Supplements for Team Players

Health food shops, bike shops, chemists, sporting and fitness magazines and the internet promote supplements that will enhance performance, increase recovery, improve stamina, improve strength, lose body fat etc. It all sounds too good to be true and in general, it is. Government agencies do not review such supplements for safety, effectiveness, purity or potency before they are marketed. It’s only after they appear on the market that these agencies can take action if it can be proved these claims are false or misleading. Thus, the marketers have a free rein to promote a product with bright, catchy claims that in general are unsubstantiated by science but are supported by testimonials from high-profile people and athletes. For example, a 1993 research study evaluated 624 commercially available products targeted at body-builders and found over 800 performance claims for these products, most of which were not supported by published research. In 2000—01, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) commissioned a study of nutritional supplements from 215 suppliers in various countries. The study included supplements purchased in shops, on the internet and by telephone order. Of the 634 products analysed, 94 (14.8 per cent) contained prohibited substances, but the prohibited substances were not declared on the label.

Regardless, athletes young and old will take supplements for a number of reasons including:

  • Compensating for poor diet or lifestyles
  • Meet the demands of long-duration or intense training
  • Benefit performance

In 1996, United States consumers spent $6.5 billion on supplements. Some high profile supplements have enormous sales. For example, creatine first came to the public eye after the 1992 Olympics success of Lynford Christie. Worldwide sales of creatine are now estimated at 2.7 million kilograms. While this supplement does enhance performance in intermittent sports such as hockey or soccer, it is often marketed to improve endurance with no evidence to support this claim.