Zach Inskeep is fascinated with kinetics.
The recent Prophetstown graduate, who spearheaded the Erie-Prophetstown football team to its best season in ages last fall, is going to school at Black Hawk College this fall. He could have played football for myriad colleges, but his fascination with how the body works is why he will zero in on studying to be a nurse.
“I’ve always liked biology classes and found the human body interesting,” he said. “You don’t realize how you digest something and what it goes into, or how all the parts of your body coincide with each other. They’re all on the same team.”
That fascination is also why he never wants to jeopardize his own body.
Inskeep added between 10 and 15 pounds between the ends of his junior and senior years. A self-described weight room rat, he cranked up his workload from lifting 3 days a week his sophomore and junior years to 4 his senior year. Before that sophomore year, he also got exposed to dietary supplements during a visit to GNC.
While he did his homework, his research was primarily done on the Internet, or by asking fellow athletes.
“If you’re going to use supplements, you need to talk to a professional – someone in the medical field,” Newman athletic trainer Andy Accardi said.
Evan Thorpe, who used to coach wrestling and now is the Dixon cross country coach, took a similar angle.
“If you get in there, and you lift hard, you’re going to get stronger,” Evan said. “Until you’re doing everything else 100 percent, you really don’t need to think about that stuff.”
But the tough love that forced Inskeep to rethink matters came in the form of a Rock Center report on MSNBC about 5 months ago. A perfectly healthy member of the Army was using a supplement called Jack3d. His heart rate went through the roof, leading to a heart attack and death. That was one of two well-documented deaths in which DMAA was a factor.
“That really made me conscious about it,” Inskeep said. “I’m not taking anything in that, I’m not running the risk. I’m not gonna die in a weight room someday. That’s not how my life is supposed to end.”
Inskeep described what it’s like to take Jack3d, whose ingredient DMAA has finally been banned.
“It gives a tingling sensation throughout your body,” Inskeep said. “Gets you feeling crazy, gets your heart rate going. Your body is just going crazy.”
Since graduating, Inskeep has scaled his supplement use back significantly. But he plans to maintain his workout regimen, and says a strong cardiovascular system is something he always wants to maintain.
Part of his motivation for dialing back was the fact that he wasn’t sure whether he would play college sports. And the NCAA banned substance list is strict, even threatening suspension of an athlete whose caffeine levels exceed 15 micrograms/ml.
What many students don’t realize – likely because testing is vastly less frequent than in college – is that the IHSA has its own banned substance list.
While the broad categories are similar to the NCAA’s – stimulants, anabolic agents, diuretics and other masking agents, and peptide hormones and analogues – the IHSA does not provide a complete list of banned substance examples.
The governing body advises athletes to check with their athletic department staff to review the label of any product, medication or supplement before taking it.
As for Inskeep, was his supplement intake too much? It’s a hard question to answer, considering the case-by-case nature of health, fitness and nutrition. One thing many studies have corroborated, however, is that too much of anything is bad for you.
“Water is toxic, if you drink too much of it,” Sterling athletic trainer Andi Sumerfelt said during the think tank leading up to this series.
Another factor that convinced Inskeep to dial back his dosage was his parents intervening. Inskeep admits he did exceed the recommended usage at least once.
“At the time, you’re focused on the goal, and you’ll do whatever you have to do to reach the goal,” Inskeep said.
But he never encountered a case at Prophetstown in which an athlete did damage to his organs because of overuse.
Even under Accardi’s watchful eye at Newman, it’s impossible to monitor every ounce of liquid athletes are taking in. Athletes arrive with bottles – “I can’t very well go out to their car before they come in and see if they’re taking supplements,” Accardi said. So he urges them to come to him with questions and run past him anything they plan to take before they go forward with it.
“Parent involvement is huge,” Accardi said. “And coaches need to practice what they preach. Kids will buy it and split it, and parents never see it. They have to be proactive and talk to their kids.”
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