Over-the-counter supplements are commonly thought of as a fundamental part of meeting your weight or athletic performance goals and are considered by some to be equally as important as eating enough protein or including a warm-up in your workout routine. These supplements are referred to as athletic supplements, performance enhancing supplements, and sometimes even dietary supplements.
Supplement can be tricky territory. What may seem like a safe, legal way to increase the results you are looking for may be an illegal way
to hurt yourself or even get kicked off the team. Supplement regulation is not as simple as it seems and there is a good chance the ones you are using may be doing more harm then good.
People frequently include supplements in their diet as an integral part of their athletic or workout regimen.
They are easy and convenient. But it’s about time you consider what you are putting in your body. Is it really reliable to trust a product because your teammate told you it was amazing or your friend has been using for years? Or do you think it’s safe because it’s endorsed by athletes or sold at popular fitness stores?
When it comes to performance enhancing or sports supplements, you are ultimately responsible for your choices. Take the time to learn more about supplements and be able to make smart choices for your body and your future.
How many have you fallen for?
Supplements are different from steroids because they aren’t harmful.
Supplements affect your body in a different way than anabolic steroids or human growth hormone. People generally think of them as harmless because they are oftentimes man-made versions of vitamins and nutrients that your body already creates. There are actually many ingredients in athletic supplements that can be extremely harmful to your body. Using supplements can come with small risks like fatigue and worsened athletic performance (yes, you read that correctly!) or bigger risks like severe dehydration or heart attack.
But the government regulates supplements so they can’t be that bad for you.
Not exactly… the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are the people in charge of checking to make sure the things we put into our body are safe. However, the FDA does not test supplements (dietary and performance enhancing) with the same standards they use for food. In fact, since 1994 it is up to the manufacturer of the product to make sure the ingredients in the product are safe. That’s right, the manufacturer. The same people who profit off the product determine if you should buy it and risk the side-effects it could potentially have. In order for the FDA to look into the risks associated with the supplement, an official complaint has to be filed by someone who has experienced negative side-effects or their doctor. Don’t let yourself be that person.
You can’t get in trouble for taking supplements—they’re legal!
Have you ever heard of someone being kicked off of a sports team because they tested positive for an illegal substance that the athlete claimed they didn’t know they were using? This is where supplements come in. There are many supplements that contain ingredients that are illegal in the U.S. or in competitive sports. Because of the loose standards the FDA has in place for supplements, they can sneak under the radar or be purchased online from a different country. That is why it is so critical to read the ingredients labels of the supplements you are using—and to understand what those ingredients are.
You can’t have too much of a good thing!
Okay, this should have been a no brainer. Of course you can have too much of a good thing! Supplement manufacturers often make the claim that their product will add to/replenish chemicals or vitamins found in your body or speed up chemical reactions that would naturally take place. They then go on to promote the idea that the addition of these supplements will increase your endurance, speed, performance, etc. Sometimes the supplement may follow through with some of these promises at the beginning. However, when these chemicals are so easily accessible, your body will stop making them naturally. So instead of adding to a good thing, you are making your body dependent on an outside source of nutrients. Why mess with a system that is already working correctly?
If I only use supplements for a short-term boost I’m not doing any damage.
As stated before, your body will stop producing a chemical or nutrient that you are providing for it. This could happen in a very short period of time. What does this mean for your body? You may experience a large drop in your performance level if you stop using a supplement and virtually un-do all of your hard work.
It’s illegal for advertisers to make false claims about their products.
This is true — it is definitely illegal. However, after 1994 the FDA doesn’t look into new supplements on the market until there is a problem down the road. So the manufacturer can claim whatever they want to about their product and often won’t be questioned until someone else decides to prove them wrong.
There are a lot of hidden facts about supplements. It is important to investigate any new product you purchase, especially when you are it may have adverse effects on your health. If you are taking or considering taking supplements you should consult with your doctor and make sure they are safe and won’t interfere with any medication you are currently using. Most importantly, remember that if you want to have the best results with the lowest risk, there is no substitute for a healthy and balanced diet.
For More Information:
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)
Stephanie Waits, MPH, CHES
Health Educator, Health Promotion Department, SDSU