THE HIDDEN DANGERS
Student athletes are understandably concerned about performing their best. While many may want to take nutritional supplements, it's a smart idea to research the dangers and consider whether or not it's a chance worth taking.
Learn the Risks
Nutritional supplements toe the line between food and drug, and therefore are not regulated by the FDA. There is absolutely nothing guaranteeing the purity of bodybuilding supplements, or the safety of using them. In addition, the manufacturer can claim benefits of the product that have not been tested or proven.
Some supplements may contain unhealthy ingredients or banned substances that can potentially disqualify students from competitions. Student athletes in particular should avoid supplements that could affect their hormones, especially products that increase testosterone or growth hormone levels. It's also very important to avoid products that contain stimulants (e.g., caffeine, ephedra or synephrine) that can lead to anxiety, racing heart or an irregular heartbeat.
When we hear that some top athletes are using supplements, many of us think we need them as well. But multiple studies have shown that not only are dietary supplements unnecessary for most individuals, they may actually increase the risk of illness, cancer and death.
Athletes often spend several hours per day training and consequently consume thousands of calories for fuel. It's hard to become nutrient deficient when you're eating that much. The overwhelming majority of people consume more than enough protein, for example, by eating a regular diet. So, nutritional supplements are unnecessary and not worth the risk.
Do Your Homework
Even knowing the risks, many athletes still believe they need supplements in order to compete with the best. And there are no clear answers to questions like "What dietary supplements can I take?" or "Are there safe supplements available?"
Reading a label thoroughly may not provide all the information you need because most dietary supplements are not tested before they are sold to consumers. Look for third-party certification indicators - like the blue NSF mark.
Testing under the NSF Certified for SportÂ® program helps confirm the product does not contain potentially harmful levels of impurities or substances banned by many major athletic organizations, including Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Football League (NFL), the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sports (CCES).
If you choose to take dietary supplements, it's important that you take a proactive approach and become fully informed, educated and aware of the marketplace.
- Recognize that no one person or organization will be able to provide all of the answers.
- Learn how, where and why risks exist in the supplement marketplace.
- Identify the tools and resources that can help minimize risk of consumption.
- Make no assumptions on the safety and effectiveness of a product.
- Consider that your best option may be to not take dietary supplements at all.