Dietary Supplements Role in Athletic Performance

January 6, 2005

4 Min Read
Dietary Supplements Role in Athletic Performance

Dietary Supplements Role in Athletic Performance

Theefficacy and safety of dietary supplements for athletes has been a hot topic oflate, with the BALCO scandal drawing attention to the often murky line betweenperformance enhancement and illegal boosting. Mark Verstegen, president, andAmanda Gwinnup Carlson, MS, RD, nutrition manager and research coordinator, withAthletes Performance shared with INSIDER theirthoughts on the role of dietary supplements in professional athletics and whatsupplement companies can do to alleviate concerns about using the products.

The foundation of a solid nutrition and training program forany athlete starts with optimal nutritional habits and intake. Athletes need tounderstand what their bodies need and the best way they can get that from food.They then need to understand issues of timing. Athletes need to eat every two-and-a-half to three hoursconsistently every day. This is one area where supplements are key. Athletes arebusy and may endure multiple training sessions or games in one day. Shakes,ready-to-drink beverages (RTDs) and bars (complete supplements) are extremelyvaluable in ensuring athletes are able to consistently and easily feed theirbodies. Supplements are also very important in terms of hydration andcarbohydrate/protein supplementation during training sessions. Supplements arealso critical components in the recovery process. Protein, amino acids andcarbohydrate supplements are utilized at specific times before, during and aftertraining sessions to ensure optimal recovery and regeneration. Finally,supplements are also used for joint health, everyday wellness support,cardiovascular wellness and inflammation, or to correct any dietarydeficiencies.

As far as the specific types of products being used, athleteshave an interest in energy drinks and any other type of food or beverage with anadded health benefit. They are always looking for a product with more bangfor the buck. There is a great deal of interest in receiving additionalhealth benefits from foods fortified with vitamins, minerals, herbs, etc. Companies should label their products to specifically explainhow products benefit an athletes health and/or performance. The labelingneeds to be direct and not misleading. An athlete may choose one product over the other based on craftymarketing when, in reality, the products may be very similar.

This issue of claims and product validity is a major concernin the market. Its often difficult to know if a product does what it claimsto do, or contains what the label says it contains. Athletes put their trust into these products and they deserveto know these supplements are actually supplementing the way they claimto. There are a multitude of products on the market, many withinvalid and unsupported claims, and it can become overwhelming. Athletes should not be bombarded with false claims feedinghigh hopes for a product that may lack validity. They need to have realisticexpectations, and their expectations are skewed by marketing tactics and claims.

A more serious concern is the issue of safety andcontamination. Athletes have a lot riding on their performance and look toproducts to safely enhance performance. The products on the market need to beproven to safely enhance performance; moreover, the athletes need to know thatthe products they are taking will not run them the risk of testing positive on adrug test.

The last primary concern is that athletes rely on a supplementrather than on proper nutrition and hard work. There is a danger that they willlean on the potential easy way out, rather on a strong nutritionfoundation. Athletes need to be taught that supplements are just that, asupplement to an outstanding workout and nutrition plan.

Dietary supplement companies can take several actions toalleviate these concerns among those in the athletic community. Companies need to complete additional clinical research tovalidate the efficacy of their products. They also need to go through some sortof third party testing to ensure product safety. Supplement companies also needto do a better job of educating clients on the potential benefits and sideeffects of the products. It all comes down to fulfilling the trust of theseathletes. Theyre putting so much time, work and money on the line, andshouldnt have to risk their careers on something that might work, that mightcontain the materials it says it does, and that might cause them to testpositive on a drug test.

Mark Verstegen currently serves as president of AthletesPerformance and directs a 25-person team of performance specialists, therapists,and nutritionists to train many of the top athletes in the world. He isrecognized as a leader in athletic performance training, developing andimplementing unique and breakthrough concepts in athletic performance. AmandaGwinnup Carlson, MS, RD, is the nutrition manager and research coordinator withAthletes Performance. Carlson works directly with all of AthletesPerformances clients to create year-long programs for maximum success; shealso coordinates the companys performance research, undertaking both casestudies and peer-reviewed research.

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