Opinion and Editorial

Dietary Supplements and Proper Nutrition for Athletes

For many years, dietary over-the-counter supplements have influenced and persuaded many professional, scholar, and avocational athletes who are in a quest to improve their overall health. Taking dietary supplements are an easy and convenient way to spike performance levels, increase body definition, and perform faster in cardiovascular activities. Some supplements are beneficial to the human body because they increase protein, metabolism and help to get the daily recommended dietary nutrients.

With slow and minimal gains for athletes using these dietary supplements, some athletes may adopt a mindset that leads them to endure illegal drugs such as steroids, which take a heavy toll on the human body. Over-the-counter supplements, if taken correctly, can be combined with a proper nutritional diet to provide a healthier and more sustainable way of living for athletes.

Courtesy of healthcarepackaging.com

According to The American Journal of Health Studies, “Supplements claim to increase energy, improve performance, and increase muscular strength appeal”. These dietary supplements are very convenient, especially for after-school athletes. A proper nutritional diet, however, is more efficient in attaining peak performance, gaining muscular body definition, and becoming quicker overall. Dietary supplements can be useful, but not as effective alone as when combined with a proper diet plan.

Dietary supplements combined with dieting can be a good way to empty a wallet. With limited time throughout the day, athletes tend to grab a hand full of cash and head to the nearest health food store for dietary supplements. However, what they may not realize is how much money they are actually spending on these over-the-counter supplements. For instance, a large tub of protein powder at a health food mart may range from anywhere between ten to over a hundred dollars, some reaching prices that the average athlete cannot afford. Even though dietary supplements are expensive they remain very popular for the athletic population.

“Boys participating in sports take supplements more than those who do not participate in sports; this in turn suggests that the participation in sports may be a motivation for supplement use”. According to The New York Times article, a 2002 Harris poll indicates that “70 percent of adults in the United States take vitamins, minerals, herbs or other supplements…their use of supplements has been increasing, fed by the belief that they can make people feel better, give them greater energy, improve health and prevent and treat disease”. With the increased popularity of dietary supplements, athletes are spending hundreds of dollars on these convenient supplements alone.

A good diet plan for athletes is essential in working towards their fitness goals. The issue of time-management arises, especially when trying to juggle sports, sleep, and a dietary regimen. A good proper diet is all about how much an athlete is willing to put into the dieting which will determine how much he will benefit from it. When athletes set goals for themselves they must realize that time needs to be managed in two different ways. The first way is noticing how much time an athlete is contributing towards practice, training, and their school work. Second is the athlete’s dietary regimen which plays a large role in their overall performance both physically and mentally.

The amount of time an athlete contributes towards their dietary regimen by purchasing foods and preparing meals can be quite unique from an athlete living at home to an athlete who is busy with college work. Time-management skills come into play for many athletes, but the amount of effort contributed towards a proper and healthy diet makes all the difference.

Having a solid foundation in understanding nutrition should be necessary for all athletes. An athlete should make an effort to learn about what he or she needs to do to develop a proper diet plan for a particular sport. For example, a professional athlete who is participating in a body building show needs to know how to set up a schedule of eating meals that consist of essential foods he or she needs in order to win first place. An article from The American Journal of Health Studies states, “Dietary supplement use is a well-documented practice among adult and adolescent athletes….as a whole, athletes continue to use dietary supplements at a rate higher than the general population”. Many of these professional or avocational athletes know the dedication and time it takes to prepare meals for the week ahead.

Even scholar athletes can benefit by learning little by little about what is necessary for their dietary regimen. For example, a scholar athlete in high school who needs to gain weight for a particular sport may purchase a weight gainer protein powder. After purchasing the product the athlete may realize that it is loaded in sugars and contains an enormous amount of calories. Getting educated about the dietary supplements and foods allows athletes to adapt a healthier perspective on eating. Having knowledge of the nutritional content of foods and nutritional needs leads athletes to choose the right foods and follow a dietary regimen geared towards their individual goals, and this allows athletes to use fewer dietary supplements.

Another piece of critical background knowledge related to dietary supplements is how and when to consume these vitamins, minerals, proteins, or other products on the market. For example, an athlete who is trying to become healthier decides to take a bunch of herbalgenic minerals and vitamins. What this athlete may not realize is that he is potentially harming his body. For instance, in a New York Times article, Dr. Richard A. Nathan, a dental surgeon in San Francisco, reported that his patient took “green tea, grapeseed, ginkgo biloba turmeric, salmon oil and vitamin E [which] ‘are known to increase bleeding due to inhibition of platelet aggregation.’ Platelet aggregation is the first step in forming a blood clot” which can lead to potentially deadly outcomes the surgery”. Following surgery the patient’s mouth failed to heal. After discontinuing all supplements the patient’s mouth began to heal properly. Becoming aware of how supplements affect the human body before purchasing a product off the market is in the best interest of the customer.

Another problem that can occur with the use of dietary supplements comes from mixing them with other prescription drugs. For example, “Vitamins A, B6, B12, C, E, and K; niacin; folic acid; calcium; magnesium; iron; and zinc can be hazardous when combined with various prescription drugs and over-the counter remedies”. Having athletes become aware that dietary supplements can be harmful if taken incorrectly is the message to all athletes who purchase dietary supplements.

Many athletes using dietary supplements may not see the results they expect right away; in turn they may end up using illegal substances or steroids. According to doctors Parssinen and Seppala “2.7 to 2.9 percent of young American adults have taken anabolic steroids at least once in their lives….one study suggests that the abuse of anabolic androgenic steroids (AAS) has increased 50% since 1991.” The increased popularity of steroids means the use of these drugs destroys more and more athletes’ lives and their potential career opportunities.

Many top stars in professional sports are becoming role models to younger adults. Some of these professionals, however, are using illegal drugs such as steroids, in turn persuading younger athletes to engage in these destructive practices. Steroid users may encounter many problems such as liver failure, which ultimately begins to shut down the body’s daily processes. Steroids do increase muscle mass and performance improves tremendously, but it comes with a life-long price that people take for granted. Choosing alternative methods over illegal drugs like steroids to achieve goals is the healthier option.

Dietary supplements, together with a nutritional diet, can be helpful for an athlete’s progress in his or her sport. Allowing a professional, scholar, or avocational athlete to perform at the best of their abilities is crucial, and can happen with aid from both a diet plan that meets daily nutritional requirements and dietary supplements. Purchasing these over-the-counter supplements and healthier food choices is not cheap and requires a lot of time in the kitchen preparing each meal accordingly.

Having background knowledge about these dietary supplements and nutritional foods can allow an athlete to learn how to use them and when to use them to see proficient gains. Maintaining a healthy diet, taking dietary supplements when needed, and avoiding illegal drugs like steroids can determine a positive path for these athletes now and through their lives.