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December 16, 2019

Maintaining good nutritional health for active adults and athletes is essential and many individuals may assess their specific needs and routine and subsequently consider taking additional supplements. It is suggested athletes supplement with a few additional nutrients to stay healthy during intense exercise but supplements are only considered healthy when they are in addition to an already healthy diet, not as a replacement and not when taken for the sake of it. If you don’t partake in intense exercise and your trainer or doctor hasn’t already suggested it, then supplements are unlikely to be necessary for you. Active adults or athletes may include supplements to help meet nutritional needs, improve nutrient deficiencies, enhance athletic performance or achieve personal fitness goals but without a well-designed nutrition plan in place, supplementation is said to be rarely effective so consider that to be your initial step. After that though you may be looking into the confusing and complicated world that is supplements. So let us steer you through the confusion and help you with a simple guide to supplements, without wanting to sell you our own product or link you to a sponsor. 

There are two types of supplement:
-Dietary supplements.
Including vitamins, minerals, amino acids, herbs, botanicals, and extracts or concentrates from plants or foods. They are typically sold as capsules, tablets, liquids, powders or bars and required to be clearly labelled as a dietary supplement. 
-Ergogenic aids. 
Including substances, drugs or techniques used to enhance athletic performance. They can range from acceptable practices of carbohydrate loading to “illegal and unsafe approaches such as anabolic-androgenic steroid use.” 

Supplement use remains controversial and is a personal choice. Common questions asked by active adults, athletes, and sports nutritionists relate to the manufacturing and supplement quality and whether they actually work and are safe. Before you start taking a particular supplement we recommend looking for evidence-based research information on that exact product before spending your hard earned money on it and then putting it in your body.
Helpfully, The International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) has provided an advantageous classification for supplements based on clinical research:

 

  1. Apparently effective: The majority of supplement research studies show safe and effective.
  2. Possibly effective: Initial supplement findings are good, but more research is required to examine the effects on training and athletic performance. 
  3. Too early to tell: Supplement theory makes sense but lacks sufficient research to support using it.

  4.Apparently ineffective: Supplements lack sound scientific evidence and/or research has shown the supplement to be clearly ineffective and/or unsafe. 

In conjunction with legitimate online classifications and evidence based research, if you’re working with a sports dietitian, a personal trainer or a sports coach they can be a valuable resource for supplement information. They will already know and have experience with a variety of supplements and products and will be able to steer you in the right direction if you’re unsure. The information gathered from our pointers and the above resources will enable you to make the best decision about taking sports supplements for your health and fitness goals. 


Supplement Value of Vitamins and Exercise Performance

Vitamins are organic compounds essential to regulating metabolic processes, energy production, neurological functioning and protection of our cells and they’re usually the first supplement people reach for. And with good reason, dietary analysis on active adults and athletes reported a variety of vitamin deficiencies. Although research shows a possible benefit of taking vitamins for general health, there has been minimal to no ergogenic benefits reported. The following vitamins common to athletes have been researched as proposed nutritional ergogenic aids:



 

Nutrient

Ergogenic Claim

Research Findings

Vitamin A

may improve sports vision

no improvement in athletic performance

Vitamin D

may help prevent bone loss

may help with calcium co-supplement

Vitamin E

may prevent free radicals

decrease in oxidative stress found/more research required

Vitamin K

may help bone metabolism

elite female athletes show improved balance of bone formation and resorption

Thiamin (B1)

may improve anaerobic threshold

doesn’t appear to enhance exercise capacity at normal intake

Riboflavin (B2)

may enhance energy availability during exercise

doesn’t appear to enhance exercise capacity at normal intake

Niacin (B3)

may enhance energy metabolism, improve cholesterol and blunt fat stores

shown to decrease cholesterol but decrease exercise capacity

Pyridoxine (B6)

may improve lean mass, strength, aerobic capacity and mental focus

well-nourished athletes show no improvement in athletic performance. Some improved fine motor skills when combined with Vitamins B1 and B12.

Cyano-cobalamin (B12)

may increase muscle mass and decrease anxiety

no ergogenic effect reported, however, when combined with vitamins B1 and B6 may reduce anxiety

Folic acid (folate)

may increase red blood cells for better oxygen to muscle and decrease birth defects

found to decrease birth defects in pregnant women, but shown not to enhance athletic performance

Pantothenic Acid

may benefit aerobic energy

research reports no enhanced aerobic performance

Beta-carotene

may help exercise-induced muscle damage

may help decrease exercise-induced muscle damage, but more research is required for improved athletic performance

Vitamin C

may improve metabolism during exercise

well-nourished athletes indicate no enhanced performance





Supplement Value of Minerals for Athletes

Minerals are inorganic elements essential for metabolic processes, tissue structure and repair, hormone regulation and neurological function. Research indicates active adults or athletes have been deficient in these important elements. Mineral deficiency may negatively affect athletic performance and therefore supplementation may be helpful. The following mineral supplements common to athletes have been researched as proposed nutritional ergogenic aids:



 

Nutrient

Ergogenic Claim

Research Findings

Boron

may promote muscle growth during resistance training

no evidence currently exists to support this theory

Calcium

may promote bone growth and fat metabolism

shown to stimulate bone growth taken with vitamin D and may promote fat metabolism. No ergogenic benefit for athletic performance.

