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The Effectiveness of Sports Supplements – Part 2

Josh Williamson

The second part of our sports supplement series looks at individual products, specifically the benefits and pitfalls that comes with them.

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Does whey protein equal muscle growth? ©Sportexamined

In Part 1, which can be found here (https://sportexamined.com/2018/03/19/the-safety-and-effectiveness-of-sports-supplements-part-1/), the safety of sports supplements was questioned.

From individuals simply wanting to look better naked, to world class athletes, the growth of supplement use has been exponential. Both nationally and globally, billions are spent every year for that ‘magic’ pill to get even a 1% improvement. However, has anyone ever stopped to ask, ‘do these products actually work?’

The number one question any individual should ask themselves before purchasing a supplement is, ‘will this product benefit me?’. To answer this question, the individual must consider the evidence-based effectiveness of the product, but also, is it relevant to the individuals specific goal. The scope of this article is to highlight 4 key supplements which are research-backed.

It is outside the remit of this article to cover all supplements, and thus readers are directed towards Examine.com. This is a database of pretty much every supplement in existence which includes studies on products, usage, dosages, side effects etc. Only when individuals have considered the safety, effectiveness, and if the supplement is needed for their specific goals, should they consider purchasing said supplement. Here, I have outlined 4 of the most common supplements which have scientific evidence to support their effectiveness.

Whey Protein

“Little Miss Muffet, she sat on a tuffet, eating of curds and whey”

This very common nursey rhyme refers to the two proteins found in milk; curds (casein) and whey. The whey is the water-soluble part of the milk and is used for whey protein supplements. Despite the popular belief that protein supplementation itself enhances muscle growth and repair, this is not entirely true. If daily protein targets are achieved through dietary intake, supplementation is unnecessary. A high-protein diet combined with a specific resistance training plan, will support a biological environment for putting on muscle mass. The rationale for using a protein supplement is either to supplement your protein intake from food, and/or convenience. This rationale applies to all protein supplements in general, such as protein milk, protein bars, protein ice cream, protein bread etc which are all so common now.

It is also important to point out at this stage that whey supplementation, or high-protein diets in general, do not cause damage to the liver or kidneys in healthy individuals. If you have any underlying kidney/liver conditions, protein intake should be increased under the guidance of a medical professional.

 

Fish Oil

Fish oil commonly refers to two kinds of omega-3 fatty acids: EPA and DHA, which are typically found in fish and animal products. Fish oil exhibit a number of health benefits including enhancing mood, reducing disease factor risk, reducing inflammation, and is associated with reductions in triglycerides.

With relation to dosage, the American Heart Association recommends 1g per day; however, this reflects a combined total of EPA and DHA. Ideally, this should be achieved through a balanced diet; nevertheless, if individuals don’t like eating fish, this can be achieved through a fish oil supplement, or an algae supplement if you don’t like that fishy aftertaste that can come with some products. With fish oil supplements, it is important to read the nutritional label; for example, the label may state a combined total of 400mg per serving of EPA and DHA which would require 2-3 servings to achieve the recommended dose.

Creatine

If you are currently involved in sport, or even gym culture, you will no doubt have heard of creatine supplementation. Creatine is potentially the single most studied supplement in history; and has endless evidence to support its effectiveness, and safety. Creatine is naturally occurring in some foods such as meat, eggs and fish, however the dosage provided is usually insufficient to provide a desirable outcome. To put this into context, creatine powder is usually consumed in dosages of 5-20g per day; this equates to 1-4kg of meat!

Typically marketed as a ‘muscle gain’ product, creatine essentially acts as a source of energy for your cells. Despite the marketing claims, creatine does not increase muscle mass per say; however, there is concrete evidence to support the use of creatine for high intensity exercise, power sports, and repeated sprint ability. This means weightlifters, bodybuilders, football/rugby players and basketballers to name a few, would benefit from creatine supplementation. There may be some research potentially supporting the use of creatine supplementation for endurance performance and it also shows promise on cognition.

With regards safety, it should be noted that there is no research demonstrating negative effects of creatine supplementation on either kidney or liver function of healthy individuals. On the other hand, individuals with pre-existing or underlying kidney or liver conditions should use caution if using a creatine supplement and do so under the supervision of a medical professional.

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Being out in the sun is the most enjoyable way of getting vitamin D

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and is essential for many biological functions. The most enjoyable source of this vitamin is obviously lying on a beach somewhere in the Maldives; however, it can also be consumed through dietary sources such as fish, eggs, and fortified foods.

Despite the excessive media attention on vitamin D deficiency, the majority of the population are not deficient in vitamin D, or we would have a rickets epidemic on our hands. However, there is a stark difference between minimum threshold, and ideal amount. Most of the research on vitamin D status and populations demonstrate that most people are not in the ideal range; as a result, supplementation is a viable option. Vitamin D supplementation is associated with increased cognition, immune health, bone health and overall well-being, thus individuals should be aiming to consume the ideal amount; especially if in cold or overcast areas. Individuals should aim to consume a Vitamin D3 supplement anywhere in the range of 1000IU-10,000IU per day; preferably along with meals.

Note; All information in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice or instruction. It is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition. For specific medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, consult a professional.

Josh Williamson

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