Are sports supplements a safe and legal way to maximize sports and fitness performance?
Athletes who participate in competitive events at the professional, college, and even the high school level are always looking for a performance edge that will allow them to perform at their peak potential.
The same is true of ordinary individuals who enjoy participating in competitive sports or athletic events like tennis, racquetball, pick-up basketball games, company baseball leagues, or charitable walks and runs.
Participating in sports can be highly competitive, and there is always a desire to be just a little bit better.
Even those involved in other non-competitive physical exercise or fitness activities like bodybuilding, aerobic exercise, or rock-climbing are interested in maximizing and enhancing their performance. In solo exercise like these they are competing with the person they were yesterday, seeking to progress a little farther every day on the way to their personal goals.
Many athletes try to find supplements, techniques, or special equipment that helps them perform at their maximum. These are sometimes called “ergogenic aids”. The term ergogenic means to enhance athletic performance by improving energy efficiency, production, or control during exercise.
Nutrition ergogenic aids include such things as vitamin and mineral supplements, extra protein, electrolytes, carbohydrates, creatine, fish oil, bee pollen, flax oil, and glucosamine/chondroitin.
According to many experts nutrition plays a key part in athletic performance. It is the position of Dietitians of Canada, the American Dietetic Association, and the American College of Sports Medicine that physical activity, athletic performance, and recovery from exercise are enhanced by optimal nutrition. They suggest that an appropriate selection of food and fluids, timing of intake, and supplement choices be made for optimal health and exercise performance.
In a departure from statements made in the past, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) now concurs that nutritional supplements can boost athletic performance. In the IOC Concensus Statement on Sports Nutrition 2010 issued on October 27, 2010, the organization concedes that some supplements may enhance performance for some athletes. In the past, the IOC had warned athletes against using nutritional supplements.
In a review of studies of prevalence, patterns, and explanations for vitamin-mineral supplement use among athletes by S.J. Marquart of the Division of Nutritional Sciences, Cornell University, data showed that an average of 46% of athletes use supplements. Usage varies by the sport and professional athletes use supplements more than college or high school athletes.
Vitamin-and-mineral supplements may be especially important for athletes who restrict energy intake, eliminate one or more food groups from their diet, practice severe weight-loss diets, or consume high-carbohydrate diets with low micronutrient density.
People taking supplements, especially athletes, should be aware of the possible risks involved in taking supplements. These include health and doping test risks.
Choose your supplement company wisely when taking a dietary supplement. As many are aware, several supplements have been banned by professional sports organizations (MLB, NCAA, NFL, etc.).
Look for supplements that are not on the prohibited banned lists of major athletic associations and world-wide anti-doping agencies and do not contain banned ingredients. Prohibited Banned Substances are listed by the IOC (International Olympic Committee), USADA (U.S. Anti-Doping Agency), NFL, and NCAA to name a few.
Supplement companies with a sound quality control program, GMPs (Good Manufacturing Practices), and products certified by reputable supplement industry review groups like NSF make quality products.
In addition, look for companies that have implemented Good Clinical Practices (cGCP) guidelines for documenting both product effectiveness and safety for general use.
Never take a particular supplement just because someone you know is using it. Using rational criteria such as the above to choose safe and legal sports nutrition supplements is the best procedure. You will ultimately be the one reaping the benefits or suffering the health and legal consequences of your supplement choices.
If you decide to use sports supplements to raise your performance to the next level, don’t use the “scatter gun” approach by beginning your program immediately taking 4 or 5 different nutritional supplements. If you are having success, you won’t know which of the supplements you’re taking are responsible for your progress.
Start taking one supplement at a time for a period of time and evaluate whether it’s delivering the results you’re looking for. Then add additional supplements in the same manner.
In conclusion, an appropriate selection of nutritional sports supplements can be beneficial for optimal sports and exercise performance. Selection of the proper supplements must include an evaluation of their safety and legality.