use, Surge, is specifically made for post-workout and contains a specific ratio of amino acids to help promote recovery as well as muscle and strength gains.
Amino acids and protein powders are not illegal supplements and they are not harmful to the body. If taken in the correct amounts, they can definitely improve your performance and body composition.
But amino acids, protein powders and other supplements will do nothing for you if you don't already strength train and eat correctly. As I mentioned in a previous blog, that is something Dara has taken very seriously, as she follows a regimented strength training and nutrition lifestyle to achieve the success she has accomplished, even now as a 41-year-old mother and Olympic contender.
God designed the human body in such an amazing way that if you follow his instructions from the Bible, you can find all the "secrets" to a healthy lifestyle. With proper physical training and nutrition, you can improve your body to its true potential, even if you don't contend for an Olympic medal.