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Athletic Supplements: Worth it or Work Harder?

Dietary supplements are any substances intended to provide nutrients in addition to food.  They are mostly unregulated and often make unsubstantiated claims about improving performance and endurance capacity.  Usually, the claims made are generalized results and are sensationalized in the media.

What You Need to Know:

  • A product may claim to contain substances that are not included in the formula.  Similarly, some products contain ingredients not listed on the packaging.
  • Non-food supplements are sold without testing to determine if they are SAFE or EFFECTIVE.
  • Many professional athletic organizations (such as the NCAA) ban certain substances which may be included in supplements.  If you test positive for a substance, even if you are unaware that you consumed it, you will be held responsible and disciplined by the organization.

Sports bars, gels, and drinks are intended to provide energy in carbohydrate form.  The claims made on these food products are regulated by the FDA, as they are food.  They are effective, though individual tolerance of a product is something you should test.

  • Gels: a concentrated form of carbohydrates; need to be consumed with water to avoid an upset stomach
  • Bars: select a bar that provides more carbohydrate than protein or fat as carbohydrates will provide more readily available energy
  • Drinks: a drink with a 6-8% (14-19 grams in 8 oz.) carbohydrate concentration and electrolytes is ideal for performance.  Sports drinks are especially recommended when competing in the heat.
  • Creatine: creatine supplementation has only been proven to regenerate cellular fuel more quickly and therefore only benefits those participating in high-intensity, short-duration events (less than 30 seconds).  Doses beyond the recommended 3-5 grams per day have shown no additional benefits.  **Creatine is banned by the NCAA, and possibly other organizations – check with your local organization before consuming creatine if you want to compete**
  • Caffeine: caffeine is a natural stimulant that has differing effects on individuals.

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