Some common questions that I hear are “what protein supplement is the best?” and “which pre–workout should I choose? My response – “Well, first let’s talk about your diet.” This is an important question to ask, because yes – taking supplements may be beneficial for some people, but taking them will not counter the negative effects that a poor diet has on performance.
Dietary supplements can be beneficial during occasions that you fall short of consuming certain nutrients and/or if you have a specific medical condition such as a nutrient deficiency or pregnancy. They are not meant to make up for an unhealthy diet.
Never start taking a dietary supplement before talking with your trainer and sports registered dietitian about your current diet and the NCAA rules regarding supplements. This is especially important for athletes who compete in sports that follow an anti-doping rule. I have heard of one too many athletes who were banned from playing on their team, due to unintentional doping (including in multivitamins).
IMPORTANT FACTS TO UNDERSTAND:
Manufacturers are required to list all ingredients on the label, BUT a supplement can still contain a banned substance due to poor manufacturing practices and cross contamination.
Manufacturers are not required to obtain FDA approval for their supplements, so purity, safety, and effectiveness can not be guaranteed.
Athletes can be banned for a minimum of 365 days if tested positive for a banned substance.
WHY CHOOSE FOOD FIRST:
Vitamins and minerals do not provide energy or the required fuel that is found in food.
A chicken sandwich on whole grain bread provides more essential amino acids compared to amino acid supplements at a fraction of the price.
If an athlete is consuming a well balanced diet from a variety of foods, then vitamin and mineral supplements are likely not necessary.
Potential risks: toxicity
Food equivalent: well balanced diet (meats, fish, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, beans and peas, nuts, low-fat dairy)
Potential risks: anxiety, insomnia, headaches, GI distress, and irritability
Food equivalent: coffee, tea, chocolate
Potential risks: contamination, cramps, GI distress