Importance of Clean and Banned Substance Tested Supplements
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Importance of Clean and Banned Substance Tested Supplements

Sayali Naik

Supplements refer to any of the products sold as “dietary or nutritional supplements”, “health supplements”, or “sports supplements”. It covers a broad range of products including vitamins, minerals, herbs, meal supplements, sports nutrition products, natural food supplements, etc. used to boost the nutritional content of the diet. The market supplies thousands of supplements claiming to provide nutritional support for athletes. Some of these consist of high-protein products, amino acid supplements, while other products contain nutrients that support metabolism, energy, and athletic performance and recovery. Supplements can be found in pill, tablet, capsule, powder or liquid form, etc.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT SUPPLEMENTS?

  • There’s an increase in the number of supplements resulting in harmful side-effects (medical problems and fatalities) as well as positive drug tests in youth and adults alike (locally and globally).
  • Scientific analysis of products often reveals the extent of false claims of efficacy, presence of harmful and/or banned substances not listed on the label or incorrect dosages.
  • A lack of legislation and governance in the supplement industry locally and abroad – products can be advertised and sold with misleading claims, incorrect labeling, and lack of scientific-grade evidence of efficacy and safety.

Importance of Clean and Banned Substance Tested Supplements

Consequences of supplement use by athletes

Products containing a prohibited substance can result in bans of years for athletes. The presence of a prohibited substance in any supplement may result in an anti-doping rule violation, whether its use was intentional or unintentional. Under the WADA Code’s strict liability principle, athletes are ultimately responsible for any substance found in their body, regardless of how it got there. Even if the prohibited substance is not listed on the label of a supplement, if you consume it, you are still responsible.

In addition to facing a possible ban from sport, there are some supplements containing substances that can pose serious health risks for athletes. The majority of supplements on the market have not been tested according to proper scientific and objective standards, and their claims of superiority, efficacy, and safety cannot be guaranteed.

  • Be aware that supplement manufacturers may indeed claim that their product is ‘scientifically tested’ or ‘safe’, but at closer inspection, the evidence may be insufficient, irrelevant, misinterpreted, not applicable to youth, or in the worst, fabricated.
  • Claims that the supplement is ‘natural’ or ‘herbal’ does not necessarily mean that it is harmless and cannot get you banned.
  • Many components can have potentially harmful side-effects, can lead to harmful interactions with other herbals or medications, and/or lead to a failed drug test.
  • Vitamins, minerals, antioxidants from supplements may more easily reach levels and cause worse effects than better.
  • Reliance on supplements shifts focus away from the more important and proven methods of achieving optimal performance and health.

OTHER COMMON PITFALLS TO LOOK OUT FOR:

  • Even supplements bought from a well-known brand, store or pharmacy might contain harmful or banned substances.
  • If banned substances aren’t listed on the product label then it doesn’t guarantee that the product is indeed ‘clean’ or harmless.
  • The amount the product label says you should take could be excessive and with a ‘more is better’ so it might be dreadful.
  • If a well-known athlete claims to use specific supplements it does not mean that it is safe or that it will work for you too.
  • Some supplements like vitamin and mineral supplements and protein shakes have been found to be contaminated with harmful and/or banned substances that are not declared on the label.
  • Be aware of false claims like ‘WADA’ (World Anti-Doping Agency) or ‘SAIDS’ (SA Institute for Drug-Free Sport) ‘approved’.  Think twice before using it and ask yourself whether the risks are worth the limited or lack of benefits?
  • NOTE that some supplements, though not banned in itself, could be mixed or contaminated with banned / harmful substances, which may or may not be indicated on the label

PROVEN FACTS

  • Planning one’s training, overall dietary intake, rest, recovery and sleep patterns are proven to have a far bigger impact on physique, performance, and health than any sport supplement (or ingredient or formulation) tested to date can.
  • ‘Skimping out’ on any of the important aspects of nutrition and training cannot be replaced by the use of supplements.
  • See a registered dietitian, who will guide better on supplements intakes and so you how to minimize the risks.

DO YOU NEED SUPPLEMENTS TO PERFORM AT YOUR BEST?

The cornerstone of optimal performance is to eat a well-balanced diet (with a variety from all food groups) and eat enough of it to meet your energy needs, to properly time your food intake (before/during/after workouts), to train intelligently and to allow for sufficient rest and recovery but due to the additional requirements of an athlete, supplements prove beneficial.

But a person’s age, circumstances, type of supplement, dosage and timing thereof should be established on an individualized basis and then constantly re-evaluated.

HOW TO MINIMISE THE RISKS

A sports dietitian can help you identify and implement a scientifically-proven nutritional and supplement program based on:
1) Firstly, optimizing your overall dietary intake, in a practical way that suits your needs and circumstances, and then secondly, assessing whether you need/could benefit from supplementation.
2) The type and amount of supplements should be customized to ‘fill the gaps’ if/when needed.

It is not a one-size-fits-all approach!

3) The choice of supplement(s) should be made carefully – for its effectiveness and safety for that individual; aspects of the product manufacturing process should be investigated to help identify low-risk supplements.

Importance of Clean and Banned Substance Tested Supplements

  • Note: Certain supplements may provide a ‘stamp of approval’ or logo indicating that their supplement(s) have been independently tested for ‘quality and/or safety’ and certified to be ‘free of banned substances’. The Informed-Choice Certificate is a globally recognized quality assurance program which certifies the not only the actual finished product itself, but all the composite raw materials, the supply chain and the manufacturing plant/facility is clean, safe and of high quality to ensure that the products do not carry ingredients that would be prohibited in sports by the World Anti-doping Agency (WADA).

Importance of Clean and Banned Substance Tested Supplements

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