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Supplements – are they what they say they are?


Are you on the supplement train…

Consuming a performance nutrition diet will give you the most BANG for your buck in terms of health and performance in sport.

Whether an athlete or non-athlete I think most of us want that winning edge over others. At least I know that I prefer to be the fittest, strongest, fastest, most powerful compared to my friends. I love my friends, don’t get me wrong but I also like to win.

Well the supplement industry is not silly. They have cashed in on this knowledge. They are very mindful that many of us desire to be the best that we can be.

Claims such as you will become faster, stronger, lose fat, build lean muscle mass are not shyly made by supplement companies, these claims are found on their supplement product packaging. Sadly these claims are often not true and are not well regulated. Yet these marketing claims capture a large audience and supplements are bought and used by many.

Supplements are not mandated. Thankfully some supplement companies have taken the next step and had independent third party testing by companies such as Informed Sport.

Many think that supplements can make up for poor choices or poor diet, this is not true.

Sadly many who are using supplements get information and recommendations from friends, coaches and parents. Does that not sound a little odd and unsafe to you? If you have a broken car – do you rely on your friends, coaches or parents to repair it or do you consult with and trust a mechanic to repair it. Therefore if you are considering taking a nutritional supplement does it not make sense to consult with a practitioner who is accredited in this area such as an Accredited Sports Dietitian or Accredited Practising Dietitian and/or your medical physician.

Understand this:

Just because a supplement is sold in a store does not mean that it is free of contamination and that it is safe. Hopefully you know that by now. All of the ingredients may not even be listed on the product and further, may not contain the true amount of listed active ingredient.

Some good news – there are third party companies offering quality independent testing that assures the product does not contain harmful levels of contamination. Testing does not guarantee the product’s safety or effectiveness.

Just because a product says it is natural doesn’t mean it is safe and free of contamination. Supplement companies are there to make money and they will find clever marketing ways to sell their product. Natural, Organic, Fast Acting..

What can you do if you are considering taking a supplement?

  • Discuss the supplement that you are considering with your accredited health professional – Sports Dietitian, Dietitian, Medical Specialist
  • Find credible and reputable online resources for supplements
  • Look for clean supplements – independent third party testing labs
  • Look for good and/or high level scientific studies supporting the effectiveness and safety use of the supplement
  • Understand how to read and interpret supplement food labels and packaging


Source: Adapted from The Athlete’s Guide To Sports Supplements, Chapter 1: Understanding Supplements, Kimberly Mueller and Josh Hingst 2013, Human Kinetics

Stephanie Gaskell is an Accredited Practising Dietitian, an Accredited Sports Dietitian, and a competitive Ultra Trail Marathon Runner. She is available for Phone and Skype Consultations, and has published the FODMAP™ & Gluten Status Sports Supplement Guide.

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