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Can Supplements Make Me a Better Athlete?

By: Sarah Knowles BA, MA - Updated: 26 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Sports Vitamin Supplements Health

Sports supplements on the market today make incredible promises, but few live up to their claims. The fact is, supplements are not enough: without the right talent, skill and physical prowess you'll never be an Olympic athlete. So, do we even need them?

The Debate

For decades the debate has been raging. Some people say that proper nutrition alone can deliver, and that athletes should be able to get all the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients they need from the food they eat.

The other side states that in today's competitive world, a healthy, balanced diet isn't enough, that only a variety of vitamin supplements and other fitness-enhancing aids can help our sports performance.

In general, most experts agree that the best supplements athletes can take are vitamin supplements. However, excessive intake of vitamins can have a detrimental effect on how we balance and use other nutritional elements in our body. So only take them under the advice of a medical professional, if you decide to take them at all.

But What About Other Sports Supplements?

While a well-balanced diet can provide all the nutrition you need, some people argue that sports supplements can sometimes be helpful, especially for people on the go who can't always sit down to a hot meal. They say these supplements can provide a nutritious and convenient way to make up for the nutrients you need, although the choice of what to take is entirely up to you.

Remember, “supplement” means the intention is to supplement your existing diet, not replace it! Your health and fitness depend on a variety of factors, but adequate nutrition is perhaps the most important of all.

On the whole, supplements are designed for several uses, including directly supporting your sports performance; providing the nutrients to affect and improve your performance; allowing for a convenient way to get the nutrients you need; providing all the nutrients your diet is missing, and accelerating or speeding up recovery after performance.

They do this by:

  • supplying energy (energy powders, creatine, nutrient bars)
  • improving recovery (glutamine, amino acids, protein shakes, meal replacement drinks and bars, energy powders)
  • improving power and strength (protein powders, amino acids, creatine, weight gaining supplements, nutrition bars, shakes and drinks, meal replacement programmes)
  • supporting fat loss (fat burners, metabolism accelerators etc)
  • providing all the support your body needs to exercise and perform well (creatine, amino acids, ZMA, or anabolic mineral support formulas etc).

Alternatives to Sports Supplements

For those of us who are not professional athletes, there are myriad alternatives to sports supplements which will allow us to continue exercising and indulging in all the sport we want. To make sure your sports performance is the best it can be, be sure you:

  • Always concentrate on the nutritional aspects of your diet. Make sure you are not deficient in any vitamins and eat a wide variety of foods, including foods from all the food groups.
  • Get enough sleep. A lack of those nightly zzzzz's can have a tremendous effect on sports performance.
  • Stay hydrated. Water lubricates the joints, clears the mind and keeps everything functioning properly.
  • Invest in the right kit. Sports injuries often happen from the wrong type of gear.
  • Always start with an adequate training programme. Don't expect to do it all on your own. Instead, get the proper professional training you need.
  • Know what you're doing. Work up gradually to attain specific levels to avoid injury, and know how to exercise properly and safely.
  • Get realistic expectations. Heredity and natural prowess all play a part in determining our success in sports. Don't expect too much.
  • Have a positive outlook. Determination, dedication and motivation can sometimes be the decisive factors.
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