The Scoop on Supplements

Jennifer DeWall RDN, CSSD, LD works with ICYF to provide expert advice on sports nutrition and healthy eating to the student and families of Indianola. A registered dietitian/nutritionist, Jennifer owns a private practice that focuses on helping athletes stay on the cutting edge with superior nutrition.

Athletes will lean on dietary supplements for a variety of reasons, which may include improved performance, delay of fatigue, increase in lean muscle mass, or improve immune function. Many supplements on the market may not harm you but will not help you either. No amount or type of supplement will replace better eating habits. If you are a poor eater, you may think you will benefit from supplements. However, people that follow an adequate diet are more likely to benefit from supplementation than people who follow a poor diet. Food first, then consider supplementation.

Keep in mind that not all supplements are bad; it’s best to find what works for you. For athletes that may benefit from supplementation, a sports nutritionist can assess what supplements you may need based on your genetic profile, physiological goals, and scientific evidence.

Dietary supplements may appear safe but take a closer look at the facts….
Supplements are not considered food or medication and do not have to follow the same strict adherence by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This can result in unethical companies adding in illegal “fillers” that may cause harm. Supplements often have varying amounts of ingredients in the same brand of a product and often do not list all the ingredients the supplement contains. In many reviews, 20% of supplements contained banned substances, not on the label. (2) Taking supplements can put you at risk for
health complications or sport suspension.
In June of 2007, the FDA announced a ruling that established regulations to require current good manufacturing practices (cGMP) for dietary supplements.
Limitation: This is based on the honor system of the manufacturer. It is very difficult for FDA regulators to audit manufacturing plants on a regular basis.

Companies are required to report all serious adverse effects to FDA
Limitation: If an adverse effect is reported, the FDA may not have the ability to investigate the report immediately. Supplement manufacturers are not required to demonstrate the safety and efficacy of their products.(1)

The Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act of 1994 allows Supplement manufacturers to make health claims regarding the effect of products on body structure and function.
Limitation: Claims can be made regardless of validity. Claims DO NOT have to be proven truthful as long as manufacturers provide on their packaging the active ingredients and a list of all ingredients. (1)

Helpful and Trustworthy Resources on Supplements

National Collegiate Athletic Association

NSF International

NSF tests and certifies that these products contain the identity and quantity of dietary ingredients declared on the product label, but do not contain unacceptable quantities of unwanted contaminants for the recommended serving size listed on the product label.

Find a Sports Nutritionist near you

References 1. Position of the American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and Athletic Performance. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, March 2009, Volume 109 Number 3 p. 509-522. 2.Kundrant, Susan and Rockwell, Michelle. Sports Dietetics- Practiced, Proven & Tested – The 3-Step Game Plan. Nutrition on the Move, Inc. 2008.