Dietary Supplementation: Concerns

Dietary supplementation is a billion dollar industry. Athletes are a prime target for dietary supplement and nutritional ergogenic aid schemes as many want to be stronger and faster. A dietary supplement is any product taken by mouth that contains an ingredient intended to supplement the diet. These ingredients can include vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids and substances like enzymes and metabolites to name a few. A nutritional ergogenic aid is a dietary supplement that is designed to enhance physical or psychological processes in hopes of providing an edge over the competition.

The problem with the dietary supplement industry is that it is still not well regulated. This means that coaches and athletes cannot be 100% certain that the bottle contains what it claims for many products. There have been cases where certain supplements have actually contained harmful or banned substances. If a coach distributes, recommends or sells a dietary supplement or ergogenic aid to an athlete that causes physical harm or a positive drug test, this becomes a coaching liability issue.

Coaches need to be aware of some of the common dietary supplements and nutritional ergogenic aids that are used in the sport such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids, caffeine and electrolyte supplements. They also need to be able to discuss the pros and cons of common supplements and direct the athlete to credible, unbiased resources that allow the athlete to make an informed choice. Athletes need to be reminded that they are solely responsible for what they choose to put in their body as well as the fact that no supplement ever takes the place of hard work.

Evaluating Dietary Supplements Or Nutritional Ergogenic Aids

– Is It Safe? Supplement manufacturers are not required to prove that their product is safe. Negative effects from supplements can be mild to severe. They could potentially interfere with the absorption and utilization of other nutrients or have an interaction with any prescription medications the athlete may be taking. Even naturally occurring vitamins and minerals can be harmful if taken in excess. Athletes should only use supplements that are from manufacturers that can guarantee their products contain what they say and are free of banned substances.

– Is It Effective? A product can only be determined to be effective by actual double-blinded scientific studies done on the athlete population in question. This takes significant time, money and resources. Many of the companies in the industry unfortunately forgo testing and rely on testimonials and explanations of unproven theories by academic scholars or elite and professional athletes. A PhD or a professional athlete supporting a product does not prove that a product is effective. Even if a supplement does cite various studies, the results are commonly taken out of context. if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

– Is it Legal? Elite and professional athletes all risk being drug tested. in recent years, some professional athletes have blamed their dietary supplements for a failed drug test. There are numerous supplements on the market that could have trace amounts of banned substances since cross-contamination can occur in the manufacturing process. Athletes need to be familiar with the ioC list of banned substances, which can be found at