Nutritional Supplements in Sport and Exercise
Written by Ben Bunting: BA(Hons), PGCert. Sport & Exercise Nutrition. L2 Strength & Conditioning Coach.
The second edition of Nutritional Supplements in Sports and Exercise presents cutting-edge information for sports nutritionists, physical therapists, strength and conditioning/personal trainers, athletic trainers, and college/professional sports affiliates.
It also covers the safety and effectiveness of dietary supplements and their dangers. A key component of this new book is its chapter on Ergogenic aids, which are substances, drugs, or techniques that are used to enhance athletic performance.
Ergogenic aids are substances, drugs, or techniques used to enhance athletic performance
Ergogenic aids can come in the form of food, chemical compounds, synthetic hormones (such as anabolic steroids), or training techniques. These substances can improve energy, performance, and recovery, which can give athletes an edge over their competition.
The following are examples of ergogenic aids:
- Protein powders
- Sports beverages
- Carbohydrate gels
- Plant extracts
- Vitamin and minerals
Despite their widespread use, some ergogenic aids are considered unsafe. Listed below are a few things to keep in mind before trying any supplement.
Among the most common ergogenic aids are pre-workouts, which typically contain multiple ingredients and compounds. Some athletes may also be reluctant to disclose the use of ergogenic aids, which are illegal for recreational use such as anabolic steroids or hormones.
However, ergogenic drug use is not limited to young men. Recent studies by Yesalis and Bahrke show that the use of anabolic steroids has nearly doubled in girls aged 14 to 18 years old over the past seven years.
Women are also a major demographic for ergogenic drug abuse, and many of them consider it a legitimate means of gaining athletic scholarships.
Dietary supplements are a commercially available substance
For decades, athletes have used dietary supplements and chemical agents to enhance performance. Today, the use of these substances has created a burgeoning food supplement industry.
Although they are not technically drugs, they must still meet strict rules regarding safety and efficacy. For example, all supplements manufactured in the UK fall under Food Law. This means they legally cannot contain anything other than what is listed on the ingredients panel.
However, there can be the risk that some supplements are contaminated with pharmaceutically active ingredients, this could be a deliberate action or just poor manufacturing procedures. Because of this, athletes and coaches must be aware of the risks associated with consuming these substances, and whether they feature on the list of banned substances issued by the World Anti-Doping Association (WADA).
Dietary supplements are a wide-ranging category of commercially available substances. They include carbohydrates, amino acids, vitamins, and herbs, sometimes they may include all within a single product.
Some supplements are marketed as sports nutrition aids, while others are marketed as supplements for weight loss or even weight gain. Others can increase energy and focus, as well as speed up the recovery process after exercise.
Because of the variety of supplements available, it’s important to check the ingredient’s labels to make sure they are safe.
While dietary supplements are often claimed to improve athletic performance, they are not substitutes for a proper diet and lifestyle, most if not all sports nutritionists would recommend if not push a ‘food first approach‘. Supplements may only be used in order to ensure an athlete doesn’t suffer from any nutritional deficiencies.
Many endurance athletes, for example, need to replace electrolytes and fluids lost during the activity. For endurance athletes, additional carbohydrates must be consumed to maintain energy levels during exercise. Obviously eating solids during a race can prove difficult, and gels, tablets, or drinks can be a more useful alternative.
Results of dietary supplements depend on the type and intensity of training, as well as the nature and duration of physical activity. Sometimes loading your body with vitamins and minerals will not provide any further benefit if you do not have any dietary deficiencies.
That said, those who are involved in arduous training and competition regimes are at a high risk of nutrient turnover which means their body will process more nutrients and also excrete more than a sedentary person would.
Research has shown that approximately two-thirds of elite track and field athletes take dietary supplements. Supplements can include vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and caffeine, among other things.
According to a survey of 1,248 students ages sixteen and older, 66% of them said they take some form of dietary supplement. The reasons for using them ranged from increased muscle strength and endurance to improved performance.
Dangers of taking a dietary supplements
Before beginning a new diet or supplement regimen, athletes should consult with their physician, registered dietician/sports nutritionist, or a trusted health care provider. A sports nutritionist can discuss the benefits and risks of supplements, as well as any changes in their health and training status.
This information is critical to determining the best regimen to support optimum performance and health. For more information, see Dangers of taking a dietary supplement in sport and exercise.
Herbal supplements have a number of potential side effects and may interact with other medications or herbals. They may even fail drug tests.
Supplements containing vitamin A, B, and C can exceed their recommended levels and cause adverse health effects, including the potential for increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
Excessive doses of anti-oxidants may inhibit the health-enhancing effects of exercise. Furthermore, excess doses of vitamins or minerals may impair immune function and limit performance.
Supplement use remains controversial. Although it’s up to the athlete to decide whether they’re comfortable taking a certain supplement, there are common questions about its safety.
First, how and where are these supplements manufactured? Do they contain banned or harmful substances? How are they tested? Those factors should be investigated carefully before purchasing any product. Second, despite the numerous claims from supplement manufacturers, they may not be evidence-based.
Effectiveness of dietary supplements
Ergogenic aids are dietary supplements that are marketed to improve endurance, strength, performance, and exercise tolerance.
Various studies have been conducted on the effects of these supplements on athletes. Although the effect of these supplements on sports performance is not clear, many athletes take them to achieve their goals.
Several studies have also investigated the benefits of these supplements for healthy individuals. The Journal of the American College of Nutrition published a review of ergogenic aids and sports performance.
The effectiveness of dietary supplements varies widely and can be totally dose-dependent which is often overlooked, yet a wide range of products have been developed to help athletes enhance their performance.
However, they should never replace a solid dietary foundation. The effectiveness of these supplements depends on the nature of the activity, training intensity, and duration, as well as environmental conditions.
A good reference to find out the effectiveness of dietary supplements is the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition (JISSN) or the National Library of Medicine’s PubMed.
Sources of dietary supplements
Dietary supplements for sport and exercise can have benefits for athletes, and many of them are safe and effective. A nutritionally adequate diet helps athletes perform at their best, and allows them to recover quickly from intense training.
It should also include a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and fat-free dairy products. It should also limit the amount of saturated fat, added sugar, and calories while providing enough protein to fuel the body.
A typical macronutrient breakdown for active people may look like this:
- 25% fats
- 15% protein
- 60% carbohydrate
A study found that two-thirds of 3,887 elite track and field athletes used some type of supplement. They included protein, carbohydrates, caffeine, nitrates, amino acids, herbal supplements, and vitamins.
Athletes use supplements to improve performance and increase muscle strength, and the use of these supplements is increasing with age. Research also found that women in the military are more likely to use supplements than men.
There are some useful books that can be used by athletes and healthcare professionals to understand whether certain supplements or nutrients will be suitable for them. For example, Nutritional Supplements in Sport and Exercise is an authoritative source of information on the use of dietary supplements for sports and exercise.
It provides evidence-based reviews of more than 140 dietary supplements and describes their benefits for athletes. The authors of the book also include information on which supplements are safe for athletes.
Dietary supplements have their place in health, sports, exercise, and competition, however, they should not be used instead of a well-balanced, nutritious diet.
Be very careful of what you are using, and check the background of the manufacturing company, where it is produced and any certifications or guidelines they must adhere to. Check the ingredients to make sure that you aren’t using a banned substance.
Here at Mil-Tech Pharma, we only use natural, vegan-friendly ingredients that are supported by clinical evidence and are not banned by WADA or the military. Therefore, you can have confidence that our products are beneficial, safe, and legal.