In Part 1 of Supplementing for cycling performance I wrote about what a lot us think about from time to time. Is that supplement Ad telling the truth and what does the FDA think about Dietary Supplements. In this post, part two, I will cover the very simple question “What is Supplementation” and “What are the risks of supplementation?” I will also post a new poll “Have you ever had a bad reaction to a supplement?”
What is supplementation?
TheFreeDictionary.com defines supplementation as: “Something added to complete a thing, make up for a deficiency, or extend or strengthen the whole”
The FDA defines a Dietary Supplement as: “a product taken by mouth that contains a “dietary ingredient” intended to supplement the diet. The “dietary ingredients” in these products may include: vitamins, minerals, herbs or other botanicals, amino acids, and substances such as enzymes, organ tissues, glandulars, and metabolites. Dietary supplements can also be extracts or concentrates, and may be found in many forms such as tablets, capsules, softgels, gelcaps, liquids, or powders. They can also be in other forms, such as a bar, but if they are, information on their label must not represent the product as a conventional food or a sole item of a meal or diet.”
I like both of these definitions as each covers the definition to what supplementation are for, their typical contents, delivery methods and labeling. My favorite of the two is the one from TheFreeDictionary.com as it sates that supplementation is for adding to a complete thing, making up for a deficiency or extending to strengthen the whole. I will cover more of this in my next post “Why Supplement?”
What are the risks associated with supplements?
Before I start any new endeavor I want to be acquainted with the risks associated with it. Don’t get me wrong when I took up Rock Climbing college I didn’t go out and research all the possible injuries nor did I when I chose to start racing a few years ago. Sports have inherent risks that we are all too familiar with either by reading about accidents or seeing them on TV. We know that our sport of cycling could cause repetitive stress injuries, respiratory issues, broken bones, brain injuries and even death. I know all this sounds grim but the up side of our sport is that these possible negative outcomes are outweighed by the benefits of the sport we love so much.
Supplements are the same when put in perspective. There are many possible negative side effects to taking supplements as well as many benefits. Before you spend your hard earned money on supplements ask your self a few very simple questions:
- Why do I need it?
- Will this supplement actually do what it says?
- Will this supplement help me reach my X goal(s)?
- Will this supplement hurt me?
The question I want to focus on more than anything is “Will this supplement hurt me?” Ever listen to one of the new prescription drug commercials on TV where at the end of a 30 second spot they take 15 seconds to cover the possible side effects of the drug. You end up thinking, “Man, The cure is worse than the illness!” We do not have this luxury with supplements. The FDA does not require this of Supplement Marketers like they do the prescription drug companies. See my previous post for why.
Supplements can hurt you by digging into your wallet, causing a side effect or contributing to potential long-term health problems. Please do your research and speak to your doctor about why you want to use a supplement or why you think you need one. Also if you are taking any prescribed medications ask if there are any known side effects by using supplements alongside your prescribed medication. Lastly become a student! This is your health and well being we are talking about. DO THE HOME WORK.
A few things to consider when supplementing:
- If it’s too good to be true it is.
- Taking more than is recommended is not going to give you the desired result.
- Just because it worked for your friend doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you.
- Some supplements may contain banned substances!
- Some supplements may be overkill for your desired effect.
Here are a few links to web sites that have some information on possible side effects of supplements. If you find more reference sites please share them with me and I will post them on this web site!
- Side Effects, Interactions and Warnings About Vitamins and Supplements
- Herbal Products and Supplements: What You Should Know
- MERCK – Dietary Supplements
This series will actually be less than 6 parts as I decided I did not want to stretch this subject out past 3 or 4 posts. So check back with us next Friday for the questions Why Supplement and When to Supplement. The following week I will cover the balance of the questions!
Until then eat healthy and do your homework before Supplementing!
When to supplement?
Who should supplement?
How are supplements viewed by the drug agencies?
What supplements to take?
Here are links to all of the articles in this series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4
Great article. Lots of good info.
All supplementation that I do is under the supervision and/or advice from doctors.
Most has to do with nutrients that are difficult to get in the required quantities.
EPA (thats EPA not EPO) as in the omega 3 fatty acid
Ultrameal (a soy protein supplement)
All my supplements are from companies that follow pharmaceutical practices and have confirmed that no WADA banned substances are used or made in their facilities.
In the past i have taken Vitamins E, C, B complex, calcium with D, Beta Carotine, but since improving my diet those supplements are not necessary.
I will have quite a bit more on this topic this week. You raise very valid points on supplement supervision. I think only athletes that have been training for a while should manage their own supplementation. I have just recently spoken with my Doc to ensure that what my strength coach has suggested will not cause problems with other medications.
Taking supplements is ever present in the sports and nutrition industry. All you have to do is walk into a gym to see the effects of pro hormones and creatine in abundance. Others swear by Glutamine in order to rebuild their muscles and the list of pills, powders and secret combinations are limitless. In cycling, it is no different. With a lot of mileage packed into every week, there are supplements that swear to help with fatigue and recovery. Without a fresh pair of legs, falling behind is typical. As with all things in life the shortcut isn’t the best route in the long run so be consistent on diet and nutrition and be extremely cautious with any sort of supplementation.
I agree with you on 99% of your comment. Below is the exception.
Supplements are not a shortcut. Not everyone has the ability to hire a sports nutritionist. I use the term sports nutritionist because a nutritionist will be of very little use to a serious recreational rider or avid amateur racer. When you are talking about reshaping your body type, developing strength, speed and agility there is going to be damage done. Supplements can and do help with the repair of such damage quicker in most cases than a well balanced meal. Once again let me reiterate something from the article. NO ONE should take supplements just because the marketing says it does X. We take supplements because something is missing from our diet or said diet is not capable with dealing with the training stresses. As always all users of supplements should seek the advice of a Dr with the premise that you are an athlete and that the wrong supplement can get you sanctioned and or suspended. Even as an amateur racer!
You would be surprised what I have had recommended for me by Drs. That is why I wrote article. Educate myself and share with others.
Thank you for the comment and make me rethink the article.