FOOD SUPPLEMENTS: BENEFITS AND RISKS

The use of supplements should be prudent and above all sensible. The best thing is to discuss them with a specialist and choose them based on your situation, because, as the name implies, these products complement and not replace the basic diet.

Supplements are generally classified into four categories: A, B, C, and D. The classification takes into account the ingredients, the mechanisms of action, and the effect on health and athletic performance. It is recommended to use supplements that are sufficiently supported by scientific evidence and can therefore positively influence performance or recovery in specific situations.

The “supplements A” are those that in sport can be useful in certain situations and are supported by comprehensive scientific evidence. The use of “supplements B”, on the other hand, may make sense, but scientific evidence is not yet sufficiently available. The “C supplements” are of little or no use in sport, which is why their use is not recommended. Finally, category D includes all supplements whose use in sport is prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency or which present a very high risk of contamination with prohibited substances.

FOOD SUPPLEMENTS: BENEFITS AND RISKS

SUPPLEMENTS A, THE MOST EFFECTIVE FOOD SUPPLEMENTS

This category includes the best-known sports foods such as sports drinks, gels, energy bars, meal replacement products, and regeneration products. In the past, it has been clearly shown that using them during exertion can maintain the level of performance longer or even improve it.

Medical supplements such as probiotics, iron, calcium, vitamin D supplements, and multivitamin preparations can also be used by athletes, particularly in cases of deficiency or if acute gastrointestinal disease needs to be treated.

Other supplements in this category are called “performance supplements” and can lead, in some sports with particular requirements (for example duration and intensity of effort, production of lactic acid, or ability to concentrate), an improvement in performance compared to a placebo. Such supplements include beta-alanine, bicarbonate, caffeine, and creatine.

SUPPLEMENTS B: EVIDENCE NOT (YET?) SUFFICIENT

In this group are classified some supplements that could potentially be used in sports, but for which there are no studies (yet?) That demonstrates sufficient effectiveness. They should therefore only be used under the supervision of a specialist and closely monitoring their effects. Current B supplements include carnitine, glucosamine, HMB, and beet juice.

SUPPLEMENTS C AND D: UNWANTED USE

Supplements C and D should be avoided, not only because there is no scientific evidence of their effectiveness, but also because they may be contaminated with prohibited substances. An example is a colostrum, the intake of which is not generally prohibited in sports, but which contains ingredients likely to result in a positive doping test. The supplements of these categories are taboo for all athletes!

RISKS

Any artificially produced supplement carries the risk of contamination with banned substances during manufacturing. Supplements sold via the Internet present a much greater risk, as the quality of production cannot be controlled, which is one more reason to avoid them.

The risk can be significantly reduced by not ordering products via the Internet, by checking that the production process and quality are correct and demonstrable, or by purchasing national products from large pharmaceutical companies or sports food manufacturers, which by law must submit them to purity tests.

ADVICE

It is generally recommended that supplements be prescribed, for both medical and sports reasons, by a sports nutrition specialist. Furthermore, the products must be adapted to the needs of one’s sport to be effective. It is usually not recommended to administer supplements to young athletes or sportsmen who have not yet exploited their full potential through training stimuli. Analysis and personalized advice are therefore the essences of any use of these products.

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