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What You Need To Ask Before Using Supplements

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Athletes are always asking if taking a supplement or pill they’ve read about or that someone they know is using would boost race performance. They’re looking for that difficult last 1 to 2 percent of improvement that can often mean the difference in a tough race.

To help decide, you need to answer the following 5 questions.

Question 1: Is it legal?

Supplements are often promoted to athletes even though they contain banned substances. There have been many examples of blind trust resulting in testing positive for banned substances. Make sure you check with official anti-doping authorities before taking any kind of supplement.

Question Two: Is it ethical?

Only you can answer this question. Some people believe sport must be conducted in its purest form, with strictly no artificial assistance. However once you begin to consider aids such as carbohydrate loading and vitamin and mineral supplements, drawing a line in the sand is no easy task.

Question Three: Is it safe?

Studies on the effects of various supplements are often limited to only a few weeks. This is due to the fact that most subjects don’t want to donate their entire lives to science. Such small periods of testing and observation may not produce noticeable effects that might otherwise occur with long-term use.

There is also the  possibility that using multiple supplements simultaneously or with common medications could produce side effects that would not be discovered in the official studies.

Another complication is that the US Food and Drug Administration safety regulations for supplements are more lenient than for food products. Always check with your family physician before supplementing.

Question Four: Is its use supported by research?

There may be isolated studies on any supplement that demonstrates the benefits, but does all of the available literature agree? To search scientific journals for studies,visit the government’s Pub Med website, to search for a supplement. You’ll find a list of the archived studies and their abstracts.

Have fun reading the list. It could be thousands of items long. Better still, ask a trusted coach, trainer, registered dietician, or medical professional for their insights and opinions.

Question Five: Will it help in my race?

Even if a supplement is widely supported by research, it does not mean it will work for all people in all events. There are many subtle differences that may affect the use of any given supplement. It may not work for you due to  some combination of your age, sex, health, medication, and experience in the sport.

Some supplements have been shown to provide a benefit for short events lasting minutes but not for events lasting several hours.

Never use a supplement in an important event without having first tried and tested it in training or in a low priority event


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