Do most athletes need to take a dietary supplement?
Do supplements increase my performance level?
Athletes engage in a physically active lifestyle, which gives them an increased need for energy. Supplement advertisements often claim that athletes are at risk for developing nutritional deficiencies, which impair performance and health, but this isn’t often the case. If an athlete is consuming a nutritionally complete diet, like the ones we have been talking about over the past couple weeks, he or she should have no problem meeting their vitamin and mineral needs. To find out what the proper amounts of DRIs (Dietary Reference Intakes) and RDAs (Recommend Daily Allowance) according to your age and gender, check out the USDA website! http://fnic.nal.usda.gov/nal_display/index.php?info_center=4&tax_level=2&tax_subject=256&topic_id=1342
Be aware however, that having a diet that is lacking in nutritional value or simply not consuming enough calories to refuel your body will result in lack of energy, explosiveness, and overall performance. A supplement should never be taken to replace the nutrients you receive from food. This can put your health at risk. It is also important to know the proper amounts of RDAs and DRIs for you because they determine the safe levels of vitamins and minerals for your body. Exceeding these levels can potentially do more harm than good. Remember, more isn’t always better! Over consuming vitamins and minerals WILL NOT increase your performance level.
Here are some examples of foods with high vitamin and mineral content provided by the American College of Sports Medicine!
Minerals + B Vitamins
- Beef (lean)
- Pork (lean)
- Chicken (skinless)
- Tuna (in water)
- Kidney beans
- Milk (skim)
- Yogurt (Greek)
Vitamins A, C, and E
- Milk (skim)
- Orange juice
Here are two important minerals for a young athlete according to KidsHealth:
Calcium: helps build strong bones to resist breaking and stress fractures
- Leafy green vegetables: Broccoli, spinach, brussle sprouts
Iron: helps carry oxygen to all parts of the body
- Dried fruits
- Leafy green vegetables
- Fortified whole grains
Want some more information? Check out this article from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. It breaks documents ten different essential vitamins for athletes according to their DRI levels, what foods they are in, and what they do for the body! http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=7087
Vitamins and minerals are essential to the performance of an athlete, but remember, the best place to get them is from a complete and balanced diet. Be sure to take precaution when using supplements because of the risk of toxicity. Over supplementing will not increase your performance! Check out the DRI and RDA levels from the USDA website above to determine the specific levels for your gender and age. This is just another example of how properly fueling your body will give you the best opportunity for athletic success. Keep it up!