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Supplements – Make safer choices

Supplements are there to supplement the diet, not substitute bad choices!

44% of all UK Anti-Doping’s positive tested cases in 2012 were caused by prohibited substances in supplements (Informed Sport, 2019).

Before using a supplement

· Is the supplement needed? Can the athlete get it from their diet?

· Is there clear scientific evidence behind the supplement?

· What are the health risks associated with the supplement?

· Are there any prohibited substances associated with the supplement?

Is the supplement needed? Can the athlete get it from their diet?

For Young Athletes a good, well balanced diet combined with plenty of rest and recovery between training sessions should not create a nutritional deficiency and therefore should not have a need to supplement.

Adults have a greater energy intake and may require additional nutrients in order to match the demands of their training and competitions. An athlete should focus on getting their required macronutrients (Fat, Carbohydrate and Protein) from their diet however, there may be occasions where supplements would be useful. For example, using protein powders to help with recovery after a gym session if there is no opportunity to prepare a meal.

Is there clear scientific evidence behind the supplement?

It should be emphasised that there are only a handful of supplements that have scientifically proven to benefit performance.

Currently the supplements that have a strong scientific support include: creatine (for improving speed as well as building strength and power), caffeine (for increasing mental alertness and prolonging endurance performance), whey protein (for additional protein in order to build muscle and help recover after training).

What are the risks associated with the supplement?

There are a number of risks associated with supplements:

· Risk of contamination due to;

o Inadequate cleaning processes between different product production lines may result in ingredients used in one product being added to another product.

o Poor raw ingredient sourcing, particularly if from overseas

· Counterfeit supplement products, particularly if bought over the internet

· Ingredients can be listed differently to how they appear on the prohibited list

Are there any prohibited substances associated with the supplement?

Anyone who is a member if a an NGB can be drugs tested. Testing can take place anytime, anywhere and on any athlete. An athlete who does test positive for a banned substance, whether that be intentional or not can result in a ban from their sport for a minimum of 2 years!

There is no guarantee any supplement is free from prohibited substances. If there is a need for supplementation, an athlete should make sure their supplement is Informed Sport approved. Informed Sport is a quality assurance program for nutrition products and supplements. It certifies that every batch of a product has been tested for banned substances. Supplements that are tested are given a batch number and athletes should ensure they buy the product from the same batch number in order to minimise the chance of consuming prohibited substances.

Athletes can go on the Informed Sport website ( to check if their product is approved. Simply enter the name of the product in the search bar and the search function will return either a positive or negative result. If it is a negative result, an alternative company product should be used.

Supplements are the biggest cause of inadvertent doping in the UK (UKAD). Many athletes are influenced by the performance claims of a product but fail to research the science behind the product or consider the risks or consequences of using supplements. An athlete should focus on getting their diet right before considering using supplements. If supplementation is necessary, an athlete should thoroughly research the product and consult a professional nutritionist before using it.

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