As mentioned in last week’s blog post, I spent a couple of days in Canberra recently learning more about the supplement industry. Last week I talked about the power of belief in relation to supplements. This week, will focus instead on the industry of performance enhancing supplements itself, and my six key learnings from the conference.
1. There is no clear definition of what a ‘supplement’ is. Some say a supplement is anything which is consumed directly to improve performance. Does this then mean that it is not only gels and protein powders, but bananas and vegemite sandwiches? Is it beetroot juice? Sports bars? This is something which must be defined in order for the industry to move forward.
2. It is very easy for supplements to be contaminated. Anthony Broom from HFL Informed Choice Sports Supplements discussed reducing the risk of doping, and told a story about a machine in the US which 3 years previously had been used to manufacture a now banned substance. 3 years later, it was still tainting some of the legal supplements it was now being used for. 25% of products coming from the US are contaminated, 10% from Europe. Most contamination is due to the manufacturing process, or from raw material contamination. Using a quality product that is regularly tested is essential, as uncontrolled suppliers may use contaminated product 55% of the time.
3. Read the label. Most athletes who were found to have breached the ASADA code did so accidentally, through using products which clearly state on the label that they contain a banned substance, but the athlete forgot to check the product.
4. Checking the label can be tough! ‘And related substances’ is part of the list of banned substances… highlighting the importance of knowing what you use and where it comes from, and getting quality professional advice when it is needed
5. There are ‘windows of susceptibility’, when athletes may be more likely to risk doping. For example in order to receive entry to a high performance team or sport at the beginning of their career, or in order to get in an extra season or event towards the end. Like smoking is often thought to be a ‘gateway’ in adolescents for future use of illicit substances, research shows that supplements are similar; some supplements are thought to be a ‘gateway’ for use of other substances. Case in point being one of the most commonly used supplements, protein powder.
6. As Sean Eadie from Cycling Australia stated, athletes don’t care if the research has not been done, they are often happy with anecdotal evidence of efficacy. As sports dietitians, we must be on the cutting edge of knowledge in order to be able to relate with our athletes, and know what the next best thing is, whilst sticking inside our code of practice and providing evidence based advice. Sometimes a fine line to tread!
I would love to hear about anyone’s experiences with performance enhancing supplements!
Chloe McLeod is a dietitian at BJC Health.
This blog focuses on diet & nutrition generally and diet & nutrition in relation to the treatment of arthritis and arthritis-related diseases. Contact us if you’d like our help in managing diet-related health issues.