You cannot miss out on the buzz around ‘supplements’, while aiming to complete your run. Dietary supplements are products that are intended to improve the nutritive value of the diet. These could be vitamins, minerals, herbal extracts, amino acids or other dietary ingredients. In sports, a variety of supplements are popularly chosen to support recovery, improve stamina and endurance, maintain body weight and aid immunity. Supplements, when used in the right way and right amount and at the right time, can support various physical functions and help optimise the performance.1 However, these are best taken under the advice and supervision of an expert.
Remember that supplements are meant only to complement your food and are not to be considered as substitutes for food and lifestyle.
Supplements for athletes can be broadly classified into the following 3 categories2:
Sports foods: They act as practical or convenient alternatives when you need quick energy replenishment. During your busy days and around exercise sessions it becomes easier to just grab one of these and go ahead.2Examples:
- Sports drinks
- Sports gels
- Energy bars
- Liquid meal supplements
- High carbohydrate-containing powders
Dietary supplements: These are vitamins and/or mineral supplements used for the prevention or treatment of specific nutritional deficiencies when the requirement is not fulfilled by the daily diet. They contribute nutrients in addition to the entire day’s diet and are not meant to be meal replacements. There are various implications of vitamin and mineral deficiencies. The most common ones include compromised disease-fighting ability, bone and muscle weakness, fatigue and compromised blood health.2,3 Dietary supplements are preferably taken under the supervision of a physician or sports nutritionist.2
Examples: Vitamin C, iron, calcium and multivitamin or mineral supplements
Nutritional ergogenic aids: The word ergogenic literally means ‘work producing’. These are supplements that contain specific nutrients known to enhance one’s performance.3,4 Some of the common types of nutritional ergogenic aids are as follows4:
- Products acting as a direct energy source (e.g., carbohydrates and protein supplements)
- Products helping in energy storage (e.g., amino acid supplements such as branched-chain amino acids)
- Products acting at the cellular level playing a role in exercise and metabolism (e.g., creatine, carnitine and caffeine)
- Products to support recovery (e.g., antioxidants such as vitamins C and E)
Do not forget to read the labels of supplements because they provide the necessary information to be considered before buying them and always consult your physician or sports nutritionist on the same.
Breaking myths around supplements1,2
It is okay to take supplements as and when I feel the need for it.
FACT: The advice and supervision of an expert such as a sports nutritionist or a physician is mandatory to choose the right product and consume the right amount.
I can use supplements as my everyday meal, as they are easier to pop. FACT- Supplements are not substitutes for your meals, but just a part of your nutrition plan.
My friend takes a certain supplement, so is it fine if I consume it too? FACT- Definitely not. Every person’s body is different, so are his or her nutritional needs. Try to understand the information on the label before using a supplement. Consult an expert to find out what works for you.
Supplements are the immediate answer to my prayers for the run day. FACT- Supplements are not miracles that would work overnight to give you the required results. Be realistic in your performance goals with supplements. Consult an expert.
Although the supplement labels contain the necessary information to guide
you, it is always advisable to seek an expert opinion before consuming the same.
Kindly contact our nutritionist on the toll-free number mentioned below.
1. Williams M. Dietary supplements and sports performance: introduction and vitamins. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2004;1(2):1-6.
2. Australian sports commission. Supplements; FAQ. Bruce, Australia: AIS sports nutrition; 2010.
3. Maughan RJ. Nutritional ergogenic aids and exercise performance. Nutr Res Rev. 1999;12(2):255-80.
4. Applegate E. Effective nutritional ergogenic aids. Int J Sport Nutr. 1999;9:229-39.