Firstly, please don’t misunderstand me regarding sports supplements… My professional opinion is that there is definitely both a time and a place for sports supplements to help boost athletic performance and aid recovery after a tough workout, training session or competition. My main concern is to highlight the fact that some sports supplements do “exactly what they say on the tin” but may contain much more potent ingredients than those actually listed on the label!
Males in particular, are constantly being bombarded by images of “ripped” torseaus and “pumped” muscles, from the media and marketing campaigns from various sports supplement companies. Many of these products claim to promote rapid muscle gain and strength within weeks, when combined with weight lifting exercises. Unfortunately the truth is that many of these “shake drinks” and pills have been found to contain anabolic steroids.
One German study analysed 630 samples purchased online and from retail outlets and found that 14.8% of the supplements contained anabolic steroids which were not declared on the label. Most of the contaminated products were manufactured in five main countries; The UK, Italy, Germany, Netherlands and USA. In 2008, The HFL group in the UK undertook the analysis of 152 supplements purchased through standard retail outlets within the UK; a whopping 25% of the supplements contained low levels of steroids and 11% were contaminated with stimulants.
Steroids are a drug closely resembling the male hormone testosterone. Steroids are sometimes used illegally by athletes to improve their sports performance. Whilst the positive effects are more prevalent initially, the negative side effects can seriously damage health. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “the major effects of anabolic steroid use include liver tumors, jaundice, fluid retention, infertility, acne, heart disease and high blood pressure.”
If any elite athlete tests positive for a banned substance, it can immediately end to their sporting career. In principle, any player competing in Inter-County GAA games can be drug tested, so each player needs to be aware of the anti-doping rules, regardless of the level at which they are competing. For individuals at the non-competitive level who take sports supplements, caution needs to be exerted to ensure they are of reputable brands and if purchased online, it should only be direct from a reputable source or brand manufacturer
To conclude, sports supplements are not a replacement for a habitually poor diet. Healthy eating supports exercise training and promote efficient recovery between workouts, reducing the risk of illness or overtraining, which ultimately improves performance. A well-planned eating strategy will help any training programme, whether it’s for fitness or for competition. Remember, if the results from taking a supplement immediately feel too good to be true, you may need to strongly consider the risk of contamination….