What You Should Know About the Billion Dollar Supplements Industry
Are Supplements Necessary?
It is no secret that there is a lot of hype and propaganda out there about the use of sports supplements. In fact, one might argue that it is one of the most ambiguous and overwhelming topics in the fitness world today.
Research supports that there are, in fact, valid reasons for using sports supplements, but one should remember that they are meant to be just that-SUPPLEMENTS! According to an article titled, “Do Athletes Maintaining Healthy, Well-Balanced Diets Really Need Nutritional Supplements,” supplements should “fill in the nutritional gaps of a quality diet.” Also mentioned in the article is the need to truly understand your optimal nutrient levels for performance. The RDA suggests nutrient intake levels that meet minimum requirements for the majority of individuals. In reality, research suggests that optimal levels are often much higher than the RDA suggests, based on an athlete’s activity level, strenuous physical demands, and nutrients necessary to aid in the recovery/rebuilding process and in boosting your immune system following intense activities.
So why then, can’t we obtain all of our needed nutrients through the food we eat? One reason is because many of the foods today have been commercially processed and have been robbed of their natural nutritional value, therefore making it a task, more than ever, to make food choices that are actually high quality. Another obstacle is time. Whether we just don’t take the time to prepare high quality, nutrient rich foods or whether our caloric and nutrient needs would cause us to be preparing food all the live long day, time is definitely an issue. Therefore, supplements can provide a quick means to getting all these needed calories and nutrients into our system.
Sports Supplements Guidelines – Now this is Scary!
Did you know that dietary supplements, included sports supplements, do not need approval from the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) before they are put on the market? “There are currently no requirements for pre-market approval, no post-market surveillance, and no site licensing or product licensing required for the manufacturing of dietary supplements in the US. This leaves quality and content basically unregulated, resulting in a supplement market flooded with ineffective products due to lack of proper formulation and dissolution properties and products with contents that do not match labeled ingredients.” (Santas, 11) YIKES! Entangled in this mess are unsuspecting athletes who test positive for banned substances they never even knew were in their supplement. In fact the National Football League and Major League Baseball have adopted a program for supplements that relies on the independent testing company NSF. Through, NFS Certified for Sport™, nutritional supplements are tested for accurate labels as well as banned substances.
What Should I Look for When Selecting a Sports Supplement
Only use products from companies that are willing to place strict guidelines and regulations on themselves to meet certification requirements. These are the companies that set themselves apart from the rest of the market.
Although using only certified products is recommended, those who decide to use other products for whatever reason, would be “wise to consume only those products that have voluntarily followed the Good Manufacturing Process that reflects the pharmaceutical model and are considered pharmaceutical grade as opposed to merely FDA regulated.” (Santas, 12) As far as I can tell, the only thing regulated by the FDA is that each label on a dietary supplement is required to contain the phrase, “This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.” Oh really, FDA? Thank you so much for requiring such helpful information!
Summing it Up:
- YES sports supplements can be very valuable.
- NO, they are not regulated worth beans.
- RESEARCH products before buying!
Athletes are always looking for that edge to be better than their competitors. Just don’t be the uniformed type who gets sucked into to the billion dollar industry, chasing down every product that claims to be the “next best thing” because more likely than not, it is too good to be true!
Kalman, Douglas, S. MS, RD, CCRC, FA. (Jan. 31, 2006) Nutritional Supplements. NSCA Hot Topic Series. Retrieved on Oct. 17, 2011 from http://www.nsca-lift.org/HotTopic/download/Nutritional%20Supplements.pdf
Santas, Donovan, T., CSCS, D*.(Sept/Oct. 2008). Do Athletes Maintaining Healthy, Well-Balanced Diets Really Need Nutritional Supplements. NSCA’S Performance Training Journal. Vol.7 Issue 5 (10-12). Retrieved on Oct. 17, 2011 from http://www.nsca-lift.org/Perform/Issues/0705.pdf