Supplements

The Pros and Cons of Sports Supplements

Categories Lifestyle

 

Supplements

What lies beneath the hype of sports supplements? Dr Adam Fraser seeks the truth.

Get massive quick! Recover 80 per cent quicker! Burn fat! Get rock hard abs! These are some of the promises made to you by the myriad colourful and glossy sports supplements that greet us when we enter health food stores. The big question is do they work, when do we need them and is there a suitable food alternative?

To find out the answers men’s style spoke to Zoe Watt, clinical and sports dietitian.

Sports drinks

What they do?
Available in both powdered or ready to drink (think Gatorade, Powerade), they are designed to be palatable while exercising and encourage fluid consumption. Contain carbohydrate to supply energy (glucose) to working muscles and prevent or delay fatigue. Strenuous or sustained exercise depletes the carbohydrates stored in the muscles and liver. Studies have shown that supplying a steady source of sugar during exercise fights off fatigue and enhances performance. Sports drinks also contain sodium to enhance fluid absorption as well as replaces sweat losses.

Who needs it?
Sports drinks are designed for people, who are exercising, not to have while you are watching TV. They are only needed if you are doing long periods of exercise (2 hours), exercising very strenuously or exercising in hot conditions. Ideal for use before, during and after exercise. Before exercise used to ensure blood glucose levels are topped up and that you start exercise well hydrated. During exercise to replace fluid and electrolyte losses, top up blood glucose levels and encourage the athlete to drink more. Aker exercise they are useful for rapid recovery of Fluid and carbohydrate loss.

Do they work?
Many studies have shown benefits to sports drink consumption when there is a need for fluid, carbohydrate and sodium to be replaced, as they provide the optimum delivery of these nutrients. The key is to understand that you only need them if you are working really hard, otherwise plain old water will do the trick.

Sports bars

What they do?
A compact source of energy. The carbohydrates provide fuel for your brain and working muscles, while giving protein for repair and recovery of muscles.

Who needs it?
Suitable for providing a quick and convenient, no preparation snack for athletes eating on the run. Also beneficial for a pre-event meal for athletes with an upset stomach. A good and portable source of carbohydrate during exercise, they also help satisfy hunger during prolonged training sessions and competitive events (e.g. road cycling). Ideal for refueling energy and nutrients following exercise when appetite is suppressed, access to food is limited, or the athlete has minimal time to eat between exercise sessions.

Do they work?
Many sports bars taste as good as a house brick and just as easy to chew. Best consumed with fluid. While beneficial the ingredients are also readily available in normal foods. So save your money and buy a banana instead.

Sports Gels

What they do?
A highly concentrated source of carbohydrate to provide instant and readily absorbed energy. Contain more carbohydrates than energy drinks.

Who needs it?
Convenient light and portable sachets are suitable for athletes with high energy needs requiring a compact form of carbohydrate which can be easily carried. Eg. Triathletes, cyclists, distance runners, adventure racers, climbers, skiers. Athletes need to ensure they also take in adequate and regular fluid to ensure that they stay properly hydrated.

Do they work?
Like sports drinks there are studies that show that they have benefit but only under fairly extreme conditions.

Protein Powders and Bars

What they do?
A huge hit of protein. Protein is obviously important to help muscles recover from strenuous exercise and to build more muscle mass.

Who needs it?
The majority of strength and endurance athletes consume adequate protein to meet their needs in their habitual dietary intake. However protein supplements may be of use when food intake is not practical pre-and post- training or for travelling athletes when availability of suitable foods is unknown.

Do they work?
Most protein supplements usually contain levels of protein in excess of requirements. Often quite expensive and Maness protein is consumed over and above requirements it will contribute to excess energy intake leading to increased body fat accumulation. Excessive use of this supplement may be replacing other nutrients in the diet (e.g. fibre, vitamins minerals and antioxidants). High protein foods such as fish, meat, chicken, dairy and legumes also provide these nutrients.

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Liquid Meal Replacements (eg Sustagen)

What they do?
Compact source of energy and nutrients in liquid form.

Who needs it?
Can be used as a meal replacement when solid foods cause gastric upset before sports or a top up of energy levels when demands of exercise make it difficult to meet energy requirements. An easy way to take in both carbohydrates and protein for recovery before and after resistance exercise.

Do they work?
A useful supplement in above scenarios, but athletes can get both carbs and protein from milk-based smoothies and milkshakes.

Sports/Vitamin/ Nutrient Water

Marketed as a healthy alternative to soft drinks but contain as much sugar as sports drinks. ‘Vitamin Water’ implies there is nothing but a few vitamins thrown in, but contain artificial colours, caffeine and guarana. The ‘buzz’ people get is most likely from the sugar or caffeine content.