Chromium

sold as chromium picolinate and claims to increase lean mass and reduce body fat

recent studies show no improvement in lean mass or reduced body fat

Iron

may help improve aerobic performance

shown to only improve aerobic performance in athletes suffering from iron deficiency or anaemia

Magnesium

may improve energy metabolism/ATP availability

shown to only improve exercise performance in athletes suffering from magnesium deficiency

Phosphorus (phosphate salts)

may improve energy systems in the body

shown to enhance the aerobic energy system during endurance training. More research is required

Potassium

may help with muscle cramping

no ergogenic benefits reported and research remains unclear if it helps with muscle cramping

Selenium

may improve aerobic exercise performance

improvements in aerobic exercise performance have not been demonstrated

Sodium

may help with muscle cramping and reduce risk of hyponatremia

shown to maintain fluid balance during heavy training

Vanadyl sulfate (vanadium)

may stimulate muscle growth, enhance strength and power

not shown to have any effect on muscle mass, strength or power

Zinc

may reduce upper respiratory tract infections during heavy training

shown to minimize exercise-induced changes to immune function during training

So, here we can see that vitamin and mineral supplements only add value if you are initially deficient and when they do add value they add to your general health which may improve your fitness in general, but they are not an ergogenic performance enhancing aid.




 

The Role of Dietary Supplements for Athletes

Dietary supplements can play an important role in an athletic diet. However, they should be viewed as supplements to the diet, not replacements for a good diet. While there are very few supplements backed by scientific evidence to enhance athletic performance, there are some shown to be helpful for exercise and recovery. Whether you’re an active adult, athlete working alone, or have hired a sports nutrition specialist, it’s important to stay current on supplement research. The following common nutritional supplements have been researched and classified as either: apparently effective, possibly effective, too early to tell, or apparently ineffective: 

 

Apparently effective and generally safe:

 

Muscle building supplements

 

  • weight gain powders
  • creatine
  •         protein
  • essential amino acids (EAA)

 

Weight loss supplements:

 

  • low-calorie foods, meal replacement powders (MRPs), ready-to-drink shakes (RTDs)
  • ephedra, caffeine, and salicin containing thermogenic supplements taken in recommended doses for appropriate populations

 

Performance-enhancing supplements:

 

  • water and sports drinks
  • carbohydrates
  • creatine
  • sodium phosphate
  • sodium bicarbonate
  • caffeine
  • B-alanine

 

Possibly effective but more research required:

 

Muscle building supplements:

 

  • HMB in untrained individuals, start-up training programs
  • BCAA’S

 

Weight loss supplements:

 

  • high-fiber diets
  • calcium
  • green tea extract

 

Performance-enhancing supplements:

 

  • post-exercise carbohydrate and protein
  • essential amino acids (EAA)
  • branched chain amino acids (BCAA)
  • HMB
  • glycerol

 

Too early to tell and lacks sufficient research:

 

Muscle building supplements:

 

  • α-Ketoglutarate
  • α-Ketoisocaproate
  • ecdysterones
  • growth hormone releasing peptides
  • ornithine α-Ketoglutarate
  • zinc/magnesium aspartate

 

Weight loss supplements:

 

  • gymnema sylvestre, chitosan
  • phosphatidl Choline
  • betaine
  • DHEA
  • psychotropic Nutrients/Herbs

 

Performance-enhancing supplements:

 

  • medium chain triglycerides

 

Apparently not effective and/or unsafe:

 

Muscle building supplements:

 

  • glutamine
  • smilax
  • isoflavones
  • sulfo-polysaccharides (myostatin inhibitors)
  • boron
  • chromium
  • conjugated linoleic acids
  • gamma oryzanol
  • prohormones
  • vanadyl sulfate (vanadium)

 

Weight loss supplements:

 

  • calcium Pyruvate
  • chromium (for people who don't have diabetes)
  • HCA
  • L-Carnitine
  • phosphates
  • herbal diuretics

 

Performance-enhancing supplements:

 

  • glutamine
  • inosine

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