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Supplements and Your Sports Diet

Content by: Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD

Athletic success depends on a consistent training program and an effective sports diet. Although food is always the best way to get the nutrients you require, supplements may be necessary. Read More!

Supplements and Your Sports Diet


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If an athlete is not eating well, supplements can be helpful, but no amount of supplements will compensate for a poor diet. Quality food works best!

Supplements are used for different reasons!

• To prevent/treat nutrient deficiency. Specific nutrients of concern include iron, calcium, and vitamin D

• To provide energy. Commercial sports drinks, gels and liquid meals are often used before, during and after exercise. They are a convenient alternative to common foods.

• To support health and limit illness. Supplements with research to support their health claims, include probiotics, vitamins C and D.

• To improve performance. Only a few performance-enhancing supplements have research showing they “work”. You may see some benefit from caffeine, creatine monohydrate, dietary nitrate, sodium bicarbonate and beta-alanine.

Even among supplements with credible research, the response varies greatly from person-to-person due to genetics, biology, the placebo effect, adequate fuel and sleep.

To guide your food and supplement options:
• Consult with a health professional or registered dietitian (RD). Look for a professionals certified as a specialist in sports dietetics (CSSD).

• Supplement makers are not required to prove safety of their products. You want to use only supplements that offer NSF Certified for Sport, as found on the supplement’s label.

To learn more:
• NSF Certified for Sport (

• Operation Supplement Safety (

• The Australian Institute for Sport’s ABCD Classification System (

• IOC Consensus Statement: Dietary Supplements and the High-Performance Athlete

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