Do Athletes Need Supplements?

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 10,696
    Registered Dietitian Roxanne Moore of Sodexo discusses whether or not athletes need supplements to enhance their performance.

    Roxanne E Moore: Hi! I am Roxanne Moore, Registered Dietician and Director of Wellness for Sodexo Schools. All athletes look for anything that will give them that competitive edge. Sometimes the things they try can be risky especially when it comes to supplements. For all athletes, proper nutrition is the first line of defense. A well-planned diet fills the body and enhances training, recovery and building muscle mass. Too often folks go looking for some miracle to make them faster, slimmer, bigger or stronger but the reality is that without proper food, hydration, rest and training, no pill, potion or liquid supplement is going to make you a superior athlete.

    Let's make sure you understand some facts. Although vitamins help the body produce and use energy, they do not provide energy themselves, because they don't contain calories. Supplements also cannot be use to replace foods or make up for poor dietary habits.

    Did you know that taking extra vitamins will not make a child mature faster or become stronger, and some vitamins and minerals are toxic at high doses. Also, consuming too much of one nutrient can interfere with the body's ability to use other nutrients.

    So for example too much phosphorus can lower calcium levels and potentially contribute to bone loss. Consuming a one a day multivitamin is appropriate for most individuals. However, discussing the need for such supplementation with your doctor or registered dietitian is advised.

    Although benefits may exist for some dietary supplements, poor manufacturing practices, cross contamination, and illegal drugs disguised as dietary supplements can cost athletes to test positive for banned substances and result in serious consequences.

    Dietary supplements can also cause adverse health effects, thus sports organizations such as the MLB, NFL and their players associations have partnered with companies like the NSF International that test and certify dietary supplements. NSF screen supplements for banned substances like steroids and monitors manufacturing facilities for compliance with the FDA's Good Manufacturing Practices.

    Beyond safety, legality, and quality effectiveness and proper dosage of dietary supplements needs to be evaluated. You must know the regulations of your sport organization regarding dietary supplements, you can find resources online that test dietary supplements for quality and banned substances. You should also do your research and learn from organizations that provide dietary supplement information specific to athletes.

    If you're concerned about getting enough nutrients, there are a few simple kitchen tricks you can follow. First, leave edible skins on fruits and vegetables, just be sure to wash carefully and thoroughly. Next, you want to steam your vegetables versus boiling them to retain more nutrients.

    Consider eating your vegetables and fruits raw versus cooked. Save your liquid from cooking vegetables and use them for soups, stews or sauces.

    So, before starting any type of supplement talk to your doctor and your registered dietitian.