Interest in nutrition matters, and in supplementation in particular, has increased over the last decade. Currently, it is possible to find on the market several supplements aimed at different purposes and objectives, including sports performance, health and manipulation of body composition. In recent years, the intake of supplementation by athletes has also increased exponentially, which causes some concerns for coaches, family members and health professionals. Many of the sports supplements sold, both in physical stores and online, lack safety and quality control, as well as scientific evidence to justify their taking. Therefore, it is important that athletes are accompanied and guided when taking supplements.
Connected with supplementation, one of the main themes of attention is the possibility of products being contaminated with substances prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency. It is important to note that no supplement is 100% safe – however, the risk of a sports supplement being contaminated can be minimized by considering some recommendations. First of all, the supplement must be recommended by a sports nutritionist or by a doctor who is specializes in sports medicine. Then, the supplement must show the batch number on the label. Preferably, the lot number should be listed in supplement quality monitoring and control programs such as Informed Choice or Informed Sport. Likewise, athletes must keep a photograph of the label and respective lot, in order to safeguard themselves.
Sports supplements can be sold in different forms – from powders to liquids, through capsules and bars. In turn, the ingredients that are used in these formulations vary. The most used ingredients in the world of sport are caffeine, vitamins and minerals, amino acids, carbohydrates, and creatine. Sports drinks, bars and gels also dominate the supplementation market, as they allow for hydroelectrolytic replacement, especially in endurance activities.
Considering current scientific evidence, beetroot or beet juice, caffeine, creatine, whey protein, sodium bicarbonate and beta-alanine may be effective in certain sports and/or types of exercise. For example, beetroot juice can increase the performance of endurance exercises, while beta-alanine can be effective in high-intensity exercises, namely in team sports. In turn, caffeine can increase performance in long-term, intermittent exercise, as well as endurance activities. Creatine can increase strength and power from maximal effort muscle contractions, and whey can optimize the workout adaptation process and recovery period.
Supplements can act as ergogenic substances, allowing an increase in sports performance, and also act in the prevention or treatment of possible deficits. However, its use by each athlete must be evaluated, taking into account the type of sport practiced, health status, medication intake, energy and nutrient needs, among other factors. It is known that some sports supplements may interact with certain medications, for example. Moreover, taking a supplement contaminated with a forbidden substance can jeopardize a whole career. Therefore, athletes must be cautious and consult a specialized professional, in order to maintain health, improve performance and avoid legal constraints.
The content of this article does not constitute medical advice by a registered healthcare professional. Please consult a qualified sports nutritionist before starting any new diet, exercise or training programme.