What Are The Best Supplements For Athletes?

Athletes like to have an advantage over their competitors and often this leads to them taking enhancements. A large number of these supplements claim to be the best for athletes, but yet they have no scientific backing to support any claims even though they may be endorsed by well known athletes, coaches and teams. So what works and what should you avoid?

First, supplements are not a substitute for a balanced diet, although many athletes believe that they will magically improve their performance. Supplements range from multivitamins to caffeine to thermogenics to sports drinks.

Multivitamins are used by many athletes in an effort to improve energy levels and boost performance. In fact multivitamins will not improve performance unless you have an actual deficiency in one of these vitamins. Supplements like iron should not be taken unless a deficiency has been diagnosed by a medical doctor. It is possible to take too much of some of these vitamins and minerals and these can be damaging to health. A good example of this is vitamin A. Vitamin A in large amounts can be damaging to a developing foetus so women must be very careful with any supplements that may contain high levels of this vitamin.

Caffeine can also be useful for athletes as it helps delay the feelings of fatigue and it may help to make fat more available as a fuel source and therefore spare carbohydrates as fuel. Bicarbonate may also help some athletes. For example, it is often used by swimmers and other athletes who have a need for short burst Fuel (i.e. hockey players, etc.). Creatine is another know supplement like caffeine that has been proven to help build muscle and in short intense events. Creatine is not useful for long endurance events.

Apart from these supplements mentioned above, all others like thermogenics, other powders, pills and potions do not work and do not have research to back their supposed benefits. Another major issue with these other supplements is that we do not know their effects on your health over the long term. Some of these may cause damage to parts of the body especially after long term use. The risk of contamination is high in these products and some may show up in routine drug testing. There are a number of sports supplements that are known to boost performance but for others there is not enough conclusive research to use them.

Sports drinks can be used and are effective for exercise sessions over 1 hour in duration. Sports drinks are classified as having 4 – 8 % of carbohydrate and 500 – 700mg/L of sodium. They are different to sports waters which have less carbohydrate and little if no sodium. Sports gels are also useful for athletes who are taking part in events that are longer than 1 hour. They provide a source of carbohydrate which helps to maintain a supply of this source of energy for the muscles and the brain.

The good news is some supplements do work (caffeine, bicarbonate, creatine, sports drinks and sports gels) for certain sports, but all other supplements have no scientific backing and should be avoided as the long terms effects on health have not yet been determined. If you indeed decide to purchase supplements, make sure you also buy high quality products that are well recommended and also research the brand so you know that you are buying something with a lesser chance some type of contamination.

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