Vitamins, Minerals, and Other Supplements
Vitamins and minerals (when not consumed in food form) are classified by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) as dietary supplements. Amino acids, botanicals, herbs, and substances such as enzymes, organ tissues and glandulars, and metabolites, are also classified as dietary supplements.
Many athletes believe they do not get enough vitamins and minerals in their diet and wonder if they should start taking some sort of supplement; while other athletes are on a constant quest to find the latest diet or supplement that will give them a competitive edge. The reality is that making wise food and beverage choices are crucial for peak performance and contribute to endurance and repair of injured tissues. A good working knowledge and understanding of foods that provide essential nutrients will aid in an athlete reaching their greatest potential.
Athletes have increased energy needs, which allows for more opportunities to obtain the nutrients they need through a balanced diet composed of a variety of natural foods. Most sports nutrition professionals agree that supplementation will not necessarily improve performance
However, the athlete who takes a simple one-a-day type of vitamin or mineral that does not exceed the nutrient levels of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (DRA)/Dietary Reference Intake (DRI), is probably not doing any harm, especially if it is third-party tested. An athlete should consult with his or her sports dietitian, or other health care professional, to determine whether vitamin and mineral supplementation is needed to maintain optimal health.
Nutrients that may be low in an athlete’s diet are listed in Table 11. Choose a variety of foods in each food category to ensure that all nutrients are included in your diet.
Athletes should always choose food over dietary supplementation. The body needs more than 40 nutrients every day and supplements do not contain all the nutrients that are found in food. Supplements cannot make up for a poor diet or poor beverage choices.
TABLE 11 IMAGE TEXT:
|Selected Micronutrients||B Vitamins||Calcium||Vitamin C||Vitamin D||Magnesium||Selenium||Iron|
|Vegetables||Leafy green vegetables, Asparagus, Cauliflower, Sweet potatoes, Mushrooms||Broccoli, Kale, Turnip greens||Tomatoes, Potatoes, Broccoli, Red peppers, Turnip greens, Collard greens||Spinach, Romaine, Lettuce||Green beans, Broccoli||Spinach|
|Fruit||Dried prunes, Bananas, Orange juice||Fortified Orange juice||Citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruit, and strawberries||Pineapple, Banana||Banana||Raisins and dried apricots|
|Grains||Whole grain breads, cereals, pasta, rice, tortillas||Corn tortilla, flour tortilla||Fortified breakfast cereals||Fortified cereal||Whoel grain cereals and oatmeal||Spaghetti, Rice||Oatmeal, Spaghetti, Fortified cereals|
|Dairy||Milk, Yogurt||Milk and dairy products||Milk and dairy products||Yogurt||Cottage cheese, Cheddar cheese|
|Meats, eggs, nuts, and beans||Turkey, pork, chicken, salmon, tuna, soy||Soybeans||Tofu, salmon||Tuna, salmon, sardines, soy milk, eggs||Almonds, cashews, peanuts, baked beans, chick peas||Lean beef, ham, chicken, tuna, nuts||Red meat, dark meat, poultry, chick peas, shrimp|
Natural foods contain a matrix of various nutrients that researchers are continuing to discover and learn more about. Often individual nutrients don’t work as effectively when isolated in a pill or supplement form.
Self-prescribed supplement users should heed overdose warnings and look for symptoms of toxic levels of supplementation, such as diarrhea, skin rashes that do not fade, and unexplained joint pain. Fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) can be toxic when misused. Unlike water soluble vitamins in which excess amounts are excreted in the urine, fat soluble vitamins are stored in body fat and remain in the body.
Remember that more is not always better. The established Recommended Dietary Allowance (DRA)/Dietary Reference Intake (DRI), for vitamins and minerals are to be used as a guide in determining nutritional needs. These allowances have a large margin of safety built into the recommendations. Even though it has been shown that a severely inadequate intake of certain vitamins and/or minerals can impair performance, it is unusual for an athlete to have such severe nutritional deficiencies. Even marginal deficiencies do not appear to markedly affect the ability to exercise efficiently.
Athletes searching for a competitive edge often look to a supplement or a special combination of nutrients to find it. However, there are no quick-fix supplements for improving sports performance. Consuming a wide variety of foods and staying well hydrated are the basic cornerstones to reaching athletic potential.
For athletes subject to sport drug testing, taking nutritional or dietary supplements may cause a positive test for a prohibited substance that may not be disclosed on the product label. In accordance with all applicable rules for a positive test result within a sport, a sanction may be imposed.
Some trade associations and other businesses have programs that include analytical testing and quality assessment of dietary supplements, culminating in a “stamp of approval’ or a “guarantee” that the supplement is safe for use in sport. These programs may reduce the risk that a supplement is contaminated, or contains an undisclosed ingredient. HOWEVER, it does not eliminate this risk. Athletes who take dietary or nutritional supplements, even if claiming to be “approved” or “verified,” do so at their own risk of committing an anti-doping rule violation, or suffering from negative health side-effects.