1. You are limiting your performance gains if you are replacing normal food intake with supplements.

Supplements are not meant to be used as food replacements. Often, the supplement contains just one or a few isolated nutrients. Having a shake made with protein powder and water is not the same as eating a chicken or nut butter sandwich for recovery. The latter has a natural source of protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Whereas, the shake likely has low or no carbohydrates and fat, selected vitamins and minerals, and no antioxidants.

2. What are you actually putting in your body? There’s a greater chance of cross contaminations, banned substances and allergy considerations.

There are also other inherent risks with taking supplements. People with food allergies and intolerances may remember to avoid certain foods, but forget to check if their supplements contain the same ingredients.  Each year you hear of athletes that get tested positive for doping and in some cases the athlete had no idea they were taking a banned substance. They were simply taking their usual supplements, not knowing it was contaminated.

Supplement may not be labelled clearly or correctly in terms of the nutrition facts and ingredients list. There are a lot of marketing messages written on supplement bottles that make them very appealing and attractive, but may not have the scientific evidence required to back up those claims.

3. Tested on adults, for adults – Impact on young, maturing bodies unknown

The majority of supplements have only been tested on the adult population, which means there is not yet enough data to support the use of supplements in young athletes, except when under the supervision of a physician and dietitian for specific reasons.

If an athlete has a known nutrient deficiency (such as iron deficiency anemia or low vitamin D status), then an isolated nutrient in a high dose may be required for treatment. When the deficiency has been corrected, the supplement may either be discontinued or tapered down to a maintenance daily dose that is lower than the original high dose.

It is common for younger athletes to be curious about using supplements to improve sports performance. However, the effectiveness and potential long-term effects of supplements in adolescents have not been extensively studied. Therefore, it would be wise to get all nutrients from food when possible, and avoid the use of supplements unless taken under the direct supervision of qualified medical professionals.

4. Benefits of a multivitamin

Where there is no nutrient deficiency, a general once-a-day multivitamin-mineral is sufficient to ‘cover all bases’ for athletes who are concerned that their food intake is not as balanced as it could be.

When purchasing a multivitamin-mineral, chewable versions are discouraged because they are usually low in calcium, contain added sugar, and may accidentally be perceived as candy by young children (which increase the risk of overdose). Also, ensure that the vitamins and minerals do not exceed 100% of the Percent Daily Value (%DV). The %DV for each vitamin and mineral is based on the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI), which is a reference tool developed by Canadian and American scientists.

 5. Safe supplements to consider

Vitamin D

Many athletes don’t realize that low vitamin D levels in the blood can decrease immunity, meaning you’re more prone to sickness or taking longer to recover. For athletes younger than 30 years old, you can safely take a supplement of Vitamin D 600IU per day, unless you have pre-existing high levels (which is highly unlikely). Ask your family doctor if you’re not sure what your baseline Vitamin D status is first. Chances are, you may even benefit from a daily supplemental dose of 1000-2000IU/day.

Skim Milk Powder

Rather than spend money on expensive protein powder supplements that may contain banned substances that could disqualify you from competitions, use skim milk powder for a protein boost instead! Generally speaking, in 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup or 60mL) of skim milk powder, you get 9g of protein (as well as 13g of carbohydrates), that’s roughly the same amount in 1 full cup of milk. Not to mention, it also contains good amounts of calcium, vitamin D, and phosphorus to support strong bone health.

Homemade Electrolyte Sports Drink

The benefit to making your own sports drink is you get to replace the water, salt, and potassium you lose in your sweat and replace the carbohydrates that you burn through during your sport. Here’s a quick and easy recipe to follow so you don’t have to depend on Gatorade® all the time and end up drinking additional items you don’t need to fuel your performance, such as artificial food color dyes.

Posted in collaboration with http://sportsnutrition.world. For more tips on how to achieve your goals faster by choosing the right foods and fluids, please contact the author Angel Luk (the Oval’s Registered Dietitian at aluk@richmondoval.ca), to arrange for an appointment today.

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