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Dietary Supplements for Athletes | The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Consensus Statement | Find Your Stride | Edinburgh Podiatrist

In the world of high-performance athletics, the pressure to excel and outperform one's competition is always present. With the stakes high and the margin for error slim, athletes are constantly seeking ways to gain a competitive edge. One avenue that many athletes explore is the use of dietary supplements. These supplements are intended to enhance performance, aid in recovery, and optimise overall health. However, the use of supplements is a complex issue, fraught with potential risks and benefits.

Relay athlete on the start line
Athletes are always looking for ways to improve their performance, but do they consider the associated risks?

In their 2018 research paper, Maughan et al. delve into the topic of dietary supplements for high-performance athletes in their IOC consensus statement. The authors highlight the challenges faced by athletes and their support team when considering the use of supplements, and aim to provide guidelines to help these individuals make informed decisions. This is a critical undertaking, as the use of supplements can have significant implications for an athlete's performance, health, and even their career.

One of the key takeaways from the research paper is the inclusion of a table that outlines supplements with good to strong evidence of achieving benefits to performance in specific scenarios. The four supplements highlighted in the table are caffeine, creatine, nitrate, beta-alanine, and sodium bicarbonate. These supplements have been extensively studied and have shown promising results in enhancing athletic performance when used in appropriate circumstances.

Caffeine, for example, is a well-known stimulant that can improve focus, alertness, and endurance. Studies have shown that caffeine can also enhance fat oxidation, which can be beneficial for endurance athletes. Creatine, on the other hand, is a popular supplement among strength and power athletes. It has been shown to increase muscle mass, strength, and power output, making it a valuable tool for athletes looking to improve their performance in explosive activities.

Nitrate, found in foods like beets and leafy greens, has gained attention for its potential to improve endurance performance by enhancing oxygen utilization. Beta-alanine, an amino acid, has been shown to increase levels of carnosine in muscles, which can help buffer lactic acid and delay the onset of fatigue. Finally, sodium bicarbonate, commonly known as baking soda, has been shown to improve high-intensity exercise performance by buffering acidosis in muscles.

While the benefits of these supplements are promising, it is important for athletes and their support team to approach their use with caution. The authors of the research paper stress the need for athletes to carefully consider the potential risks and benefits of each supplement, as well as the legality of their use in competitive sports. They also highlight the importance of working with a knowledgeable and qualified nutritionist or healthcare provider to ensure that the supplements are used safely and effectively.

In conclusion, the research paper by Maughan et al. sheds light on the complex issue of dietary supplements for high-performance athletes. By providing evidence-based guidelines and recommendations, the authors aim to help athletes and their support team make informed decisions about the use of supplements. Caffeine, creatine, nitrate, beta-alanine, and sodium bicarbonate are just a few of the supplements that have shown potential benefits for performance enhancement. However, it is crucial for athletes to approach their use with caution and seek expert guidance to ensure their safety and efficacy. The review is open access and can be read in full here.

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