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VITAMINS, MINERALS AND OTHER SUPPLEMENTS
Vitamins and minerals (when not consumed in food form) are classified as dietary supplements. Amino acids, botanicals, herbs, and substances such as enzymes, organ tissues and glandulars, and metabolites, are also classified as dietary supplements. Many athletes believe they do not get enough vitamins and minerals in their diet and wonder if they should start taking some sort of supplement; while other athletes are on a constant quest to find the latest diet or supplement that will give them a competitive edge.
The reality is that making wise food and beverage choices are crucial for peak performance and contribute to endurance and repair of injured tissues. A good working knowledge and understanding of foods that provide essential nutrients will aid in an athlete reaching their greatest potential.
Athletes have increased energy needs, which allows for more opportunities to obtain the nutrients they need through a balanced diet composed of a variety of natural foods. Most sports medicine professionals agree that unless an individual has a nutrient deficiency, supplementation may not improve athletic performance.
However, the athlete who takes a simple one-a-day type of vitamin or mineral that does not exceed the nutrient levels of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA)/Dietary Reference Intake (DRI), is probably not doing any harm. An athlete should consult with his or her physician, or other health care professional, to determine whether vitamin and mineral supplementation is needed to maintain optimal health.
Nutrients that may be low in an athlete’s diet are listed in following chart. Choose a variety of foods in each food category to ensure that all nutrients are included in your diet.
Natural foods contain a matrix of various nutrients that researchers are continuing to discover and learn more about. Often individual nutrients don’t work as effectively when isolated in a pill or supplement form.
Self-prescribed supplement users should heed overdose warnings and look for symptoms of toxic levels of supplementation, such as diarrhea, skin rashes that do not fade, and unexplained joint pain. Fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) can be toxic when misused. Unlike water soluble vitamins in which excess amounts are excreted in the urine, fat soluble vitamins are stored in body fat and remain in the body.
Athletes should always choose food over dietary supplementation. The body needs more than 40 nutrients every day and supplements do not contain all the nutrients that are found in food. Supplements cannot make up for a poor diet or poor beverage choices.
Athletes searching for a competitive edge often look to a supplement or a special combination of nutrients to find it. However, there are no quick-fix supplements for improving sports performance. Consuming a wide variety of foods and staying well hydrated are the basic cornerstones to reaching athletic potential.
For athletes subject to sport drug testing, taking nutritional or dietary supplements may cause a positive test for a prohibited substance that may not be disclosed on the product label. In accordance with all applicable rules for a positive test result within a sport, a sanction may be imposed.
Some trade associations and other businesses have programs that include analytical testing and quality assessment of dietary supplements, culminating in a “stamp of approval’ or a “guarantee” that the supplement is safe for use in sport. These programs may reduce the risk that a supplement is contaminated, or contains an undisclosed ingredient. HOWEVER, it does not eliminate this risk. Athletes who take dietary or nutritional supplements, even if claiming to be “approved” or “verified,” do so at their own risk of committing an anti-doping rule violation, or suffering from negative health side-effects.
You can find some advices in your National Anti-Doping Agency pages. example of such guide can be found here.
Risks of supplement use
There are thousands of nutrition supplements offered on the market and there are many claims that make these supplements sound attractive to athletes interested in performance, recovery, weight management, muscle building etc.
These potential benefits of supplements receive a lot of attention, but although supplements may, in some cases, provide an edge, there are also risks associated with the use of nutrition supplements.
- they may not work
- waste of money
- waste time and energy
- low quality
- may have opposite effect
- ingredient may not be present
- ingredient may not be listed
- contamination by prohibited substance such as steroids or diuretics
According to WADA´s principle of Strict Liability, every athlete is responsible for the presence of a prohibited substance or its markers/metabolites in his/her samples , irrespective of whether or not the Anti-Doping Rule violation was committed unintentionally or deliberately.
It is recommended to do a careful risk-benefit or cost-benefit analysis before using a nutrition supplement. This means: understanding the potential benefits and the evidence that the supplement may indeed (or may not) have the claimed effects. With cost it is not only meant financial costs but also the fact that a supplement could have negative effects on performance or on health. A risk could also mean that the supplement does not contain what it should contain. Perhaps there is less of the effective ingredient or there is too much of the active ingredient. It is also possible that there are substances in the supplement that were not listed in the label and it is even possible that some of these substances could result in a positive doping test. For elite athletes the risk of an adverse analytical finding could be devastating and potentially career ending.
Doping Control process
WADA’s Play True Quiz is an interactive game that tests athletes’ knowledge about anti-doping.
For Youth (Under 18)
Welcome to WADA’s Youth Zone, where you can find information on drug use in sport and why it is banned.
In order to cater to the various learning styles of coaches, WADA has created CoachTrue, a computer-based anti-doping learning tool.