Many sporters, both amateurs and elites across all age groups, place great emphasis on using dietary supplements as part of their training or competition routine. The sports nutrition market in the United States alone grows at an average rate of 5% annually. Statistically, sports nutrition products sell faster that those aimed at other benefits. When a sporter runs low on energy supply, a sure victory can quickly turn into a devastating defeat. An accomplished sporter may be born with athletic genes, but the factors that control their performance include how much they train and diet. All sporters doctors,health consultants and non medical home health care givers advice to eat nutritious foods. A majority turn to supplements and specialty foods that provide extra energy to train harder, help in recovery after events and training sessions and ward off injuries and illnesses.
Dietary supplements to enhance sports performance come in a variety of forms that include capsules, tablets, powders, bars and liquids. These products contain several ingredients in varying amounts and combinations. The outcome of taking any supplement for athletic or exercise performance depends on training level; the nature, duration and intensity of the activity; and the current environmental conditions.
Supplements that these sporters commonly use include:
- Minerals– minerals like zinc, magnesium, iron, calcium and sodium enhance exercise performance and avert exercise-induced muscle tissue damage.
- Caffeine– one of the most widely used stimulant by sporters. Caffeine improves endurance by minimizing perceived pain and exertion. Continued use can cause insomnia, nausea and restlessness.
- Amino Acids– Amino Acids support protein synthesis and build muscles. Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA) are used by many sporters during workouts to reduce muscle soreness. They help haste the recovery and repair process after an intense workout session. The recommended dose is 6-10 grams just before or during workouts.
- Vitamins– vitamins are metabolic regulators that influence some physiological processes necessary for sports performance. B-Complex vitamins process fats and carbohydrates for energy production.
- Creatine– one of the most effective performance supplements that helps to supply the sporter’s muscles with energy for short-term, mostly anaerobic activity. It also helps to speed up the recovery between training sets, and improve body composition. Can lead to weight gain as a result of water retention, muscle cramps, stiffness and heat intolerance.
- Protein– helps to build, maintain and repair muscles. There are four significant sources of protein that include whey protein, casein protein, soy protein, and egg white protein. Protein has no known or reported adverse effects.
- Fish Oil– fish oil is a rich source of omega-3 acids that are imperative in the recovery process. DHA and EPA are two essential fatty acids available in fish oil. The two support a healthy inflammation after an event or training session. By using fish oil, post-exercise muscle soreness will be a thing of the past.
Performance products are judged by sporters whether they provide the said benefits over the course of days or weeks. Protein powders form the centerpiece of sports nutrition. They make up about 70% of the market and are positioned to help sporters build muscle mass
The growing prevalence of use varies widely and can be attributed to the lack of consensus as to what constitutes a dietary supplement. There is always a new product or substance on the market to try. Many supplement products claim to boost performance beyond what sporters can achieve through training, genes and diet. Some of these supplements may be helpful to sporters in specific circumstances, especially in incidences when food choice or intake is restricted.
How to correctly use supplements and the risks associated with use
Mineral and vitamin supplements should only be used when there is no food-based solution. Protein-carbohydrate shakes, sports drinks and energy bars may be convenient and beneficial at specific times. Caffeine, creatine and alkalinizing agents all have well-stipulated roles in enhancing performance, particularly in high-intensity exercise. It is worth mentioning that there are potential risks associated with the use of dietary supplements. Such risks include positive doping results due to the presence of a banned substance/s not declared on the label. The risk associated with the use of supplements like protein powders is probably low, and the risk can be further minimized by using products that have been thoroughly tested by recognized supplement assurance programs that operate in many countries.
Selected ingredients vs. multiple ingredients in dietary supplements
Many exercise and athletic performance supplements currently in the market comprise of multiple ingredients. Most researches on the effects and safety of supplements focus on single ingredients. It is hard for users to predict or know the impact and safety of supplements with multiple ingredients. There are less clinical trials that have been carried out to investigate such combinations. The amounts of these ingredients also vary widely. Some labels fail to provide the amount of each ingredient that makes up the blend.
Downsides of using supplements
- The most common con of performance supplements is that they are pricey. A month’s supply costs around $100 and to make it worse; they may not work for all athletes.
- Another concern is that new entrants may lack a track record of safety which makes their use risky. The ingredients on the label purporting to burn fat and build muscles can have adverse health effects.
- Lack of adequate information on basic nutritional principles leaves sporters open to persuasion by misleading advertisements.
Sporters learn about a certain supplement from product showcases at sports events, in sports magazines and websites and by word of mouth from other sporters. It is imperative to point out that of all the factors that determine sporting performance, a dietary supplement plays a minor role. A good number of these sporters use these supplements without evaluation or good understanding of the potential risks and benefits associated with them. Some use these supplements without consulting a sports nutritional professional. A supplement that works well for one sporter may not work at all for another. Do an extensive research before settling on one brand.