Stories about: dietary supplements

Dietary supplements and athletes: 5 things to know now

athlete dietary supplementAt the 2014 Sochi Olympics, a German biathlete and an Italian bobsledder tested positive for substances banned by the World-Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) — methylhexanamine and dimethhylamphetamine. Both athletes had ingested these substances as part of a dietary supplement they had been led to believe was free of contaminants. However, some banned substances are susceptible to inadvertent use because the manufacturers list them under less recognizable names on the product label.

Both athletes were stripped of their medals.

In other cases, athletes’ use of banned substances is more intentional. Scores of Russian athletes have been banned from competing at the 2016 Rio Olympics following an independent report of a systemic, state-run doping program. (Doping refers to the use of banned/illegal performance enhancing drugs.) Each individual athletic association typically has a list of banned or illegal substances that can be easily accessed by all athletes.

Regardless of whether or not a particular substance is banned, or ingestion is inadvertent or systemic, dietary supplements can present a problem for athletes, coaches and parents.

Diet, dietary supplements and athletes

As a registered dietitian, I meet with dozens of young athletes weekly whose goal is to excel at their respective sport. I work with them to optimize their diets to support healthy development as well as optimal performance and energy balance for sport.

Most adolescent athletes have not yet mastered the proper training and eating behaviors to help them get to where they want to be, which puts them at risk for developing bad habits that can lead to serious health consequences. Many teens are easily influenced by peers and media messages and can be swayed by ads and photos touting the incredible effects of dietary supplements. In a culture that thrives on instant gratification, supplements promising miraculous effects in a short period of time are a true danger to our young athletes.

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