Sport and Nutrition Supplements- Are Sport Dietitians for or against these?

“Supplements” and their use/misuse have exploded in the media over the past 18 months. With any controversy, it is very easy to see how the every-day exerciser/consumer can be quite confused over what the true matters are and how this could affect them.”

From a ‘helicopter view’, I’ve noticed a fundamental confusion around what particular substances qualify as “supplements”. From my personal experience, general consensus across many National Sporting Organisations deem injectables (outside of iron and Vit B12) as “medication” or “drugs”. 

Therefore recent controversy around certain substances/chemicals in certain football codes that feature funny numbers and capital letters would then be a ‘Drugs in Sport’  issue, NOT nutritional supplementation issue.

So what is a Supplement really then?

There doesn’t seem to be one uniform definition for the term “supplement” in sport and exercise.

However, as a practitioner there are 3 general categories I work with:

1. Sport foods and fluids eg. Gatorade, Powerade, protein and sports bars, electrolyte/hydration formulas

2. Health and immune function supplements  eg. Vit D, Vit C, Iron

3. Nutritional ergogenic aides (single or multi nutrients in quantities and/or forms used for the targeted enhancement of exercise metabolism or adaptation)

So if a person goes to the gym 3 times per week and looking to put on as much muscle as possible, is a supplement necessary? Would a Sports Dietitian be for or against?

It will depend on many factors; the choice of product will be chosen depending on whether the recovery is needed of the training session itself or supporting the adaptation brought on by the type of training eg. endurance vs. strength training.  Supplements are ‘tools’ in any Dietitian’s  ‘nutrition toolbox’,  more does not necessarily mean better.

How to use supplements is best described following this analogy – its like going to Cold Rock ice-cream, where your everyday real food  diet is the ‘ice-cream’ and supplements are the “toppings” to make the ice-cream taste how you want it to taste.

Category 1 and 2 supplements are generally used as my ‘first line’ tools I use with my clients/patients. People can optimise their training, muscle mass and strength 2-3 fold by using the correct dose at the correct time – (which is why seeing a sports dietitian is so important to get any benefit).

Category 3 supplements I treat more like “medicine” in sport- there is a specific dose required, there is a specific time frame you need to take them in, there is a measurable benefit, and there is an end-point!

I generally discourage ‘stacks’ /poly supplements as quite often consumers may not be getting enough of the active ingredient they paid for. Eg. Creatine Monohydrate in pure form has the most robust  evidence behind it, however it  is also the cheapest form available. So many companies have been looking for new forms of substances to justify charging exorbitant prices in an ever competitive and complex market. You may therefore come across language like “Decanate Creatine”, however in short, “Creatine monohydrate” is still most effective if you’re looking in to supplementing your balanced diet.

So if you have one of these supplements you would like to take, we can discuss these in your personal nutrition plan to ensure you are going to be performing at your best and getting the best results.

Remember, all of the most sophisticated and pure forms of supplementation will never fix gaps in your foundation diet, and quite often, if you’re not eating right to start with (e.g. not eating well from the five food groups) your supplements will be ineffective.

So in summary I am not against supplements, it is just essential you receive the proper advice on how to use them, otherwise you risk them being ineffective.

At Nutted Out Nutrition we are passionate about providing people with the right advice on taking any nutrition supplement for general everyday exercising to sports performance. We understand the role these have in performance and reaching your goals and provide expert advice on how you can use them to ensure you are getting the benefits and not being misguided.  Contact Nutted Out Nutrition to organise an appointment with me today.


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